Jan
03
2003

HBO Adds Disclaimer to Gulf War Movie

Responding to a FAIR activism campaign, HBO recently added a message to the end of its movie Live From Baghdad, clarifying the scenes that seemingly endorsed the fraudulent stories about Iraqi soldiers removing Kuwaiti babies from incubators. The film, a fictionalized account of CNN's coverage of the Persian Gulf War, leaves viewers with the impression that these events actually happened. (See FAIR Action Alert, 12/4/02.)

HBO's message, which appears after the end of the credits, reads:

"While the allegations of Iraqi soldiers taking babies from incubators were widely circulated during the run-up to the Gulf War (the time frame of the drama of our film), these allegations were never substantiated."

Since most TV viewers don't watch the entire end credits, it is doubtful that many people will ever see the clarification. And while it's helpful that HBO has acknowledged a problem in its film, to say that the claims were "never substantiated" is an understatement. It would be more accurate to note that attempts to confirm the story after the Gulf War uncovered evidence that it was a fabrication; for example, a senior Kuwaiti health official told ABC's World News Tonight (3/15/91), "I think this is something just for propaganda." The main source for the atrocity report, presented in a congressional hearing as a Kuwaiti war refugee, turned out to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S.; she had been coached in her account by the public relations agency Hill & Knowlton.

HBO has also posted on its website a New York Times op-ed by John R. MacArthur (1/6/92) that sheds considerable light on the incubators hoax:

www.hbo.com/films/livefrombaghdad/related.shtml.

While it is encouraging that HBO has taken steps to clarify the story, a more prominent and forthright correction would have gone further to dispel the myth perpetuated by the misleading dramatization.