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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 May, 2003, 08:50 GMT 09:50 UK
Saving Private Lynch story 'flawed'

By John Kampfner

Private Jessica Lynch after her rescue by US Special Forces
Private Jessica Lynch was reportedly rescued after a tip-off

Private Jessica Lynch became an icon of the war, and the story of her capture by the Iraqis and her rescue by US special forces became one of the great patriotic moments of the conflict.

But her story is one of the most stunning pieces of news management ever conceived.

Private Lynch, a 19-year-old army clerk from Palestine, West Virginia, was captured when her company took a wrong turning just outside Nasiriya and was ambushed.

Nine of her comrades were killed and Private Lynch was taken to the local hospital, which at the time was swarming with Fedayeen. Eight days later US special forces stormed the hospital, capturing the "dramatic" events on a night vision camera.

They were said to have come under fire from inside and outside the building, but they made it to Lynch and whisked her away by helicopter.

There was no [sign of] shooting, no bullet inside her body, no stab wound
Dr Harith a-Houssona
Reports claimed that she had stab and bullet wounds and that she had been slapped about on her hospital bed and interrogated.

But Iraqi doctors in Nasiriya say they provided the best treatment they could for the soldier in the midst of war. She was assigned the only specialist bed in the hospital and one of only two nurses on the floor.

"I examined her, I saw she had a broken arm, a broken thigh and a dislocated ankle," said Dr Harith a-Houssona, who looked after her.

Jessica amnesia

"There was no [sign of] shooting, no bullet inside her body, no stab wound - only road traffic accident. They want to distort the picture. I don't know why they think there is some benefit in saying she has a bullet injury."

Witnesses told us that the special forces knew that the Iraqi military had fled a day before they swooped on the hospital.

"We were surprised. Why do this? There was no military, there were no soldiers in the hospital," said Dr Anmar Uday, who worked at the hospital.

"It was like a Hollywood film. They cried 'go, go, go', with guns and blanks without bullets, blanks and the sound of explosions. They made a show for the American attack on the hospital - action movies like Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan."

There was one more twist. Two days before the snatch squad arrived, Harith had arranged to deliver Jessica to the Americans in an ambulance.

But as the ambulance, with Private Lynch inside, approached a checkpoint American troops opened fire, forcing it to flee back to the hospital. The Americans had almost killed their prize catch.

Some brave souls put their lives on the line to make this happen
General Vincent Brooks

When footage of the rescue was released, General Vincent Brooks, US spokesman in Doha, said: "Some brave souls put their lives on the line to make this happen, loyal to a creed that they know that they'll never leave a fallen comrade."

The American strategy was to ensure the right television footage by using embedded reporters and images from their own cameras, editing the film themselves.

The Pentagon had been influenced by Hollywood producers of reality TV and action movies, notably the man behind Black Hawk Down, Jerry Bruckheimer.

Bruckheimer advised the Pentagon on the primetime television series "Profiles from the Front Line", that followed US forces in Afghanistan in 2001. That approached was taken on and developed on the field of battle in Iraq.

As for Private Lynch, her status as cult hero is stronger than ever. Internet auction sites list Jessica Lynch items, from an oil painting with an opening bid of $200 to a $5 "America Loves Jessica Lynch" fridge magnet.

But doctors now say she has no recollection of the whole episode and probably never will.

War Spin was broadcast on BBC Two on Sunday, 18 May, 2003 at 1915 BST.

Dr Harith al-Houssona
"There was no bullet inside her body"

Journalist, Michael Wolf
"No more questions for you"

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29 Apr 03  |  Middle East
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11 Apr 03  |  Entertainment
US town celebrates POW rescue
02 Apr 03  |  Middle East

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