|Jessica Lynch. Private First Class Jessica Lynch was a 19-year-old U.S. Army supply clerk with the 507th Maintenance Company based in Fort Bliss, Texas, and served in Iraq during the 2003 invasion by U.S. and allied forces.|
She was injured and captured by Iraqi forces but was recovered on April 1 by U.S. Special Operations Forces, with the incident subsequently receiving considerable news coverage.
On March 23, 2003 the Humvee in which Lynch was riding apparently took a wrong turn and was ambushed, being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, and crashed into the rear of a tractor-trailer. Lynch was seriously injured and some of her comrades were killed.
But Jessica Lynch, being the full-blooded American soldier that she was, lay there in the ditch, fighting the pain from her broken bones, and firing her M-16 at the enemy until all her clips were empty and she finally passed into unconsciousness.
She was captured and taken prisoner, full of stab wounds and bullet holes, and was whisked off to a ragged Iraqi hospital where she was chained to a bed and held for eight days by vicious Iraqi guards who slapped her around, abused her, and possibly raped her. And later, she was rescued in one of the most daring and macho made-for-TV moments of the war, by elite teams of hunky U.S. Army Rangers and U.S. Navy SEALs. Wow. Except that none of it ever really happened that way.
|Just after midnight, Army Rangers and Navy Seals stormed the Nassiriya hospital. Their "daring" assault on enemy territory was captured by the military's night-vision camera. They were said to have come under fire, but they made it to Lynch and whisked her away by helicopter. That was the message beamed back to viewers within hours of the rescue.|
"It was like a Hollywood film. They cried, 'Go, go, go', with guns and blanks and the sound of explosions. They made a show - an action movie like Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan, with jumping and shouting, breaking down doors." All the time with the camera rolling.
A military cameraman had shot footage of the rescue. It was a race against time for the video to be edited. The video presentation was ready a few hours after the first brief announcement. When it was shown, General Vincent Brooks, the US spokesman in Doha, declared: "Some brave souls put their lives on the line to make this happen, loyal to a creed that they know that they'll never leave a fallen comrade."
That five-minute video of the rescue claimed that Lynch had stab and bullet wounds, and that she had been slapped about and interrogated while on her hospital bed.
And despite all the claims of the US government, the military and the Pentagon, Lynch had no knife wounds or bullet holes, just a few broken bones, and the dramatic and violent "rescue" was really just inane and silly and entirely faked and yet America bought it, hook, line and sinker, because it was on TV.
There was one more twist. Two days before the snatch squad arrived, Al-Houssona had arranged to deliver Jessica to the Americans in an ambulance. "I told her I will try and help you escape to the American Army but I will do this very secretly because I could lose my life." He put her in an ambulance and instructed the driver to go to the American checkpoint. When he was approaching it, the Americans opened fire and the Iraqis fled back to the hospital. The Americans had almost killed their prize catch.
None of the details that the doctors provided Correspondent with made it to the video or to any subsequent explanations or clarifications by US authorities. I asked the Pentagon spokesman in Washington, Bryan Whitman, to release the full tape of the rescue, rather than its edited version, to clear up any discrepancies. He declined.
One witness account, claimed in an opinion article written by a correspondent within the BBC, included the opinion that the Special Operations Forces had foreknowledge that the Iraqi military had fled a day before they raided the hospital, and that the entire event was staged, even going so far as to use blanks in the Marine's guns to create the appearance that they were firing.
The US government story was immediately disputed by doctors working at the hospital, who claim that Lynch was shielded and protected from Iraqi military personnel by hospital staff and was treated well throughout her stay at the hospital. Lynch's own story concurs with these accounts, claiming that she was treated humanely, with a nurse even singing to her.
Iraqi doctors and nurses later interviewed, including Dr. Harith Al-Houssona, a doctor in the Nasirya hospital, described Lynch's injuries as "a broken arm, a broken thigh, and a dislocated ankle". According to Al-Houssona, there was no sign of gunshot or stab wounds, and Lynch's injuries were consistent with those that would be suffered in a car accident, which Lynch verified when she stated that she got hurt when her Humvee flipped and broke her leg. Al-Houssona's account of events was later confirmed in a U.S. Army report leaked on July 10, 2003.
Dr Harith al-Houssona, who looked after her throughout her ordeal. "I examined her, I saw she had a broken arm, a broken thigh and a dislocated ankle. Then I did another examination. There was no [sign of] shooting, no bullet inside her body, no stab wound - only RTA, road traffic accident," he recalled. "They want to distort the picture."
Lynch, along with major media outlets, fault the U.S. government for fabricating the story as part of the Pentagon's war propaganda effort. On April 24, 2007 she testified in front of Congress that she had never fired her weapon; her M16 rifle jammed, as did all weapons systems assigned to her unit, and she had been knocked unconscious when her vehicle crashed.
In her testimony, Lynch said the Pentagon had erroneously portrayed her as a “Rambo from the hills of West Virginia” when, in fact, she never fired a shot after her truck was ambushed.
She began her testimony by noting for the record that her appearance was not politically motivated. In a prepared statement, she said: "I am still confused as to why they chose to lie and tried to make me a legend. I believe this is not a time for finger pointing. It is time for the truth, the whole truth, versus hype and misinformation."
Months after returning, Lynch's statements tended to be sharply critical of the original story that was reported by the Washington Post. When asked about her heroine status, "That wasn't me. I'm not about to take credit for something I didn't do... I'm just a survivor."
She denied the claims that she fought until being wounded, reporting that her weapon jammed immediately, and that she could not have done anything anyway. Interviewed by Diane Sawyer, Lynch claimed, concerning the Pentagon: "They used me to symbolize all this stuff. It's wrong. I don't know why they filmed [my rescue] or why they say these things." She also stated "I did not shoot, not a round, nothing. I went down praying to my knees. And that's the last I remember." She reported being treated very well in Iraq, and that one person in the hospital even sang to her to help her feel at home.
The authorized biography, I Am A Soldier Too: The Jessica Lynch Story, by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Rick Bragg states that Lynch had been raped during her captivity, based on medical records and her pattern of injuries. Lynch denies any sexual assault and was "adamantly opposed to including the rape claim in the book", but that Bragg wore her down and told her that "people need to know that this is what can happen to women soldiers".
During the American invasion of Iraq there was an incident which failed to register as a milestone in the history of war reporting.
From the Kaleej Times; 4 September 2010
|Private Jessica Lynch, a 19-year-old army clerk from Palestine, West Virginia, a member of the US Army’s 507th Ordnance Maintenance Corps, was captured on 26 March 2003 when her company took a wrong turning just outside Nasiriya and was ambushed. Nine of her fellow soldiers were killed and Private Lynch was taken to the local hospital, which at the time was swarming with Iraqi soldiers.|
Eight days later US special forces team stormed the hospital, took Lynch from her bed and whisked her away by helicopter. The whole dramatic event was captured on video by a Pentagon team using night vision cameras.
At Coalition headquarters in Qatar, the war correspondents corps was summoned from their beds in the early hours to hear the good news. They were given five minute-long video tapes of the rescue-green, grainy shots of crouching Navy Seals and Army Rangers, guns at the ready, taking over the hospital and carrying Private Jessica to safety in a stretcher. This was the story that, first the American public then the rest of the world, learnt that morning.
The result was extraordinary. President Bush announced that he was “full of joy for Jessica Lynch”. Her rescue was hailed as a testament to a core American value—it took care of its people. Private Jessica Lynch became the first hero of the Second Iraq war, complete with “America Loves Jessica” fridge magnets, T-shirts, mugs, country songs, an NBC made-for-TV movie and a sign outside her town saying, “Home of Jessica Lynch ex-POW”.
Jessica Lynch was captured and she was in the hospital in Nassiriya and she was taken from there by US Special Forces. But the rest was all fiction, an audacious piece of Pentagon news management, which probably would not have been revealed if it had not been for a courageous BBC documentary called “War Spin”.
In the documentary, the BBC presenter asked Bryan Whitman, the architect of the Pentagon’s whole media strategy for the war, if he would release the full videotape of the rescue rather than the edited version. Whitman said no, he would not. Jessica herself could have resolved all the conflicting information in one interview but the Pentagon would not allow it. It explained that she now had no memory of the incident and probably never would.
But she did, and she had the courage to announce that the Pentagon’s video tape was almost entirely a fiction, that she had been well-treated by the Iraqi medical staff and that she was embarrassed by the fuss.
The story died and the media moved on. But the affair had been noted by the British Ministry of Defence and its significance has only just emerged. The British Army has deployed its own embedded media squad, the Combat Camera team (CCT) in Afghanistan, a result of the MoD “identifying a need for managing the media during conflicts”.
The CCT’s video, photos and reports are distributed to broadcast and print media and published on the army’s YouTube channel. In other words the traditional war correspondent has been completely by-passed and the news of what is happening in Afghanistan is being provided by the MoD itself.
Obviously this cannot be objective. One CCT officer puts it; “Obviously, we are not looking to show the people we are with in a bad light—any Public Relations person doesn’t want to do that. But it you put out material that is overly biased it is never going to be used, so that would be counter-productive.”
If Afghanistan were full of traditional war correspondents, the presence of CCT teams would be balanced by their activities. But according to an MoD spokesman, except for a documentary team, there are no embedded war correspondents in Afghanistan at the moment.
So we have a situation where the news of what is happening there comes from the government department running the war. How can the public possibly know what is really going on as distinct from what the political/military class tells it is going on. The media should have seen it coming with the Jessica Lynch scandal. It did not and is paying the price.