The Truth And Jessica Lynch

David Martin is National Security Correspondent for CBS News.
To watch Jessica Lynch testify before a congressional committee today, you had to take her word for it that this was the same terrified young lady we saw being carried on to a transport plane after her rescue by special operations forces.

She showed no outward signs of the severe injuries she had suffered when her vehicle was hit by a rocket propelled grenade and crashed, although she said she still has no feeling in part of her left leg and wears a brace at least some of the time.

She most definitely is no longer terrified. She is self-assured and articulate, no doubt skills she had to develop in order to handle the media frenzy that descended on her when she arrived home in Palestine, West Virginia, as probably the most famous private in the Army.

A couple days after her rescue, The Washington Post had reported that before she was captured by the Iraqis she "fought fiercely and shot several enemy soldiers...firing her weapon until she ran out of ammunition" According to the Post account, which was based on anonymous sources citing battlefield reports, Lynch kept firing "even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds." By her own account, none of that happened. She never fired her weapon and was knocked unconscious when her vehicle crashed, waking up hours later in an Iraqi hospital. As she put it in her testimony today, the story depicted her as "the little girl Rambo from the hills of West Virginia who went down fighting. It was not true." She blamed the media for perpetuating the myth. "They should have found out the facts before they spread the word like wildfire."

Her hero status earned her and a co-writer a $1 million advance for a book, so in one sense the myth paid off for Jessica Lynch. But in her testimony she eloquently debunked the urge to put a heroic face on war. "The American people are capable of determining their own heros...and the don't need to be told elaborate lies...The truth of war is not always easy. The truth is always more heroic than the hype."

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.