Frank Rich on Jessica Lynch — “Not Rambo Anymore”

For those intrigued with the Pvt. Jessica Lynch saga and its implications, there’s a thought-provoking article today from NYT critic/pundit Frank Rich that underscores Pvt. Lynch’s own dignity and the lack of dignity of those who have sought to manipulate her and her story:

Few of this war’s images have had such longevity or proven more pliable than that of the smiling face of Pfc. Jessica Lynch. In the seven months of virtual silence since her rescue from a Nasiriya hospital, she has become the Mona Lisa of “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Americans have been able to read into her pleasant but unrevealing snapshot whatever story they choose. Those stories, usually imposed on her by others, have become a Rorschach test for homefront mood swings.

When American forces were bogged down in the war’s early days, she was the happy harbinger of an imminent military turnaround: a 19-year-old female Rambo who tried to blast her way out of the enemy’s clutches, taking out any man who got in her way. When those accounts turned out to be largely fiction, she became a symbol of Bush administration propaganda and the press’s war-time credulity in buying it. Then came her months of muffled recuperation: a metaphor for the low-grade fever of inertia and unease that has set in at home in the months since that Saddam statue fell.

Particulary moving were these two pararagraphs (not that I’m a big fan of Cher as a political activist):

The Bush administration tries to shut down pictures as effectively as it has stonewalled Congressional committees and the bipartisan commissions looking into intelligence failures surrounding 9/11. On the day of the Chinook’s fall, the president stayed off-camera on his ranch in Crawford, resting up for his next round of fund-raisers, and sent out only a written statement of grief. Reuters reported on Monday that journalists seeking access to Ramstein, the American air base in Germany to which Private Lynch was first taken, had been told that the defense department would not lift its policy prohibiting photographs of flag-draped coffins, even for the Chinook casualties. The president did not go to the funerals of the nine fellow soldiers who died in the same ambush that led to Private Lynch’s capture; he hasn’t gone to any funerals for soldiers killed in action, The Washington Post reports.

Two weeks ago, after spending the day visiting the wounded at Walter Reed, the same hospital where Private Lynch recuperated upon returning to the United States, Cher, of all people, crystallized the game plan. She called into C-Span to tell of her experience talking with “a boy about 19 or 20 who had lost both his arms” and then asked: “Why are none of Cheney, Wolfowitz, Bremer, the president — why aren’t they taking pictures with all these guys? Because I don’t understand why these guys are so hidden and why there aren’t pictures of them.”

This is something Bush could/should ameliorate fast. Will he?

Link via Atrios.

The Discussion: 3 Comments

Will he?

Doubtful. :/

November 9, 2003 @ 11:51 pm | Comment

Don’t you fall for that phony Bush isn’t attending funerals meme. Of course he isn’t. It isn’t appropriate for him to do so. President do not attend the funerals of individual soldiers killed in the line of duty and doing so would only help fuel the obessive over fixation on casualties which is a threat to the US’s ability to stick out the occupation and see it done right, something I know that you support.

November 10, 2003 @ 8:10 am | Comment

Conrad, I’m not sure; don’t presidents during wartime regularly visit wounded soldiers in the hospital? And during all other wars photographers could take photos of the flag-shrouded coffins. Why the exceptions?

Yes, more than ever, I feel we need to stay the course, and I’m actually getting a stronger sense that we can achieve our goals. But this kind of policy (with the coffins) makes Bush appear callous and insensitive. It simply isn’t smart.

November 10, 2003 @ 8:47 am | Comment

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