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May 18, 2003

THIS BBC REPORT says that the rescue of Jessica Lynch was fake, and that the soldiers were firing blanks:

"It was like a Hollywood film. They cried 'go, go, go', with guns and blanks without bullets, blanks and the sound of explosions. They made a show for the American attack on the hospital - action movies like Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan."

Now, even if the whole thing were staged, who would shoot off blanks in a war zone, thus attracting the enemy without doing any good?

Nobody, according to Warren Smith, who notes:

American troops use three main infantry weapons.

First, there is the M16A2, a modern derivative of the old Vietnam era M16.

Secondly, there is the M4 carbine, a shortened version of the M16, often used by special forces troops.

Third, there is the Minimi Light Machine Gun.

None of these weapons can be converted from firing blanks to live, or back again, in a speedy manner.

Blank ammunition, when fired in these three weapons, is not powerful enough to force the weapons mechanism through its full cycle of operations. Because there is no live projectile, the build up of gas in the barrel is much less. When the weapon fires, there is no way that the mechanism will re-cock and chamber a fresh round. . .

American troops would be put in an awkward situation. Suppose, in the midst of this staged event, some Iraqi troops or Fedayeen irregulars appeared? How would they defend themselves? Clearly, converting the weapons from blank to live, in the heat of a battle, would be disastrous. It would take, at best, 2-3 minutes to remove a BFA, then vital more seconds in order to replace the belt or magazine of blank ammunition with live. In the dark, it would be very easy to get the blank and live rounds mixed up, too.

It is very hard to imagine how any Special Forces soldiers would agree to enter a combat zone with their weapons primed for blank ammunition.

Things are looking bad for the BBC’s story, but it gets worse. Much worse.

The BFA is large and brightly coloured. It’s a safety feature; a visible way of proving in training that no one is pointing live ammunition at you by mistake.

I don’t have the video footage of the rescue to hand, but I do recall seeing it. I didn’t see any weapons sporting BFAs.

Furthermore, fired blank shell casings look very different to live ones. Blank shell casings have a crimped end to them that is still clearly visible after the round is fired and discarded. So if the BBC wants to prove its story, it can visit the scene of the rescue and produce some discarded blank shell casings. Unless, it wants us to believe that the American troops picked them all up. In the dark. Behind enemy lines. In a war zone.

So how do blank rounds work in the movies? Well, the weapons used are not real. They are specially produced replicas, often based on the mechanism of a real weapon, with the barrel partially sealed. They cannot fire live ammunition under any circumstances whatsoever. This is how film makers create realistic scenes of automatic firing without attaching a BFA to the end of the weapon.

Clearly, no one will be carrying that sort of a ‘weapon’ into a combat area.

So what does this mean to overall importance of the BBC’s story?

Well, the BBC’s witnesses cannot be trusted.

And the BBC has made a huge error that a couple of quick phone calls could have put right.

The BBC may be guilty of seeing what it wants to see in another area too.

Early on in the story they make the astonishing statement that “Witnesses told us that the special forces knew that the Iraqi military had fled a day before they swooped on the hospital.”

According to the BBC, the witnesses somehow magically know what American Special Forces knew or thought. How they managed this effort of mental telepathy is not explained.

At 1135 hrs GMT, Saturday, 17th May, I e-mailed a correction detailing my concerns to the comments section of the story at the BBC. I look forward to them posting it in their comments page unedited.

I just checked, and the comment doesn't seem to be there.

UPDATE: Here's an earlier critique of the BBC story that I had missed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's more criticism of the revisionist version.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a picture of the BFA that he's talking about. Hard to miss, I'd think. Is the rescue video on the Web somewhere?

STILL MORE: The BBC's report gets some rather intense journalistic criticism here, here, and here. Excerpt (from the last link):

This really, to me, is adding up to the big lie. Tell something in the worst way possible, imply or infer that really bad things happened and/or that it was a sham on one or more levels, and trust the doubt to grow. The absence of checks and balances is a clue, but it is just one of many.

Was Jayson Blair moonlighting for The Beeb? I'd certainly be interested in hearing BBC correspondent John Kampfner's response to these points.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmm. Erik says that this story started with the same crackpot Austrian blog that peddled the original (bogus) museum looting story. Oh, well: how much harm could one crackpot Austrian do?

STILL MORE: Here's the longest video I could find on the web -- let me know if there's something better out there somewhere -- showing the actual rescue. The quality isn't great, but I don't see any conspicuous BFA's on the end of the guns, a few of which you can see pretty clearly starting about 50 seconds in. Flash hiders, but nothing else. In fact, I don't see any firing at all, and come to think of it, I don't remember seeing any guns being fired when this aired on TV either. So why shoot off blanks as part of a "Hollywood" extravaganza if you're not going to use the footage? Was there footage of gunfire that I missed?

LAST UPDATE TO THIS POST: There's more here, in case you're following a link from some other page.

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