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Jessica Lynch disputes army account of dramatic rescue

New York Times

In her first public statements since her rescue in Iraq, Jessica Lynch criticized the military for exaggerating accounts of her rescue and recasting her ordeal as a patriotic fable.

Asked by the ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer if the military's portrayal of the rescue bothered her, Lynch said: "Yeah, it does. It does that they used me as a way to symbolize all this stuff. Yeah, it's wrong," according to a partial transcript of the interview to be broadcast on Tuesday.

After months of retreating from the news media, Lynch will be a ubiquitous presence next week. In addition to her appearance on ABC's "Primetime," she will be on the cover of Time magazine, and NBC will broadcast a movie based on an Iraqi's account of her ordeal.

On Tuesday, the book publisher Knopf will release an account of her experience, "I Am a Soldier, Too," written with her cooperation by a former reporter for The New York Times, Rick Bragg.

The book has already added another lurid indignity to the public accounts of her capture. The book reports that Lynch's military doctors found injuries consistent with sexual assault but unlikely to have resulted from the Humvee crash that caused for her other wounds, suggesting that she was raped after her capture.

Lynch, who was unconscious immediately after the Humvee crash and her capture, does not remember any such assault, according to people who have talked to her and read the book.

Those details of the book's contents were first reported Thursday in The New York Daily News. Nancy Gibbs, a writer for Time magazine, said that she had independently confirmed the doctors' description of Lynch's injuries.

In the book and in the interviews, Lynch says others' accounts of her heroism often left her feeling hurt and ashamed because of what she says was overstatement.

First, a U.S. military spokesman in Iraq told journalists that soldiers exchanged fire during her rescue, without adding that Iraqi soldiers had already abandoned the hospital, and the military released a green-tinted night-vision film of the mission, adding to the drama.

Then news organizations began repeating reports that she heroically resisted capture, emptying her gun as she fired at her attackers. Finally, an Iraqi lawyer who provided information leading to her rescue told journalists that he had seen her mistreated and slapped by her captors, and he sold the rights to a book about her experience based on his account.

But subsequent disclosures have cast doubt on all those details. Lynch was injured by the crash of her vehicle, her weapon jammed before she could fire, the Iraqi doctors treated her kindly, and the hospital was already in friendly hands when her rescuers arrived.

Asked how she felt about the reports of her heroism, Lynch told Sawyer: "It hurt in a way that people would make up stories that they had no truth about. Only I would have been able to know that, because the other four people on my vehicle aren't here to tell the story. So I would have been the only one able to say, Yeah, I went down shooting. But I didn't."

Asked about claims that the military exaggerated the danger of the rescue mission, Lynch said, "Yeah, I don't think it happened quite like that," although she added that in that context anybody would have approached the hospital well-armed. She continued: "I don't know why they filmed it, or why they say the things they, you know, all I know was that I was in that hospital hurting. I needed help."

Lt. Col. Rivers Johnson, a spokesman for the Department of Defense, declined to comment on Lynch's views. But he said, "Essentially, the mission to rescue Jessica Lynch demonstrated America's resolve to account for all of its missing service members."

He added that the rescue had been conducted under the appropriate procedures for a fluid situation like the war in Iraq. "You always plan for the worst."

Lynch also disputed statements by Mohammed Odeh al-Rehaief, the Iraqi lawyer, that he saw her captors slap her.

"From the time I woke up in that hospital, no one beat me, no one slapped me, no one, nothing," Lynch told Sawyer, adding, "I'm so thankful for those people, because that's why I'm alive today."

Jeff Coplon, who helped Rehaief write his book, "Because Each Life Is Precious," said it was possible that both he and Lynch were telling the truth in their divergent accounts.

"One of the questions that could arise in the wake of this kind of trauma is that someone could believe they remember everything and their memory could still be incomplete," Coplon said.


Just a Coincidence? Four of Jessica Lynch's Rescuers Have Died Mysteriously

Picasso Dreams

A few nights ago I saw a preview of Saving Jessica Lynch. It was all I could do to contain the gray matter.

I was extremely busy and without access to a computer during the "rescue." A week after Pfc. Lynch was returned to American custody, I heard incredulous stories of a heroic young soldier, Rambo-style shooting at the enemy until out of bullets, and who endured stab wounds and torture until she was dramatically rescued in perfect made-for TV fashion.

And then the BBC aired the infamous documentary, essentially labeling the Pentagon's version of events as a work of fiction. I trust the BBC over the Pentagon.

Sure enough, Pfc Lynch has selective amnesia and cannot remember the events of her capture and rescue, though that hasn't stopped her from a million dollar book deal with the NY Times most recent plagiarist du jour, Rick Bragg.

When the Department of Defense insisted on keeping up their official version of the rescue, I knew that inevitably some of Lynch's rescuers would be hushed. After all, here is a woman who endured a few broken limbs from a vehicle accident and is rewarded with a million bucks, while her rescuers continue to live without toilets and running water in a Depleted Uranium wasteland. Her Bronze Star has outraged many veterans. At some point even the threat of an untimely demise will not keep some disgruntled military folks from talking.

Eerily enough, four of Pfc. Lynch's rescuers and colleagues have met an early demise.

Petty Officer First Class David M. Tapper died of wounds received in Afghanistan. He took part in the rescue.

Lance Cpl. Sok Khak Ung was killed in a drive-by shooting. He was also part of the rescue team.

Spc Josh Daniel Speer died when his car crashed into some trees for no apparent reason. He was part of the rescue team.
Kyle Edward Williams, who worked in the same company as Lynch, died of "suicide".


"A Tucson man was shot to death outside a West Side hotel Wednesday after breaking into a vehicle and being confronted by its owner, an Army soldier, who shot him in the back and fled, police said Friday.

The soldier, Spc. Kyle Edward Williams, 21, was found dead outside San Diego on Thursday and officials believe he committed suicide with one of the seven firearms he had been carrying with him.

He left no note to explain the suicide or why he fired six shots at Noah P. Gamez, also 21, after spotting the man stealing an ice chest from his Jeep.

Williams spent seven months in the Middle East as part of the 507th Maintenance Company, the same unit as Pfc. Jessica Lynch, Army officials said.

He didn't have any disciplinary or mental health problems before he left Fort Bliss, Texas, at the end of September for 20 days of leave before moving to a new military job, the officials said."



But this statistically improbable occurrence is just a coincidence.

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