The first casualty of war is Truth

‘Girl Rambo’ reveals how the U.S. army
lied about her near-death accident in Iraq

Today radio host Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Democracy Now!, interviewed Pulitzer Prize-winning Susan Faludi about her new book, The Terror Dream, Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America. They asked about Jessica Lynch who hit the headlines in 2003 when George W. Bush sent her to invade Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: Susan, talk about Jessica Lynch. Who was she? Tell us her story.

SUSAN FALUDI: Jessica Lynch, as probably most people remember, was a private in an Army maintenance company who went into Iraq in March of 2003, and her unit was basically left behind in the rush to get to Baghdad. The rest of the convoy zoomed ahead. And she wound up, along with, you know, the rest of her company, being ambushed in Nasiriyah. A number of her fellow soldiers were taken captive. She was terribly injured in a car wreck, where the Humvee she was in crashed into a Mack truck, and it jackknifed. So she wound up in an Iraqi hospital. And there was a great rescue drama that ensued.

The story we heard originally was that these, you know, Special Ops teams of brave men, armed with a night vision video camera so they could film themselves, came battling into this Iraqi hospital, which was supposedly overrun with Fedayeen death squads, and they rescued Lynch. The military hustled out a video of this drama only three hours later and woke up all the reporters in the middle of the night so they could see it.

Well, as it turns out, there was no battle. I mean, it took them six minutes, and there wasn't one casualty. And there were no Fedayeen death squads, as the military actually knew, because they had been alerted by an Iraqi translator. It was just, you know, a bunch of doctors and nurses trying to take care of Lynch and actually trying to return her to the U.S. military.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain.

SUSAN FALUDI: Well, they bundled her into an ambulance and tried to drive her back, and they got to the military checkpoint, and American soldiers started shooting at the ambulance, so they had no choice but to go back to the hospital.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Jessica Lynch testifying before Congress on April 24 of this year.

JESSICA LYNCH: At my parents' home in Wirt County, West Virginia, it was under siege by media, all repeating the story of the little girl Rambo from the hills of West Virginia who went down fighting. It was not true. I have repeatedly said, when asked, that if the stories about me helped inspire our troops and rally a nation, then perhaps there was some good. However, I am still confused as to why they chose to lie and tried to make me a legend, when the real heroics of my fellow soldiers that day were legendary.

AMY GOODMAN: Former Private Jessica Lynch. Go on from there, and also tell us about her book, her autobiography, supposedly.

SUSAN FALUDI: Well, right after the rescue, the media sort of bought this story hook — the American media bought this story hook, line and sinker. I mean, it was ultimately debunked by the British media, which went back and actually talked to the Iraqi doctors and nurses. It turned out she had extraordinarily attentive care and that this was — that the stories of her being abused and, you know, slapped and, as the media kept insinuating, tortured, were not true. She, herself, was in the hospital and couldn't speak for herself, so everybody else did speak for her.

As Faludi notes in The Terror Dream, when Lynch did speak, the media ignored her. They were too busy finding 'male heroes' to be bothered:

Four months after that terrible accident, Lynch spoke publicly for the first time at a homecoming event in Elizabeth, West Virginia. She chose to focus her remarks on the soldier whose support had meant the most to her. Lori Piestewa, she said, "fought beside me, and it was an honor to have served with her. Lori will always be in my heart."

Later, when reporters asked Lynch how she mustered the will to live in that hospital room thousands of miles from home, her body a mass of broken bones, she always told them, "Lori helped me get through."

Lynch said there were moments when she saw her dead friend's spirit perched at the foot of her bed, assuring her that everything would be OK.

The media, though, had little interest in the story of the Native American woman who had protected her sister in arms. The story in Rolling Stone was one of a very few exceptions, and that profile of Piestewa ran more than a year after the event.

The headline read, accurately enough, "The Forgotten Soldier."
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