Our view

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 September, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 September, 1999, 12:00am

Two of your columnists Andy Ho (South China Morning Post, September 7) and Tim Hamlett (Sunday Morning Post, September 12) have suggested that Hill and Knowlton helped fabricate information during the Gulf War to influence public opinion in favour of US intervention against Iraq. We didn't.

Hill and Knowlton began representation of the Citizens for a Free Kuwait shortly after the Iraqi invasion.

We were asked to undertake the effort by a group of Kuwaiti citizens living in the US, including a number of people who had been a part of the earlier National Assembly and, in some cases, had served as ministers of an earlier government.

We were not hired by the Kuwait royal family or by the Government of Kuwait.

Our job was to acquaint Americans with the country of Kuwait, its people and the facts of the Iraqi invasion and occupation.

We also, at the request of Chairman Thomas Lantos of the US Government's House of Representatives' Human Rights Caucus, provided the names of potential witnesses among Americans and Kuwaitis who had been in Kuwait after the invasion, observed a variety of Iraqi atrocities, and who had then escaped to the US. One such witness was Nayirah Al Sabah, the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the US.

Her story was that while she was volunteering at a local hospital she observed what was common knowledge elsewhere in the country, that Iraqi soldiers had entered hospitals, commandeered incubators, and removed the babies from them and left them to die. She had, in fact, observed one such incident, and heard from her fellow volunteers and other nurses of many more.

Her name was not disclosed at the time of her testimony.

This decision was made by the Chairman of the Congressional Committee following a request from her father, for fear it would endanger other family members still in Kuwait.

However, her name was always on the public record of witnesses to be heard, and could have been obtained by looking at the list.

It is not unusual for witnesses to seek name protection before Congressional Committees. Hill and Knowlton was not involved in this decision.

As to the testimony, Reuters, The Washington Post, and the news columns of The New York Times, as well as the American Embassy in Kuwait, verified that there were numerous examples of babies being removed from incubators by Iraqi soldiers and being left to die.

In addition, an investigation handled by private investigation agency Jules Kroll proved that the Iraqis committed this heinous crime. The US Pentagon also undertook an intensive investigation of eyewitnesses and concluded that the atrocities committed by the Iraqis included looting of incubators after ruthlessly discarding the babies in them.

No information was fabricated in any way by Hill and Knowlton.

Any public relations initiative should persuade and educate on the facts alone. This is what Hill and Knowlton does day-in and day-out for its clients worldwide.

VIVIAN LINES Senior Vice-President Chief Operating Officer Asia Pacific Hill and Knowlton