reminder: Jessica Lynch hoax

John M Cox coxj at email.unc.edu
Tue Jul 22 12:51:54 MDT 2003


In case you turned on your TV today, you may have been led to believe that
Pvt. Lynch was 'rescued' and had her 'life saved' (her words, in her
address a few minutes ago) by brave US soldiers. Here's a couple articles,
which many of you may have seen earlier, exposing the Jessica Lynch hoax:


Casualty of truth
Even Hollywood may not be able to save the legend of Private Lynch, writes
Azmi Bishara
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 On 2 April, a team of US Navy SEALS and Army Rangers were flown in by
helicopter to storm the Nasseriya general hospital and rescue 19-year-old
soldier Jessica Lynch. The US media, airing the videotape of the assault
released by the Pentagon, painted a scene of valiant commandos bravely
defying hostile fire in order to save their blonde, teenage compatriot
from the clutches of Iraqi soldiers -- i.e. primitive barbarians --
somewhere deep in the heart of the scorching desert. The videotaped rescue
operation fired enthusiasm for the war on Iraq among American spectators
who -- correctly, if we may use that term -- confused the news footage
with a made-for-TV film. After all, how often has that same screen in
their living rooms brought them action dramas featuring intrepid American
fighters rushing to rescue a beautiful journalist, doctor or secret agent
from her savage captors whose malicious grins open to reveal obscene black
gaps or gold capped teeth, and whose every physical contact with their
female captive suggests repressed oriental lust? Hollywood films leave
little to the spectator's imagination; indeed, they shape his imagination,
usually in the crudest possible terms.

Two years ago, Hollywood scored an enormous box office success with Saving
Private Ryan, set in World War II France. Not surprisingly, having been
milked by the US media for days on end, the story of Jessica Lynch caught
the imagination of NBC's corporate think tank, and soon preparations for a
blockbuster drama were underway. The film of "Saving Private Lynch" would
have all the ingredients needed to make it the Iraqi war drama par
excellence: heroic American soldiers, a winsome blond prisoner, evil
enemies, a daring military adventure...

Behind the scenes, the Pentagon did a superb job of spinning the legend.
An unnamed "official" told the press that Lynch had been captured in an
Iraqi ambush, but only after having put up a tenacious fight, continuing
to fire even after sustaining multiple wounds until she finally ran out of
ammunition. "She didn't want to be captured alive," declared the
spokesman. The account appeared in the Washington Post on 3 April beneath
the headline, "She was fighting to the death!" If that was the Post, it is
not difficult to imagine how FOXnews played it.

The first blow to the legend came from the US military hospital in Germany
where the American soldier was being treated after her "rescue". Evidence
revealed no signs of bullet wounds or any other combat-related injuries.
Instead, she had a head wound and some broken bones, which doctors
attributed to the overturning of the vehicle she had been using when she
was captured.

This revelation whetted the press's appetite for more, and it was not long
before the BBC, followed by the Guardian and the Toronto Star, tore the
rest of the myth apart, piece by piece, leaving only a young soldier in a
hospital in Washington barred from meeting journalists. NBC was plunged
into a state of collective anxiety over whether or not to go ahead with
its film project, regardless of the enormous dents newly revealed facts
were punching into the original story line. In an article satirising the
network's predicament, veteran "60 minutes" producer Barry Lando suggested
that the network would have few qualms at departing from the truth. As his
fictional NBC corporate executive remarks, "What people remember are the
first sensational reports they heard, not the page 17, nit-picking
follow-ups."

So what exactly did happen? According to staff at the Nasseriya hospital,
such as Dr Hareth Hassouna, the US raid came a full two days after Iraqi
forces had withdrawn from the hospital. They have also described what was,
in fact, the only truly daring operation in the entire affair. The day
after the Iraqi forces pulled out, Jessica's doctors put her in an
ambulance and set off to drive her to the American forces which were
stationed about a kilometre outside of the city. The ambulance, however,
never made it. US forces opened fire on them before the medical team got
an opportunity to tell them that their "maiden in distress" was inside the
van and ready to be handed over.

It also transpired that only hours before they launched their assault on
the hospital, the SEALS, using an Arabic translator, had asked
neighbourhood residents, among them hospital staff member Hussam Hamoud,
whether or not there were any Iraqi soldiers present in the building. They
were repeatedly told that the answer was no, that the soldiers had left
two days before. Even so, the Americans were determined not to let that
stop them from staging their spectacular operation behind the nonexistent
lines of a nonexistent enemy.

To cries of "Go! Go! Go!" they burst into the hospital, guns blasting, red
laser beams cutting through the darkness -- for true to the Hollywood
script, they had cut the main electricity beforehand. Having blown up 12
doors, they then chose the only room in the hospital without windows, the
X-ray department, to begin their search. They seized a hospital
administrator whom they held in an open- air prison camp for three days.
Yet in the end it was members of the hospital staff who finally showed
them to the room where Jessica was being treated and who subsequently took
them to the place where US soldiers brought to the hospital dead had been
buried.

And how exactly had the Nasseriya hospital physicians and staff treated
Private Ryan -- sorry, Lynch -- since her arrival with a wound in her head
and a few broken limbs? Remember, we are talking about a hospital that was
inundated at that time with more than 2000 wounded and 400 dead, most of
them Iraqi civilians. Under such dire circumstances, aggravated by lack of
medical supplies and food, the American soldier got the best of what
little was available. She was given the best possible food, and when that
fell short, staff members brought her food from their own homes. As stocks
of blood were low, they donated two bottles of their own blood. There were
more than a hundred Iraqi patients who needed platinum plates to repair
shattered bones. The hospital had only three; one was given to Jessica.
American military doctors later congratulated the Nasseriya physicians for
the successful operation they performed on Lynch's arm. And when Jessica
came to, terrified -- her fears probably fed by Hollywood films -- she was
attended by the best nurse on the staff, a mother of three, who treated
her as though she were her own daughter.

This was the story of a young, frightened soldier, not a combat heroine;
of doctors, nurses and hospital administrators who did all they could
possibly do and more to save and care for their foreign "guest", towards
whom Arab custom would demand generous hospitality. It was also the story
of an American military raid, accompanied by cameramen in military dress,
that encountered no fighting and no one to fight against, and of the
eternally anonymous military spokesman who, referring to the young woman
later in hospital in Washington where she was barred from interviews, told
the press: "She basically has amnesia and has mentally blocked out the
horrible things we strongly believe she went through."

How does one begin to address this tangle of politics, instant news and
flagrant lies in the management and production of information? Undoing the
unholy marriage between the worlds of politics and the media that presides
over the fabrication of such drama and the melo-dramatisation of our lives
is no easy task for those brave enough to undertake it.

Out of some 2,600 war films produced in Hollywood since World War II, the
Pentagon has helped fund 2000. This statistic points the way beneath
another layer of lies, although it only begins to expose the nature of the
relationship between the film production industry and the industrial
production of a political climate conducive to pushing through a certain
type of policy. It was only a short step for the Pentagon to produce its
own film on the raid to save Private Lynch and have it aired on all the
news networks during the war on Iraq.

If that film finally does emerge, I hope they will include what was for me
the most painful and awkward moment of all. For at such times of tragedy,
farce and misinformation, there is always an Arab somewhere waiting to add
the finishing touch -- an Arab who is more infatuated with the American
myth than the Americans themselves, and who jumps in to embarrass everyone
else with his obsequiousness, like the man who crashes a wedding feast,
fawns over the unsuspecting guests, insinuates his way next to the groom
and makes himself the star of the party to which he was never invited. All
so that he can prove to others just how civilised his wealth, his bad
taste and his appalling sense of timing have made him. The story of
Private Lynch was no exception in this respect. True to form, at the
height of the fanfare over the rescue operation, we were treated to the
spectacle of one of our compatriots sending Jessica a flashy sports car --
a Ferrari, if I'm not mistaken -- as a gift to congratulate her on her
release from "captivity".

Some people may think that Hollywood has no place for irony. But if any
truth survives in the final cut, I sincerely hope it will be the Arab
Ferrari of peace and reconciliation.

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2003/641/op2.htm

Also - this article, by Robert Scheer in the Los Angeles Times (May 20),
covers much of the same territory:
http://www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=15958





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