Just As I Thought

Isn’t her 15 minutes almost up?

First off, let me say that I am pretty impressed by soldiers — I could never, ever do what they do, from the slogging through training to the horrors of war.

But frankly, I’m kind of tired of the industry that has grown up around Jessica Lynch. A story seems to have grown up around her that rivals World War II propaganda, and now the forthcoming book stirs the pot even more. Read this excerpt and tell me if this isn’t the most blatant example of jingoistic propaganda that you’ve seen… this week.

“Jessi lost three hours,” Bragg wrote. “She lost them in the snapping bones, in the crash of the Humvee, in the torment her enemies inflicted on her after she was pulled from it.”

The scars on Lynch’s battered body and the medical records indicate she was anally raped, and “fill in the blanks of what Jessi lived through on the morning of March 23, 2003,” Bragg wrote.

“The records do not tell whether her captors assaulted her almost lifeless, broken body after she was lifted from the wreckage, or if they assaulted her and then broke her bones into splinters until she was almost dead.”

The excerpts that I have seen are once again at odds with the facts: they paint Lynch as an uber-hero who survived hell — when the reality is she was in a hospital where the doctors not only cared for her, but the nurses sang her to sleep.

I don’t know what the real story is, but I do know that it lies somewhere off this path. I also know that hundreds of American soldiers have been killed and many, many more injured… but the conservatives and the media desperately need someone like this blond, hometown, girl next door to rally people around this quagmire they’ve gotten us into.

The capper to this?

Lynch’s painful recovery from an ordeal that left her barely able to walk, unable to use her right hand or control her bowels is vividly described. So, too, is Lynch’s discomfort with the spotlight – and with being called a hero.

But not enough discomfort to cash in with a 207-page book to be released on… ready for it? Veterans Day.

[Update Nov. 7]: The BBC website published excerpts from a Diane Sawyer interview with Lynch, in which she complains that the Pentagon is exploiting her for propaganda purposes.

A video of US commandos carrying a badly injured Private Jessica Lynch from a Nasiriya hospital was released at the height of the conflict.

But the 20-year-old criticised the release of false information about her capture by Iraqi forces.

She also said there was no reason for her rescue to be filmed.

… She said she was grateful to the American special forces team which rescued her but, asked whether the Pentagon’s subsequent portrayal of her rescue bothered her, she said: “Yes, it does. They used me as a way to symbolise all this stuff. It’s wrong.”

And yet, I wonder — the book, which I assume she participated in (she made $1 million from it) seems to paint that propagandized image, and the TV movie (which, again, I assume she at least sold rights for) also presents a gung-ho version of the story. Who in the world is Jessica Lynch, really?

[Update Nov. 8]: Evidently, Jessica Lynch did not give the rights to her story to NBC for the movie:

The major problem is that NBC did not obtain rights to Lynch’s story. So after she’s captured, the movie’s focus shifts from her hospitalized plight to the efforts of Mohammed Odeh al Rehaief (Nicholas Guilak), an Iraqi lawyer who risked his own life to help U.S. forces locate Lynch. (So much of the movie revolves around Rehaief that it should have been titled Why I Helped Save Jessica Lynch.)

In real life, Rehaief’s efforts were rewarded. Not only did he receive political asylum in the States, he was offered a job in Washington, and paid $300,000 (U.S.) to write a book (Because Each Life Is Precious) recently published by HarperCollins.

Meanwhile, in an obvious underscore to my comments about Lynch’s “girl next door” suitability for propaganda, read this:

Johnson, an Army specialist, belonged to the same 507th Maintenance Company as Lynch. Unlike Lynch, Johnson fought to stave off their Iraqi captors. Like Lynch, she sustained serious injuries.

But only Lynch got the headlines, the TV movie, the prime-time television interviews and a biography penned by a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. Lynch, in short, got the full American celebrity treatment, while Johnson largely got ignored. Many African-Americans think that’s simply because she didn’t have the right ”face.”

African-American suspicions of a racial double standard were reinforced last month when it was revealed that Johnson, who was shot in both ankles, will get only 30 percent of her monthly pay in disability benefits. Lynch, who had a head injury and broken bones in her right arm, right leg, thighs and ankle, will get 80 percent disability pay.

Robert Thompson, a professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University, said he doubted that race was the reason that Lynch became a media celebrity. But, he added, with her good looks and compelling story, Lynch looked like a figure from central casting at a time when the Pentagon desperately needed one.

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