Catching Babies on Bayonets
Jude Wanniski
May 7, 2002


Memo To: William F. Buckley, Jr.
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The "Massacre at Jenin"

Your column yesterday, "Did the Israelis Do It?," was on the mark. Whenever there are charges of massacres and atrocities by one people against another, I look around for a public-relations man. Sure, there are cases when warring armies go berserk and engage in wholesale slaughter. The Armenians still hold a blood grudge against the Turks for the deaths of 600,000 who died in 1915 when Turkey decided the entire Armenian population of 1,750,000 had to be deported for national security reasons in World War I. But for the most part, mass killings generally turn out to be inflated, or even non-events. Propaganda is a useful tool in the hands of a weak people to win sympathy against those who dominate. This seems to be what happened at Jenin, as the reports of Israeli soldiers indiscriminately killing Palestinians in a blood lust turn out to be greatly exaggerated. It would have been good if the UN had been permitted to do its own investigation, but there have been enough reports from the area by other authorities to indicate barbaric acts were not the rule.

I remember when I was a little boy growing up in Brooklyn during World War II, hearing stories of how "the Japs" would throw babies in the air and catch them on their bayonets. Of course I believed them at the time, as they were meant to persuade us that they were subhuman. When we heard that Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed hundreds of thousands of civilians with atomic bombs, it was easier for us to understand why it had to be done. The Japs were fanatical They even resorted to kamikaze pilots, young men who would volunteer to crash their planes into US warships, and certain death. Of course, after the war, when Japan and Germany aligned with us in the Cold War, Hollywood depicted kinder and gentler military men among the axis powers, even in the wartime settings. I watched Hogan's Heroes the other night on TVLand and marveled at how quickly the "krauts" had become downright cuddly.

Over the years, I've seen it again and again, as good guys suddenly have to become bad guys and vice versa. The Bosnians several years ago stole the PR march on the Serbs with a campaign about Serb atrocities. When the stories of the Bosnian atrocities came out much later, they were buried in the back pages of the newspapers. Slobodan Milosevic had been the good guy as far as we were concerned, a multiculturalist ally running a stable Yugoslavia. But when the economy cratered under the evil influence of the IMF, and the big guys in DC decided it would be good to give NATO something to do, he became a bad guy, and is now in the docket at the Hague for war crimes, massacres and atrocities.

So too with Iraq. As long as the Iraqi Army was killing Iranians in their eight-year war, he was a good guy, and our government helped him as much as it could to do the killing. The Israelis, on the other hand, back Iran, as our government and Israel's decided it would be in both our interests if they bled each other white. When the war ended in 1988, with Iraq winning a surprise victory over a nation three times its size, it suddenly became convenient for our government to charge Saddam Hussein with "gassing his own people" at Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan in March and of wiping out 100,000 Kurds with poison gas in August of '88. As you note in your column, when journalists went out to corroborate the deaths of 200 Arabs at the hands of murderous Israelis in the aftermath of the 1967 war, the victims could not be found. That's 200. To this day, there is still no sign of the whereabouts of the 100,000 Iraqi citizens who supposedly were slaughtered by Saddam's troops. Stephen Pelletiere, who led a team of the Army War College who investigated the charges, told me recently that this never happened, that it was a "hoax," or non-event. But because it is repeated incessantly by the administration, there is probably not more than one or two members of Congress who have not swallowed it.

The "babies on a bayonet" was actually a hoax drummed up by a PR firm hired by the Israeli Lobby in 1990, to stoke up passions against Iraq. When the Iraqi Army invaded Kuwait, there was plenty of wariness about getting involved in a border dispute, but then stories appeared about how the Iraqis pulled the plugs on 300 infants in their hospital incubators. One step away from bayonets. The story got plenty of attention, but when congressional investigators looked at that doozy, they found it had been concocted by the same PR firm in Washington that is now running the Office of Strategic Influence, on the sly, in the Pentagon.

Did you happen to notice, Bill, this little item in Investor's Business Daily last week? Remember the story spread far and wide that 9-11 suicide bomber, Mohammed Atta, had met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague in 2001? Now IBD tells us: "US investigators no longer believe suicide hijacker Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Europe in 2001, eliminating the only known link between Iraq and the Sept 11 attack." The Czech government found that Mohammed Atta had not been in Prague when they said he was. Whoops! But if you ask President Bush or any member of the U.S. Congress, I'm sure not many read that little item. Babies on bayonets go a long way.