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Lynch: Military played up rescue too much
( 2003-11-09 10:13) (Agencies)

Former prisoner of war Jessica Lynch said that she believes the U.S. military overdramatized the story of her rescue in Iraq.

Jessica Lynch, the Iraq war POW who has become an American icon, has criticised the Pentagon's dramatic film of her rescue by US troops further stoking the debate about how the government represents the conflict. [AFP/file]
Lynch made those comments in an interview for ABC's "Primetime" to air Tuesday. The network released excerpts of the 90-minute interview Friday.

But a senior U.S. military official denied that the military ever exaggerated the rescue. Inaccuracies in reports of Lynch's ordeal were the fault of the media, which reported the story with incomplete information, the official said

Responding to questions that the military may have exaggerated the danger of her nighttime rescue from a Nasiriya hospital by U.S. commandos, she said, "Yeah, I don't think it happened quite like that."

However, she also said that anyone "in that kind of situation would obviously go in with force, not knowing who was on the other side of the door."

Ex-POW calls rescuers 'heroes'
Lynch, 20, a former private first class from Palestine, West Virginia, who has since left the Army, said the way the military publicized her rescue also bothers her, including the filming of it.

"It does [bother me] that they used me as a way to symbolize all this stuff," she said. "It's wrong.

"I don't know why they filmed it, or why they say the things they [say], you know. ... All I know was that I was in that hospital hurting. ... I needed help. I wanted out of there. It didn't matter to me if they would have come in shirts and blank guns; it wouldn't have mattered to me. I wanted out of there."

But Lynch said she considers her rescuers "my heroes." "I'm so thankful that they did what they did. They risked their lives."

Lynch and 16 other soldiers from the 507th Maintenance Company were ambushed March 23 after taking a wrong turn. Under heavy fire, the Humvee in which Lynch was riding crashed into a tractor-trailer, severely injuring her. Eleven soldiers died; six, including Lynch, were taken into custody.

Nine days later, the small-town private became a celebrity when U.S. forces stormed the hospital and rescued her in what the military characterized at the time as a dangerous, daring raid.

Subsequently, the hospital staff said no Iraqi troops were in the hospital at the time -- and that they had unsuccessfully tried to turn Lynch over to American forces earlier.

A defense official said, "Some media organizations had significantly inaccurate stories in the early days following the rescue, while the military was still collecting the facts and assessing her condition."

On Sunday, the rescue will be the subject of an NBC television movie, "Saving Jessica Lynch."

Response to revelations of rape
In her ABC interview, Lynch also responded to the revelation in a new book about her ordeal that she may have been sexually assaulted during her captivity.

She told ABC's Diane Sawyer that she does not remember being raped and "even just the thinking about that, that's too painful." She also said that she was not beaten during her captivity and that one nurse in the hospital even sang to her.

The book, "I Am A Soldier, Too," an authorized biography written by Rick Bragg, cites a medical report that shows Lynch was sexually assaulted.

Army officials would not comment on the account. A spokesman said that federal privacy laws prevent the military from discussing hospital records that would contain such details.

Iraqi doctors who treated her after her capture disputed the claims of rape, The Associated Press reported.

Dr. Mahdi Khafazji, an orthopedic surgeon at Nasiriyah's main hospital who performed surgery on Lynch to repair a fractured femur, told the AP he found no signs that she was raped or sodomized. (Full story)

Bragg resigned as a national correspondent for The New York Times in May after the newspaper determined he had written a story for publication under his byline that had largely been reported by an unpaid, uncredited freelancer. Bragg insisted that he was following newspaper policy and did nothing wrong.

Lying injured in the Iraqi hospital, Lynch said she "seriously thought I was going to be paralyzed for the rest of my life."

"I've never felt that much pain in my whole entire life. It was, you know, from my foot to my other foot to my legs to my arms to my back, my head."

Lynch told Sawyer that she doesn't consider herself a hero. "I was just there in that spot, you know, the wrong place, the wrong time."

Lynch and her fellow soldiers were tired, hungry and "weren't thinking quickly" when they made the wrong turn into an ambush, she told Sawyer. During the confrontation with Iraqi forces, she said, her rifle jammed and she did not fire a single round.

She said it hurt her to learn that some news accounts of her capture said she had fired at Iraqis until running out of ammunition and had suffered bullet and knife wounds. In fact, her injuries were the result of the Humvee crash.

"It hurt in a way that people would make up stories that they had no truth about," she said. "Only I would have been able to know that, because the other four people on my vehicle aren't here to tell that story. So I would have been the only one able to say ... I went down shooting. But I didn't."

Lynch said it may have been one of her fellow soldiers, Pvt. Lori Piestewa, who fought to her death.

"That may have been her, but it wasn't me, and I'm not taking credit for it," Lynch said.

Lynch told Sawyer that she would like to get a college degree and become a kindergarten teacher. But first she wants to complete physical therapy for her injuries.

She said she still has no feeling in her left foot and walks with crutches, and she continues to have kidney and bowel problems stemming from an injury to her spine.

"I just want to keep adding, you know, just steps every day, just so eventually I can throw away the crutches and ... just start walking on my own," she said. "That's my goal. I just want to be able to walk again."

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