Gadfly Bytes -- May 2002
Saving the Private Jessica Story
By Ernest Partridge
In a recent “post” to The Smirking Chimp, 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 media.
That comment in “The Chimp” prompted this brief and terse reply in my
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 the Congress.
This is hardly a unique event. A few years ago, Wes Cooley (R.,
Oregon) was also discovered to have "invented" his military record
as well as his academic record. He too 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
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 this claim.
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 nurses.
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. (See below)
Early US media reports, as we well know, were of a “Raid on Entebbe”
type of commando operation. Newsweek (April 14) reports:
“[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,
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
report of “Jessica-as-John- Wayne-at-the-Alamo,” holding off 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. Go figure!
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,
Whitman, a “Pentagon spokesman,” confirms that “the US
military never claimed that the troops came under fire when they burst into
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, co-incidentally, 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
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 account.
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
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
Defense Department “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 “rescued” her.
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 Iraq
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
Remember, the US media told us, endlessly, that Al Gore claimed to have
“invented” the internet, to have “discovered” Love Canal, to have
shook-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 Lexus-Nexus 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 -- Nexus 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
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. (We’ve dealt with the dismal condition of the US
media elsewhere. See “The
Dragon at the Gate” and our
page in The Crisis Papers).
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
On the other hand, if it is in the tradition of “The Guns of Navaronne”
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
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?
Liberation, Newsweek, April 14, 2003. (Available
online at a fee).
Rejects BBC Lynch Report, May 20, 2003
Truth about Jessica, May 15, 2003
Rescue: Uncovering the Truth, Newsday, May 18, 2003
Private Lynch story "flawed," BBC News, May 15,
Pvt. Lynch: The made-for-TV movie, Salon, May 16, 2003
Richard Lloyd Parry:
who really did save Private Jessica?, London Times, April
real 'Saving Private Lynch:' Was it really an heroic rescue?, Toronto
Star, May 4, 2003
Private Lynch: Take 2, Los Angeles Times, May 20, 2003
Copyright 2003, by Ernest Partridge