Columnist: Jessica Lynch, the mythical Iraqi prisoner of war hero who won’t go away

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 21, 2016

By Glenn Dowell

Contributing columnist

Remember Jessica Lynch?

In an attempt to media-hype the Iraqi war, Pentagon officials in 2003 — along with deceiving the American public under President George W. Bush that Iraq was producing weapons of mass destruction — intentionally promulgated a scheme that was an outright lie.

It began when Jessica Lynch, an Army private, was captured by Iraqi forces on March 23, 2003, when her convoy was ambushed. She and others were rescued by U.S. military forces from the Saddam Hussein General Hospital in Nasiriyah on April 1.

For a brief moment, Lynch became the face of the conflict in Iraq and an unlikely hero. Her actions before capture became a cause célèbre for feminists who believed that women, too, could honorably serve our country with distinction and bravery when facing horrific enemies.

You know what? Miss Lynch was captured and she did suffer considerable injuries, but the rest of the story advanced by the military was a lie.

It does appear that the 19-year-old Army supply clerk was raped and sodomize by her Iraqi captors, but her fighting off the enemy, even killing some before being captured, was a complete fabrication by the military. There were claims that the military trumped up Lynch’s capture and rescue to bolster support for the Iraqi War, which ultimately led to an investigation by the Pentagon along with congressional hearings.

The lie continues

Jessica Lynch’s rescue operation during the dawn of the war in Iraq has recently resulted in awarding silver stars for valor to two Navy SEALs. Now a military expert is questioning the citations given for those medals, the military’s third-highest decoration (Source: “Expert questions Silver Stars for SEALs in Lynch rescue,” USA Today).

The commendations to the SEALs were made in secret, along with more than 100 more such awards to those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan (Source: USA Today).

In all fairness to the former prisoner of war, Lynch did admit that the U.S. military manipulated her Iraq rescue and that it was wrong to do so. Her exact comments to the media was that she had been used to symbolize the Iraqi war and, “I did not shoot, not a round, nothing.”

The filmed rescue of Lynch was used for maximum propaganda effect by the military as it fed the footage to national TV networks replete with anxious reporters gulping down every hoaxed up moment of her ordeal at the hands of enemy soldiers.

The hero we don’t remember

Jessica Lynch’s stardom completely eclipsed Army specialist Shoshana Johnson, a second-generation U.S. Army veteran and native of Panama who moved to the United States when she was a child. She was Lynch’s sister POW.

Johnson, however, received at the time 30 percent disability benefits for her injuries while Lynch was eligible to receive 80 percent in disability payments. Her father, Claude Johnson, himself an Army veteran, was outraged.

His outrage was justified. His daughter was held captive by enemy soldiers for 22 days when the unit stumbled into an ambush in southern Iraq in March 2003.

Eleven soldiers were killed, and six, which included Lynch and Johnson, were taken prisoners. Johnson was shot in both legs and was traumatized by her war experiences. In addition to walking with a limp, it is reported that she suffers from bouts of depression due to having been a POW.

While the media aggressively focused on the military’s contrived stories of Lynch’s heroics in the face of being captured by Iraqi soldiers, another story was leaked to the media about her reputation. Larry Flynt, purveyor of pornography and smut, revealed to media sources that he would not be publishing photos of Jessica Lynch he is alleged to have obtained from soldiers.

No matter what the media has discovered about Lynch, she has to be given credit for setting the record straight concerning her military service. She admits to not being a hero of the Iraqi conflict, but through no fault of her own, could not escape becoming one of its casualties.

Glenn Dowell is an author and LaGrange native who currently lives in Jonesboro. He may be reached at