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Tuesday, November 11, 2003  

Controversy: Iraqi doctors deny Lynch was raped

Chagrined physcians who saved the life of former POW Pfc. Jessica Lynch, who was injured in an automobile accident while her unit was under fire March 23, adamantly deny she was the victim of a sexual assault. The allegation is reported in a biography by Rick Bragg, I am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story.

NASSIRIYA, Iraq, Nov 10 (Reuters) - Iraqi doctors who treated U.S. soldier Jessica Lynch dismissed on Monday allegations made in her biography that she was raped during her capture in Iraq, saying she had the best possible care.

Surgeons who treated Private Lynch after her convoy was attacked near the southern city of Nassiriya in the early days of the U.S.-led invasion in March said they were shocked and hurt by accusations that she was sexually assaulted.

. . ."The records also show that she was a victim of anal sexual assault," the authorized biography said. "The records do not tell whether her captors assaulted her almost lifeless, broken body after she was lifted from the wreckage, or if they assaulted her and then broke her bones into splinters until she was almost dead," the book said.

"Jessi's body armor and her bloody uniform were found in a house near the ambush site, the place that some military intelligence sources said she was taken to be tortured. But Jessi remembers none of this. When she awoke in the military hospital, it was during treatment, not torture. When she came to, the cruelties were over," according to the book.

Medical personnel present when Lynch arrived at the hospital say it isn't so.

Dr Jamal Kadhim Shwail was the first doctor to examine Lynch when she was brought to Nassiriya's military hospital by Iraqi special police. Shwail said Lynch was lying in hospital reception, unconscious and in shock from blood loss.

She was wearing her uniform including a flak jacket, military trousers and boots, none of her clothes had been unbuttoned or removed, as the book claims, he said.

The surgeon who operated on her after her transfer to a better equipped hospital also says he saw no evidence of a rape.

Shortly afterwards Lynch was transferred to Saddam Hospital in Nassiriya, now renamed Nassiriya General.

There, Dr Mahdi Khafazji operated on her fractured right femur. He cleaned her body before surgery and found no signs of sexual assault. "I examined her very carefully," he said at his clinic in Nassiriya's center. "I cleaned her body including her genitalia. She had no sign of raping or sodomizing."

Lynch's wounds were so bad a sexual assault would have killed her, he said. "If she had been raped there is no way she could have survived it. She was fighting for her life, her body was broken. What sort of an animal would even think of that?"

The physicians say they provided Lynch with excellent care and are deeply offended to have their treatment of her misrepresented.

Pfc. Lynch has no memory of having been raped or tortured and has not personally alleged she was abused by the Iraqis.

Bragg, the author of the book, departed the New York Times after it was discovered he had taken credit for material actually reported by a stringer. Bragg won a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing while employed by the NYT.

I'm annoyed with Rick Bragg for reporting rumor as if it is fact. The passages cited above are damning. Not only does he say she was raped, he implies her injuries did not come from the awful automobile accident, which she does remember. As a reporter, I know he must know better than to do that. Bragg grew up hardscrabble, as described in his autobiography, All Over But the Shoutin'. He appears to have gotten out of touch with that and developed a bit of an entitlement complex. (His rationalizations for lying about visiting a town and writing a story there at the NYT were equally ridiculous.) I don't know what happened to Jessica Lynch. But, neither does Rick Bragg.

3:57 PM