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The Pentagon False Video

The Story of Private Jessica Lynch, a Heroine of Propaganda

The terrible story of Private Jessica Lynch shocked the United States: she walked into an ambush and fought like a lioness. She was hurt and captured by the Iraqis who tortured and raped her but the Special Forces freed her and took her back to the United States where she was acclaimed as a heroine. Presented during a press conference at the Central Command with the support of an allegedly “real” video, this story - completely made up by a communication office, the Rendon Group - was later developed in distorted articles published by the New York Times and the Washington Post: a brainwashing operation to make a neo-colonial expedition look like a glorious feat.

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The "real" false video of the military rescue of Jessica Lynch.
Direction: The Rendon Group, Production: The Pentagon.

The case of Jessica Lynch shook the American families and the world public opinion. A young soldier of an exceptional courage was made prisoner by Saddam Hussein’s henchmen. She was tortured and raped before being freed by Special Forces commandos. Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush felt moved by her example but some time later it was known that the whole story was made up by the public relations office to stir up patriotic feelings. Let us see why a banal story became a symbol of US military heroism and, later, of the lies of the Bush administration.

The Wounds of Private Lynch

When the invasion of Iraq began in March 2003, the Coalition forces, deprived of the Turkish and Saudi fronts, drove North into Iraq along a single axis out of Kuwait that would bifurcate into two columns along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. International resistance forced them to postpone the beginning of operations for the spring and sand storms made troop coordination more difficult, which caused numerous human and logistic problems.

The reports from the Central Command continuously transmitted the abstract triumphalism of Donald Rumsfeld, encouraged by the optimistic predictions of his former henchman Ahmed Chalabi: the Iraqi soldiers would surrender systematically before the Coalition troops, the population would acclaim the liberators everywhere; in addition, the order had been given not to disarm the Iraqi troops so that they themselves could keep order.

The convoy of the 507 Maintenance Company, in which 19-year-old Private First Class Jessica Lynch drove a five-ton truck with an equipment trailer attached, was accompanying the 3rd Mechanized Infantry Division heading to Baghdad. After 48 hours of uninterrupted advance amid a cloud of dust everywhere, the exhaustion of troops and materials soon made itself felt. Jessica Lynch’s truck died and she was put aboard the Humvee of First Sergeant Lori Pietsewa, a young Hopi American Indian, so that the convoy could continue its march.

Near Nasiriyah, they encountered a traffic control checkpoint of the US Army which gave them directions different to what the GPS navigation systems in their vehicles indicated. Without hesitating too much, the convoy departed again and, in the morning light, they found themselves in the center of the city where most people were still abed, while the convoy leaders justified the contradictory orders with a failure of the GPS systems.

Affected by the lack of sleep, the convoy crossed a bridge although, according to their instructions, the Euphrates River was the geographical limit of the advance. Iraqi combatants immediately began to appear on the streets. After realizing that they had crossed the front line, the captain ordered to turn the convoy around and its 16 vehicles began the difficult maneuver in the tight thoroughfares of downtown Nasiriyah.

They began to pass Iraqi tanks and exchanged looks. Then, they heard a firefight in the distance and they realized that the combat units they had passed earlier were engaged in combat with Iraqi forces behind them. Aware of the confusion in the maintenance convoy that split into two groups, the Iraqi soldiers became more and more threatening.

While facing a never-expected-situation, the company panicked. They felt the first shots around them and after that a real storm of shots hovered over them. The fedayin blocked the streets with a bus and some tires to prevent the withdrawal. Two soldiers whose vehicle had been disabled leaped at the Humvee where Jessica Lynch and Pietsewa were. They accelerated immediately, zigzagged awkwardly to escape the ambush, but Pietsewa lost control and they ran into a disabled truck. Lynch, who had a broken arm and femur, a wound in her head and a dislocated ankle, managed to get out of the vehicle unable to assess their accompaniers’ conditions and fell to her knees praying.

After the ambush, the Iraqi soldiers took her and Pietsewa to a hospital where doctors would save her from a certain death provoked by an internal hemorrhage in her hips. Pietsewa died of her injuries. The staff of Saddam Hussein Hospital where Lynch was taken to was diligent, donated their blood and gave her all necessary care despite the limitations they had on available materials. Some employees were friendly and a nurse sang songs to calm Jessica Lynch down. Although she was considered a prisoner of war, the hospital staff was free to act on its own.

Several days after her arrival at the hospital, all Iraqi soldiers left and the director of the Hospital ordered Jessica Lynch to be returned to the American forces. An Iraqi officer and an ambulance driver tried to take her to a Coalition checkpoint but, fearing the truck was a trap, the marines opened fire near the ambulance and almost got the convalescent prisoner killed.

The Rendon Group Intervention

In this story reduced to a classic ambush attributable to logistic mistakes and the troops’ exhaustion, the Hollywood-style heroism was not produced. However, certain circumstances led the Pentagon to use this unexpected situation to orchestrate a propagandistic operation which, with the same spirit of those of hospital in Kuwait City in 1992 or the Kosovo “rape camps”, would reach the hearts of the American people and their stereotyped mental representations.

In order to stir up patriotism and eliminate emerging doubts regarding the invasion, this anecdote of war was carefully used for a production. Then, media speculations and ghosts were freed to manipulate the collective psyche. All the Pentagon had to do was a made-for-television mini-movie Saving Private Lynch and leaked its advisers’ anonymous statements on Lynch heroism at action. Touching the egalitarian-feminist fiber, the W.A.S.P (White, Anglo Saxon and Protestant) pure and young racist ghost in the hands of brutal Iraqi soldiers and the admiration for her heroic patriotism turned into a supreme value was what was needed.

But to achieve it, certain steps had to be taken. First, Iraqi Mohammed Odeh al-Rehaief was bought. His wife worked at Saddam Hussein Hospital in Nassiriya and he told American officers that Lynch was at the hospital. Once he was guaranteed he’d be paid and he and his family were going to be welcomed at the U.S., he returned to the hospital to gather all possible information on the building and its exits whereas the command planned Private Lynch’s rescue. For communication issues, obviously, the Pentagon turned to Rendon Group.

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Dustin Hoffman’s role at Wag the Dog was inspired by John Rendon .

The public relations office The Rendon Group (TRG) was founded in 1981 by John W. and Richard H. Rendon. It became famous by mobilizing the international public opinion so that an international military coalition could free Kuwait which had been annexed to Iraq. By that time, it served as Kuwait royal family’s adviser for $100 000 a month. Its efficiency was so extraordinary that it was even involved in the liberation of the country by the American soldiers. The entrance of the troops at Kuwait City was delayed the necessary time to distribute American flags brought directly by plane to the population. The image of happiness of the Kuwaiti people waving the little flags around the American tanks recalled Europe’s liberation.

Political militant John Rendon Jr. was the man in charge of Jimmy Carter’s campaigning program in 1980 and one of presidential candidate Bill Clinton’s main advisers in 1992. Professionally, he designed one of the most important propaganda operations of the last few years: in these columns we revealed how he fabricated the Iraqi National Congress. It must also be added the “sale” of the Panama invasion and the overthrow of Manuel Noriega (Operation Just cause), the spreading «of information» on the Web justifying the Kosovo war (1999) and of information on the imaginary “millennium error”, etc. Apart from working for the White House, the CIA, the Pentagon and different governments, Rendon has worked too for multinational companies (in France he worked for Bull and Air France as requested by Edith Cresson). The Rendon Group’s staff is quite limited [1], but it pays for the services of several partners in 70 countries, and it is capable of manipulating the public opinion due, specially, to its court of corrupted journalists.

In a 1997 internal document, TGR claimed that it had several “moles” in large press agencies, specifically AFP, EFE and MENA. During the last Iraqi conflict, a journalist of Australian TV station ABC, Paul Moran, was murdered by a kamikaze. In was only then that people knew that during the last ten years Moran had been working for John Rendon and had been manipulating ABC to spread false information on group Ansar al-Islam, considered the link between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden.

John Rendon’s story, which has become quite famous, was represented in Barry Levinson’s Wag the Dog, and his character was played by Dustin Hoffman. In this fiction film, shot just before the Kosovo war, an American president broke out a war in the Balkans to turn the attention away from a sexual scandal. With the objective of mobilizing the public opinion in favor of the war, the man in charge of the public relations office invented the story of a soldier captured by the enemy that was finally freed.

In Wag the dog, the man in charge of public relations ordered the composition of a song for imprisoned soldiers (to the left). In real life, a song was composed for Jessica Lynch: the «true» false heroine (to the right).

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In Wag the dog, the man in charge of public relations ordered the composition of a song for imprisoned soldiers (to the left). In real life, a song was composed for Jessica Lynch: the «true» false heroine (to the right).

“Leaking Information”

Those who finance great brainwashing operations never confirm or deny information: in the psychological operations jargon this is called “leaking” information. The brainwashing began on April 2, 2003 during a Central Command (CENTCOM) press conference. The military spokesperson of the Coalition, General Vincent Brooks, presented a video of the prisoner’s liberation operation by the Special Forces. The journalists attending the conference did not realize or did not want to think the whole thing was false.

The Associated Press informed about the video and when explaining the prisoner had «at least a bullet wound» it quoted «sources that accepted to talk but wished to remain anonymous». On its side, the New York Times quoted «an army source» which explained that Lynch «had several bullet wounds». [2]. The brainwashing continued with an exclusive article published in the nightly edition of the Washington Post: «she fought to death» [3], subtitle: “New details on the capture and saving of the Virginian private”. At the beginning, it explained that according to “American sources”, the brave soldier fought the Iraqi attackers until the last minute and emptied her magazine to shoot some of them. The article added she kept fighting the enemy even when she had been shot several times and her comrades had fallen around her. “She did not want to be captured alive”. It was later known that the attackers beat her. Obviously, the authors were careful when they wrote a short paragraph in which sources questioned the reliability of the information coming from the “battlefield”, “intercepted communications”, and «Iraqi sources whose reliability was to be assessed».

Later, the article focused on Lynch’s return to her family and manipulated again the patriotic theme: «A period to relieve tensions before returning to the family is very important to guarantee them they have served the homeland with honor». All these was said before devoting some paragraphs to the testimony of an “unidentified Iraqi pharmacist” (sic) who said she complained and cried regularly for she wanted to “go home”. Apart from the grammatical mistake included to make it more believable («She said every time, about wanting to go home»), a contrast was evident if we compare it with the beginning of the article in which Lynch was presented as a true Amazon armed with an assault rifle. None of these was corroborated later. On the contrary, the feminist pride and the general tenderness towards the daughter of the country were touched.

After this, the authors worked on the excessive special effects of the “rescue”. It was known that it was a classic joint operation of the American forces which included rangers, marines, pilots of the air forces and Navy SEALS commands, supported by an AC-130 Gunship “capable of shooting 1 800 projectiles per minute through its 25 mm cannon”, as well as a reconnaissance airplane equipped with a camera to shoot the operation.

Nobody questioned the need of such a deployment of forces for the Special Forces already knew that there were no forces of the Iraqi army [4]. Up to this moment, including General Vincent Brooks statements at CENTCOM press conference, the idea of Iraqi forces in the area was “let drop”: «They made some shots when they arrived and when they left the zone». Finally, not to leave anything out of the program, the authors added that, according to an anonymous officer too, «the Forces of Special Operations found what seemed to have been a ‘prototype’ of an Iraqi chamber of torture at the basement of the hospital, with batteries and electrodes».

This Washington Post article served as an original source and was widely used by the whole world, as well as the video sequences spread by the Pentagon without any verification [5]. People’s imagination could then be developed to invent new exciting details that would enrich the story. On its side, news agency AFP took up the Washington Post statement without mentioning the source and in a more trivial way reported that when President Bush knew about Lynch’s «rescue» on April 1 he said «magnificent!» just before expressing his concerns about the other prisoners of war [6], The New York Daily News said that Lynch’s multiple fractures proved she was tortured (sic).

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The Rendon Group had left the sexual issue in suspense so that people’s imagination could fly. This last fact became a reality in a written work titled I am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story, signed by Rick Bragg. Bragg said that Jessica Lynch was brutally raped after her capture but she could not remember anything because of the traumatic shock she suffered provoked by a partial amnesia. To support his statements, he used “intelligence reports”, and “a medical diagnosis” which contradicted all other testimonies and investigations.

The book for which Bragg paid a million dollars to Lynch’s family to completely own its content was published on November 11, 2003 (Veterans Day) and was welcomed by the mainstream and sensationalist press [7].

A Necessary Illusion

To make this magnificent operation, The Rendom Group used famous journalists. Jayson Blair from the New York Times was thanked for what he did. This whole matter allowed people to find out that he had always falsified his articles and interrogated imaginary witnesses to get key words. Obviously, TRG knew Blair’s journalistic methods whereas his colleagues ignored them. This proves the intelligence services monitor journalists. Later, the Rendon Group used Vernon Loeb, the Washington Post reporter in charge of the CIA section. Up to now, he has not been sanctioned because, probably, his colleagues never believed he was a “former” secret service agent and therefore they were not surprised by his acts. Finally, the rest of the press got quickly involved in the brainwashing operation for they did not want to be left behind. The machinery was activated due to the nature of this profession.

However, the success of this fable was due to a psychological issue. It was published in a moment in which the American public opinion began to realize the Iraqi war was not a liberation war but an invasion. Jessica Lynch’s imaginary heroic deeds served as an inspiration of glory and heroism to what was just a colonial operation. People wanted to believe this was a noble war and “the United States” was generous. The Rendon Group made that dream come true.

[1] In its first years, The Rendon Group hired John W. Rendon Jr (president), Richard H. Rendon (vice-president), Sandra L. Libby (financial director), Derek Beckwith, Patricia Borsari, John Carley (chiefs of operations), Anne P. Danehy (polling director), Fred M. Glickman (director of international operations), Michael Otis, David Peterson (video producer), Douglas Wicks (video maker)

[2] Douglas Jehl y Jayson Blair: «Rescue in Iraq and ’Big Stir’ in West Virginia», The New York Times, April 3, 2003

[3] Susan Schmidt y Vernon Loeb: “’She Was Fighting to the Death’”, Washington Post, April 2, 2003

[4] “The Real ’saving of private lynch’”, Toronto Star, May 4, 2003

[5] In a survey made by Nexis on April 7, 2003, regarding the world major publications during the next two weeks after Lynch’s capture, it got 652 references on the name of “Jessica Lynch” whereas assistant Secretary of Defense «Paul Wolfowitz» got 331

[6] «Jessica Lynch s’était défendue en tirant avant sa capture», AFP International, April 3, 2003, and «Bush welcomes POW rescue, worries about others», AFP World News, April 2, 2003

[7] Paul D. Colford y Corky Siemaszko: «Friends raped Jessica», New York Daily News, November 6, 2003

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