Al-Jabbar said the soldiers declined an offer of the hospital's
master key so they wouldn't have to break down the doors. "They pointed
the gun at us for two hours," he said. "Their manner was very
rude. They even handcuffed the director of the hospital. ... Not a single
shot was fired at them. They shot at doors -all doors. They broke them,
kicked them open." .. Dr. Wajdi al-Jabbar
By S. Faramarzi
May 30, 2003
May 29 - NASIRIYAH, Iraq - The U.S. commandos refused a key
and instead broke down doors and went in with guns drawn. They carried away
the prisoner in the dead of night with helicopter and armored vehicle backup
_ even though there was no Iraqi military presence and the hospital staff
In the tale of Pfc. Jessica Lynch's rescue, this is the Iraqi
New attention has been drawn to the April 1 rescue since a BBC report earlier
this month created controversy by charging the Pentagon exaggerated the
danger of the raid.
An Associated Press reporter spoke to more than 20 doctors, nurses and other
workers at the hospital. In interview after interview, the assessment was
the same: The dramatics that surrounded Lynch's rescue were unnecessary.
Some also said the raid itself was unneeded because they were trying to
turn Lynch over, although they conceded they made no attempt to notify U.S.
troops of that effort.
U.S. military officers answer that the rescuers didn't know Iraqi troops
had left Nasiriyah General Hospital and that the Americans had to storm
in ready to deal with any circumstance. They add that U.S. troops outside
the hospital were fired on and that fighting was still going on elsewhere
in the southern city, which saw some of the fiercest combat of the war.
"If they had come to the door and asked for Jessica, we would have
gladly handed her over to them. There was no need for all that drama,"
said Dr. Hazem Rikabi, an internist.
"Why the show? They just wanted to prove they were heroes," he
said. "There was no battle."
American military doctrine calls for using overwhelming force in such situations.
"We don't want it to be a fair fight," Marine Lt. Col. David Lapan,
a Pentagon spokesman, told AP this week. "The fact that we didn't encounter
heavy resistance in the hospital was a good thing."
Pentagon officials bristle at any suggestion that Lynch's rescue was staged
or that any details were exaggerated. They have never claimed there was
fighting inside the hospital, but stress that Nasiriyah was not a peaceful
"We didn't need to create any drama. It was there already," Lapan
Nasiriyah was a combat zone and American troops were being attacked by Iraqis
dressed in civilian clothes elsewhere in the area, he said. U.S. troops
supporting the raid -though not the rescue team itself-_ were fired on from
other parts of the hospital compound, Lapan said.
"You don't have perfect knowledge when you go in of what resistance
you will face, so you prepare for the worst," Lapan said.
Spokesmen for the Navy SEAL, Army Ranger and Marine commando units involved
in the rescue declined requests to allow participants to be interviewed.
Lynch, an Army supply clerk, was captured March 23 after her convoy was
ambushed in Nasiriyah three days after the war began.
Even among the quickly famous U.S. POWs, Lynch stood out -West Virginia
girl, not even 20, held up within days as an American ideal. Her fate, and
her family's vigil back in Palestine, W.Va., became fodder for the front
In the hospital, staffers said, Lynch made friends from around the building
with her kind ways and jokes, and employees went out of their way to keep
For a week, Dr. Wajdi al-Jabbar said, he and an ambulance driver rode the
perilous streets to get her fruit juice. Suad Husseiniya, a nurse, said
she grew so attached to Lynch that she repeatedly rubbed talcum powder into
the soldier's sore back.
"She knew everyone by their first name," said the hospital's deputy
director, Dr. Khodheir al-Hazbar.
Al-Jabbar said the staff never spoke to Lynch about the war. "We didn't
want her to lose our trust."
U.S. officials have said Lynch, who is recovering in a Washington hospital,
doesn't remember anything about her capture, and she has not yet commented
publicly about her time in Iraq. Her family was traveling back to West Virginia
on Wednesday planned to hold a news conference Thursday in Palestine to
discuss her recovery from her injuries.
Randy Coleman, a family spokesman, said last week that the Lynches were
unconcerned about claims the rescue may not have occurred as previously
reported because "Jessi never asked to be made a hero."
Palestine resident Miriah Duckworth, 21, a high school softball teammate
of Lynch's, also wasn't concerned about those claims Wednesday night. "I'm
just glad they got her out," Duckworth said.
U.S. officers have said Lynch's rescue was launched after an Iraqi lawyer,
Mohammed Odeh al-Rehaief, mapped out her location for U.S. Marines over
Al-Rehaief and his family were moved to the United States for safety, and
he has accepted a job with the Livingston Group, a lobbying firm in Washington.
Jim Pruitt, an associate of the firm, said Wednesday that al-Rehaief had
no comment about the rescue. "When the time comes, Mohammed will tell
his story in great detail," Pruitt said.
The hospital's staff contends the Americans could have retrieved Lynch without
the show of force.
A day before Iraqi troops left the hospital, doctors said, the staff received
instructions from Nasiriyah's governor, Younis Ahmed al-Thareb, to transfer
Lynch to the Maternity and Children's Hospital on the other side of the
Euphrates River, where American forces were in control.
The governor told them it was for her own safety because he feared the Americans
might attack the hospital because Iraqi soldiers were there, al-Jabbar and
But they also said they didn't try to notify U.S. troops of their intention.
They said an ambulance carrying Lynch set out at 11:45 p.m., but as it approached
the al-Zaytoun Bridge in the darkness it was fired on by American troops
and the driver sped back to the hospital.
"The next day, we decided to put her on a donkey cart so she would
be in open view of the U.S. soldiers," said Dr. Miqdad al-Khazaei.
But before they could do that, Iraqi forces _ including the regional commander
of the Baath Party, Adel Abdallah al-Doori, and the governor _ began pulling
out of the hospital and the city, al-Khazaei said. "By noon, they were
all gone," he said.
Hours later, the Americans arrived.
Al-Hazbar, the deputy director, had moved his wife and their two sons into
the hospital to ride out the battle for Nasiriyah. He had just put his sons
to bed when heavy explosions sounded at 11:45 p.m.
Less than 30 minutes later, he heard helicopters flying over the hospital.
Tanks and armored personnel carriers parked outside. Then he heard loud
voices: "Go! Go! Go!"
The commandos burst in.
Al-Jabbar said the soldiers declined an offer of the hospital's master key
so they wouldn't have to break down the doors.
"They pointed the gun at us for two hours," he said. "Their
manner was very rude. They even handcuffed the director of the hospital.
... Not a single shot was fired at them. They shot at doors _ all doors.
They broke them, kicked them open."
Al-Hazbar said he had expected a raid but was surprised by its intensity.
Now that there was no Iraqi military around, why so much force? He said
he and his family found themselves surrounded by about 20 American soldiers
firing their guns.
"They were shooting indiscriminately, everywhere, at windows, between
our legs, on the floor. We were terrified," al-Hazbar said.
He said it then occurred to him that no one was being hit by bullets. "They
were shooting at me, but nothing happened to me," he said.
Al-Hazbar said he concluded the Americans were firing blanks. "They
didn't shoot real bullets because they knew there was no military force
in the hospital," he said.
Lapan said the idea that the rescue team would be carrying blanks in a combat
zone was absurd.
"To ever send a force into a combat situation with blanks is just ludicrous,"
he said. "You don't use blanks in a war. You use blanks for training."
Weapons experts also have scoffed at the claim the rescuers fired blanks.
They say the use of blanks in M-16 assault rifles and M-4 carbines requires
a special attachment at the end of the barrels and no sign of those were
seen in the video of the raid released by the Pentagon.
In addition, they say, it takes time to remove the attachment and change
ammunition, which would leave a soldier dangerously exposed if fighting
Despite the way she was taken, she is remembered fondly. "She always
smiled when she saw me," said Zanouba Abdel-Zahra, a cleaner at the
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