I’ve noted how remarkable it is that the Washington Post so thoroughly eludes censure for placing the bogus hero-warrior tale about Jessica Lynch into the public domain during the first days of the Iraq War.
The essay described the Lynch case not as a stunning example of errant journalism but as “an instrument of propaganda.”
The essay, written by William Deresiewicz, asserts that in 2003, “we were treated to the manufactured heroism of Jessica D. Lynch, the young supply clerk who was rescued from an Iraqi hospital a few days after her capture by enemy forces (both events turning out to be far less cinematic than initially put out) and who finally felt compelled to speak out against her own use as an instrument of propaganda.”
Great line, “manufactured heroism.”
But who really was responsible for the “manufactured heroism”?
Deresiewicz avoids saying.
He doesn’t say that the Post’s botched story about Lynch’s purported heroics was picked up by news organizations around the world, turning the 19-year-old Army private into the best-known American solider of the Iraq War.
It was the Post, citing otherwise unnamed “U.S. officials,” that offered up the electrifying tale about how Lynch “fought fiercely and shot several enemy soldiers after Iraqi forces ambushed” her unit, the 507th Maintenance Company, in Nasiriyah on March 23, 2003.
It was the Post that reported Lynch “continued firing at the Iraqis even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds and watched several other soldiers in her unit die around her” in the fighting.
None of it was true, however.
Lynch never fired a shot in Iraq. Her weapon jammed during the ambush. Her shattering injuries were suffered in the crash of a Humvee as it fled the attack.
It wasn’t long before the Post’s erroneous report about Lynch’s derring-do began to unravel.
And why has the Post sidestepped blame for the botched Lynch narrative? Why isn’t the newspaper more routinely cited in essays, such as Deresiewicz’s, that invoke the Lynch case?
It’s principally because details of the Lynch case have been subordinated to a far more sinister narrative that says the Pentagon conjured the hero-warrior tale about the waif-like young woman in order to bolster popular support for the Iraq War.
As Vernon Loeb, one of the Post reporters who shared a byline on the botched Lynch story in 2003, has said:
“Our sources for that story were not Pentagon sources.”
Loeb also said, in an interview that aired on NPR’s Fresh Air program in mid-December 2003:
“I just didn’t see the Pentagon trying to create a hero where there was none. I mean …they never showed any interest in doing that, to me.”
Loeb said the story was provided by “some really good intelligence sources” in Washington, D.C., adding:
“We wrote a story that turned out to be wrong because intelligence information we were given was wrong. That happens quite often.”
As I note in Getting It Wrong, Loeb on another occasion was quoted in the New York Times as saying:
“Far from promoting stories about Lynch, the military didn’t like the story.”
What’s more, the notion the Pentagon’s made up the story — and somehow fed it to the Post — to bolster popular support for the war doesn’t make much sense. After all, the American public in overwhelming numbers supported the war in its early days and months.
But it’s clear that if not for the Post, the “manufactured” tale of Lynch’s heroism never would have circulated as it did.
Far from being an “instrument of propaganda,” the Lynch hero-warrior narrative is a case of bungled reporting that has never been adequately explained, let alone corrected.
Recent and related:
- Misreporting Watergate
- No ‘rock-em,’ no ‘sock-em': What ails WaPo
- WaPo eludes responsibility in bogus hero-warrior tale about Lynch
- Recalling the hero of Nasiriyah: It wasn’t Jessica Lynch
- Why they get it wrong
- Lynch heroics not ‘the Pentagon’s story’; it was WaPo’s
- False narrative about Jessica Lynch and Pentagon surfaces anew
- Ignoring the astonishing reporting lapses in Lynch case
- Lynch says she could’ve embraced Post’s phony hero story
- Too good to be disbelieved: The military, myth, and Jessica Lynch
- Jessica Lynch one of ‘Time’ magazine’s ‘faces of the decade’
- ‘A debunker’s work is never done’
- ‘Exquisitely researched and lively’