Lies, damn lies, and lynching the truth

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If you want to commit fraud, go into the movie business. There, you can misrepresent people, and fabricate facts and events with impunity.

Nobody will say: “You can’t do that; that’s not the way it happened.” Nobody will drag you before a board of ethics, or demand that your “artistic licence” be revoked. Accuracy is not allowed to get in the way of making money. If it did, The Untouchables, U571 or Exodus would never have been made.

To be fair, some stories lend themselves to more than one interpretation; therefore, a writer, director or producer must have the freedom to tell the story the way he wants, so long as he approaches the story honestly.

When a moviemaker forces a story to serve a private agenda, he becomes a propagandist. Take Daniel L. Paulson and NBC, co-producers of the egregiously dishonest Saving Jessica Lynch, as well as Jerry Bruckheimer, whose consultancy to the Pentagon made it possible.

The movie describes a daring nighttime raid to rescue Pvt. Lynch from physical abuse in a hospital swarming with fedayeen (pro-Hussein guerillas). In fact, there were no fedayeen, no firefights, and no mistreatment by Iraqi doctors. The primary source for all of the above was one man–”a lawyer named Mohammed al-Rehaief, who allegedly tipped off the Americans to Lynch’s whereabouts and provided floor plans to the hospital.

The real story of the “rescue” of Lynch, a supply clerk with the 507th Maintenance Company, is rather mundane.

On March 23, her convoy took a wrong turn outside of Nasiriyah and was ambushed by Iraqi resistance fighters. A rocket-propelled grenade hit her Humvee, causing her to sustain a four-to-six inch gash on the side of her head, a broken arm, broken femur and a dislocated ankle.

She was taken to the Military Hospital a few hundred yards away where Dr. Jamal al-Saeidi, gave her intravenous fluid and blood, and stitched her head wound. A few hours later she was transferred to the Saddam Hospital in Nasiriyah where doctors treated her other injuries.

Lynch told ABC’s Diane Sawyer that she was never mistreated and that a nurse even sang to her. Two days before the “rescue” Dr. Harith a-Houssona arranged for an ambulance to return Lynch to the Americans, but the army opened fire forcing it to return to the hospital, so Lynch could be “rescued.”

To her credit, Lynch refused to have anything to do with the movie, and has denounced the military for staging her rescue to manufacture support for the war in Iraq.

As early as May 15, BBC reporter John Kampfner had debunked the Pentagon’s “rescue,” as “one of the most stunning pieces of news management ever conceived.” Yet, an Aug. 9 blurb in the New York Times reported that the movie was still in the proposal stage. That means this travesty was shot, edited and aired within three months!

Given its flat, wooden quality that doesn’t seem surprising, but it did help to have embedded reporters film the “rescue,” and the army edit the raw footage. Essentially Saving Jessica Lynch was a Pentagon propaganda film, and even after five months nobody associated with it–”not even screenwriter John Fasano–”thought to question the Pentagon’s footage, much less the credibility or motives of its one-source wonder.

The North American palace press is all too willing to parrot government propaganda, especially when it concerns Arabs. As late as Oct. 27 an AP report in the Sacramento Bee, repeated al-Rehaief’s story as if it were true.

Army brass saw an opportunity to turn a pretty, blonde, teenager into an all-American poster girl for the war. You’ve likely seen this tactic before. Kirsten Dunst played such a girl in the 1997 satire Wag the Dog, which showed how easy it was for a slick movie producer and a spin-doctor to manufacture a phony war to cover up a presidential sex scandal. Allusions to the real-life peccadilloes of President Bill Clinton were too close to ignore.

In Saving Jessica Lynch, Pentagon spinmeisters hooked up with Bruckheimer, Paulson and NBC studios to manufacture a phony rescue to shore up George W. Bush’s crumbling crusade against Iraq. They disgraced their profession and should have to pay.

Besides this movie, Alfred E. Knopf just published a book with the mawkish title I’m a Soldier Too: The Jessica Lynch Story. It’s written by ex-New York Times reporter Rick Bragg, who shared a $1 million advance with Lynch. One aspect of the book is most disturbing, because it seems designed to whip up more hatred against Iraqis. Bragg will allege that Lynch was sodomized and raped.

In an interview, Paul Bogaards, Knopf’s executive director of publicity, promotion and media relations said Time and ABC called the Walter Reed medical centre in Maryland to confirm the allegation. But how much credence should we place in Bragg, Bogaards, Time or ABC?

First, Lynch has no memory of being raped.

Second, Bogaards told the West Virginia Herald-Dispatch that her memory was intact: “Her recall of events–”during the ambush and after–”informs the narrative.” Five days later, he told Publishers Weekly, that doctors at Walter Reed spread the story about Lynch’s lack of memory to keep the press away.

Third, Al-Saeidi, who first treated Lynch, said she was fully clothed with her field jacket buttoned up when she arrived: “Her clothes were not torn, buttons had not come off, her pants were zipped up.” Dr. Mahdi Khafazji, who set Lynch’s fractured femur, conducted an extensive examination and found no signs of sexual assault.

Fourth, Lynch family spokesman Stephen Goodwin confirmed the book alleges Lynch was raped. Note the equivocal language. Who is doing the alleging: Bragg or Lynch? It couldn’t be Lynch, so it must be Bragg.

Anyway, Lynch’s “lack of memory” can be used to explain away any future inconsistencies. Knopf expects to sell more than 400,000 copies, so why sweat accuracy where Arabs are concerned?

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