As the war in Afghanistan winds down, and as the American public is increasingly “war weary” (a phrase I find fascinating since at any given time only 0.6 percent of Americans are in uniform, and the vast majority of Americans have endured not one single second of sacrifice for the war effort since 9/11), anti-military and anti-American sentiment may be rediscovering its Vietnam-era voice. The vehicle for the latest two minutes’ hate is a bit curious, however. Lone Survivor tells the story of a SEAL mission gone wrong and the resulting firefight where a small band of SEALs displayed remarkable courage under fire. But they showed more than courage. An act of humanity sealed their fate — the decision to free Afghan civilians that stumbled into their path. With their own lives on the line, they obeyed American rules of engagement, obeyed the laws of war, and conducted themselves with honor (with one SEAL posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor).
So how do some in the left-wing press write about this movie? Here’s L.A. Weekly:
These four men were heroes. But these heroes were also men. As the film portrays them, their attitudes to the incredibly complex War on Terror, fought hillside by bloody hillside in the Afghan frontier with both U.S. and Taliban forces contributing to an unconscionably high civilian body count, were simple: Brown people bad, American people good.
Really? You say that after the film shows how Americans actually gave their lives rather than kill an innocent “brown” person? Make no mistake, this is an accusation of the most vile racism, and it slanders these SEALs. Indeed, it slanders more than the SEALs involved in that firefight. Friends of mine died in Iraq — including, and this will be a news flash to L.A. Weekly (which apparently views our forces as all-white), “brown” friends — because of their concern for and respect for the lives of local citizens. We erred on the side of saving local lives, to the point where people very dear to me paid the ultimate price.
And of course here’s Salon:
American soldiers, it appears, can be shot three times, five times, a dozen times without dying. No, that’s not true – eventually they do die, we all know it’s coming. And every time that happens, it’s an operatic, slo-mo Christlike agony, with sweat and bone and blood and bits of flying gristle, Chevrolet-commercial flashbacks to some comely wife waiting somewhere and closeups of Sears photo studio snapshots of the moppets whose dad is coming home in a body bag. Is it dramatically effective? Yeah, absolutely. But it also conveys the unmistakable impression that American suffering and death is qualitatively different and more profound than the death of some dudes from an Afghan village about whom we know nothing. With those guys, there is no possibility of grieving wives or children, or a complex back-story with many motivating factors. They just keep coming like ants for the Coca-Cola ham at the Fourth of July picnic, and keep getting squashed just as easily.
This statement is simply disgusting. I wonder if the writer would say it to the face of the “comely” widows or the grieving “moppets?” I will tell you this: The suffering and death of honorable men is qualitatively different from the suffering and death of men who murder, rape, and terrorize as a matter of course and as a matter of jihadist religious principle — especially when the honorable men die in an effort to protect others from terror. There is no moral equivalence in this fight, and there is no moral equivalence in their deaths.
Disappointingly (because it can do better), here is The Atlantic:
Consider how Berg introduces our tragic heroes. His opening testimonial is followed by a low-key scene in which an outfit of SEALs laze around their makeshift living quarters, firing off fond emails to loved ones and fretting over forthcoming social engagements. They play games and sing songs and like American beer. They are, in other words, ordinary guys, totally down-to-earth despite being the best at what they do.
Now, compare this exaggeratedly casual introduction with the way the film brings in its Taliban villains. Their unruly gang storms into a quiet village while firing off machine guns and, while screaming unintelligibly, drags a man into the streets and lops his head off with a machete. (Sinister-sounding music accompanies, just in case the sentiment wasn’t clear.) This is cartoon villainy—the realm of the black hat and the twirling moustache. Such gestures serve a straightforward dramatic purpose: They align the audience with the heroes while encouraging them to dislike the bad guys, so that when the battle finally ignites, the viewer’s sympathies have already been sorted out.
Let’s talk reality: When the film shows jihadists storming into a village and lopping off a man’s head, it understates their atrocities. I don’t know what has to be done to penetrate the thick skulls of the willfully ignorant, but the Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies are evil to a degree Americans (obviously) have trouble comprehending. I’ve relayed this litany before, but it bears repeating. Here’s a (partial) list of al-Qaeda actions in my unit’s area of operations between 2007–2008: Decapitating women and children, recording the murders up-close, and shrieking “Allah Akhbar” as they sawed off each innocent head; shooting an infant in the face with an AK-47 as a warning against collaboration with Americans; raping women to “dishonor” them, then strapping bombs on their bodies as the only way they could redeem themselves; and putting bombs in unwitting children’s backpacks then remotely detonating them at family events. Let’s also not forget the years-long suicide-bombing campaigns where civilians weren’t collateral damage – they were the target.
Oh, and if the “viewer’s sympathies” weren’t already sorted out before they saw this movie (Taliban or SEALs? Is that really a difficult choice?), then the viewer had lost their moral compass.
Expect to see more of this nonsense in the coming months and years. Many on the left have worked long and hard to discredit our military efforts since 9/11, and even one movie-length dose of truth and perspective is apparently too much for some to tolerate. To them, there’s only one acceptable way to portray American soldiers — as PTSD-addled victims of America’s imperial hubris. Any other story is merely a “jingoistic” and “pornographic” example of ”war propaganda.”
Though there are no perfect men, there is good and evil, and the SEALs were (and are) doing great good against unspeakable evil.