Saving Private Lynch again

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 5, 2003

The rescue of POW Pfc. Jessica Lynch by U.S. commandos was a good story, too good for some.

The BBC, a British news organization that took a dim view of the war and remains unreconciled to the coalition's swift and easy victory, took the lead in trying to debunk the legend of the rescue of Private Lynch. With a certain malicious glee, the BBC said the raid was unnecessary, that the U.S. military greatly exaggerated its dangers and seemed to suggest the raid might even have been faked.

To which the only reasonable reaction is: So what?

The proposition that the raid was staged is ludicrous. (If it had, the production values would have been better, and then there is the sobering fact that the raid had another, less photogenic mission: recovering the bodies of U.S. soldiers killed in the same ambush that wounded Lynch.)

Whether the raid was overly dramatic is in the eye of the beholder. Even if the planners had known Iraqi regular troops had abandoned the hospital where the badly injured Lynch was being held, which they deny, this was the stage of the war when the greater threat appeared to be the fedayeen, organized guerrillas dressed as civilians and hiding in the general population. Meanwhile, fighting was still going on elsewhere.

The doctors and nurses at the hospital, who seem to have grown genuinely fond of Lynch, insist that she was well cared for, never in any danger and that they were trying, up to the time of the raid, to return her to U.S. forces. This only proves that Iraqis, like anybody else, can be decent and humane. And their attempts to return Lynch, if described accurately, were both ineffectual and, like driving up to an American roadblock at midnight, dangerous.

In the end, the husband of one of the nurses tipped U.S. forces to her whereabouts. If that had been known, and the military had not tried to rescue her, can you imagine the outcry?

Perhaps, as alleged, the raiding party needlessly kicked down doors, set off stun grenades and fired warning shots. But so what? No one was killed or hurt in the raid. And these were pumped-up young combat soldiers, not cat burglars. One way or another, we'll be picking up the tab for the damage anyway.

What is incontestable is that Lynch, 19, was a good kid from a hardscrabble West Virginia town who joined the Army and went to war so she could be a kindergarten teacher. It's still a good story.