Heroine attacks Pentagon
over lies about her capture
By Tim Reid, 25 April 2007
Jessica Lynch, the US army private who
became the heroic American face of the Iraq war when her convoy was
ambushed soon after the invasion, lambasted the Bush Administration
yesterday for lying about the incident.
She was testifying to Congress, along
with the brother of Pat Tillman, the US Army Ranger who gave up a
lucrative career as an American football star only to be killed by
his own platoon in Afghanistan, and the two decried the Pentagon's
"deceit" in turning their disastrous experiences into false tales of
Ms Lynch was injured badly when her
convoy was ambushed in Iraq on March 23, 2003, the third day of the
war. The Pentagon said initially that she was shot after emerging
from her vehicle, guns blazing, before being abducted. It later
emerged that she was injured in the ambush and was incapable of
fighting. She was taken to an Iraqi hospital by Iraqi troops and
owes her life to Iraqi doctors, who even tried to return her to
Speaking to the House Oversight and
Government Reform Committee, Ms Lynch told of waking up in hospital
with terrible injuries, unaware that the Pentagon was circulating
"the story of the little girl Rambo from the hills of West Virginia
who went down fighting".
"It was not true," she said yesterday.
"I'm still confused as to why they choose to lie and try to make me
"The bottom line is the American people
are capable of determining their own ideals for heroes, and they
don't need to be told elaborate lies."
Kevin Tillman, in angry and emotional
testimony, accused army officials of destroying his brother's
uniform, equipment and notebook, falsifying wit- ness statements and
rewriting the field hospital report in order to concoct an
"inspirational" story that his brother had died leading a charge
against enemy fighters. For five weeks after his brother's death the
Pentagon and the White House told that story, Mr Tillman said,
including at his memorial service.
He said that his brother's death came
soon after the dual rebellions in Najaf and Fallujah, the call-up of
more troops to Iraq, and White House knowledge that the Abu Ghraib
prison abuse scandal was about to break.
"Revealing that Pat's death was
fratricide [friendly fire] would have been yet another political
disaster during a month already swollen with political disasters . .
. so the facts needed to be suppressed," Mr Tillman said.
In addition to destroying and falsifying
evidence, the Pentagon had suppressed an initial investigation that
reported his brother was killed by friendly fire, he claimed.
Mary Tillman, his mother, accused Donald
Rumsfeld, the former Defence Secretary, of being complicit. "These
are intentional falsehoods that meet the legal definition of fraud,"
Mr Tillman said. The Pentagon has said that there was no attempt at
a cover-up, merely "errors of judgment which created the perception
However, the soldier who was with Tillman
when he died testified last night that he had been told by his
superiors to conceal the circumstances from Tillman's brother. "I
was ordered not to tell him," Specialist Bryan O'Neill said.
"These are deliberate acts of deceit," Mr
Tillman said yesterday"This narrative was intended to deceive the
family, but more importantly to deceive the American public."
Mr Tillman also cited other "friendly
fire" cases that he claimed had been covered up, including Sergeant
Patrick McCaffrey, whose family was told that he was killed in Iraq
on June 22, 2004, after "an ambush by insurgents". Two years later
they discovered that the "insurgents" were the Iraqi troops he had
"Before his death he told his chain of
command that these same troops he was training were trying to kill
him and his team. He was told to keep his mouth shut," Mr Tillman
Mrs Tillman said: "The fact that he would
have died by friendly fire and no one told Rumsfeld is ludicrous."
Henry Waxman, the Democratic chairman of the panel, said: "For
Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman, the Government violated its most