This story isn't complete yet, but what we've learned already is quite remarkable. Permit me to speculate on a few points that haven't been mentioned so far.
  • The dialog between Jessica Lynch and a member of the rescue team (I'd guess an operator from the Army's "Delta Force"** since he is referred to as a "soldier" rather than a "marine" or a "sailor") is probably unprecedented in U.S. military history:
    A soldier called her name. Lynch didn't respond but lowered the sheet.

    The soldier said, "Jessica Lynch, we're United States soldiers here, and we're here to protect you and take you home."

    ...the soldier took off his helmet and approached Lynch, who looked up and said, "I'm an American soldier, too."
    For years, fiction writers have tried to come up with the perfect line for the hero to say (or hear) when rescued (or when rescuing). Usually, it's something macho, like "Gee what took ya" or "It's about time". Now we have probably the first ever basis in reality for what a U.S., female POW says in these circumstances. The writer in me wants her to have said it with a bit of spunk, perhaps in response to the condescension implied by "we're here to protect you", her rejoinder implying in turn, "Stupid man, don't worry about protecting me. I'm no civilian, I'm one of you! Now lets get out of here!" But regardless of what was implied, it's a great affirmation -- woman have truly arrived. Lets hope we're finally seeing the end of the notion that women can't handle combat. Now if only I could learn to write decent dialog...

  • "Mohammad", the Iraqi hero who made her rescue possible, nearly had his family slaughtered by the regime. The April 3, 2003 press release by Marine Sgt. Joseph R. Chenelly, quotes Mohammad extensively:
    While he observed Saddam's henchmen {at the hospital}, Mohammad said the notorious regime death squad paid his home an unexpected visit. His wife and 6-year-old daughter fled to nearby family. Many of his personal belongings, including his car, were seized.

    "I am not worried for myself," he said. But "security in Iraq (that is still) loyal to Saddam will kill my wife. They will kill my (child)."
    Reportedly, Mohammad is now the Guest of Honor at the Marine base in Kuwait.

      Update April 30, 2003: The man, now identified by the Associated Press as Mohammed al-Rehaief, arrive in the States April 10 and was promptly granted asylum. The news broke today. Apparently this means the al-Rehaief family can either return to Iraq at a later date, or if they like, apply for US citizenship, which is much easier if you've been given asylum than if you are an immigrant. The AP also adds, "After Lynch was rescued, al-Rehaief and his family stayed at a refugee camp in Iraq" prior to moving to the states, so apparently he didn't spend all his time with the Marines. The al-Rehaief family hope to have a reunion with Pfc. Lynch when the time is right.

      Update May 23, 2003: It's interesting that speculation elsewhere in this node that the rescue was "staged" to appear more dramatic than it really was, as well as the news articles (appearing in strident anti-war, anti-US armed forces publications such as the Guardian), on which his speculation was based, did not appear until after the news broke that Pfc. Lynch has amnesia. former New York Times report Jayson Blair knew all along, the war is too important to bother with niceties as eye-witness testimony.

      Update June 28, 2003: "Journalists quoting each other". QXZ helpfully cites several news stories in support of his writeup, in a frankly Information-Minister-worthy attempt to give the appearance that the allegation is confirmed by independant reports. A check of his citations reveals, each separate story that discusses the main allegation is simply a rehash of the same BBC Correspondant programme entitled "War Spin" that aired May 18, 2003, and not independant reporting at all! For example, the report doesn't mention the allegation at all; its only value to QXZ's writeup is apparently to support the un-controversial assertion that Pfc. Lynch suffers from amnesia.

      If only QXZ had bothered to closely read the BBC transcript, available at The sole basis for the claim that there were no Fedayeen guarding Pfc. Lynch is an Iraqi who is speaking to a US solider as the operation is unfolding! I suppose the BBC would have preferred the rescuers to fall back, postpone and re-plan their entire operation to contain the precise amount of drama that could in hindsight be justified. On the other hand, perhaps from the begining there were no Fedayeen present. How do we know Pfc. Lynch didn't wander into that hospital on her own, upset with the criminal failure of the Bush administration to implement Univeral Health Care?

      Those biased Guardian and BBC journalists apply hyper-vigilance to all statements by the military, which would be fair, except that the statements by Iraqis that contradict the military are simply repeated verbatim, with little discussion of who these Iraqis are, or what their motives might be! Could they be Saddaam loyalists*, or simply a little ashamed of their treatment and what the Fedayeen forced them to do to the prisoners? What was the circumstances of their witnessing the rescue? Where were they standing? Were they qualified to judge the difference between a loaded weapon, an unloaded weapon, and a flash-bang non-lethal grenade? What about questioning the Washington Post -- might they have got the story wrong? I'm not saying they were loyalists, but these question should have at least been asked by the BBC. The implication is, since we can never really know the truth, we should believe Iraqis who, if they lie or are simply mistaken, will suffer little or no consequences once this story fades from the front page, over the U.S. military who, if they are wrong or lying, will suffer long-term consequences, including Congressional investigation. A correction: I do not think Dr. a-Houssona actually claims to have driven the ambulance, from what I've read he detailed that task to an ambulance driver, so he has no first-hand knowledge that the ambulance was fired upon by U.S. forces. To me, a give-away is the doctor's claim that the US fired on an ambulance "for no reason". While its theoretically possible this may have accidentally happened in the fog of war, the fact is, the US firing on ambulances was also a constant theme of Iraqi (Dis-)Information Ministry propeganda, a relevant fact that somehow wasn't included in the BBC report.

      The best that can be said about the BBC report, it is the quality one would expect of breaking news coverage of an ongoing event, and shows little of the quality, balance, and care one would expect of a world-class news organization reporting analytically, after the fact. Either that, or it was intentionally biased. In marked contrast, ABC News and the Washington Post revisited this story, their accounts seem to me much more balanced: and For example, the original detail that Pfc. Lynch "emptied her M-16" is correctly attributed to "unnamed U.S. officials with access to intelligence reports" (not necessarily soldiers, even!), so this detail could have been a military leak with the goal of spinning the story, or sloppy journalism trying to sell papers. That does happen, you know. There are even reports of radio intercepts of conversations by Iraqi intelligence officials saying to themselves that she'd gone down fighting! Reading between the lines, it's almost as if these Iraqis, not knowing what to make of a female soldier, instictively lionized her as brave...Might Iraqi culture, like so many other cultures, appreciate a good yarn, even if embellishment is required? The U.S. military is held to task over why the convoy was mis-routed in the first place, and why there is ongoing secrecy; but soldiers who were actually part of the convoy were interviewed, their written reports, personal letters, and diaries examined, and a detailed chronology is attempted. Many Iraqis are interviewed who support and contradict each other and the military accounts. We are told details about who these Iraqis are and the circumstances of how they came to be present when they saw what they saw. Over all, a much more useful and balanced account that the Beeb, and frankly, these ABC and Post reports make a much better story, detailing the incredible chaos and confusion, tenderness and terror, that is war. Finally, the best part of all: as of June 19, according to the Post, Pfc. Lynch "recently walked more than 100 steps using a walker." End of June 28, 2003 update.

  • While he arranged for her rescue, making two separate round trips through embattled city streets to the hospital, he probably saved her from mutilation or even death at the hands of the hospital "staff":
    She was covered up to her chin by a white blanket. Her head was bandaged. A wound on the right leg was in bad condition.

    "The doctors wanted to cut her leg off," he said. "My friend and I decided we would stop it."

    Creating numerous diversions, they managed to delay the surgery long enough. "She would have died if they tried it," he said.
    I use the term "mutilate" advisedly, because amputation is a form of mutilation even when it is medically justified. But, reading between the lines, it seems possible they held the prospect of amputation over her head as an implied threat. There might also have been an added dimension of misogyny at play. Films such as Full Circle about women's life in nearby Iran suggest a cultural bias among otherwise reasonable medical professionals whereby women are routinely subjected to a lower standard of care, or even non-consensual or unnecessary medical procedures. On the other hand, she reportedly developed a fever soon after her rescue, so the leg might have been legitimately "going bad". The Ramstein AFB doctors proved definitively that amputation was uncalled-for, but one could give the Iraqi doctors the benefit of the doubt and hope they considered amputation only because they didn't have the training, modern equipment, funding, or authorization for reconstructive surgery even in peacetime, not to mention during wartime. Yet some of the U.S. POWs from the 1991 Gulf War reported that, once it was clear Saddam was loosing the war, the torture stopped and they were given excellent medical care by western-trained physicians, including orthopedic care (See video interviews of Gulf War POWs at, at this point I'm unable to find a transcipts).
    Update November 9, 2003: The NBC Miniseries "Saving Jessica Lynch" has now aired. I consider it to be fiction at least partly based in fact, but certainly not journalism. On the question of amputation, it implies that the Iraqi officer in charge of her interrogation wanted urgently to move Pfc. Lynch to Baghdad to continue the interrogation, but the doctors feared she would loose her leg or her life if she was moved. The officer then commanded them to preemptively amputate so she could travel. The doctors began to prepare, but to their credit, didn't rush. Before the amputation could begin, the officer was pulled away by the Marines' diversionary raid. This plausible speculation deserves to be investigated by journalists.
    In the end, we can only speculate as to the totality of Pfc. Lynch's circumstances. Hopefully these issues will be cleared up in the aftermath of the war.

  • The Arab News, which is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's official English-language paper, spins like mad to avoid the implication that a Muslim may have co-operated with U.S. forces:
    The {rescue team} commander, whose identity cannot be revealed, told Arab News that he is unsure how they "got the word about the POW," adding the media suggested it was an informant, "but I don’t have any personal knowledge of that."
    In the entire article, that is the only mention of how Lynch was discovered. Just a further reminder, the Arab News are the fun people who brought you such helpful news articles as wife beating 101. Keep up the good work, Arab News! We can't let the word get out that Muslims can rise above politics and have sympathy for a fellow, female human being.

  • As dawn neared, the rescue team turned their attention to the bodies of Pfc. Lynch's colleagues:
    The rescue team was quickly losing its cover of darkness. The soldiers wanted to retrieve the bodies found in graves, believing they were U.S. soldiers, but they did not have shovels.

    They dug with their bare hands...
    All told, quite an amazing story.
Update October 17, 2003:

Dateline NBC has aired an interview with Mohammed al-Rehaief (full disclosure - al Rehaief now has a book out). The companion piece on has the transcript, a book excerpt, and video from the interview at Highlights include:

  • After he decides to try and let coalition forces know about the prisoner, he has to cross the line to get to them. He remarks nonchalantly: "I have to walk toward the Americans. But I cannot raise my hand, or have a white flag. If I do, the Iraqi snipers will shoot me, because they consider me as a deserter." There were many, many other reports of Iraqi forces murdering civilians who attempted to surrender, or holding family members hostage in order to induce the father or sons to go on suicide missions in order to make it appear that coalition forces were killing civilians indiscriminately. Now you understand why I object when statements by Dr. a-Houssona that coalition forces fired on Pfc. Lynch's ambulance are reported without caveats.
  • After he'd gone to PFC Lynch's hospital the final time and was returning to coalition territory, Jamie Gangel, the Dateline correspondent, reports, "the Marines had warned him he had to cross Victory Bridge, his escape route, before U.S. Forces began bombing it that afternoon. And then on the way out of the hospital, Mohammed was spotted and chased by Iraqi guards. He raced for the bridge, the fedayeen gaining on him...By the time he reached the bridge, the bombing had begun. One bomb fell so close that shrapnel from it blinded his left eye. But it also saved his life; it killed the Iraqis chasing him."
  • Dateline reports: "Mohammed insists his part of the story is true.
    Gangel: “Did you, in any way exaggerate or over-dramatize your role, what you saw, what you know happened?”
    Mohammed: “No.”
    In other reports, doctors and nurses who still work at the hospital have disputed Mohammed’s story, saying Lynch was never abused.
    Gangel: “They are lying?”
    Mohammed: “Yes. Do you know why?”
    Gangel: “Why?”
    Mohammed: “Because they scared if Saddam Hussein come back to the power.”

Some Footnotes for Clarification

* The sentence marked with * above originally contained a parenthetical remark, "is Dr. Uday named after Saddaam's son, the mass murderer and serial rapist?" After consideration and good advice from several noders, I've removed that remark, because based on how common the name Uday is in that part of the globe, it was an unreasonable speculation on my part.

** This sentence used to speculate that the rescuers were Army Rangers. However, 54b points out, "Rangers are usually used as shock troops. Now, special forces, namely the Delta Force, were operating in the area at that time, under the cover name of Task Force 41, or something like that. Hostage rescue, namely Smash and Grab, is one of their specialties." So I changed the writeup. Thanks, B.