Spinning the spin: Jessica Lynch Posted by: mcq
on Friday, April 27, 2007
Upfront I have to say the Pat Tillman fiasco is inexcusable. While I'm not sure, nor is anyone yet, of all the machinations which led to the false reports about his death, it should have never happened. And those responsible should, metaphorically, swing.
However, lumping Jessica Lynch into that specific problem in an effort to characterize exaggeration as a more general problem within the military, is really an overreach. LTG DeLong gives us the back story on that particular situation:
AS the deputy commander at United States Central Command from 2001 to 2003, I represented the military in dealing with politicians regarding the capture and rescue of Pfc. Jessica D. Lynch in Iraq, and thus I can speak with authority about what really happened after her maintenance convoy got lost near Nasiriya in 2003 and she was taken prisoner. I feel compelled to respond to accusations that have been made in recent days by several politicians.
The initial reports from the field regarding Private Lynch stated that she had gone down fighting, had emptied her weapon and that her actions were heroic. Based on these reports, politicians from her home state, West Virginia, wanted the military to award her the Medal of Honor. Their request rose up the ladder until finally it reached me.
But initial combat reports are often wrong. Time must always be taken to thoroughly investigate all claims. In the case of Private Lynch, additional time was needed, since she was suffering from combat shock and loss of memory; facts, therefore, had to be gathered from other sources. The military simply didn’t know at that point whether her actions merited a medal.
This is why, when the request landed on my desk, I told the politicians that we’d need to wait. I made it clear that no one would be awarded anything until all of the evidence was reviewed.
The politicians did not like this. They called repeatedly, through their Congressional liaison, and pressured us to recommend her for the medal, even before all the evidence had been analyzed. I would not relent and we had many heated discussions.
The politicians repeatedly said that a medal would be good for women in the military; I responded that the paramount issue was finding out what had really happened.
As it turned out, after a careful review of the facts, the military concluded that the initial reports were incorrect. Ballistic tests on Private Lynch’s weapon demonstrated that she had never fired; she had merely been a passenger in a vehicle that went astray, came under fire and crashed. Private Lynch was badly hurt, and in her condition, she could not fight back. Her actions were understandable and justifiable, but they could not be labeled heroic.
(It’s important to make clear, too, that Private Lynch has never claimed to be a hero. As she told Congress earlier this week, the “story of the little girl Rambo from the hills who went down fighting” was not true.)
Can you imagine ... the Medal of Honor because it would "be good for women in the military"? And to PFC Lynch's eternal credit (and as a sign of her integrity), she never once attempted or pretended the situation went down any differently than it did.
My guess is some of the same politicians now "investigating" this "problem" were involved in pushing for the medal. The point, of course, is it wasn't the military building this story up, it was politicians and the press.
This was a story which happened early in the war and involved a woman. It was irresistable fodder for the press.
Jeff Goldstein quotes an April 2003Washington Post story with the following two paragraphs:
“She was fighting to the death,” the official said. “She did not want to be taken alive.” Lynch was also stabbed when Iraqi forces closed in on her position, the official said, noting that initial intelligence reports indicated that she had been stabbed to death. No official gave any indication yesterday, however, that Lynch’s wounds had been life-threatening
Several officials cautioned that the precise sequence of events is still being determined, and that further information will emerge as Lynch is debriefed. Reports thus far are based on battlefield intelligence, they said, which comes from monitored communications and from Iraqi sources in Nasiriyah whose reliability has yet to be assessed. Pentagon officials said they had heard “rumors” of Lynch’s heroics but had no confirmation.
Even after being cautioned by the military that what had been reported was based on "rumor", the Post and other outlets chose to run with the rumor from a single source.
That isn't the military's problem or fault. But in its new form, as it is being presented within the committee investigation now ongoing, it is obviously being used to allude to a broad problem within the military, not a specific failing, as with Tillman.
Is that what Democrats really want to do? Trust me, if it is, I'll be calling attention to it as often as they mouth the words "we support the military" as an example of their kind of support.
Lynch was stunned when committee Chairman Henry Waxman revealed in the hearing that her rescue had been postponed a day so that the military could videotape the assault.
Waxman, D-Calif., said that the military told The Washington Post that it wanted to be sure to videotape Lynch’s rescue because “it would be the hottest thing of the day. It was an awesome story.”
But Waxman took exception to the military’s effort to publicize Lynch’s rescue. “Well, this might have been an awesome story, but this was your life, and you were the one feeling the pain, and they were trying to stage a rescue to sustain their heroic story that they had made up,” he said. “And your story was heroic enough without that fabrication.”
Perhaps Ms. Schmidt and Mr. Loeb, the authors of the Washington Post story, could identify the "officials" who gave out that information. Perhaps Gen. DeLong could name some of the politicians who exerted pressure to award the Medal of Honor. I am really tired of unnamed, mysterious sources of information and anonymous conspirators. If people wish to protect others who do not deserve it, they should be treated as accessories.
I’m stunned too... delayed the rescue so it could be filmed?
I’m calling Waxman a big fat liar. Maybe Big Fat Liar is more accurate. It deserves capitalization.
And he’s telling Lynch they delayed her rescue so it could be filmed and his quote, "it would be the hottest thing of the day"... I don’t believe anyone told him that! It’s insane. And then to tell Lynch (I thought she was there to say what *she* knew) that the military made up the Rambo stuff and that they were trying for more drama. As if that’s actually the facts. She probably believes that he’s talking out of his mouth and not his butt.
Congressional hearings are important fact finding operations. And what we learn most of all is that Congress can not be trusted, *ever*, not about anything.
Also, from what I’ve heard, there *was* a blond who died after fighting to *his* last bullet.
LTG Delong’s explanation sounds reasonable to me - but someone was feeding the press the stories they breathlessly published. Whoever it was may not have been LTG Delong, but we don’t know that they weren’t military. However, nor should we assume they were. Lord knows, there were plenty of mythologists ready to take a crack.
I’ll note that we can safely assume it wasn’t Democratic politicians making up stories about Lynch. It’s only natural to tend to expect, given the Tillman case, people to suspect the military on Lynch. That doesn’t mean, of course, that such suspicions are correct.
On his trip north, he had awakened every Iraqi with a gun. At that point, the sun was just starting to rise. The 507th’s flight to safety was fraught with gunfire. The company commander got lost again and as his beleaguered convoy was forced to turn around a second time. The vehicle that Brandon Sloan and Sergeant Donald Walters were riding in got stuck in the sand. Sloan jumped from the vehicle into another truck; Walters began to lay down covering fire as his comrades turned their vehicles and fled to safety. In the confusion, Walters was left fifteen miles behind enemy lines. Sergeant Donald Walters was the Real Hero
Walters resisted for as long as he could. He probably "fought to his last bullet." He was captured alive and taken to an Iraqi stronghold and later murdered. When I last spoke to my source, a criminal investigation was still under way. Our government was helping the Iraqis collect evidence against Walters’ murderers in an ongoing effort to bring them to justice.
A Distinguished Flying Cross, two Navy Crosses, a handful of Silver Stars, and a larger handful of Bronze Stars were awarded for valor in the battle. Sergeant Donald Walters was awarded a Silver Star, as well. Donald was a sandy-haired young man. Some believe that it was an intercepted Iraqi radio report of his ordeal that was somehow attributed to Jessica Lynch, the only blonde female in the unit.
It seems likely that between confusion on the part of the military and incompetence on the part of the media, the resulting snafu was more the fault of bungling than of any concerted effort to mislead (unlike the Tillman fiasco).