NEW DELHI: The dramatic rescue of US soldier Jessica Lynch on April 2 from an Iraqi hospital made headlines everywhere, including in this newspaper.
The whole world saw dramatic footage – conveniently filmed by US Army night vision cameras – of helicopter-borne American special forces kicking down doors and firing their guns, apparently at Iraqi soldiers.
The rescue of the young POW boosted morale on the US home front at a time when the invasion of Iraq had appeared to run aground. “It was a classic operation done by some of our nation’s finest warriors, who are dedicated to never leaving a comrade behind”, US brigadier general Vincent Brooks declared. And the entire media breathlessly retailed this story.
There was only one problem: the story simply wasn’t true. The dramatic rescue was a well-prepared ‘infowar’ operation staged for the cameras. The purpose being to shift media focus away from the killing of civilians by the US bombardment of Iraq and on to the ‘heroism’ of US forces.
Interviews conducted by the Toronto Star and BBC at the hospital in Nasiriya where Lynch was being treated have revealed the following facts about the entire affair:
All Iraqi troops and fidayeen had withdrawn from the area two days before the ‘daring’ rescue.
The hospital staff had driven Lynch to a US checkpost in an ambulance a day earlier in an attempt to hand her over but were fired upon.
US soldiers involved in the rescue fired blanks to create the impression that they had to fight their way in.
“It was like a Hollywood film”, Dr Ammar Uday told the BBC, “They cried ‘go, go, go’, with guns and blanks without bullets and the sound of explosions. They made a show…”.
“The most important thing to know”, Dr Harith Houssona told the Toronto Star, “is that Iraqi soldiers and commanders had left the hospital almost two days earlier”.
He said that the night they left, his colleagues moved Jessica Lynch out of intensive care and into an ambulance. “We began to drive to the Americans, who were just 1 km away. But when the ambulance got within 300 metres, they began to shoot”.
The BBC, whose documentary on the stage-managed ‘rescue’ will be telecast on Sunday, said the Pentagon “had been influenced by Hollywood producers of reality TV and action movies, notably the man behind Black Hawk Down, Jerry Bruckheimer,” whose advice “was taken on and developed on the field of battle in Iraq”.
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