Formerly TBS Journal

ISSN: 1687-7721

'The Perfect War': US Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting During Desert Shield and Desert Storm, 1990/1991Icon indicating an associated article is peer reviewed

TBS Journal, Fall 2006

By Nicholas J. Cull

US Public Diplomacy Czar Karen Hughes (AP).

US Public Diplomacy Czar Karen Hughes (AP).

Fall 2006


This article reviews the performance of the United States Information Agency (USIA) during the Gulf Crisis and War of 1990-91. It pays particular attention to the role of USIA as a major participant in the Inter Agency Working Group on Public Diplomacy, to Voice of America broadcasting and USIA's counter disinformation work. In its conclusion, the article contrasts the effective US use of public diplomacy during this period with the problems encountered following 9/11 drawing attention to the amalgamation of USIA into the State Department in 1999 and the downgrading of public diplomacy which accompanied it.


Since the terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001 much hot air has been vented and angry ink spilled on the subject of the failings of American public diplomacy.(1) Reports routinely note that the United States was not always so ill-equipped to address public opinion around the world. From 1953 to 1999 the US benefited from the presence of an independent United States Information Agency charged with the task of conducting international advocacy, broadcasting and information activities and coordinating the US government’s exchange programs. This case study will look at how USIA and its key charge Voice of America operated during the Gulf crisis and war of 1990 and 1991 and in so doing show a little of what was lost when the Clinton administration, under pressure from Republicans in the Senate, folded the agency into the unsympathetic arms of the State Department in 1999.

US policymaking during the Gulf Crisis and War—Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm—was dominated by media considerations. Washington displayed a marked eagerness to apply the supposed lessons of Vietnam. This time the US presence would firmly be associated with an international coalition, supported by multiple UN resolutions, and strictly limited in its scope. US planners assumed that sustained American losses would undercut domestic support for the war and hence planned a largely aerial campaign with a brief ground war at its end. The war saw intense media management, as the US government established a system of pools to coral foreign and domestic journalists covering the fighting and deployed psychological warfare against their enemy. One of the enduring images of the Gulf War would be the dusty columns of Iraqi troops surrendering while clutching air-dropped leaflets and safe conduct passes. It is not remembered as an especially heroic episode in the history of the domestic US media; rather, coverage seemed superficial and dominated by an uncritical patriotic agenda. From the US military point of view, this was a triumph.(2)

Unlike the case of Vietnam, theatre media and psychological operations for Desert Shield and Desert Storm were not the task of the United States Information Agency, but rested with the Defence Department. USIA, however, played a valuable support role as a key point of contact with the members of the fragile allied coalition. More significantly, Desert Shield and Desert Storm would see arguably the single most sustained example in the history of the agency of USIA opinion research, cultural awareness and experience being channelled directly into policy making. Tom Korologos, vice chairman of the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, told Congressional hearings: “The agency’s professionals were full partners ‘at the table’ in developing a public diplomacy strategy and in carrying it out.” In an overview prepared as part of the director transition in 1991, the agency itself reported “close daily coordination with a number of White House, State Department and Pentagon offices, both in Washington and in the field” and noted:

With that coordination, we were able to mobilize the full array of resources in support of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm rapidly and effectively, putting into action a public diplomacy plan and revising its thematic and operational portions many times as the crisis unfolded and we faced new challenges. From the start, USIA kept US policy makers informed of trends in international public opinion as reflected in the foreign media and by means of our own polling. Armed with well calibrated information and products provided by USIA in Washington, USIS foreign service officers were able to advocate US Gulf policy vigorously and effectively.(3)

The result of the immense attention to media relations at home and abroad was an unprecedented and carefully controlled combination of force and image in the Persian Gulf. In media scholar Douglas Kellner’s ironic phrase, it was “The Perfect War.” The Bush administration’s achievement only became truly apparent a decade later when American enterprises in the same region went awry to the detriment of the US image in the Middle East and the world.(4)

The Buildup to the Crisis

For VOA’s editorial writers, the first taste of the Gulf Crisis came not in August 1990 but five months earlier when the Voice ran foul of State Department attempts to “appease” Saddam Hussein. On 15 February 1990, Voice of America broadcast an editorial in multiple languages discussing the changes in the world since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Written by Bill Stetson under the title “No More Secret Police” it noted that despite the collapse of dictatorships in places like East Germany and Romania in 1989, many totalitarian regimes remained elsewhere:

Secret police are also widely entrenched in other countries, such as China, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Cuba and Albania. The rulers of these countries hold power by force and fear not by the consent of the governed. But as Eastern Europeans demonstrated so dramatically in 1989, the tide of history is against such rulers. The 1990’s should belong not to the dictators and secret police but to the people.

Saddam Hussein apparently heard the editorial and sent a formal complaint to the luckless US ambassador in Baghdad, April Glaspie. He objected to the comparison of his regime to that of Ceausescu in Romania, which he felt invited rebellion. The King of Saudi Arabia also objected and, on the orders of Secretary of State James A. Baker, Glaspie apologised profusely. The State Department investigated the matter and found that Iraq was not yet on the list of subjects requiring special State Department clearance before an editorial could be broadcast. They took no further action against VOA but insisted that further editorials on Iraq be authorised. Smarting from the rebuke, Stetson noted that it was odd that VOA could not even name Iraq on a list of dictatorships while the US Ambassador to the UN Armando Valladares, speaking to the Human Rights Commission in Geneva on 16 February, could devote an entire paragraph to Iraq’s “abysmal” human rights record, as documented by a recent State Department report on torture. Stetson felt that certain quarters in the State Department had failed to grasp that the aim of public diplomacy was to reach out to other peoples not their governments.(5)

Some weeks later the issue emerged once again. On 12 April, Republican Senator Bob Dole of Kansas raised the case during a meeting with Saddam. As part of an effort to assure the dictator that the US sought “better relations with Iraq,” Dole informed Saddam that the VOA “commentator” responsible for the editorial had been “fired.” Saddam secretly recorded the meeting and published a transcript on Iraqi radio. William Safire of The New York Times mentioned this story in March and April in columns attacking the appeasement of Iraq, delighting in informing readers that Stetson had not been fired. In September, Safire published the complete story based on material obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, to the embarrassment of Dole and the Bush administration.(6) The incident served as a reminder that the policy needs of diplomats in time of crisis and the duties of international broadcasters could easily come into conflict, and that there were plenty of observers in the domestic media eager to magnify any slip into a critique of the administration’s foreign policy.

Responding to the Invasion of Kuwait

In the early hours of 2 August 1990, Iraqi tanks crossed the border into neighbouring Kuwait and began a thrust towards the capital. The invasion followed several months of diplomatic wrangling and increasingly ferocious propaganda broadcasts from Baghdad. It came as a surprise to the Kuwaiti royal family who had confidently expected a diplomatic solution. It did not come as a surprise for VOA. Eight days before the invasion, the Voice attempted to broadcast another editorial by Bill Stetson headed “New Persian Gulf Threats,” which noted aggressive Iraqi language towards Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates and the alarming build-up of Iraqi forces on the Kuwait border. The editorial stated that “US officials have stressed that there is no place in a civilized world for coercion and intimidation.” The State Department spiked this editorial in an apparent last minute bid to avoid antagonising Saddam.(7)

In the wake of the invasion of Kuwait, the Bush administration began the slow and delicate process of building a coalition to deploy troops in Saudi Arabia to head off further conquest and prepare to fight for Kuwait. VOA initiated a series of emergency program measures to support these ends. The Arabic Service expanded from seven to nearly 10 hours. It would eventually fill 15-and-a-half hours a day. English-language programming doubled to the Middle East, and expanded to fill the entire schedule round the clock, borrowing transmitter space from RFE/RL inaugurating a special Middle East network on 5 September over 45 medium and short wave frequencies. During the course of the crisis, USIA worked to increase its medium-wave capacity in the Gulf region. Russia loaned transmitter time and Bahrain agreed to host a portable VOA transmitter but then refused to carry VOA Arabic broadcasts. VOA found an alternative site in Kuwait following the liberation. But VOA’s own transmitters were not the sole channels for its signals. Early in Desert Shield, the Voice created a dial-in service to allow anyone to pick up a VOA news feed in Arabic. The service received over 200,000 calls in its first year, including calls from inside Iraq. Stations in seven Arab nations, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Bahrain, ran VOA news reports in Arabic, while worldwide VOA news could be heard in some form on 1,800 local stations in 75 countries. Programming at the start of the conflict included full coverage of the UN Security Council debate on Iraq in 43 languages and, from October to December, a special program called Messages from Home that enabled relatives of Americans stranded in Iraq or Kuwait to speak directly to their loved ones. US, Iraqi, Kuwaiti and Egyptian diplomats appeared on VOA Arabic Service call-in shows during the Desert Shield phase. Needless to say, the Voice also had correspondents in the field covering the crisis as it unfolded.(8)

VOA broadcasting to Middle East during the crisis proved controversial. The American approach to news baffled the US government’s Arab allies. Both the Saudis and Egyptians objected to VOA interviews with Iraqi and Palestinian supporters of Saddam. The Saudi government noted that its people had nicknamed VOA the “Voice of Baghdad.” In at least one instance their objection was justified. VOA broadcast a Reuters story with a Cairo dateline describing a pro-Saddam demonstration in Damascus. Despite a second source, the story proved untrue and VOA had to transmit an apology. For the domestic US media, the hint of VOA disloyalty proved irresistible. Voice staffers caught the sour reek of McCarthyism on the breeze. VOA’s deputy director, Bob Coonrod met the criticism head on by commissioning two independent studies of VOA during the Desert Storm phase from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and Hudson Institute of Indianapolis. USIA director Bruce Gelb also commissioned an investigation from the USIA’s Office of the Inspector General.(9)

Early Initiatives

The first major set piece in the propaganda war against Iraq was President Bush’s message to the Iraqi people, taped at the White House on 12 September and broadcast unedited on Iraqi television on 16 September as part of an exchange of messages with Baghdad. “We have no quarrel with the people of Iraq,” the President explained. “I've said many times, and I will repeat right now, our only object is to oppose the invasion ordered by Saddam Hussein.” Standing in front of his desk like a teacher experimenting with informality, Bush stressed the international nature of the response. “Never before,” the President noted, “has world opinion been so solidly united against aggression.” His final parry was to quote Saddam Hussein himself in a speech to Arab lawyers from 1988. Taking a slip of paper from his pocket the President read:

An Arab country does not have the right to occupy another Arab country. God forbid, if Iraq should deviate from the right path, we would want Arabs to send their armies to put things right. If Iraq should become intoxicated by its power and move to overwhelm another Arab State, the Arabs would be right to deploy their armies to check it.(10)

USIA’s television service worked into the night preparing the tape to be handed to the Iraqi Ambassador. VOA’s Arab service provided both on-screen subtitles and a voice over translation in Arabic. Iraqi-born Near East and South Asian division chief Sam Hilmy insisted on locating the Arabic source text for Saddam’s remarks, mindful of the potential for disaster if translators merely guessed at the original form of words. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Mack delivered the finished cassette to the Ambassador who, he recalled, “received it as one might a large turd.”(11)

Iraqi television carried the message unedited but without any special announcement. Rival attractions included cartoons on another channel and a deliberately timed nation-wide street demonstration in support of Saddam. Bush had little audience. But the President’s message also was intended to explain the US response to the uncommitted quarters of the world. Here USIA proved its worth. The President later acknowledged the “extraordinary efforts” of USIA director Bruce Gelb and the agency in preparing this message for international dissemination. “Your success in getting the message around the world so quickly in every language and on such short notice was quite an achievement. The professionalism and dedication of your staff is to be commended,” he said.(12)

The Inter-Agency Working Group on Public Diplomacy

As the White House contemplated the delicacy of the coalition building process, it became clear that the Arab world was a minefield in which the unguarded President could swiftly stumble into disaster. In the new world of CNN and real-time satellite news coverage, a mistake could get around the world instantly and the damage considerable. In countries like Turkey and Egypt, the population did not share the government’s support for the US position. There was no room to allow the message to drift. In September, the White House assembled an Inter-Agency Working Group on Public Diplomacy for Iraq to oversee the media aspects of the crisis. The group needed to ensure that the US government spoke with one voice on the Gulf Crisis and that that one voice was sensitive to the delicate cultural concerns of the Arab world. The assistant director of USIA for the Near East, William A. Rugh, chaired the group with Gerald B. Helman, the State Department’s director of the Office of International Communications. Bill Rugh was USIA’s most respected Arabist, having served in Beirut, Cairo, Jeddah, Riyadh and Damascus and then as US ambassador to Yemen. The full committee of 20 or so—including several USIA members—met weekly, but an executive steering group met a couple of times a week. A smaller group also met weekly to consider intelligence materials. Working Group members included the former US ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, and the deputy assistant secretary of state (and former Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates), David Mack. The committee structure supplemented existing daily liaison between the State Department and the Pentagon. Rugh and his colleagues twice briefed the president on world public reaction, coached him before a major interview with the Arab media, and kept him posted with information on reaction and suitable themes for inclusion in his speeches.(13)

There was a marked divergence between the international message of the Bush administration, with its emphasis on clear limited aims, references to “President Hussein,” and respectful awareness of Iraq’s cultural heritage, and the rather more bellicose tone used for the domestic American audience. Within the USA, Saddam was depicted as a monstrous equivalent to Hitler. The Inter-Agency Working Group deliberately played down such rhetoric overseas and avoided the domestic impulse to characterize the war on Bush’s side as personal. Their international line stressed the workings of Congress and US democracy, international condemnation enshrined in multiple UN resolutions, and the role of the coalition.(14)

The Inter-Agency Working Group produced papers channelling specific pieces of detailed research relating to the allied mobilization, investigating press reports collected in particular problem places like Algiers or Tunis, tracking the path and impact of Iraqi propaganda gambits. The group monitored demonstrations against the coalition, paying particular attention to their size. A demonstration of 20 people in Cairo was nothing to be concerned about, but gathering of a thousand sparked concerns. By the same token, positive press would be rapidly relayed. If the committee noticed a helpful editorial in an Egyptian paper, this would be reproduced and hurriedly faxed to posts and distributed quickly. The Working Group knew that an indigenous voice had much more impact that the most eloquent US spokesman relaying the same information.(15)

The Working Group also paid particular attention to the slower media, creating supporting materials for Public Affairs Officers (PAOs), generating guidelines, and—in what Rugh considered one of their most effective projects—writing and disseminating talking points for personnel in the field. Rugh asked USIA’s PAOs attached to posts in the Middle East and North Africa to compile a running survey of local opinion and their sense of the weak and strong points of the US case. A team of Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) in Washington then developed talking points, which were cleared by the State Department’s policy team and then distributed back to ambassadors and their staff in the field and used around Washington DC. This became an ideal mechanism to counter the tide of Iraqi disinformation that began to flow from that country’s diplomatic posts around the world. (16)

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1. For a survey of these reports see US Government Accountability Office (GAO), Report to the Chairman, Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice, and Commerce and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, US Public Diplomacy: Interagency Coordination Efforts Hampered by the lack of a National Communication Strategy. GAO-05-323, April 2005
on line at and the Defense Science Board Task Force Report on Strategic Communication at
2. For background on the Gulf War see Philip M. Taylor, War and the Media: Propaganda and Persuasion in the Gulf War, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1992, John R. MacArthur, Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1992; W. Lance Bennett and David L. Paletz (ed’s), Taken By Storm: The Media, Public Opinion and US Foreign Policy in the Gulf War, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1994 and Douglas Kellner, The Persian Gulf TV War, Boulder, Colorado, 1992. The French philosopher Jean Baudrillard argued that the disjunction between the war as experienced by Iraq and the representation seen on US television screens was such that ‘The Gulf War Did Not Take Place’: Jean Baudrillard, trans. Paul Patton The Gulf War Did Not Take Place (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1995).
3. National Archives II (hereafter NA) RG 306 A1 (1070) box 3, USIA historical collection, reports and studies, 1945-1994, Transition US Information Agency, March-April, 1991, p 107.
4. Kellner, The Persian Gulf TV War, p. 386. Kellner goes on to stress the suffering and brutality beneath the image of perfection and success.
5. Interview: Bill Stetson and Bob Coonrod, 4 January 1996; VOA editorial 0-03982, ‘No More Secret Police,’ 15 February 1990; contrary to the statement of April Glaspie to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 20 March 1991 this editorial was cleared for all language services and the condemnation of Iraq and other countries outside Eastern Europe was not added later. Bill Stetson, Memo to the file, ‘Public Diplomacy and VOA editorials,’ 14 March 1990;
6. Interview: Stetson, Coonrod; William Safire, ‘Baltics to Baghdad,’ New York Times, 30 March 1990, p. A31, ‘Country of Concern’, New York Times, 9 April 1990, p. A19, ‘Iraq’s US support,’ New York Times, 4 May 1990, p. A35, and ‘Broadcast to Baghdad’ New York Times, 10 September 1990, p. A23. See also ‘Mosul tapes,’ US News and World Report, 4 July 1990, p. 21. For transcript of the Iraqi broadcast see FBIS-NES-90-074, 17 April 1990, p. 9.
7. Interview: Stetson; VOA editorial ‘New Persian Gulf Threats,’ Alan Heil, Voice of America: A History, New York, Columbia University Press, 2003 p. 320, Kellner, The Persian Gulf TV War, pp. 12-13, the story of the editorial became public in September see AP, ‘VOA criticism of Saddam was squelched,’ Bangor Daily News, 15/16 September 1990, p. 3 also Newsweek, 1 October 1990, pp. 24-25.
8. Heil, Voice of America, p. 320-21. The VOA also supplemented its Farsi service to Iran. Interview: Joe O’Connell (9 November 1995) see also ‘VOA Begins Broadcasting Messages from Relatives to Hostages in Iraq,’ Washington Post, 4 October 1990, p. A38.
9.Interview: O’Connell, Coonrod; Robert S. Greenberger, ‘Angry critics say US Arabic language was not the Voice of America during the Gulf War,’ Wall Street Journal, 13 June 1991, p.A18. Heil, Voice of America, p. 324-5.
10. PPP GB 1990, Vol. 2, pp. 1239-40, for press report see Andrew Rosenthal, ‘Bush tapes message for Iraqi TV,’ New York Times, 13 September 1990, p. A9.
11. Interview: David Mack. Heil, Voice of America, p. 286; George Bush Presidential Library (Texas A&M) hereafter GBL, WHORM subject file, PR010, id 186172, Bush to Messinger, 28 September 1990. The use of both subtitles and recorded translation made it much harder for the Iraqi regime to edit the broadcast without this being obvious to viewers.
12. GBL WHORM subject file, FG 298, ID 186149, President to Gelb, 28 September 1990 and for a digest of reactions to the broadcast see ID 184448, Burson to Mike Schneider (P), 17 September 1990.
13. Interview: William A. Rugh, 14 December 1995.
14. Interview: Mack. On 15 October 1990 the President called Saddam’s occupation of Kuwait ‘Hitler revisited’ but added ‘But remember, when Hitler's war ended, there were the Nuremberg trials.’ His public papers for the Desert Shield/Desert Storm period repeat this comparison in some form on eight further occasions. On 1 November the President pointed out that in his disregard for diplomatic convention Saddam was worse than Hitler. For texts see PPP GB 1990, Vol. 2, pp. 1411, 1509.
15. Interview: Rugh. For a sample of USIA materials passed to the Working Group see GBL WHORM subject file, PU, ID 180078, Gelb to Sununu, 3 October 1990 with attachments.
16. Interview: Rugh.
17. For a survey of Saddam’s propaganda and media policy see Efraim Karsh and Inari Rautsi, Saddam Hussein: A Political Biography, London: Brasseys, 1991. Interview: Rugh.
18. For full account see Todd Leventhal, Iraqi Propaganda and Disinformation During the Gulf War, (Emirates Occasional Papers No. 36), Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, Abu Dhabi, 1999 also USIA fact sheet: Iraqi disinformation: Allegations and Facts, 4 February 1991 archived online at For an overview of Iraqi disinformation see White House Office of Communications, Apparatus of Lies: Saddam’s Disinformation and Propaganda 1990-2003, Washington DC, 2003, on line at accessed 25 March 2005
19. Interviews: Rugh and Mack. For a summary of early reports see GBL WHORM subject file, PU, ID 180078, Gelb to Sununu, 3 October 1990 with attachments. Scepticism of Iraq was especially obvious in Pakistan and Islamic India.
20. Interviews: Rugh and Jerry Krell (telephone), 22 March 2004. The term ‘A Line in the Sand’ was widely used at the time and charged with American and specifically Texan resonance, as Col. William Travis drew a line in the sand to rally the defenders of the Alamo. Jesus Christ also drew a line in the sand to defend the ‘woman taken in adultery’. President Bush used the term in discussing the budget on 22 October 1990 but it was not heard in his Gulf War rhetoric until his ‘Address to the Nation on the Suspension of Allied Offensive Combat Operations in the Persian Gulf’ on 27 February 1991 (Public Papers of the Presidents George Bush 1991 – hereafter PPP GB - Vol. 1, p. 187). He used the term on sixteen further occasions as president and it became a standard element in his election campaign speeches.
21. Interview: Rugh.
22. Interview: Rugh. President Bush first told the incubator story in a news conference on 9 October (PPP GB 1990, Vol. 2, pp. 1381-82) with suitable qualification: ‘I am very much concerned, not just about the physical dismantling but of the brutality that has now been written on by Amnesty International confirming some of the tales told us by the Amir [of Kuwait] of brutality. It's just unbelievable, some of the things at least he reflected. I mean, people on a dialysis machine cut off, the machine sent to Baghdad; babies in incubators heaved out of the incubators and the incubators themselves sent to Baghdad. Now, I don't know how many of these tales can be authenticated, but I do know that when the Amir was here he was speaking from the heart. And after that came Amnesty International, who were debriefing many of the people at the border. And it's sickening.’ Subsequent uses were on 15, 16, 23 (twice) and 28 October and, 1 and 22 November. On this last instance speechwriters vividly rendered the scene as: ‘Babies pulled from incubators and scattered like firewood across the floor.’ For background to the Kuwaiti campaign see Macarthur, Second Front, pp. 37-77, Kellner, The Persian Gulf TV War, pp. 67-71 and Jarol B. Manheim, ‘Strategic public diplomacy: Managing Kuwait’s image during the Gulf Conflict,’ in Bennett and Paletz (ed’s), Taken By Storm, pp. 131-48. Fitz-Pegado left USIA in 1982. During the Clinton years Fitz-Pegado she served as Assistant Secretary and Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service at the Department of Commerce, promoting U.S. exports.
23. GBL WHORM subject file, ND 16, ID 196245, Gelb to President, 4 December 1990 with attachments,
24. PPP GB 1991, vol. 1, 13.
25. GBL WHORM subject file, PR 013.08, ID 204274 SS, Scowcroft to President, 14 January 1991.
26. PPP GB 1991, vol. 1, pp. 44.
27. GBL WHORM subject file, ND 016, ID 223959, Foreign Media Reaction Early Report, ‘Gulf Crisis’, 16 January 1991. And ID 208129, Foreign Media Reaction Early Report, ‘War in Gulf’ 25 January 1991. On the positive image of Bush specifically see SP 230.91, ID 210405, Gelb to President, 4 February 1991.
28. For a survey of Iraqi activity see Leventhal, Iraqi Propaganda and Disinformation During the Gulf War and Taylor, War and the Media, p. 90. Some sources claim that movie stars invoked by Iraqi propagandists included the animated character Bart Simpson. This story began as a joke on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show on 22 August 1990 which was confused with fact. Carson drew attention to the error on 1 February 1992 see ‘Hefners Expect Playmate for Son.’ The Toronto Star, 10 February 1991, (p. D2) also accessed 11 November 2005.
29. USIA fact sheet: Iraqi disinformation: Allegations and Facts, 4 February 1991 archived online at and GBL WHORM subject file, ND 016, 214060, Foreign Media Reaction special report, 13 February 1991.
30. Interview: Rugh. For reports see GBL WHORM subject file, ND 016, ID 21169, Foreign Media Reaction Early Report, 5 February 1991 and ID 213206, 13 February 1991, and on the Amirya story, ID 213641, 14 February 1991 and ID 214062, 15 February 1991 a report that noted ‘there was some discussion of the power of the media, especially TV, to reveal the full horror of any war and also of the ability of both Iraq and the US to manipulate viewers.’ While one airforce spokesmen conceded soon after that the ‘baby milk’ plant was as claimed by Iraq the US government maintains that is was part of the Iraqi chemical weapons program.
31. Interview: Rugh. For documentation on systematic refutation of this an other Iraqi disinformation claims see USIA fact sheet: Iraqi disinformation: Allegations and Facts, 4 February 1991 archived online at . For discussion of civilian casualties and the issue of bomb accuracy see Kellner, The Persian Gulf TV War, pp. 157-164, 205-06.
32. Interview: Rugh and Mack. Leventhal, Iraqi Propaganda and Disinformation during the Gulf War,
p. 55. Arnett, for his part, sought to skirt Iraqi censorship by slipping details into his on-air conversations with his anchor at headquarters, noting on one occasion that a particular site of civilian damage lay close to a military installation. Arnett, Live from the Battlefield, p. 355.
33. GBL WHORM subject file, ND 016, 211284, Foreign Media Reaction Early Report, ‘Persian Gulf War’, 1 February 1991.
34. Interview: Rugh. For a sample VOA editorial on the outbreak of war see GBL WHORM subject file, FO 005-03, ID 246529, VOA editorial ‘How Democracies Wage War’, 24 January 1991.
35. Interview: Mack. For editorial reactions see GBL WHORM subject file, ND 016, 211284, Foreign Media Reaction Early Report, ‘Persian Gulf War,’ 1 February 1991; For detailed discussion of the battle see Taylor, War and the Media, pp. 136-149.
36. Interview: Mack. For discussion of this story (speculating on coalition origin) see Taylor, War and the Media, p. 77.
37. For VOA editorial see GBL WHORM subject file, FO 005-03, ID 246529, ‘Saddam’s environmental terrorism, 5 February 1991. On 27 January VOA had broadcast an editorial (also in this file) showcasing US leadership in the environmental field to anticipate the opening of the Global Climate Change Convention on 4 February. For general discussion of environmental theme see Taylor, War and the Media, pp. 80-83 and Kellner, The Persian Gulf TV War, pp. 208-227
38. PPP GB 1991, Vol. 1, p. 187.
39. GBL WHORM subject file, ND 016, 217082, Foreign Media Reaction Early Report, ‘Cease-fire in the Gulf,’ 28 February 1991.
40. GBL White House Office of Media Affairs, misc files, USIA, ID 06837, ‘Results from USIA sponsored telephone survey,’ 7 February 1991.
41. GBL WHORM subject files, ND 016, 219244, Hensgen to Debra Amend, Special Ass’t to Pres. for Communications, 19 February 1991.
42. GBL WHORM subject files, ND 016, 215985, Foreign Media Reaction Special Report, ‘Analysis of World Media Opinion: “Yes” to Gorbachev’s plan or “On with the War?”, 21 February 1991
43. GBL WHORM subject file, ND 016, 215993, Foreign Media Reaction Early Report, ‘The Ground War,’ 25 February 1991.
44. For the President’s early circumspection on rebellions in Iraq see press conferences 11 and 30 August 1990 (PPP GB 1990, Vol. 2, pp. 1127, 1179). For accusations that Bush had encouraged rebellion see press conferences 4, 7, and 16 April (PPP GB 1991, Vol. 1, pp 327, 344, 378-85). On the Voice of Free Iraq see Taylor, War and the Media, p. 151-52, 239. Bush declined to comment on the station at the 7 April press conference. For discussion see Peter W. Galbraith, ‘The Ghosts of 1991,’ Washington Post, 12 April 2003, p. A19.
45. Robert S Fortner, Analysis of Voice of America Broadcasts to the Middle East during the Persian Gulf Crisis. Washington DC: Center for International and Strategic Studies, 1991, pp. 15, 56; Mark Blitzer and Neil Pickett, Review of VOA Programming During the Persian Gulf War, Indianapolis: Hudson Institute, 1991, pp. 2, 5, 39; Robert S. Greenberger, ‘Angry critics say US Arabic language was not the Voice of America during the Gulf War,’ Wall Street Journal, 13 June 1991, p.A18; Heil, Voice of America, p. 325-6.
46. PPP GB 1991, Vol. 1, 619-22. Catto, responding, called Iraq ‘the first international crisis, unmistakably, of the information age.’ For background documentation see GBL WHORM subject file, FG 298 243743, Bush to Catto, 22 April 1991 etc.
47. This summary is informed by the author’s joint interview with Clinton-era USIA director Joseph Duffey and his Deputy Penn Kemble, 28 September 2004.
48. This paragraph is based on the author’s conversations with serving senior public diplomats.
49. . On negative European reaction to this see Peter Ford, ‘Europe cringes at Bush “Crusade” against terrorists’ Christian Science Monitor, 19 September 1991, and for State Department monitoring see also and
50. Video of this statement maybe viewed at . Other gaffs included the White House’s initial decision to name the Second Gulf War ‘Operation Iraqi Liberation’ missing the acronym OIL (see ). It subsequently became Operation Iraqi Freedom.
51. Peter Slevin, ‘Ad Executive Beers Resigns State Department Post,’ Washington Post, 4 March 2003, A24; Anne E. Kornblut,’US image-builder is resigning, though she calls the job undone.’ Boston Globe, 4 March 2003, A7.
52. Tutwiler served from December ’03 to June ’04. She gave notice in April 04 that she wished to take a post at the New York Stock Exchange see Christopher Marquis, ‘Promoter of US image quits for Wall St. Job,’ New York Times, 30 April 2004.
53. Connie Cass, ‘Secretive US “information” office is back in business,’ Editor and Publisher, 10 March 2003 online at; and for Apparatus of Lies see . The State Departments misinformation home page is
54. Steve Tatham, ‘Losing the Battle for Arab Hearts and Minds,’ TBS 14, Spring 2005.
55. For the official release on Clarke’s departure see .
56. James Dao, ‘Pentagon readies efforts to sway sentiment abroad,’ New York Times, 19 February 2002; Mark Borkowski, ‘The real sultan of spin’ Independent, 31 January 2005;
57. For a press release on this story by the International Press Institute (Vienna) see
58. For a convenient survey of both sides of the issues around Sawa and Al Hurra see William A. Rugh (ed.), Engaging the Arab and Islamic Worlds through Public Diplomacy: A Report and Action Recommendations, Washington DC: Public Diplomacy Council/George Washington University, 2004, chapters 4-6.
59. Ibid., see p 1-3 for context.
60. For text see .
61. For a summary see Tom Regan, ‘US State Department “charm offensive” hits bumps’ Christian Science Monitor, 24 October 2005, online at