W. Joseph Campbell

Posts Tagged ‘Pentagon’

London’s ‘Independent’ latest to invoke media myth about Pentagon and Jessica Lynch

In Debunking, Error, Jessica Lynch, Media myths, Newspapers, Washington Post on January 28, 2013 at 7:40 am

In the debate about women being permitted to join U.S. military combat units, it was inevitable the media myth would resurface about Jessica Lynch and her purported battlefield heroics in Iraq nearly 10 years ago.

The myth has it that the Pentagon concocted the tale about Lynch’s having fought fiercely in an ambush in Nasiriyah and fed the propaganda to a credulous U.S. news media.

Sure enough, Britain’s Independent newspaper stepped in that myth over the weekend, in an online report about women in the U.S. military.

The newspaper referred to Lynch as a name fresh “in America’s collective memory” and asserted that “initial reports from the Pentagon exaggerated her story as it waged a propaganda war, stating that she had fought back heroically against the enemy when in fact she had never fired her weapon.”

Lynch was an element of a Pentagon “propaganda war”?

Not so.Independent masthead

Not according to Vernon Loeb, the Washington Post reporter who helped thrust the hero-warrior tale about Lynch into the public domain in an electrifying but utterly inaccurate front-page story published April 3, 2003. Loeb has said the Pentagon wasn’t the source of the Post’s story about Lynch, which it pegged to otherwise anonymous “U.S. officials.”

Under the byline of Loeb and Susan Schmidt, the Post reported that Lynch, then  a 19-year-old Army private in a support unit, kept firing at attacking Iraqis “even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds and watched several other soldiers in her unit die around her in fighting” at Nasiriyah on March 23, 2003.

The Post quoted one anonymous official as saying that Lynch “‘was fighting to the death. She did not want to be taken alive.'”

The story turned out to be wrong in every significant detail: Lynch never fired a shot in the attack at Nasiriyah; her weapon jammed during the deadly ambush in which 11 American soldiers were killed.

Lynch was neither shot nor stabbed, as Loeb and Schmidt reported, but suffered shattering injuries to her back, legs, and arms in the crash of a Humvee in which she was attempting to flee.

She was taken prisoner and treated at an Iraqi hospital, from where she was rescued April 1, 2003, by a U.S. special forces team.

As Lynch herself insists, she was no hero (although she has said she could have embraced the Post’s hero-warrior tale and no one would’ve been the wiser).

The Post, though, has never identified the “U.S. officials” who led it so badly astray.

But we do know that the Pentagon wasn’t the source of the Post’s exaggerated hero-warrior tale: Loeb said so in an interview on Fresh Air, an NPR radio program, in mid-December 2003.

In the interview, Loeb declared flatly:

“Our sources for that story were not Pentagon sources.”

Loeb also said that he “could never get anybody from the Pentagon to talk about” the Lynch case.

“They wouldn’t say anything about Jessica Lynch,” Loeb declared, adding:

“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.”

Although Loeb’s remarks have long been in the public domain, the Independent is the latest of many news organizations to have ignored or overlooked them, blithely offering instead the juicy but unsubstantiated claim that “the Pentagon exaggerated her story.”

Lynch_large photo

Private Lynch

The claim is a weak one, even without Loeb’s disclaimer. After all, in the early days of the Iraq War, the Pentagon had little reason to exploit the Lynch case as a way to boost popular support  for the conflict.

As I point out in my myth-busting book, Getting It Wrong:

“It may be little-recalled now, but the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was widely supported by the American public. Polling data from March and April 2003, the opening days and weeks of the war, show an overwhelming percentage of Americans supported the conflict and believed the war effort, overall, was going well.”

Among those public opinion polls was a Washington Post-ABC News survey conducted in late March and early April 2003 — when Lynch was much in the news. The poll found that eight of 10 Americans felt the war effort was going well, and 71 percent approved of the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq situation.

WJC

Many thanks to Instapundit
Glenn Reynolds for linking to this post

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Misremembering the Jessica Lynch case, on Memorial Day

In Debunking, Jessica Lynch, Media myths on May 28, 2012 at 5:11 pm

It’s astonishing how engrained the false narrative has become that the Pentagon made up the hero-warrior tale about Army private Jessica Lynch in the early days of the Iraq War.

It is often invoked — and typically without any reference to specific sources.

(Newseum image)

Take, for example, the top-of-the-front-page article today in today’s The State newspaper in South Carolina, which refers to unspecified “critics” who “charge that the Pentagon exaggerated her wounds by saying she was shot and stabbed when she wasn’t.”

As I’ve noted many times at Media Myth Alert, the Pentagon wasn’t the source for the bogus tale about Lynch’s heroics in an ambush at Nasiriyah in southern Iraq.

It was the Washington Post that thrust the story into the public domain in a dramatic account published on its front page on April 3, 2003.

The Post’s report said Lynch, then a 19-year-old supply clerk in the Army’s 507th Maintenance Company, fired at attacking Iraqis “even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds and watched several other soldiers in her unit die around her in fighting” on March 23, 2003.

The story, which was picked up by news organizations around the world, was embarrassingly wrong in all important details. Lynch, it quickly turned out, was neither shot nor stabbed, as the Post had reported. She did not fire a shot in the ambush. She suffered severe injuries in the crash of a Humvee as it tried to flee the ambush.

Lynch was taken prisoner and treated at an Iraqi hospital, from where she was rescued April 1, 2003, by a U.S. special operations team.

As Lynch herself insists, she was no hero (although she has said she could have embraced the Post’s hero-warrior tale and no one would’ve been the wiser).

We know the Pentagon wasn’t the source of the Post’s exaggerated tale: Vernon Loeb, one of the reporters who wrote the story, said so in an interview on Fresh Air, an NPR radio program, in mid-December 2003.

In the interview, Loeb said flatly:

“Our sources for that story were not Pentagon sources.”

Loeb also said that he “could never get anybody from the Pentagon to talk about” the Lynch case.

“They wouldn’t say anything about Jessica Lynch,” Loeb declared, adding:

“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 details about Lynch’s supposed heroics came from “some really good intelligence sources” in Washington, D.C. — sources whom the Post has never specifically identified, although it should.

The State’s article is pegged to Memorial Day and recalls the death at Nasiriyah of Sgt. George Buggs. He was the first serviceman from South Carolina killed in Iraq.

The article notes that “Buggs’ death is now forgotten by most except family and friends. … But his story is both intertwined and overshadowed by one of the most tragic and controversial events in modern U.S. military history — the capture and rescue of a young soldier from West Virginia named Jessica Lynch.”

The article invokes those nameless “critics” in saying they “charged that the United States government exaggerated the facts of the rescue, manipulated the media and exploited Lynch to build public support for a war many thought was unnecessary.”

Such claims are erroneous in at least two important respects.

One, the Defense Department’s acting inspector general reported finding no evidence to support the notion that Lynch’s rescue “was a staged media event.” Rather, the inspector general’s report said the rescue operation was “a valid mission” to recover a prisoner of war “under combat conditions.” It further stated that the “level of force used by [the special forces team] to perform the mission was consistent with the anticipated resistance and established doctrine.”

Two, the U.S. government had little reason to exploit the Lynch case as a means “to build public support”  for the Iraq War. As I point out in my 2010 book, Getting It Wrong:

“It may be little-recalled now, but the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was widely supported by the American public. Polling data from March and April 2003, the opening days and weeks of the war, show an overwhelming percentage of Americans supported the conflict and believed the war effort, overall, was going well.”

Among those public opinion polls was a Washington Post-ABC News survey conducted in late March and early April 2003. The poll found that eight of ten Americans felt the war effort was going well, and 71 percent approved of the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq situation.

I further note in Getting It Wrong:

“At the time of the Lynch rescue, U.S. forces were closing in on Baghdad. So it defies logic to argue that the American military would have singled out and hyped the Lynch rescue for morale-building purposes when its central and vastly more important wartime objective was within reach.”

WJC

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Jessica Lynch featured in ‘this day in history’ feature; WaPo ignored

In Debunking, Jessica Lynch, Media myths, Washington Post on July 25, 2011 at 10:00 am

Lynch in 2003

It is remarkable how often Jessica Lynch pops up in media reports, even though eight years have passed since the bogus story about her heroics in an ambush in Iraq thrust her into the international limelight.

It’s likewise remarkable how seldom the Washington Post is identified as the sole source of the tale about her derring-do — how Lynch, a private in a non-combat Army maintenance unit, supposedly fought ferociously against Iraqi attackers, despite being shot and stabbed.

None of it was true; Lynch suffered neither gunshot nor stab wounds. She was badly injured in the crash of a Humvee as its fled the ambush. But Lynch never fired a shot in the attack, which took place March 23, 2003, in Nasiriyah in southern Iraq.

The other day, the online site of cable TV’s History Channel recalled Lynch and the return in July 2003 to her hometown in West Virginia as the “lead story” of its “this day in history” feature.

Predictably, the account made no mention of the singular role the Washington Post played in thrusting the bogus hero-warrior story into the public domain. The ensuing worldwide sensation had the effect of making Lynch the single best-known American soldier of the war.

Instead of mentioning the Post, the History Channel feature referred vaguely to “news accounts indicating that even after Lynch was wounded during the ambush she fought back against her captors.”

And just as vaguely, it blamed the government for the bogus story, noting that critics “charged the U.S. government with embellishing her story to boost patriotism and help promote the Iraq war.”

So just who in the “U.S. government” concocted the Lynch story “to boost patriotism and help promote the Iraq war”? Nor surprisingly, the History Channel feature didn’t say: Such accusations typically are unaccompanied by specific details.

The accusation is, though, sometimes aimed at the Pentagon — that the military ginned up the hero-warrior tale about Lynch to bolster public support for the war.

But that claim is untenable for at least two reasons, as I discuss in my latest book, Getting It Wrong.

One, public backing for the war in Iraq was quite strong in the conflict’s early days. For example, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, taken of 1,012 American adults on March 29 and 30, 2003, found that 85.5 percent of respondents thought the war effort was going “very well” or “moderately well” for U.S. forces. And that was before Baghdad fell to U.S. ground forces.

So there was no need or incentive to concoct a hero-warrior tale to bolster support for the war.

Two, and more important, one of the Post reporters who wrote the bogus hero-warrior story about Lynch said in late 2003 that the Pentagon was not the source. The reporter, Vernon Loeb, stated flatly:

“Our sources for that story were not Pentagon sources.”

Loeb also said in the interview, which aired December 15, 2003, on National Public Radio, that the Pentagon “wouldn’t say anything about Jessica Lynch.”

He added:

“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.”

On an earlier occasion, Loeb was quoted in a commentary in the New York Times as saying:

“Far from promoting stories about Lynch, the military didn’t like the story.”

The Post’s hero-warrior story about Lynch was published April 3, 2003, and cited otherwise anonymous “U.S. officials” as sources.

As I’ve previously stated at Media Myth Alert, it is high time for the Post to identify the “U.S. officials” who led it astray.

The Post is under no obligation to protect the identity of sources who misled it so badly. Identifying them would clear the record by clarifying what role, if any, the Pentagon or other U.S. agencies had in the derivation of the bogus tale.

And doing so certainly would help make those periodic retrospective pieces such as the History Channel’s writeup about Lynch more complete, revealing, and accurate.

WJC

Recent and related:

WaPo eludes responsibility in bogus hero-warrior tale about Lynch

In Debunking, Jessica Lynch, Media myths, Washington Post on July 6, 2011 at 9:17 am

The Washington Post has the exclusive though obviously unwanted distinction of having brought the world the bogus story about Jessica Lynch and her battlefield heroics during the early days of the Iraq War.

Private Lynch, 2003

But in what has been a remarkable case of deflected attention, the Post’s singular role in the botched hero-warrior tale about Lynch has been obscured in favor of a darker, more sinister narrative that the Pentagon concocted the story and fed it to the American public.

That version — the military made it up — has become the dominant narrative of the Lynch case and is predictably invoked whenever Lynch attracts the news media’s attention, as she did on the Fourth of July.

She was in Idaho then to give a talk at a Presbyterian camp. Her appearance drew local news coverage, including a report published yesterday in the Spokesman-Review newspaper of Spokane.

The Spokesman-Review account blithely repeated the dominant narrative about Lynch’s supposedly heroic deeds, stating without attribution:

“The military initially portrayed Lynch as a hero, saying she fought back until she ran out of ammunition.”

Which just isn’t so.

As Vernon Loeb, one of the Post reporters on the botched Lynch story has made clear, the Pentagon wasn’t the source of the hero-warrior tale.

“Far from promoting stories about Lynch,” Loeb has said, “the military didn’t like the story.”

The dominant narrative is a false narrative.

Loeb then was the Post’s defense correspondent. He shared a byline with Susan Schmidt on the sensational story about Lynch, which was published April 3, 2003, on the Post’s front page.

The Schmidt-Loeb report carried the headline:

“‘She was fighting to the death.'”

The story described how Lynch, then 19, supposedly had fought with Rambo-like ferocity in an ambush at Nasiriyah in southern Iraq, “even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds and watched several other soldiers in her unit die around her.”

Lynch, a supply clerk in the Army’s 507th Maintenance Division, also was stabbed before being overwhelmed, according to the Post.

The newspaper cited otherwise unidentified “U.S. officials” for its sensational story, which was picked up and reported prominently by news organizations around the world.

The hero-warrior tale turned Lynch into the war’s best-known American soldier. But it wasn’t true.

Lynch hadn’t fired a shot in the ambush.

She was badly injured not from gunshots and stabbings, but in a Humvee that crashed fleeing the Iraqi attack.

In the years since, the Post  has not objected as the dominant narrative about the origins of the Lynch story has shifted to the Pentagon. The newspaper has said little, if anything, about the now-routine inclination to blame the military for the bogus tale.

Indeed, the newspaper has “never fully acknowledged or explained its extraordinary error about Jessica Lynch,” as I write in my latest book, Getting It Wrong.

It is certainly time for the Post to identify the “U.S. officials” who led it so badly astray on the Lynch story; doing so would clarify what role, if any, the Pentagon had in the derivation of the bogus tale.

Loeb has effectively absolved the Pentagon in the hero-warrior tale about Lynch, saying in an interview on NPR in December 2003:

“Our sources for that story were not Pentagon sources.

“And, in fact, I could never get anybody from the Pentagon to talk about those reports [about Lynch’s battlefield heroics] at all. I got indications that they had, in fact, received those intelligence reports, but the Pentagon was completely unwilling to comment on those reports at all.

“They wouldn’t say anything about Jessica Lynch.”

WJC

Recent and related:

Lynch heroics not ‘the Pentagon’s story’; it was WaPo’s

In Debunking, Jessica Lynch, Media myths, Washington Post on May 12, 2011 at 9:50 am

Private Lynch: No hero-warrior

The mythical tale that the Pentagon concocted the story about Jessica Lynch’s battlefield heroics early in the Iraq War probably is just too delicious ever to be thoroughly debunked and forgotten.

The tale about the Pentagon’s purported fabrication turned up today in a syndicated column published by the Modesto Bee.

The column deplored the exaggerated early accounts of the slaying of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. Initial reports offered by the Obama administration inaccurately described bin Laden as having used one of his wives as a shield during the Navy SEALS’ dramatic raid on his lair in Pakistan.

“To their credit,” wrote the columnist, Bob Franken, “Obama administration leaders quickly owned up, which is far better than some of the cover-ups attempted during the Bush years.”

Franken then invoked the Lynch case, writing: “In April 2003, she was captured after being seriously injured in southern Iraq. News media at the time bought the Pentagon’s story that PFC Lynch had been badly wounded and taken prisoner after she had blazed away during a firefight.”

Franken,  formerly a correspondent for CNN, also wrote: “The truth, as she acknowledged after her release, is that her injuries were the result of a Humvee crash that occurred as she and the others in her unit tried to flee.”

For starters, let’s check the date: Lynch was captured March 23, 2003, after Iraqis ambushed elements of Lynch’s unit, the 507th Maintenance Company, in Nasiriyah. She was rescued by a U.S. special forces team April 1, 2003.

More important, though, the Pentagon wasn’t the source for the hero-warrior tale about Jessica Lynch. It wasn’t “the Pentagon’s story.”

The story was thrust into the public domain exclusively by the Washington Post, which reported on April 3, 2003, that Lynch had fought fiercely in the ambush at Nasariyah, ” firing at the Iraqis even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds and watched several other soldiers in her unit die around her….”

Above this dramatic story, the Post ran the headline: “‘She was fighting to the death.'”

The story was utterly false.

Lynch never fired a shot during the ambush; her weapon jammed.

She was neither shot nor stabbed, although the Post reported she had been so wounded. Lynch suffered shattering injuries in the crash of the Humvee, as Franken’s column mentions.

We know from Vernon Loeb, who shared a byline with Susan Schmidt on the original, inaccurate Lynch story, that the Pentagon wasn’t the source for that report.

As I note in my latest book, Getting It Wrong, Loeb went on NPR’s Fresh Air program in December 2003 and declared, unequivocally:

“Our sources for that story were not Pentagon sources.”

Loeb then was the Post’s defense correspondent, and he and Schmidt reported the Lynch hero-warrior story from Washington, D.C. He also said in the NPR interview that Pentagon officials “wouldn’t say anything about Jessica Lynch.”

He also dismissed the interviewer’s suggestion that the Post’s “fighting to the death” report was the upshot of the Pentagon’s clever and cynical manipulation.

“I just didn’t see the Pentagon trying to create a hero where there was none,” Loeb said. “I mean …they never showed any interest in doing that, to me.”

On another occasion, Loeb was quoted by the New York Times as saying:

“Far from promoting stories about Lynch, the military didn’t like the story.”

Rarely do Loeb’s disclaimers find their way into articles, columns, blog posts, and other media discussions about the Lynch case. It’s far easier — and makes for a far better story — simply to embrace the false narrative about the Pentagon’s duplicity.

The false narrative, after all, conforms tidily and well to the curdled popular view that the Iraq War was a mistake, that it was a conflict waged on dubious grounds.

And yet no one who repeats or promotes the narrative about the Pentagon’s having concocted the story about Lynch ever explains how the Pentagon managed to dupe the Post so thoroughly that it published a bogus story.

I’d love to read a description about how that supposedly was accomplished.

WJC

Recent and related:

False narrative about Jessica Lynch and Pentagon surfaces anew

In Debunking, Jessica Lynch, Media myths, Washington Post on May 6, 2011 at 7:11 am

As the Obama Administration has made a hash of how terror leader Osama bin Laden was taken down, news outlets have blithely and misleadingly invoked false narrative about Jessica Lynch as a point of comparison.

Origin of the hero-warrior tale

The false narrative has it that the Pentagon concocted a tale about Lynch’s battlefield heroics in Iraq in 2003, fed it somehow to the Washington Post which spread the electrifying but bogus story around the world (see left).

In reality, the Pentagon treated the Lynch hero-warrior tale as if it were radioactive. The Post’s sensational story about Lynch, which was published April 3, 2003, indicated as much, referring to “Pentagon officials” as saying “they had heard ‘rumors’ of Lynch’s heroics but had had no confirmation.”

One of the Post reporters whose byline appeared on that story has stated unequivocally the Pentagon was not the newspaper’s source for the account of Lynch’s supposed derring-do.

“Our sources for that story were not Pentagon sources,” the reporter, Vernon Loeb, said in an interview on National Public Radio in late 2003.

Loeb, who then was the Post’s defense correspondent and now is the newspaper’s top editor for local news, also said in the NPR interview:

“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.”

Despite Loeb’s exculpatory statements, the false narrative that the Pentagon concocted the story about Lynch lives on — and has been repeated this week by the likes of filmmaker Michael Moore.

“The government, especially the Pentagon,” Moore has been quoted as saying, “has a poor track record of telling the truth, starting with Jessica Lynch.”

Moore has been on Twitter this week, making similarly unsubstantiated claims about the Pentagon.

The Guardian in  London also has offered unsupported claims about the Pentagon’s role in the Lynch hero-warrior tale.

The newspaper yesterday noted that “the White House has been busy messing up the aftermath [of bin Laden’s killing] with a display of PR ineptness that is remarkable.”

Notable among the administration’s flubs and mixed messages about bin Laden was the account, since repudiated, that the mastermind of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, hid behind one of his wives before he was fatally shot by the U.S. commando team.

The Guardian article also declared:

“Whether it’s Islamists hoping Bin Laden is not dead or conservatives wondering if the facts are being manipulated in the way Pentagon officials did over Private Jessica Lynch during the Iraq war, this is precisely the opposite of what the Oval Office wanted.”

The Associated Press wire service has turned to the false narrative as well, asserting in a dispatch yesterday: “Initial military accounts of Jessica Lynch’s resistance to her captors were part of an effort to rally public support for the war, and were factually wrong.”

As I note in Getting It Wrong, making up the hero-warrior story to boost support for the conflict would have been nonsense: At the time, Americans in overwhelming numbers said they backed the war in Iraq.

It’s quite remarkable indeed how the singular role of the Post in reporting and spreading the bogus story about Lynch has receded so thoroughly in favor of the false narrative that blames the Pentagon for having made it all up.

Timothy Egan, writing at the New York Times’ “Opinionator” blog, revisited the Lynch case yesterday without once mentioning the Washington Post.

The Pentagon, after all, is a convenient foil and as I note in my latest book, Getting It Wrong, the bogus tale about Lynch corresponds well to the curdled popular view about the war in Iraq.

The Post, moreover, has never adequately explained how it got the Lynch story so thoroughly wrong.

Sgt. Walters

Nor has the Post ever had much to say about the American soldier who probably did perform the heroics that were misattributed to Lynch. His name was Donald Walters, a cook-sergeant in Lynch’s unit, which came under attack in Nasiriyah, in southern Iraq, on March 23, 2003.

Walters put down covering fire that allowed his comrades to attempt to flee.

Walters is believed to have fought until he was out of ammunition. He was overwhelmed, taken prisoner, and executed soon afterward.

A measure of the Post’s indifference about Walters can be found in searching a database of articles that the newspaper has published since 2003.  In that time, the Post has carried just two articles that even mention Donald Walters.

WJC

Recent and related:

False parallels: bin Laden slaying and bogus tale about Jessica Lynch

In Debunking, Jessica Lynch, Media myths, Washington Post on May 5, 2011 at 8:00 am

Lynch: No hero-warrior

The discrepancies and shifting details about the takedown of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden have reminded some commentators of the case of Jessica Lynch and the bogus tale of her battlefield heroics in the Iraq War.

Among those invoking such parallels was Ben Smith who, at a Politico blog the other day, examined the erroneous report that bin Laden used his wife as a human shield before being fatally shot during the U.S. commando raid on his lair in Pakistan.

“Every American war has been defined, in no small part, by mythmaking,” Smith wrote. “It was at its most egregious in the cases of Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman, when the military establishment seemed, more or less, to have fed the press lies.”

The Guardian newspaper in London also brought up the Lynch case, in an article posted yesterday that carried the headline, “US military’s history of backtracking on initial reports.”

The Guardian said of Lynch: “Despite being badly wounded when her company came under attack near the town of Nasiriyah in March [2003], the soldier kept her finger on the trigger of her gun until her ammunition ran out. … The only problem with the official account is that it was untrue.”

But parallels between the Lynch and bin Laden cases are inexact and misleading. The heroics attributed to Jessica Lynch weren’t “lies” spread by the U.S. military; the account of her battlefield derring-do was no “official account,” either.

Far from it.

As I discuss in my media-mythbusting book, Getting It Wrong, the tale about Lynch was thrust into the public domain prominently and exclusively by the Washington Post.

The Post published an electrifying story on April 3, 2003, that declared that Lynch had been “‘fighting to the death'” when she was overpowered by Iraqi attackers  and taken prisoner.

The Post reported that Lynch, a supply clerk in the 507th Maintenance Unit, “continued firing at the Iraqis even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds and watched several other soldiers in her unit die around her in fighting” at Nasiriyah.

The newspaper also said Lynch was “stabbed when Iraqi forces closed in on her position.”

But the Post’s dramatic hero-warrior tale was utterly wrong: Lynch never fired a shot in the fighting at Nasiriyah: Her rifle jammed.

She was neither shot nor stabbed; she suffered severe injuries in the crash of her Humvee as it sped away from the ambush.

As for sources, the Post vaguely cited “U.S. officials” who otherwise went unidentified. (And as I’ve said at Media Myth Alert, the Post has an obligation to the public to set the record straight by disclosing the identity of those sources.)

We do know that the Post’s sources were not Pentagon officials.

We know this from Vernon Loeb, one of the Post reporters who shared a byline on the “‘fighting to the death'” tale about Lynch.

As I discuss in Getting It Wrong, Loeb went on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air program in December 2003 and made clear that the Post’s sources weren’t Pentagon officials.

Loeb said: “They wouldn’t say anything about Jessica Lynch.”

He dismissed the interviewer’s suggestion that the Post’s “fighting to the death” report was the Pentagon’s result of clever and cynical manipulation.

“I just didn’t see the Pentagon trying to create a hero where there was none,” Loeb said. “I mean …they never showed any interest in doing that, to me.”

He also said: “Our sources for that story were not Pentagon sources.”

Moreover, the then Defense Department spokeswoman, Victoria Clarke, was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying in June 2003: “We were downplaying [the Lynch hero-warrior story]. We weren’t hyping it.”

The exaggerated tale about Lynch wasn’t a story that the Pentagon concocted, pushed, or embraced. It wasn’t an “official account” by any means.

It was solely the product of the Post’s over-eager journalism, an episode in flawed reporting for which the newspaper has never fully accounted.

Indeed, the Post has tried to dodge responsibility for its erroneous tale about Lynch.

In a follow-up story about Lynch published in June 2003, the Post had the temerity to fault the U.S. military and the administration of President George Bush for failing to correct the error for which the Post was responsible.

“Neither the Pentagon nor the White House publicly dispelled the more romanticized initial version of her capture,” the Post said, “helping to foster the myth surrounding Lynch and fuel accusations that the Bush administration stage-managed parts of Lynch’s story.”

It was, I write in Getting It Wrong, “an astounding assertion: The Post, alone, was responsible for propagating the ‘romanticized initial version’ that created the hero-warrior myth. To claim the Pentagon and the White House should have done more to dispel that report was, in short, exceedingly brazen.”

In his 2005 book, Misunderstimated, Bill Sammon, now a Fox News executive in Washington, D.C., said the Post’s attempt at blame-shifting represented “a new low, even for the shameless American press.”

He added:

“One of the most influential newspapers in the nation was now holding the Bush Administration responsible for correcting the paper’s own gross journalistic misdeeds. Instead of just coming clean and admitting its initial story was utterly bogus, the Post called it ‘romanticized,’ as if someone other than its own reporters had done the romanticizing.”

Appalling.

WJC

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CounterPunch embraces bogus Lynch narrative

In Debunking, Jessica Lynch, Media myths, Washington Post on April 30, 2011 at 7:46 am

Private Lynch, before Iraq

The Pentagon concocted a tale about the battlefield heroics of Jessica Lynch, a waiflike Army private then 19-years-old, and fed it to the news media in order to boost popular support for the Iraq War.

Voilá,  the dominant popular narrative about Lynch, the conflict’s single most famous soldier.

CounterPunch, a muckraking newsletter, embraced that bogus narrative yesterday in a lengthy essay posted online about the supposed effects of careerism in the U.S. military.

In invoking the Lynch case, CounterPunch asserted:

“The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan … have severely tested and frequently compromised the U.S. officer corps’ traditional values of duty, honor and country. This is obvious in the selective careerist- and agenda-ridden assertions to portray a false picture of events to the American public about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.”

Several examples followed, including this claim about Lynch: “Americans were told Army Spc. Jessica Lynch fired her M16 rifle until she ran out of bullets and was captured. It was a lie.”

In fact, that statement offers “a false picture of events”: The Pentagon did not put out the story about Lynch’s supposed derring-do in the ambush of her unit at Nasiriyah, in southern Iraq, in the first days of the conflict.

As I point out in my media-mythbusting book, Getting It Wrong, which came out last year, the Pentagon was not the source of the false narrative about Lynch.

It was the Washington Post that thrust the hero-warrior tale about Lynch into the public domain.

The Post did so April 3, 2003, in a sensational front-page article that appeared beneath the headline:

“‘She was fighting to the death.'”

The Post’s report said that Lynch, a supply clerk in the 507th Maintenance Unit, “continued firing at the Iraqis even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds and watched several other soldiers in her unit die around her in fighting” at Nasiriyah.

The newspaper also said Lynch was “stabbed when Iraqi forces closed in on her position.”

The Post cited as sources “U.S. officials” whom it otherwise has never identified. As it should, to help dismantle the false narrative.

The Post’s sensational report about Lynch was picked up by news outlets around the country and the world.

For example, a columnist for the Hartford Courant newspaper in Connecticut suggested that Lynch was destined to join the likes of Audie Murphy and Alvin York in the gallery of improbable American war heroes. Lynch, the columnist noted, “does share qualities and background with her illustrious predecessors. Like them, she is from rural America, daughter of a truck driver, raised in a West Virginia tinroofed house surrounded by fields and woods.”

But the hero-warrior story about Lynch was thoroughly wrong.

Lynch never fired a shot at Nasiriyah. Her rifle jammed during the ambush. She suffered shattering injuries when a rocket-propelled grenade struck her Humvee, causing the vehicle to crash.

But she was neither shot nor stabbed.

Lynch was taken prisoner and treated at an Iraqi hospital where she lingered near death until rescued April 1, 2003, by a U.S. special operations team.

Meanwhile, the real hero of Nasiriyah, an Army cook-sergeant named Donald Walters, has received nothing that was remotely comparable to the attention given the false story about Lynch and her purported derring-do.

Walters is believed to have fought to his last bullet at Nasiriyah before being take prisoner by Iraqi irregulars. Soon afterward, he was executed.

It’s quite probable that Walters’ heroism was misattributed to Lynch.

And how do we know the Pentagon was not the source for the Washington Post’s bogus Lynch story?

We know from Vernon Loeb, who shared a byline with Susan Schmidt on the “‘Fighting to the Death'” article.

Loeb, now the Post’s top editor for local news, said in December 2003 on NPR’s  Fresh Air show program that he “could never get anybody from the Pentagon to talk about” the Lynch case.

“They wouldn’t say anything about Jessica Lynch,” he said.

“I just didn’t see the Pentagon trying to create a hero where there was none,” he added. “I mean …they never showed any interest in doing that, to me.”

Loeb also said:

“Our sources for that story were not Pentagon sources.”

He described them as “some really good intelligence sources” in Washington, D.C. , and added:

“We wrote a story that turned out to be wrong because intelligence information we were given was wrong. That happens quite often.”

Loeb on another occasion was quoted by the New York Times as saying:

“Far from promoting stories about Lynch, the military didn’t like the story.”

Despite Loeb’s insistent exculpatory remarks, the false narrative that the Pentagon made up the story about Lynch lives on, in large measure because it corresponds so well to the view that the war in Iraq was a thoroughly botched and dodgy affair.

WJC

Many thanks to Little Miss Attila
for linking to this post

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