Jessica Lynch’s book, I Was a Soldier, Too, is being published today by Alfred A. Knopf, and that fact has not escaped the German press. But the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s treatment (The Iraqis Love Their Children Too) doesn’t go very far beyond reminding its German readers what the fuss over this US Army private originally was about, and noting that this is probably not the best point in time for the American authorities to have her brought back to the American public’s attention. What with televised pictures of the shot-down Chinook helicopter of last week, which killed sixteen US soldiers, followed closely by the crash of a Blackhawk which killed a further six, “‘Black Hawk Down’ is the film of the hour” for Americans now when they think about Iraq, the FAZ reports. It is not “Saving Private Ryan” – the obvious inspiration for the “Saving Jessica Lynch” TV-movie broadcast on NBC last Sunday.
But the FAZ doesn’t deal with what Private Lynch has to say herself about her experiences. And after all, after many months of silence, as of today she is starting to write (or at least have another – namely former NYT reporter Rick Bragg – write for her) and speak (on network talk shows, naturally, and for pay). Die Welt managed a sneak peek at one of these rounds of interviews (which will be rounded off by an appearance on Letterman – “Top Ten Things to Say to the Special Forces Crashing Through Your Door,” anyone?). So it covers that angle in Die beschämte Heldin, which I think is best translated, not by anything actually having to do with “shame,” but as “The Abashed Heroine”.
Why “abashed”? Because she feels that she was used by the Pentagon “to symbolize the whole thing” (my translation of her words, in Die Welt’s translation: das ganze Zeug zu symbolisieren). That commando raid to free her from that Iraqi hospital, which encountered there no resistance to speak of; the myth that she went down fighting, in a blaze of gunfire, before she was finally captured. (Actually, she didn’t file a single shot, because her weapon – presumably an M16 – jammed, which probably means that it was improperly maintained. As a former infantryman and then armor officer – including in a Middle Eastern combat zone – I find that somewhat less than impressive.) Lynch was wounded to the point that she was discharged from the Army with 80% disability, but what was really wounded, Die Welt writes, was the Pentagon’s credibility.
By the way, Die Welt mentions in passing the possibility that Lynch was sexually abused at some point in her captivity, that her family believes that that happened, that there is apparently some sort of allegation to that effect in her book, even though she herself can’t remember anything. For what it’s worth, in this article in the (Dutch) Telegraaf the Iraqi doctors who attended her deny that anyone ever did anything of the sort, and insist that she was given truly outstanding care.