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Jessica Lynch Criticizes U.S. Accounts of Her Ordeal
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
Published: November 7, 2003
In her first public statements since her rescue in Iraq, Jessica Lynch criticized the military for exaggerating accounts of her rescue and re-casting her ordeal as a patriotic fable.
Asked by the ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer if the military's portrayal of the rescue bothered her, Ms. 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, Ms. Lynch will be a ubiquitous presence next week. In addition to her appearance on ABC, 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 and the movie are unrelated and tell different versions of Ms. Lynch's story, but the publisher has timed the book to capitalize on publicity from the television movie.
The book has already added another, lurid indignity to the public accounts of her capture. It reports that Ms. Lynch's military doctors found injuries consistent with sexual assault and unlikely to have resulted from the Humvee crash that caused her other wounds, suggesting that she was raped after her capture. Ms. Lynch, who was unconscious immediately after the crash, 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 reported yesterday in The New York Daily News.
In the book and in the interviews, Ms. Lynch says others' accounts of her heroism often left her feeling hurt and ashamed because of what she says was overstatement.
At first, a military spokesman in Iraq told journalists that American soldiers had exchanged fire with Iraqis during the rescue, without adding that resistance was minimal. Then the military released a dramatic, green-tinted, night-vision video of the mission. Soon news organizations were repeating reports, attributed to anonymous American officials, that Ms. Lynch had heroically resisted her capture, emptying her weapon at her attackers.
But subsequent investigations determined that Ms. 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, Ms. Lynch told Ms. 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."
And asked about reports that the military exaggerated the danger of the rescue mission, Ms. 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 Ms. 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."
Ms. 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," Ms. Lynch told Diane Sawyer, adding, "I'm so thankful for those people, because that's why I'm alive today."
Jeff Coplon, who helped Mr. Rehaief write his book, "Because Each Life is Precious," said it was possible that both he and Ms. 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," Mr. Coplon said.