The Big Lie Of Jessica Lynch
A $1 mil book deal, zero memory of any "rescue" and the worst book you'll read this year
Hey, remember that dramatic CNN footage of that big statue of Saddam Hussein being toppled by U.S. forces in that Baghdad square a few months back, during the "war"? Remember how powerfully symbolic it was supposed to be?
Remember, later, seeing the wide-angle shot on the Internet, the one of all the U.S. tanks surrounding the square and the whole bogus setup of
how they staged the event, complete with a big crane and some strong cable and strategically positioned "citizens" cheering their "liberation" as the statue fell, as just off camera, a handful of genuine Iraqis loitered nearby, looking confused and bored?
Remember how you felt then? Like this little black worm had bored into your skin and was crawling around in your small intestine and you had the perpetual urge to go off into the corner and eat pie and slam double scotches and scream at the state of BushCo's nation?
The Jessica Lynch story is just like that, only much, much worse.
These are the things that make you wince and sigh. These are the things that put it all in perspective, make you realize what the Pentagon and the military hawks really value.
These are the things that make you realize, goddammit, here I am working every day and struggling to make ends meet in a BushCo-gutted economy and all I really needed to do all along to make a million bucks is stage some sort of bogus wartime heroics and sell it to a war-numbed American populace for $24.95 in hardback, and, boom, Range Rover City.
Jessica Lynch. You know the one. The sweet, American-pie 19-year-old soldier and kindergarten-teacher wanna-be whose army squad took a wrong turn in Iraq and was, apparently, ambushed.
And some of her comrades were killed and she was taken prisoner, full of stab wounds and bullet holes, and she was whisked off to a ragged Iraqi hospital and held for eight days by vicious Iraqi guards and ostensibly abused, and later supposedly "rescued" in the most daring and macho made-for-TV moment of the war by elite teams of hunky U.S. Army Rangers and U.S. Navy SEALs. Wow.
Except that it never really happened that way. Except that Lynch herself doesn't remember a single thing and all the nurses and doctors and eyewitnesses on the scene say the Iraqi fedayeen guards had fled the day before the "rescue," and there was no danger whatsoever, no resistance of any kind, the U.S. forces could just walk right in, and they knew it.
And the hospital doors were wide open, and the nurses and doctors had gone out of their way to provide decent care for our precious Jessica, considering the circumstances, and doctors even tried to return Lynch to U.S. forces themselves.
And despite U.S. claims, Lynch had no knife wounds or bullet holes at all, just a few broken bones, and the dramatic and violent "rescue" was really just inane and silly and entirely faked and yet America bought it, hook, line and Rumsfeld, because it was on TV.
And now, here we are. Jessica and disgraced N.Y. Times reporter Rick "Oh my God do I need a gig" Bragg just inked a
$1 million book deal to tell her nonstory, titled "I'm a Soldier Too: The Jessica Lynch Story," not "Oh My God You Are Such a Sucker for Buying This Book I Mean Wow."
Because this is how we fabricate our history. This is how we spin our patriotism, how we bake our jingoistic cake, the Lynch tale the most apt and definitive myth of the war so far.
Because Jessica's story, much like WMDs and Saddam's nukes and biotoxins and Orange Alerts and our imminently prosperous economy and Jenna Bush's ostensible prowess with a beer bong, does not rely on truths. We do not rely on first-hand reports. We do not rely on anything so piffling and small and dangerous as honesty.
We rely, simply, on PR. We believe the TV images of the bogus "rescue" at the expense of common sense because we are a nation drunk on the idea that the U.S. can do no wrong and TV would never lie.
And goddammit if Hannity and Rush and O'Reilly say it happened like that, it must be true, and damn you America-hating libs for daring to question the integrity of our armed forces when they are out there right now protecting us from, uh, what was it again? Higher gas prices? Israel's scorn? Dick Cheney's pallid sneer? Something like that.
Look, there is no war without spin. There is no war without outright lying to the populace, without trying to coerce a wary nation into supporting our unprovoked savagery by way of Hollywood-style set pieces performed specifically to deflect attention from the brutality and the decapitated children and the still-dying U.S. soldiers and the burning bodies by the side of the road.
This is nothing shocking. This is nothing even remotely unusual or uncommon. The fabric of war consists not of gallant battles fought by hardy soldiers for some noble collective good yay yay go team, but of manufactured tales of valiant brotherhood and purebred heroism designed to make the vile pill slightly less bitter.
War is, of course, vicious and primitive and disgustingly violent and not the slightest bit gallant, and America has rarely been more thuggish in its short history than when we annihilated Afghanistan and Iraq lo these past few years, the world's greatest bloated superpower hammering down on two nearly defenseless, piss-poor nations in the name of, well, petrochemical rights and strategic political positioning. It's not a war, it's a gang beating. Uncle Sam wants you.
And, hence, we need the sugar. We desperately need the sweet, teary-eyed images of flags and salutes and stunning "rescues" to make it all go down smoothly, to suppress the collective recoil, the national gag reflex. After all, who wants to see burning babies and crying mothers and hot screaming death on prime time? Show me Old Glory waving in slo-mo! Ahh, that's better.
We need, in short, pretty 19-year-old memory-impaired soldier girls being rescued by manly SEALs wearing bitchin' night-vision goggles and yelling "Go! Go! Go!" with lots of explosions and helicopters and maybe a cameo by Bruce Willis looking squinty and tough, with the Pentagon cameras rolling and everyone's adrenaline pumping like at a horse race, except for maybe the baffled Iraqi hospital personnel who were calmly taking care of Ms. Lynch when the U.S. storm troopers swooped in and knocked them down.
Of course, this isn't about Jessica herself at all. She has served her country bravely and is probably very sweet and childishly articulate and is just in it for the quick wad of cash, and what the hell she doesn't remember a damn thing about the rescue anyway, which makes her the perfect one to write a whole book about it, with Bragg along to, ahem, "fill in the blanks."
Ain't that America.
And we can just imagine how the Pentagon brass doubtlessly winked at Jessie and said hey sweetie, you go girl, take the book deal, and the movie deal, and the commemorative plates by the Franklin Mint, it would be good for the country if you go along with the ruse, there there now, that's a good little soldier.
Jessica Lynch is but a puppet, a toy, a convenient TV-ready canvass onto which we can project our impotent myths of patriotism and war, spit forth by the BushCo military machine to ease America's pain, to assuage that increasingly nagging fear that we have committed this horrible thing, this irreversible atrocity.
In short, Jessica's myth helps numb the idea that we have removed a pip-squeak, nonthreatening tyrant from power and left behind a reeking miasma of violence and bloodshed and thousands of dead citizens, more rabid anti-U.S. sentiment and mistrust and global instability than Saddam (or Osama) could've ever dreamed.
And little Ms. Lynch, she is America's new doll. She is our little G.I. Jessica, all safe and clean in her homecoming fatigues, her imaginary story ready to grace the nightstands of the happily gullible across America.
Because really, why bother with all that icky messy nonfiction, all that violent unsavory fact, when straight fiction is so much more, you know, patriotic?
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, September 5, 2003
©2003 SF Gate
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Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SF Gate, unless it appears on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which it never does. He also writes the Morning Fix, a deeply skewed thrice-weekly e-mail column and newsletter.
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