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Saturday, April 05, 2003  
Latest report from Iraq says doctor key to rescue

The blogger is not the only thing that turns. The rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch has been through more permutations in four days than a contortionist earning his keep. The latest is an account brought to my attention by Atrios. In the Boston Globe story, a key figure is an unidentified Iraqi doctor. (In earlier reports, Lynch was said not to really be undergoing medical treatment in a hospital, but let's set those aside.) He appears to have treated Lynch, and possibly other wounded Americans, and to have led U.S. troops to her and the burial site of other coalition casualties.

While troops engaged the Iraqis in another part of the city, the rescue team persuaded an Iraqi doctor to lead them to Lynch, Renuart said.

Lynch, who'd been held since a week earlier when her unit was ambushed, had suffered a head wound, an injury to her spine, and fractures to her right arm, both legs, her right foot and ankle. The rescuers quickly evaluated her medical condition, secured her to a stretcher and took her to a waiting helicopter.

. . .Meanwhile, the Iraqi doctor told the team there were remains of other U.S. soldiers nearby, and they were led to a burial site. Because they had not brought shovels, [Air Force Maj. Gen. Gene] Renuart said, the team dug up the bodies with their hands.

No mention is made of the doctor's political stance. That's a relief, since I would prefer not to have to debunk another 'Mohammed' story. Perhaps the physician is a person loyal to his country who chose to honor his Hippocratic oath. Or, he might just be pragmatic. The invading soldiers were there in the hospital, so it made sense to tell them about the burial site and the survivor under the circumstances. And, possibly, doing so might have saved his life since the coalition forces were in fact firing on Iraqis at the hospital and in other parts of Nasiriyah.

Some parts of the Boston Chronicle story have the same "golly" quality as Susan Schmidt's sorry piece of reportage of a couple days ago. For example, the reporter does not even question the description of soldiers digging up bodies with their hands. If she had, she might have wondered why they hadn't brought shovels, or the entrenching tools that are part of a military pack, when looking for missing or dead comrades.

It is that ignoring of errors on the part of the U.S. that fuels some of my skepticism about war reportage. But for some major errors, the 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company likely would not have been where it encountered Iraqi irregulars March 23.

Soldiers who were wounded in the ambush told [U.S. Rep. Silvestre, D-El Paso] Reyes that the 507th unit was attacked while attempting to catch up with other members of a convoy of tanks and troops moving north to Baghdad. The maintenance unit had fallen behind because it had to stop to repair several stalled vehicles, the soldiers told Reyes.

Tuesday, 507th Pfc. Jessica Lynch was rescued from a hospital in Nasiriyah. Five other members of the company are listed as prisoners of war. Days after the ambush, two other soldiers were confirmed as having been killed. Four were wounded in the firefight. Also, nine Marines [the first rescue team] were killed and eight others are missing.

It definitely seems negligent to have left support troops who had only small arms to repair vehicles in enemy territory. And, sending in an apparently ill-prepared rescue team which was decimated also seems less than brilliant.

Other details in the new story add to the ambiguity about what really occurred. The question of whether Pfc. Lynch had gunshot wounds arises again, but is not settled. The alleged torture chamber in the hospital basement is sounding more and more like a planning office. The latest claim of torture from some on the Right, that Lynch had been deprived of food, seems to have been standard medical procedure. She is still being fed intravenously under American military care in Germany.

2:36 PM