When commentators first suggested the U.S. military’s depiction of Army Private Jessica Lynch’s “heroic” struggle against her Iraqi captors was overblown, U.S. officials were indignant.
But the more the public learns about the event, the more clear it is that initial Pentagon descriptions of what happened were untrue.
A new biography of Lynch, “I Am a Soldier, Too,” contains reports at odds with the original version. The author, former New York Times reporter Rick Bragg, depicts a firefight, but Lynch disputes the notion that she fought until the bitter end. Her memory lapsed, and she insists she didn’t fire a shot when her maintenance company got lost in late March and was attacked by Iraqi forces.
In an interview on ABC’s “Primetime,” Lynch said she was bothered by the way the military portrayed the event. She didn’t like that “they used me as a way to symbolize all this stuff. Yeah, it’s wrong.” With her memory loss, and the uncertainty of events during wartime, it’s unlikely anyone will ever know the full story.
The key question: Did the U.S. military lie about the event? After all, the Pvt. Lynch story came at an important time in the war effort, providing a much-needed instance of heroism to bolster concern at home about the fighting. It’s one thing to get events wrong, quite another to exaggerate them for PR purposes.
The Lynch affair isn’t the only element of the Iraq war in which reality differs from the official version. Hostilities are far from over in Iraq. Rebuilding will take longer and be more costly than anticipated. Post-war resistance is fiercer than expected. Weapons of mass destruction — a key justification for the war — have yet to be found.
There’s no need to look too closely at Lynch’s ordeal. But Americans should demand a full accounting of the information and decisions that led to this war. A proper vetting might help keep America out of needless wars in the future.