US rescue mission may be hype
Pentagon officials are rejecting claims that the rescue of Jessica Lynch in Iraq was hyped to boost support for the war as questions emerge over the private’s capture, rescue, and injuries.
Last Modified: 24 May 2003 02:32 GMT
Pentagon officials are rejecting claims that the rescue of Jessica Lynch in Iraq was hyped to boost support for the war as questions emerge over the private’s capture, rescue, and injuries.

Questions have emerged over
the validity of Lynch's rescue

The US Army has launched an investigation into the capture of Lynch and others in Iraq. 
Lynch's rescue on 1 April from an Iraqi hospital by US forces where troops stormed a hospital in the middle of the night was called a daring, heroic act.

The 19-year-old Lynch, of Palestine, West Virginia, was an instant  hero and symbol of patriotic pride.

But questions are beginning to emerge about the validity of some points.

A documentary by the BBC concluded that after interviewing Iraqis, the rescue may have been a Hollywood-style stunt designed to boost patriotism at a difficult time in the war.

Pentagon spokesman Marine Lt. Col. Dave Lapan said it was "ludicrous and insulting" for the BBC to suggest the rescue was staged and hyped.

"The thing that is most insulting is the suggestion that we would put U.S. service members at risk to stage such an event. This was a real rescue under a combat situation," Lapan told the Reuters news agency. "In addition, the war was not going badly."

The BBC’s documentary portrayed a rescue in which there was little danger to the soldiers and quoted a local doctor as saying troops fired blank rounds to "make a show." The report said the US military knew before going in there were no Iraqi forces guarding the hospital.

Lapan insisted there were fire-fights outside the hospital with "irregular Iraqi forces" and to suggest blanks were used was silly.

Varying versions

Lynch's family speaking after her

Jessica Lynch, an Army supply clerk, was captured on 23 March when her convoy was ambushed after taking a wrong turn near the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya. Nine other American soldiers were killed in the attack.

There have been a number of reports with varying claims since Lynch was rescued.

Some US media reports suggested that Lynch was slapped around in the hospital, while others reported that sympathetic Iraqis risked their lives by driving her to a US checkpoint, only to have the ambulance they were travelling in fired at by US troops - forcing it to turn away.

Lapan said the military had not been able to confirm reports Lynch was turned away, but said this was unlikely.

In an opinion page of Friday’s Washington Post, a long-time columnist chastised the paper for making mistakes in its coverage of the Lynch rescue.

"I take my own paper to task for the manner in which it reported the Lynch story," wrote the Post's Richard Cohen.

The Post initially said Lynch was shot and stabbed, as she fought off her attackers "gun blazing", until she was taken prisoner.

"Trouble is, much of that may be false," Cohen wrote, adding Lynch was likely neither shot nor stabbed.

 "Maybe the Pentagon hyped the Lynch story. Maybe in the confusion of the rescue, some honest people in the Pentagon just got things wrong. Whatever the case, The Post seemed unable simply to say so," Cohen added.

Army spokesman Bruce Anderson said, the military was doing its own investigation into the capture of Lynch. "It's an after-action review of a significant incident," Anderson said.

One person unlikely to shed any light on what happened is Jessica Lynch herself. Her doctors say she has no recollection of the event.

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