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The Fictitious Symbor of a Fictitious War: Private Lynch

by C/O Diogenes Monday, Jul. 14, 2003 at 12:13 PM

The rescue of Jessica Lynch defined the Iraq war - and now defines what it was not, writes Malcolm Knox.

Private Lynch, symbol of a fictitious war

July 14 2003

The rescue of Jessica Lynch defined the Iraq war - and now defines what it was not, writes Malcolm Knox.

Private Jessica Lynch has amnesia. The soldier, now reportedly in hospital, can bear witness neither to what happened nor what didn't.

Lynch remains the governing metaphor for the war, which, like her, is less a substance than an absence, a portrait drawn in silhouette. Just as Lynch is coloured around by what did not happen to her on April Fool's Day, what is not happening in Iraq is growing clearer by the day.

On April 4 The Washington Post reported that Lynch was rescued from the Saddam Hospital in Nasiriyah by "navy special operations forces, or Seals, extract[ing] Private Lynch while under fire". In fact, there were no Iraqi soldiers in or near the hospital.

It was reported on April 6 that after being ambushed, Lynch "fought fiercely and shot several enemy soldiers, firing her weapon until she ran out of ammunition despite having sustained multiple gunshot wounds".

Rather than being ambushed, it has now emerged that Lynch's convoy leader misread his orders and drove into Nasiriyah past waving Iraqis. Realising his error, he tried to turn the 13-vehicle convoy around but they ran out of petrol, or collided with each other, or broke down, or got stuck. It's unclear whether Lynch fired her weapon or, like others in her convoy, her gun jammed due to poor maintenance.

[Lest this imply that the leader, Captain Troy Kent King, blundered, that too is not the case. According to the military investigation, King did nothing blameworthy, but committed a "navigational error caused by the combined effects of the operational pace, acute fatigue, isolation and harsh environmental conditions".]

This newspaper's Miranda Devine, reporting from Sydney, described the Lynch rescue as "the feel-good story of the war", but said it was being hijacked by "feminists": "It is inevitable that Jessica Lynch will be immortalised as the invincible female warrior princess, her heroics exaggerated for feminist propaganda. The ramifications for all women are profound."

Or not.

By the time she comes to, Lynch's world will have changed, then changed back again. What has not changed, however, is her status as the human symbol of what the war on Iraq was not.

It was not a war to disarm Saddam Hussein of the weapons of mass destruction he did not have, or the "enriched uranium" he did not buy. It was not a war to remove the "45-minute" danger Iraq did not pose. Nor was it a war to disable an elite Republican Guard which was, in fact, a poker party of old men manning sandbags with rusty rifles, and tank drivers who cheerfully drove into the B-52s' crosshairs. It was not a war to bring democracy to Iraq, for a democratic expression of a majority Iraqi will is precisely what the occupiers will not allow.

Nor, of course, was Saddam the tactical genius he (or we) pretended he was. Had Saddam been a coach in the National Rugby League, he would also have been out of a job by April. He certainly wasn't a leader with 100 per cent electoral approval, as he claimed, but then in a free election he'd still likely have won more votes than the 24 per cent of Americans who voted for George Bush.

[A note on the difference between Saddam democracy and American democracy: in the former, people are forced to give their consent by voting for the one available candidate; in the latter, people are liberated to give their consent by not voting for anyone.]

Most potently, the war isn't a "was", but an "is". It's here now, in the present. The fact that it's no longer being broadcast live on Fox News only makes it feel more real then when it was.

Meanwhile, Private Ryan - sorry, Lynch - will become a hero of a telemovie that tells her story as it could, perhaps should, have happened. When the telemovie is screened, Lynch's amnesia will be relieved and she can become, at last, what Michael Moore might have predicted as her destiny: a fictitious character rescued fictitiously from a fictitious war to which she had been sent by a fictitious president, as seen by an audience who can't remember.

Malcolm Knox is a Herald journalist.

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Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 36 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
Lights, Camera,... Diogenes Monday, Jul. 14, 2003 at 12:15 PM
Impeachment Democratic Republic Monday, Jul. 14, 2003 at 12:35 PM
Impeachment is not enough. @ Monday, Jul. 14, 2003 at 6:31 PM
Remove, as in forcibly. Sansculotte Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 3:00 AM
they need to be shown the door Samspam Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 4:37 AM
You may laugh now, samspam Sansculotte Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 5:48 AM
to Sancloute Samspam Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 5:57 AM
You want specifics. Sansculotte Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:11 AM
Thank god for the second ammendment! Heston Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:21 AM
Heston anti-moron Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:25 AM
The iraqis have guns too. Sansculotte Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:33 AM
Fairy tales Heston Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:45 AM
Heston anti-moron Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:51 AM
^ haha Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:54 AM
Heston & "haha" Critical Thinker Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:56 AM
I can prove that God does not exist. Mathematically Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:57 AM
Logical Fallacy debate coach Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:58 AM
anti-moron Rush Limbaugh Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 6:59 AM
OK Heston Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 7:00 AM
Logical Fallacy debate coach Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 7:00 AM
Heston Critical Thinker Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 7:02 AM
Mathematically devil Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 7:03 AM
anti-moron Rush Limbaugh Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 7:03 AM
I believe in God. conservative Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 7:05 AM
Rush anti-moron Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 7:06 AM
Doing your work for you Heston Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 7:06 AM
More evidence Heston Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 7:07 AM
Oooo. I'm scared. Math Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 7:07 AM
I don't believe in God liberal Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 7:09 AM
God NAACP Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 7:11 AM
Really? conservative Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 7:11 AM
It was me. Ignatius Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 7:12 AM
God Rosa Parks Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 7:17 AM
Rosa Parks Ignatius Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2003 at 7:20 AM
What are we doing???? Your guess- try George himself Saturday, May. 29, 2004 at 11:45 PM
Saving Private Lynch--victim of feminazis peepdog Sunday, May. 30, 2004 at 2:12 AM

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