Patton famously remarked that the point isn’t to die for your country, it’s to make the other poor dumb bastards die for theirs. He might have added that the point isn’t to be captured by the enemy for your country either, it’s to capture the other poor dumb bastards. So could someone please explain how being captured in an ambush qualifies PFC Jessica Lynch as a heroine? Isn’t it more heroic not to be captured, or better still, to rescue someone who has?

(Update: Floyd McWilliams points to a WaPo story that shows I was rather unfair to PFC Lynch. It still isn’t clear how she was ambushed in the first place, but she certainly fought heroically after she was.)

Aaron Haspel | Posted April 2, 2003 @ 1:27 PM | Politics

19 Responses to “Hero Watch”

  1. 1 1. Jim Valliant

    PFC Lynch is a heroine–as are ALL the members of America’s all volunteer military. She risked her life–and this incident dramatically shows the extent of that risk–for liberty and justice and to liberate some of the most oppressed people on earth. That qualifies her, right there, for the title. The capture per se only highlights the extent of her original heroism in being there in the first place. They are ALL heroes in my book, and I will be grateful for it my whole life, thank you very much!!!

  2. 2 2. Aaron Haspel

    It’s a question of perspective. If we’re going to have a national poster boy or girl for the military, don’t you think one of her rescuers would be a more suitable choice?

  3. 3 3. Deb

    Wasn’t it about a week ago that you were rhapsodizing about the moral superiority of the American Pilots. Yet today, a kid, and that’s just what she is, who has been captured, wounded and likely given dubious medical care, doesn’t qualify as heroine. She faced much more in the time she was a POW than a pilot does on any mission he or she may fly. What gives, Aaron ? It seems inconsistent.

  4. 4 4. Deb

    And, I would bet if you asked anyone of the folks in the special forces that went in to get her who the hero/heroine is, they will tell you that it’s the kid in the POW camp. It’s their moral superiority kicking in.

    I’m done now, off the soap box.


  5. 5 5. Aaron Haspel

    I praised the military pilots for their competence. Usually if you get ambushed by the enemy, as Private Lynch did, it’s because you’ve done something stupid.

    You get no points for mere suffering, of which there is scant evidence in any case. Heroism is as heroism does. If Lynch’s rescuers think that she is the hero, not they and there’s no evidence for this either then they are just wrong.

  6. 6 6. acdouglas

    It’s the ol’ HIV-AIDS thing all over again, isn’t it, Aaron. Of what else could you possibly have been thinking.

    Well, you’ve dared attempt to rob the public of some highly prized and feel-good comfort food. That’s a capital offense in any bourgeois society, m’boy. Get strung up for doing stuff like that, you do.

    Most imprudent of you, I must say.


  7. 7 7. Jim Valliant

    Heroism, like all concepts, exists along a range. I was merely omitting the measurements. Yes, certainly, the rescuers are worthy of a most special gratitude, as, it seems, do those brave Iraqi collaborators (who risk God knows what torture) responsible for the intelligence which saved her.

  8. 8 8. Floyd McWilliams

    Aaron, do you think that people who get shot in combat have done something stupid? Sometimes they have, but most of the time they are in the wrong place when a bullet intersects them. Similarly, it’s entirely possible to be captured through bad luck or assignment to a dangerous mission.

    Army personnel are warriors, but they are also cogs in a machine. When we celebrate or war dead we are rewarding not their warrior ability but their perseverence when they become a pawn that is sacrificed to create an opening for a rook.

  9. 9 9. Floyd McWilliams

    Oops, that will teach me not to preview. For "celebrate or war dead" read "celebrate prisoners or war dead".

  10. 10 10. Floyd McWilliams

    From the Washington Post:

    Pfc. Jessica Lynch, rescued Tuesday from an Iraqi hospital, fought fiercely and shot several enemy soldiers after Iraqi forces ambushed the Army’s 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company, firing her weapon until she ran out of ammunition, U.S. officials said yesterday.

    Lynch, a 19-year-old supply clerk, continued firing at the Iraqis even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds and watched several other soldiers in her unit die around her in fighting March 23, one official said. The ambush took place after a 507th convoy, supporting the advancing 3rd Infantry Division, took a wrong turn near the southern city of Nasiriyah.

    "She was fighting to the death," the official said. "She did not want to be taken alive."

  11. 11 11. alexis

    I think Floyd wins this one, Aaron.

    But I have to admit, my first response was exactly the same as yours. She’s pretty. No one was saying it, but everyone was certain she’d be raped. Sympathy provokes more kindness than precision.

  12. 12 12. Aaron Haspel

    Thanks for the WaPo story, Floyd. I stand corrected. Credit where credit is due.

  13. 13 13. Ralph DeMattia

    Jessica lynch is no hero by any stretch of the imagination. She obviously couldn’t read a map, and was a POW for eight – count ’em – eight days. And besides that; What was a supply clerk doing anywhere near the front lines with an M 16 anway? In two tours of ‘Nam as a pointman with the 5th Rangers, I saw quite a few Supply Clerks in REAR areas, not very many close enough to be captured by Charlie. This whole deal is beginning to sound like a Feminist set-up to show America "What a few good women can do". I know it sounds silly, but after The Clintons, wouldn’t we think ANYTHING was possible? Another odd point. How did she break both legs and one arm surrending to the Iraquis? And that quip about "She didn’t want to be taken alive"! What is she; Japanese?! The whole thing is getting way out of hand-After all, there are 7 other POWs that we’ve heard nothing about, not to metion the MEN captured with our returning hero-What about them?

  14. 14 14. Duane Hawkins

    Uh, not so fast…
    Not to detract from her resolve or anything else about her character, but, it turns out, PFC Lynch was NOT shot (a "fact" that was the centerpiece of the WAPO story). She was NOT stabbed. How she continued fighing "even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds," then had doctors testify just 9 days later that there was no evidence on her body of any puncture trauma is a question only the unbiased "experts" at the Post can answer, I suppose.

  15. 15 15. DavidBowman

    I cringe everytime I see a Jessica-related news conference, afraid that someone,– probably a man — will ask "so, was she RAPED?"

    It also makes me very,very sad to think about when she’s back home, and all her teenage friends demand to know the details of what happened.

    I think it’s a certainty she was beaten and raped. One newspaper says:

    Her broken bones are a sure sign of torture, said Amy Waters Yarsinske, an ex-Navy intelligence officer and an expert on POW treatment.

    "It’s awfully hard to break both legs and an arm in a truck accident," Yarsinske said.

    Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s thugs are known to use steel bars to bash their prisoners’ limbs, she said.

    Also, whether we want to think about it or ignore it so we can be polite, Jessica had to ENDURE it. I almost feel like I owe it to Jessica to acknowelege this and share her pain.

    The fact is that her uniform was found in ANOTHER BUILING. Do you really think the Iraqi pigs gave her a bathrobe for her modesty?

    My guess is that the brave little girl — a SUPPLY CLERK like Radar O’Reilly — shot and killed the bastards until she ran out of ammo, then struggled and kicked when taken prisoner.

    If this had happened to a male, 25-year-old *Marine*, he would CERTAINLY get a Bronze Star, and probably the Congressional medal.

    We already know they stripped her of her clothes. My guess is that they embarrased her, humiliated her, and tried to rape her.

    I like to think that at least she kicked one of them in his smelly Iraqi BALLS (or better, tore them off) before the bastards beat her with a metal pipe until they broke her foot, ankle, and legs. The broken arm came from Jessica trying to defend herself. Finally she couldn’t fight back: she had run out of ammo again.

    Whatever happened next was something that it almost makes me cry when I think about it. Broken-bone pain is so unspeakably HORRIBLE that she may have not even *known* she was being raped.

    The one thing even tangentially good about any of this is that her youth and beauty may have saved her life. So did running out of ammo before the nightgown-wearing, ass-wiping-with-their-hands SAND DEVILS shot her to death.

    I’m just glad that the new, civilized, Army (I’m from the ‘Nam days) has special psychiatrists for situations like this. I only hope Jessica’s shrink is a woman.


    As for the press calling her "Jessica", I HOPE they do. She’s America’s little girl. Every man here is her dad, and every woman, her mom. I, for one, am proud of her.

  16. 16 16. Deb

    I dont mean to be callous, but characterizing Jessica Lynch as "America’s Little Girl" I find to be faintly sexist. She’s a Marine, not a little girl. I hope women in the armed forces are just as qualified as the men. If they aren’t they should be mustered out. We dont think of the guys who were captured as "America’s Little Boys" do we?

    Second, that characterization of her only legitimizes the whole arguement that women should not serve on the battle fronts because, god help them, they may be raped as POW’s. I have had discussions with men who say that they would find women distracting not because they are flaunting any particular charms, shall we say, but because the guys would feel they have to watch over them. I would take a well qualified woman into battle any day over a bumbling guy, wouldn’t you?

    I do, however, agree that broken bones probably are acquired during a beating rather than a gun fight though I find your use of epithets distasteful.

    As for Ralph’s comment on all of this being a media stunt– all I have to say is…it just boggles my mind that a rational human being could say something that bogus.


  17. 17 17. ellie

    News reports now say that Lynch WAS shot. I think I’ll reserve judgement until definitive reports are available. BTW, it’s interesting the way we avoid hard questions relating to the use of female soldiers. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. Just wait for our first PREGNANT KIA or POW. ‘Equal opportunity’ has its price.

  18. 18 18. USAF VET

    TO DEB:
    PFC Lynch is a soldier in the ARMY, not a marine.

  19. 19 19. Darlene

    I think the reason they are making such a big deal is that her job was "supply clerk". It wasn’t her job to be fighting the war. It was her job to support those who were fighting the war. So, I think people feel she went above and beyond the call of duty. She didn’t just give up and surrender. She gave them a fight.

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