the Private Jessica Story
By Ernest Partridge, The
In a recent website post I mentioned that the rescue of Private
Jessica Lynch was staged. My sources for this allegation were
numerous news reports from foreign sources, which I urge you
to read (they are listed and linked at the end of this article).
Not surprisingly, except for a few liberal columnists, those
reports are virtually absent from the mainstream American
That comment prompted this brief and terse reply in my e-mail:
"I assure you that Pfc. Lynch's rescue was
most certainly NOT staged. I was there, and it was the most
difficult mission I've done during either my deployment to
Afghanistan or Iraq."
Now what is a poor writer supposed to do with a message
like that? It puts me in a most awkward dilemma: Either that
message is 100% correct, in which case I am an ungrateful
SOB and my correspondent is a hero - along with Pfc. Lynch.
On the other hand, perhaps the message has no foundation in
fact, in which case the correspondent is a lying scoundrel.
I don't wish to disparage worthy and courageous members of
our military. But I also do not want to be taken for a sucker.
Do I take this totally anonymous person at his word? Would
you? As I ponder this predicament, I am reminded of Congressman
Douglas Stringfellow, (R-Utah).
When I was a youngster, Rep. Stringfellow was renowned as
an inspirational speaker, as he spoke to numerous civic and
church audiences about his harrowing experiences as a prisoner
of war in Nazi Germany. He was a spellbinder, and I can remember
to this day the time I sat and heard him tell of how his faith
in God and love of country sustained him through the tortures
he had to endure. There wasn't a dry eye in the house, and
his tale was punctuated by sobbing in the audience.
Then some insensitive cynic took it upon himself to check
out Stringfellow's military file at the Veterans' Administration.
Turns out, he was never a POW. It was all made up. Stringfellow
'fessed up and resigned in disgrace from Congress.
This is hardly a unique event. There was a similar case
a few years ago involving a certain Congressman from the Northwest.
He also resigned in disgrace. Senator Joe McCarthy, who never
saw action in World War II, broke his ankle during some "grab-assing"
horse play on board a troop ship. During his political campaigning,
he took on the name "Tail-Gunner Joe," and attributed his
limp to a battle wound. Ronald Reagan, who narrated some Army
films about the liberation of the Nazi death camps, later
claimed that he was there in person. (It wouldn't surprise
me if he believed it; Reagan often had difficulty differentiating
movies from reality).
Finally, and most significantly for our time, George Bush
and his Administration have so successfully linked Saddam
Hussein with Osama bin Laden, that now two-thirds of the American
public believes that Saddam was somehow involved in the 9/11
attacks, notwithstanding the fact that US and world intelligence
agencies have failed to find a scrap of evidence to support
Can anonymous e-mailers lie? Of course. Even Congressmen
and Presidents lie. But that's not news.
None of this proves that my correspondent's claim about
his personal involvement in the Jessica Lynch episode is false.
At the same time, he supplies no evidence whatever that might
lead me to believe him. So was this a "difficult mission"
as he claims? All that we have to go on is the evidence that
has been reported to us, and some critical reflection as to
its likely veracity.
I will concede this much to my correspondent: as I have
further read the reports, I have come to regret and hereby
withdraw the word "staged." The operation was probably not
rehearsed and choreographed to produce a spectacle for the
State-side audience. Ergo, not "staged." (Even so, the media
nonetheless has given us that spectacle). However, two versions
of the event seem to have emerged: the State-side version,
much inflated and celebrated by our media, is of a daring
commando raid, carried out with precision and gung-ho bravado.
The foreign version is of a reckless and hugely overdone operation
against an undefended and unresisting hospital, staffed by
the authentic heroes of the episode - the Iraqi doctors and
Though still undecided, my inclination is to believe the
foreign press reports. To wit: a) the raid on the hospital
took place a day or two after the Iraqi Army and Fedayeen
had left the city; b) the day before the raid, the medical
staff at the hospital attempted to return Pfc. Lynch to the
American troops, but were turned back when their ambulance
was fired upon; c) the hospital staff gave Jessica Lynch the
very best medical care that they could, under very difficult
conditions. That care included blood donations from the staff;
d) Lynch was treated with great kindness and compassion by
the Iraqi doctors and staff; e) the "rescuers" caused considerable
and, of course, quite unnecessary damage to the hospital.
This version we have on the testimony of the hospital staff,
as collected and reported by British and Canadian journalists.
Early US media reports, as we well know, were of a "Raid
on Entebbe" type of commando operation. Newsweek (April
"[Lynch] was hiding in her bed just after midnight
when the Special Ops team found her... The operation had launched
less than an hour before. As helicopters carrying the Special
Ops forces landed outside the hospital, Predator drones circled
overhead, sending pictures back to intelligence officers,
who briefed commanders in the supersecure Joint Operations
Center. One detachment of Marines made a diversionary attack
on another part of the city, while the main force landed at
the hospital and began searching for Lynch."
She was, says Newsweek's Jerry Adler, "the first
US prisoner to be rescued from behind enemy lines since
World War II." (My emphasis).
The mysterious lawyer, "Mohammed," who reported to the US
forces that Lynch was at the hospital, claimed that Lynch
had been "slapped," and another unidentified Iraqi told NBC
reporter Terry Sanders that "she's being tortured."
Physical evidence is scanty. However, the April 3 Washington
Post report of "Jessica-as-John- Wayne-at-the-Alamo,"
- holding off an advancing enemy until the ammo ran out, sustaining
bullet and knife wounds in the process - all this was dropped
from subsequent accounts. The Iraqi medical staff reported
no bullet or stab wounds, and that report was confirmed by
the Army hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. And yet later that
day there were conflicting reports that she had been shot.
A close reading of the Newsweek account yields some
significant omissions. Nowhere is there any indication that
any member of the hospital staff was interviewed, and yet
their accounts are the substance of the British-Canadian reports.
And nowhere in the Newsweek account is there any mention
of shots fired from the hospital, nor of any Iraqi military
or irregulars encountered near or within the hospital. Interestingly,
Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, confirms that "the US
military never claimed that the troops came under fire when
they burst into the hospital."
The best witness, of course, would be Jessica Lynch herself.
But after several weeks of total isolation from the media,
we are now told that she remembers nothing of the rescue.
Curious! Newsweek reports, to the contrary, that Lynch
"did say that she survived for part of her time in the hospital
on nothing but orange juice and crackers" (as reported, coincidentally,
by the Iraqi doctors). Sadly, after several weeks incommunicado
in Army custody, poor Jessica seems to have lost her memory
of events that she is reported to have clearly recalled immediately
after her rescue.
Strange as it may seem, the two accounts, foreign and domestic,
may be essentially consistent - especially so if we dismiss
the third-hand-hearsay reports of torture. There was, no doubt,
a razzle-dazzle storming of the hospital, albeit to the astonishment
and chagrin of the hospital staff. "Mohammed" may indeed have
informed the Army of Jessica's whereabouts. And Jessica may
have been treated quite as skillfully and compassionately
as the Iraqi doctors reported. The accounts diverge as a result
of omissions and of false inferences that leak in to fill
out the picture. Thus the Rambo aspect of the heroic rescue
is somewhat deflated by the additional information that the
enemy had departed the scene a couple of days earlier and
thus that the commandos encountered no resistance, and furthermore
that Pfc. Lynch was rescued from a team of skillful, concerned
and compassionate medical professionals, working under very
difficult conditions. So all this was missing from the Newsweek
On the other hand, we should give the Army its due. If the
Iraqi doctors' account is correct, then an unarmed US Army
medical team could have simply walked into the hospital, thanked
the staff, and taken Jessica back with them. But if they had
done so, they would have been unforgivably reckless. While
the hospital may have been undefended, the Army team had no
way of knowing this for certain, and so it was far better
to play it safe. That said, it seems that the raid was overdone.
Contact could have been made with the staff inside, the safe
condition ascertained, and a benign occupation could have
followed without the mayhem and destruction which reportedly
followed.. Beyond this I am not competent to speculate, since
I am without information available on site at the time, and
am totally innocent of military expertise. Suffice to say
that I don't believe that the US military has a "one size
fits all" mode of advancement - "overwhelming force" the same
for an unarmed hospital as for Omaha Beach.
And yet, my correspondent tells me that this was "the most
difficult mission I've done during either my deployment to
Afghanistan or Iraq."
Well, if this is so, I eagerly seek the evidence that will
support this claim - independent evidence. Co-signed names
of unknown individuals will not do. Are there accounts of
returned fire? Were there captured defenders, or warm bodies,
of "defenders" of the hospital? Indeed, are there any reports
to contradict the claim that the Iraqi defenders had departed
the area a day or two before the raid? If the defenders did
depart, were the US forces at all aware of this fact? If the
foreign reports are erroneous, then where are the rebutting
eyewitness accounts from the soldiers that were involved?
(The Defense Department's rebuttal to the BBC story is astonishingly
tame and in fact corroborates much of the BBC report). Have
any alleged torturers been captured and have they confessed?
Does Pfc. Lynch carry any physical evidence of torture? The
best testimony of torture would be from Pfc. Lynch herself,
but alas, we are told, she is suffering from late-onset amnesia.
Is this amnesia suspiciously convenient? I report, you decide.
Show me such evidence and, if convincing on its merits and
sufficient to rebut the benign account from foreign sources,
I will publicly apologize to my correspondent, to Pfc. Lynch,
and to courageous and resourceful Special Ops forces that
In the numerous recent reports that I have read, I have
seen no such evidence. In fact, the apparent absence of rebuttal
by the US media to the foreign reports of the incident has
been startling, to say the least. (I can only sample the reports.
Google returns a quarter-million hits for "Jessica Lynch,"
and over a thousand for "Jessica Lynch and rebuttal.") For
when we seek an official reply to the Iraqi Doctors' version
of the rescue, we get a response reminiscent of the GOP and
media replies to the damning reports of election fraud and
manipulation in the Florida 2000 election: "Let's move on,"
"Get over it!" Suspiciously unresponsive. If the Special Ops
over-reacted, that ain't nothin' compared what to the US media
and Hollywood have made of the "Saving Private Jessica" operation.
They were eager for a Rambo moment and, if Operation Iraqi
Freedom didn't supply one, then by gum, they'd invent one.
But why should we give more credence to the BBC, the Guardian
and Independent of London, or the Toronto Star,
and other foreign sources, than we do to our domestic media?
Simply because the US media has squandered its credibility,
while the foreign press displays the quality of responsible
journalism that we once enjoyed at home and now have lost.
Remember, the US media told us, endlessly, that Al Gore
claimed to have "invented" the internet, to have "discovered"
Love Canal, to have shaken-down the Buddhist monks, etc. -
all of these slanders demonstrably false - and on the basis
of such falsehoods, labeled Gore a "habitual liar." At the
same time, the media had virtually nothing to tell us about
Bush's AWOL from the National Guard, his substance abuse,
his violation of securities laws, etc. Consider the following
LexisNexis statistics from Paul Begala's office:
There were exactly 704 stories in the campaign
about this flap of Gore inventing the Internet. There were
only 13 stories about Bush failing to show up for his National
Guard duty for a year. There were well over 1,000 stories
- Nexis stopped at 1,000 - about Gore and the Buddhist temple.
Only 12 about Bush being accused of insider trading at Harken
Energy. There were 347 about Al Gore wearing earth tones,
but only 10 about the fact that Dick Cheney did business
with Iran and Iraq and Libya……
Furthermore, the media takes no great pains to disabuse
the American public of the distortions, evasions, and flat-out
lies issuing from the White House - in particular, the aforementioned
misperception that Saddam Hussein was somehow involved in
the 9/11 attacks.
Finally, even that most respectable of American newspapers,
the New York Times - "the newspaper of historical record"
- has been seriously tarnished. The eight-year-long, $50 million
Whitewater non-scandal (eventually found to be totally groundless)
originated with the New York Times, as did the unfounded
prosecution of physicist Wen Ho Lee.
If the US establishment media are discredited, as they should
be, then they have done it to themselves. If "inquiring minds
want to know," they'd better look elsewhere.
Finally, there is the intriguing question of what the entertainment
industry plans to do with the Jessica Lynch saga. It is reported
that NBC is proceeding with work on a TV movie about "Saving
Private Lynch." Which version will they portray? Will the
Iraqi doctors and staff receive the favorable portrayal that
they apparently deserve? Will the audience be told that there
was no resistance, and that the defenders had exited the scene
well before the raid? In short, if truthful, will it be a
tale worth telling?
On the other hand, if it is in the tradition of "The Guns
of Navarone" or "The Dirty Dozen," it will likely - to be
blunt - be a damnable lie. Boffo box office, but a lie nonetheless.
But then, Hollywood has long been captive to the rule, "never
let the truth get in the way of a good story." If there is
an ounce of journalistic integrity left in NBC, they will
either abandon the project, or tell it like it is. And why
not? It is still a fine human-interest story, even if it has
the "wrong" heroes.
If, on the other hand, we get "Rambo meets Mohammed," our
national reputation will be further besmirched in the eyes
of the civilized world.
Does NBC care?
Jessica's Liberation, Newsweek, April 14, 2003.
(Available online at a fee).
BBC News: US
Rejects BBC Lynch Report, May 20, 2003
Truth about Jessica, May 15, 2003
Ellis Hennican, Next
Rescue: Uncovering the Truth, Newsday, May 18, 2003
John Kampfner: Saving
Private Lynch story "flawed", BBC News, May 15, 2003 (BBC
Barry Lando: Saving
Pvt. Lynch: The made-for-TV movie, Salon, May 16, 2003
Richard Lloyd Parry: So
who really did save Private Jessica?, London Times,
April 16, 2003
Mitch Potter: The
real 'Saving Private Lynch:' Was it really an heroic rescue?,
Toronto Star, May 4, 2003
Robert Scheer, Saving
Private Lynch: Take 2, Los Angeles Times, May 20,
Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer
in the fields of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He
publishes the website, The
Online Gadfly and co-edits the progressive website, The