Thursday, 28 August 2003

Saving Private Lynch, Iraq War Conspiracy?

A friend of mine sent me an article from Salon, in which the Pentagon is accused of staging the whole Jessica Lynch rescue in order to create a wonderful bit of PR and psy ops.

I've dug into this a bit, and a variety of respectable players in the Blogosphere, such as Andrew Sullivan and instapundit are questioning the America-Staged-The-Whole-Thing story.

The whole thing began with a BBC story, which states that the rescue effort was a complete sham, staged for propaganda benefit, and that the soldiers involved were shooting blanks and pyrotechnics to make the whole production more dramatic. The author of this story, John Kampfner, later told CNN in an interview that while he questions the Pentagon's spin on the story, he did NOT believe that the event was staged. To me, however, the above-referenced BBC article sure sounds like that's what he was saying.

Then came a column in the LATimes by Robert Scheer, a journalist whose motivation and diligence are dubious. This was followed by the piece at cited above.

The Pentagon denied that the rescue had been staged. The Pentagon also clarified that it never claimed to have exchanged fire while inside the hospital, although Brig. Gen Brooks said that the US forces had engaged in firefights getting into and out of the hospital.

Lastly, my own little bit of personal experience. The M-16 infantry rifle jams up when using blanks. I noticed this while on a field exercise in ROTC out in Arizona. This happened to the other cadets as well, and our platoon sergeant, a Gulf War I veteran, told us that he thought using blanks for exercises was pointless, since the blanks always jam, and therefore the "realism" of a combat situation isn't there. Therefore, I have a hard time believing that the SEALS et al went in firing blanks. Perhaps they were firing live rounds in the air to make noise, or to shoot at real enemies, I don't know, but I seriously doubt they were using blanks, as the BBC claims.

In conclusion, the BBC has backed away from its contention that the rescue was staged, although certain ideologically driven elements of the American media want to believe that it was, so they keep repeating it, much like the "Al Gore claims he invented the Internet" story. Did the Pentagon spin the story? I would expect as much. Psy ops are an important part of any war. If you are familiar with the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in 1942 or if you have ever seen the movie "Enemy at the Gates," then you know what I'm taking about. Did the SEALS need to go in guns blazing? Had the Iraqi military pulled out prior to the rescue? Unclear. Given the uncertainty of war, it was not unreasonable to mount a forceful rescue effort. Better to have to much force than not enough. Are there journalists who rely on spin, innuendoes and sloppy reporting to make an ideological point? Yup.