Lynch, lies and videotape

by Karl Noyes

Good-old American integrity used to demand that truth be superior to all else and lies be exposed and condemned.

But in a world where doctored stories have the power to influence and are perceived to sell better, truth becomes a distant afterthought. The supposedly heroic tale of Pvt. Jessica Lynch serves as prime example of truth circumvented by motives.

Lynch’s widely publicized story is a combination of Rambo and Wild West romance. The public was led to believe – and largely still deem – that Lynch bravely held out against Iraqi savages until they shot and overpowered her. Then, the story goes, she was taken to a hospital where she was supposedly tortured, beaten and stabbed.

According to the tale, U.S. Special Forces courageously stormed the hospital in the face of heavy fire and whisked Lynch away to salvation in the belly of an angelic helicopter. With that story, Lynch made the covers of Newsweek and People magazines and was the focus of countless news programs.

Now, according to BBC reports and brilliant editorials by Robert Scheer of the Los Angeles Times, it appears Lynch’s wartime rescue was largely staged.

The story, fueled by military officials, would have made Jayson Blair proud. Fittingly, it was too good to be true. Not only did Iraqi forces abandon the hospital days before arrival of Special Forces, but hospital staff informed the United States of this fact and offered keys to enter the facility. Nonetheless, U.S. Special Forces stormed the hospital kicking in doors, possibly even firing blanks and screaming military orders. The event was filmed by military personnel and then edited and released by the Pentagon to media outlets.

As it turns out Lynch was not tortured, wounded or stabbed but merely suffered injuries from a vehicle rollover. Lynch’s story was the media gravy that war-rejoicing hawks had been praying for. Lynch’s story sold magazines and advertising space, and gave people a reason to love war and continue hating Arab-Americans.

It shouldn’t surprise us that military officials went to such lengths to produce a hero. Pressured by war-generated jingoism, and perhaps aided by its public relations department in the interval between Iraqi departure and Special Forces entry, it is doubtful they would have done anything otherwise.

Somehow I doubt Newsweek and People will ever run cover stories debunking “Saving Private Lynch.” The reports of the truth behind the Jessica Lynch story were buried in the back pages if covered at all. Television refused to acknowledge Lynch’s story could have happened any other way. If news outlets are to have any value at all, lies disseminated to the public with fervor would be exposed and denounced with the same fervor.

I would like to believe I can trust media outlets to aggressively expose the perverted realities they help perpetuate. But then I would be lying to myself.

Karl Noyes welcomes comments at [email protected]