It Pays To Advertise?; Using Advertising To Convince Americans Of The Need To Go To War With Iraq

by Bob Simon
60 Minutes
December 8, 2002


BOB SIMON reporting:

If the White House's sales pitch to sell us a war with Iraq is to tell us over and over that Saddam Hussein gassed his own people and is a charter member of a club called the 'axis of evil,' it's not the first time a president has mounted a sales campaign to sell a war. Woodrow Wilson's pitch was that World War I was 'the war to end all wars,' which it wasn't. Franklin Roosevelt's was that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a 'day that will live in infamy,' which it was, until we kissed and made up with the Japanese. So this White House's pitch to go to war with Iraq is, more or less, an updated, Madison Avenue version of the Spanish-American War's 'Remember the Maine,' and the Revolutionary War's 'Don't tread on me.'

(Footage shown of the White House; Andrew Card; John MacArthur)

SIMON: (Voiceover) Propaganda like that pales in comparison to today's weapons of mass communication and a White House marketing campaign to sell a war that only got going in September because, as White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, formerly of General Motors, said, 'You don't introduce new product in August.' Harper's Magazine publisher John MacArthur, who wrote a book about the first Bush administration's selling of the first Gulf War, says he understands exactly where Andrew Card was coming from. Mr. JOHN MacARTHUR (Publisher, Harper's Magazine): You don't introduce a new product in August. You introduce it in the fall, which is the first quarter selling season for the car companies.

SIMON: And the new product he was referring to was?

Mr. MacARTHUR: Was a new policy about Iraq, which was...

SIMON: About invading Iraq?

Mr. MacARTHUR: ...about invading Iraq. It's a new policy.

SIMON: You don't push that in August?

Mr. MacARTHUR: You don't push that in August.

SIMON: Nobody's watching.

Mr. MacARTHUR: Nobody's watching. You gotta sell it in September, along with the new model year cars.

(Footage of helicopter and troops in Kuwait)

SIMON: (Voiceover) The first Bush administration began mobilizing for war against Iraq after Saddam invaded Kuwait. That was a violation of international law and a good reason to go to war, perhaps, but according to MacArthur, not a good enough way to sell it.

Mr. MacARTHUR: They had to sell the American people with something more spectacular and something more gruesome.

(Footage of Nayirah testifying before Congress)

SIMON: (Voiceover) And this is what they found.

NAYIRAH: They took the babies out of the incubators. They took the incubators and left the children to die on the cold floor.

(Footage of Nayirah testifying; then-President George H. W. Bush)

SIMON: (Voiceover) She was known only as Nayirah, and she provided gruesome accounts of Iraqi brutality in Kuwait to Congress and to the United Nations just before both bodies voted to go to war with Iraq.

President GEORGE H. W. BUSH: The incubators...

(Footage of troops)

SIMON: (Voiceover) The baby incubator story became the war cry of the Bush administration.

Pres. GEORGE H. W. BUSH: Babies pulled from incubators and scattered like firewood across the floor.

(Footage of Nayirah)

SIMON: (Voiceover) There was only one problem with the story: It wasn't true.

Mr. MacARTHUR: No babies were pulled from incubators in Kuwait City hospitals. But at the time, everyone believed the story.

(Footage of newspaper articles; photo of Nayirah and her family; Hill and Knowlton firm; footage of President George W. Bush on campaign trail)

SIMON: (Voiceover) MacArthur, who broke the story, established that Nayirah was actually the Kuwaiti ambassador's daughter, and that she'd been coached by the Kuwaiti royal family's American PR firm, Hill and Knowlton. That was 12 years ago. But this September, with the kind of fanfare accompanying the launch of any new product, the president hit the campaign trail to make the case for waging war against Saddam.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: This is a man who has gassed his own people, used weapons of mass destruction on his own citizens.

They've gassed their own people with weapons of mass destruction.

He gassed his own people with weapons of mass destruction.

(Paintings of Saddam Hussein; soldiers; building blowing up)

SIMON: (Voiceover) It's generally assumed that Saddam does have chemical and biological weapons, but is he also on the verge of producing a nuclear bomb, as the president says he's tried to do in the past?

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: I would remind you, that when the inspectors first went into Iraq and were denied--finally denied access, a report came out of the atomic--the a--the--the--the IAEA that they were six months away from developing a weapon. I don't know what more evidence we need.

Mr. DAVID ALBRIGHT (Physicist): There is no such report, as far as I know.

(Photo of David Albright in Iraq; footage of Albright on phone; flags from various countries at IAEA building)

SIMON: (Voiceover) Physicist David Albright was a weapons inspector in Iraq during the 1990s, and now directs a Washington think tank called the Institute for Science and International Security. He says contrary to what the president claimed, neither the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, nor any other investigative body has ever reported that Iraq was only six months away from the bomb.

Well, has the administration been accurate when they've described the threat in terms of weapons of mass destruction?

Mr. ALBRIGHT: I think, in--in general, to worry about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is--is very important. I think where I differ with them is the imminence of the nuclear threat.

SIMON: Why do you think the Bush administration has been exaggerating?

Mr. ALBRIGHT: Well, what--what I worried about, and this is why I personally got involved and why my institute got involved, is is that we always fear that--that a government will use the nuclear card to increase support for a policy of what's, in this case, invasion of Iraq.

(Footage of Card with President Bush and Condoleezza Rice; New York Times articles from September; excerpts from CNN's "Late Edition"; NBC's "Meet the Press")

SIMON: (Voiceover) And he says the administration has been making other unsubstantiated claims to beef up its case that Iraq is getting close to the bomb. Take this September New York Times article. Anonymous administration officials were quoted as saying that Iraq was trying to import "aluminum tubes." Those tubes, the officials claimed, could be used only in gas centrifuges to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Hours later, the administration's top officials were on the Sunday talk shows trumpeting the story administration officials had just leaked.

(Excerpt from "Meet the Press")

Vice President DICK CHENEY: He now is trying through his illicit procurement network to acquire the equipment he needs to be able to enrich uranium to make the bombs.

Mr. TIM RUSSERT: Aluminum tubes.

Vice Pres. CHENEY: Specifically aluminum tubes. There's a story in The New York Times this morning...

(End of excerpt)

Dr. CONDOLEEZZA RICE (National Security Adviser): (From CNN) High-quality aluminum tubes that are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs.

SIMON: Even the president jumped on the tubes bandwagon.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: High-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment.

(Footage of sites around Britain; documents on Britain's study of Iraq)

SIMON: (Voiceover) But the British government, which supports the administration's campaign against Iraq, had a different assessment. Its study on Iraq concluded 'there is no definitive intelligence that the tubes are destined for a nuclear program.'

Mr. ALBRIGHT: People who understood gas centrifuges almost uniformly felt that these tubes were not specific to gas centrifuge use.

(Footage of Albright with Simon)

SIMON: (Voiceover) In fact, he says, even the US government's weapons experts think the tubes are more suited to conventional military applications.

It seems that what you're suggesting is that the administration's leak to The New York Times, regarding aluminum tubes, was misleading?

Mr. ALBRIGHT: Oh, I think it was. I think--I think it was very misleading.

SIMON: So basically what you're saying is that whatever nugget of information comes across, the Bush administration puts it in a box labeled 'nuclear threat,' whereas it could go many other places.

Mr. ALBRIGHT: That's how it looked, and that they were selectively picking information to bolster a case that the Iraqi nuclear threat was more imminent than it is, and in essence, scare people.

(Footage of President Bush holding news conference; Charlotte Beers at press conference)

SIMON: (Voiceover) But the administration isn't just marketing an American war against the state of Iraq, it's trying to sell the Muslim world on the notion that the Americans are not the bad guys in the Middle East. That's why the State Department recruited Madison Avenue's Charlotte Beers to manage its account. Ms. Beers made her name selling Uncle Ben's rice. Now, as undersecretary of State, her new product is America itself.

Secretary COLIN POWELL (State Department): People have said, 'Well, is that what you really need to have? Didn't she used to sell Uncle Ben's rice?' The answer is, 'Yes, she did. And didn't you buy Uncle Ben's rice?' And that's exactly what I want, somebody who can market our value system, somebody who can--who can get out there and mix it up in the kind of world we're living in.

(Footage of Beers; Muslims)

SIMON: (Voiceover) Ms. Beers has produced a series of advertisements--$15 million worth--aimed at convincing the Muslim world that the war on terror and Iraq is not a war against Islam.

(Excerpts from advertisements)

Mr. ABDUL HAMMUDA. My name is Abdul Hammuda. I'm the owner of Tiger Lebanese Bakery, located here in Toledo, Ohio.

Ms. DEVIANTI FARIDZ: Hi. I'm Devianti Faridz. I'm a masters student, majoring in broadcast journalism at the University of Missouri.

(End of excerpts)

(Excerpt from advertisement)

SIMON: (Voiceover) In the ads, Muslim Americans talk about how good they have it in the USA.

Unidentified Man #1: (From ad) I've never gotten disrespected because I'm a--I'm a Muslim.

(Footage of Muslims; Pakistani diplomat Hussein Haqqani with Simon)

SIMON: (Voiceover) But most of the Muslim countries targeted by the ads have refused to run them. And Pakistani diplomat Hussein Haqqani, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says the ads are selling the wrong product.

Mr. HUSSEIN HAQQANI: If the US objective was to promote immigration to the United States, then these are great ads. You're telling them, 'You can be Muslims. You can pre--p--practice your religion, and you can still live in the US happily.' I think any Madison Avenue person would know that if they're told to prepare a campaign for the wrong product, then there would be a problem. Right now...

SIMON: The product is the United States.

Mr. HAQQANI: The product is the United States policy, not the United States...

SIMON: Ah, but that's the product.

Mr. HAQQANI: ...because the United States does not have a problem--the United States does not have a problem; US policy does.

(Footage of Norm Pattiz in car; Westwood One headquarters sign; Pattiz on phone; inside Radio Sawa station)

SIMON: (Voiceover) And how do you tackle that? Norm Pattiz, founder of Westwood One, the largest radio network in America, owned partly by Viacom, has been trying a new approach from Hollywood. He noted that very few people were tuning in to the Voice of America Arabic service. So he persuaded Congress to fund a new Arabic language pop music station called Radio Sawa. Every half-hour, the music is interrupted by a short, America-friendly news report.

Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)

(Footage of Middle Eastern countries; Pattiz with Simon)

SIMON: (Voiceover) Radio Sawa can be heard everywhere, from Cairo to Baghdad, and it's doing very well. For example, in the eight months it's been on the air, it's become the most popular station among young people in Jordan. We asked Norm Pattiz how he pulled it off.

Mr. NORMAN PATTIZ (Founder, Westwood One): This is just basic blocking and tackling in my business. I'm not surprised by this at all.

SIMON: OK. What I'm surprised by is that they love our product in the Middle East. They love us in the Middle East. They love our music. They love our movies. They love our blue jeans. They love everything about us except our policy.

Mr. PATTIZ: Right.

SIMON: They hate our policy.

Mr. PATTIZ: Right.

SIMON: Now are you addressing that?

Mr. PATTIZ: Well, yes, but we're doing it in a different way. Since everything that you said was absolutely correct--is absolutely correct, that they don't like our policy, we don't lead with our policy.

(Footage of Muslims; citizens of the Middle East; statue of Saddam Hussein; photo of Mohamed Atta; footage of Prague)

SIMON: (Voiceover) So he leads with music. But that doesn't make the policy go away. And while some in the Middle East understand America's war on terror, they don't see what that has to do with invading Iraq. The administration has been trying to make a link to implicate Saddam Hussein in the attacks of September 11th, and they've been pointing to an alleged meeting between Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker, and an Iraqi intelligence officer in the Czech capital of Prague.

Vice Pres. CHENEY: (From "Meet the Press," September 8, 2002) We have reporting that places him in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official a few months before the attack on the World Trade Center.

Mr. BOB BAER: I've scene no evidence. There's no entry documents. There's no--there's no photographs of him there. There's no witnesses that knew him that said he was there.

(Footage of Baer)

SIMON: (Voiceover) Bob Baer spent 16 years as an undercover agent for the CIA in the Middle East, including Iraq. Earlier this year, he was asked by a leading law firm, which is suing the Iraqi government, to look for evidence that the meeting took place.

So you looked and you did not find.

Mr. BAER: No. And I reported that this just--we couldn't prove it. And there's a lot of CIA people out there trying to help on this case using old contacts, and we just couldn't--we couldn't come up with it.

Mr. RICHARD PERLE: To the best of my knowledge that meeting took place.

(Footage of Perle with Simon)

SIMON: (Voiceover) Richard Perle chairs the Defense Policy Board which advises Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Mr. PERLE: The information that was conveyed to us about that meeting was very convincing at the time.

SIMON: The FBI, the CIA and Czech intelligence have all quietly backed away from the notion that such a meeting took place.

Mr. PERLE: I don't think we should overemphasize the importance of that meeting. Everything that this administration is doing, with respect to Saddam Hussein, it would be quite right to do even if no such meeting had ever taken place.

SIMON: 'Even if no such meeting had ever taken place,' and even though the administration has produced no evidence, the story has been so widely reported that a recent poll taken by the Council on Foreign Relations revealed that two-thirds of all Americans believe that Iraq was behind September 11th.


MMII, CBS Worldwide Inc.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of criminal justice, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.