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UNRESOLVED QUESTIONS: THE MYSTERY OF PFC. JESSICA LYNCH

June 24, 2003
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The Center for Military Readiness, an independent public policy organization that specializes in military personnel issues, hopes that Army officials will investigate and answer the following questions about the ambush of the 507th Maintenance Unit, and the subsequent rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch. It is impossible to make sound decisions on any major personnel policy, such as women in combat, until relevant facts are known:

1.   A disturbing video of apparently executed soldiers was shown on Aljazeera TV, together with the frightened faces of Spec. Shoshana Johnson and four male captives. One month later, the remains of the last-identified casualty of the March 23 ambush were finally found.

Why have Pentagon officials withheld information about the circumstances of the death of soldiers and Marines involved in the ambush of the 507th Maintenance Unit, including those who appear to have been abused and executed point blank in violation of international law?

2.   Army Sgt. Cassaundra Grant lost her left leg, and eventually her right, when she was pinned under a tank that her transportation unit was moving in Kuwait on March 14. She was treated at Walter Reed Hospital, and eventually transferred to the Brooke Medical Center in Texas on April 3—the same day that the sensationalized Jessica Lynch story headlined the Washington Post. An Internet search reveals only one feature article about Sgt. Grant, a courageous and still-cheerful single mother of a two year-old boy, which appeared in her hometown newspaper on May 2. Perhaps this is because her story conflicts with the glamorized women-in-combat agenda.

Were efforts made to suppress or eclipse the story of Sgt. Casaundra Grant, especially on the day that she left Walter Reed? Are there stories about other female soldiers that so far have been considered too sensitive to reveal?

3.   The Washington Post reported that the unconscious Pfc. Lynch and her still-alive friend Pfc. Lori Piestewa, a single mother of two small children, arrived at a nearby medical/Iraqi headquarters facility three hours after the ambush. Experts say that the first 3-6 hours are the most perilous for captives who are at the mercy of enraged thugs who never heard of the Geneva Convention. Army helicopter pilots Ronald Young, Jr. and David Williams said that they were brutally beaten when they were captured in central Iraq on March 23.

If the Post account is correct, what happened to the male and female soldiers of the 507th Maintenance Unit, and the Marines who tried to rescue them, during those three hours?

4.   According to embedded MSNBC reporter Kerry Sanders, an Iraqi resident asked him to “Please make sure the people in charge know that she [Lynch] is being tortured.” MSNBC also reported that Marines had previously found at the first facility that received the prisoners a bloody uniform of a kind used by female soldiers, and a metal bed with a car battery next to it. These items, they said, suggested that the place was a torture chamber. (Wire reports, April 3, and Bill Gertz, Washington Times, April 23)

Why have officials not released more information, including medical and autopsy reports, about the treatment of Pfc. Lynch, Pfc. Lori Piestewa, and other captives who were killed or taken to one or both facilities? (Laws protecting privacy do not apply to deceased military personnel.)

5.   Saddam Hussein’s regime was known to beat male and female prisoners with canes, whips, pipes, and metal rods, especially on the soles of a victim’s feet. Female Iraqi prisoners were frequently raped and their children tortured in front of their husbands. Lawyer Mohammed Odeh Al Rehaief, who assisted in the rescue of Jessica Lynch, told Marines that he had seen an Iraqi woman killed and dragged through the street, apparently because she had waved at a U.S. helicopter.

Were any of these torture techniques used on the women of the 507th, or any other women or men deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom?

6.   Qatar-based CENTCOM briefer Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks told reporters that the extent of Jessica Lynch’s injuries would not be discussed “in the interests of her privacy.” Such terms are rarely used, except with regard to sexual assault.

Some discretion is appropriate, but why were Pfc. Lynch’s injuries treated as a completely private matter, unlike other injuries that are routinely discussed in the media? Is there medical evidence of physical abuse, including sexual assault, while she was in captivity?

7.   The parents of Jessica Lynch recently disputed reports that their daughter has amnesia. They denied that anyone had told them to remain silent, but also said that they were not supposed to talk about certain questions. (Allison Barker, AP, Newsday.com, May 29)

If the amnesia story is not true, who is responsible for it? Were “gag rules” imposed on the family, doctors, and/or military personnel close to the situation in Iraq? If so, why?

8.   Several news accounts have reported that Jessica Lynch is being kept under guard and in isolation, even from fellow hospital patients who might give her encouragement during her painful recovery.

Pfc. Lynch should be protected from unwanted intruders, but what is the purpose of the extraordinary isolation and security arrangements surrounding her?

9.   Many news organizations reported that the Iraqi lawyer Mohammed witnessed a physical assault on Lynch at the Saddam Hussein General hospital. When doctors there said that they were preparing to amputate her leg, Mohammed decided to put his own life at risk to help save hers. Pfc. Lynch was reportedly suffering from infection and fever, due to bone fragments piercing her skin, which might have killed her had she not been rescued. (DefendAmericaNews, Marine Combat HQ, Iraq, April 3)

Are these accounts accurate or not? What have American eyewitnesses other than Pfc. Lynch said about her treatment in the Hussein hospital?

10.   At least one journalist sought access to enlisted women like those who were ambushed in the ill-fated support unit in Iraq. Public affairs officials denied that request, and allowed the reporter to interview only female pilots on camera. Most enlisted women, who outnumber female officers by more than five to one, are known to oppose mandatory assignments in combat units on the same basis as men.

What is the purpose of what appears to be unusually restrictive news management of news regarding women in combat?

11.   Unlike other servicemen and women who have been allowed to speak freely about their experiences in Iraq, none of the personnel who were involved in the March 23 ambush and subsequent rescue have been permitted to discuss their specific role in those operations. The families of those who died have a right to know the circumstances of their death. Those who survived or performed heroically also deserve recognition and the opportunity to tell their stories in more than limited “welcome home” stories. One serviceman currently fears for his career because he identified himself as a member of the April 1 rescue team.

What is the purpose of the unusual secrecy surrounding every person involved in the perilous ambush of the 507th Maintenance Unit, and the life-saving rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch?

12.   The family of Spec. Shoshana Johnson said that she had joined the Army to learn cooking skills in a support unit, adding that she had never expected to wind up in a unit exposed to combat violence and capture in the early days of a full-scale war. The situation probably would not have happened were it not for Defense Department rules ordered by the Clinton Administration in 1994, which now require women to serve in support units involving a “substantial risk of capture.”

Are young female recruits being informed that they could be assigned in or near previously all-male units that involve a substantial and unequal risk of combat violence and capture in a future war?

     If Defense Department officials cannot bring themselves to tell young women that the rules and their “conditions of employment” have changed, perhaps they should reconsider and revise current policies on women in combat.

     The Washington Post described Pfc. Jessica Lynch as “blond and waiflike.” Thousands of young men, who could have taken her place, would probably volunteer to serve in the military if President George W. Bush issued such a call.

     Instead, the armed forces are spending extra time and money recruiting unusually large numbers of “waiflike” women and single mothers to fight our nation’s wars.

     The ultimate, most important question is, Why?

For additional information, please go to "Did Feminist Bias Distort Washington Post Story on Jessica Lynch, posted elsewhere on this website under Issues/Women in Combat.

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