W. Joseph Campbell

HLN’s sneering swipe at the ‘now-infamous rescue of Jessica Lynch’

In Debunking, Error, Jessica Lynch, Media myths on September 16, 2012 at 10:45 am

The news channel HLN reached back nearly 10 years to take a sneering swipe the other day about the rescue of Jessica Lynch. It did so in a report about the four Americans slain in Libya last week in an attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi.

Among the victims was a security contractor and former Navy seal, Glen A. Doherty, who, HLN recalled, “was positioned as a sniper atop a nearby roof during the now-infamous rescue of Army Private Jessica Lynch” in Iraq in 2003.

How’s that? The “now-infamous rescue” of Jessica Lynch?

As often is the case with such gratuitous swipes, HLN (formerly known as CNN’s Headline News) didn’t explain the supposed infamy of the rescue — which was the first since World War II in which an American prisoner of war was rescued from behind enemy lines.

HLN presumably was alluding to the discredited claims, offered most prominently by the BBC, that the rescue was stagecraft — a show of force utterly unnecessary to retrieve Lynch, an Army private whose maintenance unit was caught in an ambush in March 2003, in the early days of the Iraq War.

Lynch was near death when a U.S. special operations team rescued her on April 1, 2003, from a hospital in Nasiriyah. She had suffered severe injuries in the crash of a Humvee as it attempted to flee the ambush and had been taken prisoner.

The BBC claimed in a report in May 2003 that the rescue of Lynch was “one of the most stunning pieces of news management ever conceived” — an event shamelessly staged for propaganda purposes.

As I point out in my 2010 book, Getting It Wrong, “the BBC’s version ha[s] become an unshakeable, widely accepted element of the Lynch saga” — even though the Pentagon at the time dismissed the account as “void of all facts and absolutely ridiculous.”

And one has to look no further than the HLN’s sneering, passing reference to Doherty’s assignment in the Lynch case to recognize how thoroughly the fraudulent-rescue narrative has hardened into blithe acceptance.

In truth, the rescue of Jessica Lynch was no contrivance.

In 2007, the Defense Department’s acting inspector general, Thomas Gimble, reported to a House of Representatives oversight committee that no evidence had been uncovered to support the notion the rescue “was a staged media event.”

Instead, Gimble said, the rescue operation was found to have been “a valid mission” to recover an American prisoner of war “under combat conditions.”

More than 30 witnesses were interviewed in the inspector general’s inquiry, including members of the Special Operations rescue team, Gimble said in written testimony.

Few if any of those witnesses had been interviewed by news organizations, he noted.

In undertaking the Lynch rescue, Gimble said, the U.S. special forces team “fully expected to meet stiff resistance” and had come under enemy fire from the hospital building and areas nearby.

The special operations unit, comprised of Army Rangers and Navy Seals, extricated Lynch within minutes, and without injury.

As I noted in Getting It Wrong, Gimble’s report was “an unequivocal rebuke to the BBC’s account.” But by then the time Gimble appeared before the House oversight committee, nearly four years had passed and the BBC’s version had become solidified and widely embraced.

What’s more, I noted, Gimble’s report “did not fit what had become the dominant narrative about the rescue.

“It made little news.”


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