Lynch Mob: Who Started The Jessica Lynch Myth?

This not a pressing matter, but W. Joseph Campbell points out that today is the eight-year anniversary of the first news reports about Jessica Lynch's "fight to the death" in Iraq. The Lynch myth did not survive serious scrutiny (even Lynch herself was smart enough to deny that she was anything but lucky to be alive). What has persisted is the idea that the Pentagon was somehow "behind" the story out of some nefarious need to cynically spread propaganda. (During a war??? How dare they!). Oddly, that was not the case either. According to Campbell's research, the "Pentagon was behind the Jessica Lynch story" story came from a single Washington Post story that was later discredited.

The military concocted the hero-warrior tale and fed it to the Post in a crude attempt to bolster U.S. support for the Iraq War. So the false narrative goes.

The Post itself has been complicit in suggesting that machinations by the Pentagon were behind the bogus story. But it’s clear that the Post alone placed the “fighting to the death” story into the public domain.

And as I discuss in Getting It Wrong, the Pentagon wasn’t the source for the hero-warrior tale.

Vernon Loeb, who shared a byline on the “fighting to the death” story, 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,” Loeb 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 declared:

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

Loeb 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.”

Those darned "intelligence sources." Have they gotten anything right in the last decade?

I'm willing to be charitable and say that the Lynch story was a typical fog-of-war tale that grew exponentially with the re-telling. Hard as it might be to believe now, but large segments of the American media got caught up in the excitement of war during the initial invasion, but their enthusiasm did nothing to help themselves or their readers understand what was going on. The embedded reporters were too close to the ground to get a sense of what was going on outside their immediate view, while the ones back in DC having lunch with "intelligence sources" were too far away. Plus, everybody - especially liberals in the media - wanted to believe that the first hero of the Iraq War was a 19 year-old slip of a girl instead of some 200 lb. redneck guy. Unfortunately, reality is almost never that cooperative.

Moreover, the American people are, at this point, so media saturated that they need something more than some warmed-over Audie Murphy tale to keep them interested in a war. What they really want is a victory and a quick resolution, both of which were a long time coming in Iraq. The Pentagon, at least, realizes that war is complicated and ambiguous with little room for true battlefield heroics. But the sophisticates in the media and politics still cling to the notion that "selling" a war is a matter of concocting two-fisted tales for the rubes. How much better if they would just stop insulting our intelligence.

Best Retirement Invesments Auto Search