How important is it that America make a hero out of Army Pvt. Jessica Lynch? Important enough for a nation to drown out the truth about her capture and rescue in a sea of hype.
Certainly, her April 3 capture was described in an exclusive Washington Post story far differently than it was 2 1/2 months later, when the facts finally came out.
Lynch’s story, as originally told, lionized her as a female Sgt. York who bravely blasted away at her eventual captors, apparently choosing to take as many of her attackers with her as possible. By June 17, in another front-page story. the Post said initial intelligence reports it relied upon were inaccurate.
The second story said her major injuries that ultimately kept her hospitalized for months — and, her family said, unable to recall anything about her ordeal — occurred while riding in a Humvee that was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, the American Journalism Review reports in its current issue. The Humvee driver then lost control and the vehicle crashed into a jack-knifed tractor-trailer.
No updated account of Lynch’s experience — painful as it was and brave as she was — even remotely suggests she purposely put her life at risk for that of another, a basic requirement of heroism.
Even so, the movie and the book deal won’t be just about her grimaces while lying in a hospital bed in Bethesda, Md. (One of the Tribune’s callers to The Vent quite reasonably asked how Lynch can write a book if she doesn’t remember anything about what happened.)
The made-for-TV story will be about her taking out nasty Iraqis sworn to destroy Our Way of Life, of a fearless young woman whose stiff-upper-lip words, “I’m an American soldier, too,” put the best — and female — face on the U.S. presence in Iraq.
The soldiers who rescued her from her Iraqi captors — and the Iraqi doctor who risked his life to tell U.S. troops where she was being held — deserve accolades far more than she, but they won’t get nearly as much.
Noble and right it would be for Lynch herself to set the record straight, to turn down the movie and book offers and make it clear that she was just one of hundreds of U.S. troops wounded in Iraq. Were they and she brave, willing? Yes. Worthy of appreciation, admiration? Of course. But to go into the American military pantheon of heroes? No. Sgt. York, she ain’t.