Exploitation of children; does it have to harm them? | Thought Bites #13

Now, manual labor is certainly not the only form of exploitation of children, sexual exploitation of children is rampant more than ever in the modern society. But today lets look into a form of exploitation that tilts more towards manipulation in favour of the exploiter and doesn’t necessarily harm the children, but rather gives them a higher intellectual and moral ground. Children occupy a soft spot in people’s mind, the age old image of children’s innocence is a sweet spot to exploit.

There has been an almost viral photo comparison of Greta Thunberg’s speech and Nayirah’s.

Greta Thunberg (left), Nayirah (right)
Image source: The Unshackled

Now I haven’t read enough scientific papers to be on either side of the motions by Thunberg, but I certainly have read enough about the Gulf war, specifically what drove the public opinion in its favour. It was funny to me how without doing any research a simple side by side photo manifests a feeling of nostalgia and encouragement to change, so I thought maybe I could tell you about what really happened.

In the 90s the First Gulf War started, Iraq invaded Kuwait, which later ended in ’91 when US led a coalition of countries expelled Iraqi army from Kuwait and destroyed much of Iraq’s military capability. Also called Persian Gulf War. Now, as always, public needs to support the decision for it to work out. On October 10, 1990 a testimony was delivered by 15-year-old ‘Nayirah’ to the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in which she testified to have been witness to Iraqi soldiers taking babies out of incubators in a Kuwaiti hospital, leaving them to die, heart wrenching for sure. Here’s a simple thought exercise; imagine if instead of a 15 year old crying (she cried while testifying) teenager you had an adult testifying, I’m pretty sure there would be scrutiny of his/her testimony, they’d look into the background, re-check the ‘facts’ and what not. No one would accept it right as it came out of the mouth and then distribute the clip to all major news channels to gain publicity and then garner support for invasion of Kuwait by the US.

Nayirah’s testimony was widely publicized. Hill & Knowlton, which had filmed the hearing, sent out a video news release to Medialink, a firm that served nearly 700 television stations in the United States. That night, portions of the testimony aired on ABC’s “Nightline” and NBC “Nightly News”, reaching an estimated audience between 35 and 53 million Americans. Then President George Bush and several senators cited the testimony in their affirmations to use force in the war, in the following weeks. Iraq denied the allegations. On October 16, Iraqi information minister, Latif Nassif al-Jassem, told the Iraqi News Agency that “now you [Bush] are using what he [Sheikh Jaber] told you to make Congress ratify the budget which is in the red because of your policies,” adding: “you, as the president of a superpower, have to weigh words carefully and not act as a clown who repeats what he is told.”

It was later revealed that she was actually Nayirah Al-Sabah, the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States and her testimony was a false one. Nayirah had been enlisted on behalf of Kuwaiti interest group Citizens for a Free Kuwait as a part of a public relations campaign run by US PR firm Hill & Knowlton. As it turns out, her testimony was concocted and coached by consultants at Hill & Knowlton and also had been taking acting lessons on the request of the CIA. This carefully crafted lie was backed by Amnesty International, which later issued a correction and claimed that it had been manipulated by the Bush administration of the time. By then, however, the damage had been done. The horrifying testimonial image of “vulnerable babies being ruthlessly and callously murdered by bloodthirsty Iraqi soldiers” had already been broadcast worldwide. The resulting public outcry was manipulated by war-hawks in the US government to shift public opinion on intervention in Kuwait, leading to the 1990 Gulf War. Following this, al-Sabah’s testimony has come to be regarded as a classic example of modern atrocity propaganda – playing a (fake) victim card; giving oneself the higher moral stand. An ABC report found that “patients, including premature babies, did die, when many of Kuwait’s nurses and doctors… fled” but Iraqi troops “almost certainly had not stolen hospital incubators and left hundreds of Kuwaiti babies to die.”

I find it frustrating why it seems that questioning the “truth” of innocent victims of the world (children/teens) is seen as derogatory and nearly bigotry. Just because one is crying doesn’t mean they’re telling the truth, now that doesn’t mean that the one who is crying is lying, now to be precautionary we should give them empathy enough that it doesn’t effect the procedure of fact checking and other necessary measures of finding the solution. I’ve said this before, we are emotional beings, we take a small amount of (false) information and it being enough to induce in us high degree of empathy driven actions; if something needs emotional premise as a pillar of truth and right act, it isn’t right, something is fishy. No matter the subjectivity, if something is right it doesn’t need emotional charge to be right, and I guess it’s obvious enough that popular doesn’t mean right either – we’re slaves of modern times, of controlled information.


  • https://citizentruth.org/fake-news-1990-that-ignited-gulf-war-sympathy/
  • https://prwatch.org/books/tsigfy10.html
  • https://www.theunshackled.net/rundown/greta-thunberg-vs-nayirah-testimony/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nayirah_testimony

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