Watching Diane Sawyer’s interview with former Pfc. Jessica Lynch on ABC’s “Primetime,” it was easy to see why the young soldier is a hero to the people of her hometown, Palestine, W.Va., and the rest of the Mountaineer State.
She is a truck driver’s daughter, a wisp of a girl, dreaming of a bright and happy future. She plans soon to marry a fellow soldier, Sgt. Ruben Contreras. Like so many in the economically stricken heartland of our country, she joined the military seeking opportunity and a more secure future for herself.
The Humvee she was riding in crashed during an ambush in the town of Nasiriya, Iraq, March 23, with the death of 11 of her comrades.
Poised in answering even the hardest questions about her 22-day captivity and her struggle to recover from her terrible injuries, Lynch showed she has iron in her soul. The bones in one leg were so badly smashed that the Iraqi doctors caring for her planned to amputate. Despite excruciating pain, she turned her face when they attempted to anesthetize her. She also suffered such serious back injuries that they apparently caused neurological damage. Normal bowel function has not returned. She takes heavy doses of painkillers, including morphine.
It is also understandable why George W. Bush wanted to turn her into a “poster child” of the Iraq war. There is ample precedent for using the devout, plain folk of Appalachia to promote a needless and unpopular war. Sgt. Alvin York, born in a log cabin in Pall Mall, Tenn., was transformed into the “poster boy” of World War I, a sharpshooter who knocked out dozens of machine guns and captured 132 German soldiers single-handedly, according to the myths.
Similarly, the Washington Post swallowed whole the Pentagon fiction that Lynch kept firing her M-16 until the ammunition was gone as her comrades lay dead beside her. Then came the rescue by a U.S. commando team, all videotaped for consumption back home.
It could not have escaped Bush’s political operative, Karl Rove, that footage of that rescue would play well on the 2004 campaign trail alongside footage of Bush landing on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and strutting in front of a huge “Mission Accomplished” banner.
Jessica Lynch’s real courage, her real heroism, is that she refused to play the role scripted for her by the Pentagon. In fact, she said, her rifle jammed. “I’m not about to take credit for something I didn’t do,” she said. “I did not shoot. Not a round. Nothing. I don’t look at myself as a hero. My heroes are Lori (Pfc. Lori Piestewa), the soldiers that are over there …” Piestewa is a Hopi Indian woman, a single mother of two, who was Lynch’s best friend and roommate at boot camp. She died in the ambush.
Lynch thanked the Iraqi doctors and nurses for saving her life, and denied they mistreated her. She praised the Iraqi nurse who stroked her hair and sang lullabies to her.
Sawyer asked Lynch if the videotaping of her rescue bothered her. “Yeah, it does, that they used me as a way to symbolize all this stuff,” she replied. “It’s wrong. I don’t know why they filmed it.” Repeatedly she castigated those who tried to transform her into a female Rambo. “It hurt,” she said.
She criticized the administration and the media for rarely mentioning her comrades who died. Lynch remembers and is still grieving.
Lynch has also criticized the media for failing to focus on her sister POW Shoshana Johnson, who is African American. Lynch has backed Johnson’s demand that she receive comparable medical care and disability benefits.
We should be angry that chickenhawks George W. Bush and Dick Cheney put these young women and 130,000 other soldiers in harm’s way to satisfy their greed for oil and world domination. Now Bush shuns the dead – refusing to attend funerals and barring the media from filming the returning caskets.
In refusing to become a tool of Bush-Cheney war propaganda, Jessica Lynch stood up for all the dead and wounded of this unilateral, preemptive war – Iraqi, American, British, Italian.
“Fabricating that story is an extension of the big lie,” Rev. Jesse Jackson told the Chicago Defender. “She [Lynch] needs to be honored for her integrity, for telling the truth,” he said.
Perhaps the most poignant moment in the “Primetime” interview was when an Iraqi man who had guarded Lynch’s hospital room told her, “I wish you the best, a happy, normal life.”
Jessica Lynch’s face fell. She murmured words too soft to hear. But the deep sadness in her eyes seemed to ask: “How can my life be normal?”
Tim Wheeler is Washington correspondent of
the People’s Weekly World.
He can be reached at greenerpastures21212