jessica l lays slipper into gwb

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    Sunday, Nov 09, 2003,Page 1

    ABC News' Diane Sawyer, and Private Jessica Lynch pose in an undated publicity photo. Lynch said the US military was wrong to manipulate the story of her rescue and should not have filmed it in the first place. Lynch told Sawyer in a television interview to air Tuesday, that she was bothered by the military's portrayal of her ordeal.

    Jessica Lynch, the Iraq war POW who has become a US icon, has criticized the Pentagon's dramatic film of her rescue by US troops, further stoking the debate about how defense chiefs are representing the conflict.

    The former private, who was rescued in April, said she was upset by the way the Defense Department had portrayed the episode and that the film should not have been made.

    Lynch's criticism comes as the Bush administration battles to win the hearts and minds of the US public over Iraq policy.

    But media observers say the Pentagon's rosy version of Lynch's rescue should surprise no one, and point out that past US governments have also issued upbeat news stories in prior conflicts.

    US television networks repeatedly aired footage of Lynch being carried on a stretcher after the rescue. The images were made even more dramatic by the use of green, night-vision optics.

    Asked if the official portrayal of her rescue troubled her, Lynch replied: "Yeah, it does. It does that they used me as a way to symbolize all this stuff. I mean, yeah, it's wrong ... I don't know what they had ... or why they filmed it."

    Extracts of the interview to be broadcast on Tuesday have been released in advance.

    It was reported at the time that the troops who rescued Lynch had engaged in a fire-fight during the operation, but Lynch said "I don't think it happened quite like that."

    Lynch's company was captured after a convoy took a wrong turn and drove into Iraqi hands. Eleven Americans were killed and Lynch suffered multiple injuries.

    But while critical of the Pentagon, Lynch remained full of praise for her rescuers.

    The Defense Department had no immediate comment on Friday. But Lynch's remarks have stoked a mounting debate about how the Iraq war is being presented.

    "The Pentagon is doing everything it can to spin the war in a way that is favorable to management," said Mark Crispin Miller, a media studies professor at New York University.

    "Whether you are talking about outright stagecraft or denigration of certain news stories, the aim is the same," Miller said.

    Josh Friedman, director of international studies at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, said the media should have debunked the story earlier.

    "[Lynch] did the right thing: She told the truth. They've run the whole war like some kind of a docu-drama. And they've been extremely attentive to public relations," Friedman said.

    "You have to justify sacrifice and death and give people some sense of purpose, and you have to demonize the enemy. That's really what the subplot was," Friedman, a Pulitzer Prize holder, added.

    Media observers said that the Bush administration has a vested interest in presenting an upbeat picture of Iraq as it turns an eye toward the looming 2004 presidential election.

    However, recent polls suggest the public is ever more unsettled about rising US casualties in Iraq.

    A poll released Thursday showed the public approval rating for Bush's handling of Iraq had fallen to 41 percent. A total 58 percent of respondents said they disapproved of Bush's handling of Iraq.

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