STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE: THE SCANDAL WAS A COVERUP -- ILLUSTRATED SCREENPLAY & SCREENCAP GALLERY
[MEGAN AMBUHL GRANER, SPECIALIST MILITARY POLICE] My husband is in prison right now.
And I can't move on from this until he comes home. So, that's pretty difficult.
This huge political monster caused Lynndie England 3 years, Ivan Frederick 8 years, and my husband 10 years.
[BRENT PACK, ARMY SPECIAL AGENT, CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION DIVISION] When I went through Desert Storm we were seen as the rescuers, the heroes. Our mission was to reclaim Kuwait. That was something that was honorable. [LC-1] This war in Iraq, like Vietnam, will probably get remembered as the one time we were not the heroes, we were not the saviors. And these photographs will play a big part in that. War is a stressful time for people. They were getting shelled on a frequent basis at that prison. A young person with no experience in the world being thrown into something like that may get confused. We all see hindsight as 20-20 and I'm sure they all look back realizing what happened was wrong, and they played a part in something that was very embarrassing for the country, but at the time they were in a war zone where the rules get fuzzy sometimes. Lynndie England, I really feel sorry for that gal. It's obvious she is one of those young people that doesn't have much experience in life. There had been no indication that she would have been involved in anything like this, but she was in love. Ambuhl, she, well, she knew when the line was drawn and when it was time for her to disappear, because she would be present during some things and noticeably absent during others. So she was probably one of the smarter ones.
[LYNNDIE ENGLAND, PRIVATE FIRST CLASS MILITARY POLICE] In the pictures that came out in the media, all you seen was me.
[LC-1] For how dishonorable this mission was, see "House of Bush, House of Saud -- The Secret Relationship Between the World's Two Most Powerful Dynasties," by Craig Unger
At the same time that Nayirah was telling Americans about Iraqi atrocities, the Pentagon began telling Americans about the looming Iraqi military threat. By mid-September, even before Nayirah's testimony, the Bush administration claimed that 250,000 Iraqi troops were in Kuwait and the surrounding region. But there was compelling evidence that the Iraqi military threat to the Saudis had either been vastly overstated by the United States or that Iraq had withdrawn its troops. In August, a Japanese newspaper approached Peter Zimmerman, a fellow with the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, with photos of Kuwait taken by a Soviet commercial satellite company. Zimmerman showed the photos to various other experts and "all of us agreed we couldn't see anything in the way of military activity."
The media, however, was too cautious to run with a story saying that the Pentagon had exaggerated the Iraqi military threat. Nevertheless, ABC News pursued the story and bought a set of five Soviet satellite pictures of eastern Kuwait and southern Iraq, which were taken on September 13, at a time during which the United States asserted that the Iraqi military force was at full strength. According to Zimmerman, the photos were "astounding in their quality." But when he reviewed them with another expert, both of them were shocked not by what they saw, but by what they didn't see. "We turned to each other and we both said, 'There's nothing there,' " said Zimmerman. Nothing suggested an Iraqi military presence anywhere in Kuwait. "In fact," Newsweek reported, "all they could see, in crystal-clear detail, was the U.S. buildup in Saudi Arabia." Where were the Iraqi soldiers? The evidence strongly suggested that Cheney's presentation to Prince Bandar six weeks earlier vastly overstated the Iraqi threat -- or that the Iraqis had retreated.
ABC News, however, had neglected to obtain a photo showing one thirty-kilometer strip of land in Kuwait. Perhaps all the Iraqi troops were hiding in that sector. But an enterprising reporter in Florida named Jean Heller got her newspaper, the St. Petersburg Times, to purchase the missing photo. It too showed no sign of the missing Iraqi troops. "The Pentagon kept saying the bad guys were there, but we don't see anything to indicate an Iraqi force in Kuwait of even twenty percent the size the administration claimed," Zimmerman told Heller.
As the story spread, the Pentagon's PR machine shifted into damage-control mode. A spokesman said the military "sticks by its numbers," then went to work discouraging ABC, CBS, and the Chicago Tribune from pursuing the story. ABC News's Mark Brender explained that the network dropped it partly because the photos were inconclusive, but also because there was "a sense that you would be bucking the trend. ... If you're going to stick your neck out and say that the number of Iraqi forces may not be as high as the administration is saying, then you better be able to say how many there are." One of the few major newspapers to suggest that Iraq never really showed up for battle en masse was Newsday, which, after the Gulf War was under way, reported that American troops had encountered a "phantom enemy." It noted that most of the huge Iraqi army, which was said to have half a million troops in Kuwait and southern Iraq, simply was nowhere to be seen. In addition, as if foreshadowing the Iraq War of 2003, Saddam Hussein's supposed chemical warfare never materialized.
One senior American commander told a Newsday reporter that the information about the Iraqi defenses put out before the war was highly exaggerated. "There was a great disinformation campaign surrounding this war," he said.