As incredible as it sounds, Hollywood has produced a patriotic movie for a change. “Lone Survivor,” the new war movie starring Mark Wahlberg, is so powerful in its depiction of the brutality of al Qaeda and its Taliban backers that it could awaken the American people to the reality of President Obama’s deliberate retreat in the face of this global danger.
“‘Lone Survivor’ leaves box office shocked and awed,” is how USA Today described its debut. It depicts the grueling training of U.S. Navy SEALs and the sacrifices that American soldiers are making to keep Afghanistan free of Taliban and al-Qaeda control.
A local Texas paper noted, “Both men and women came out of the theater red in the face from crying, some still wiping tears from their eyes.”
In short, the reaction shows that the American people are not prepared to give up on the battle against Islamic terrorism.
While celebrating American heroism and sacrifice, the film also leaves the distinct impression that rules of engagement in battles with the enemy, encouraged by a “liberal media” that puts the human rights of terrorists above the lives of our troops, threatens ultimate victory in this global struggle.
The story of Marcus Luttrell, a retired Navy SEAL who received a Purple Heart and Navy Cross for his actions against Taliban fighters, is also part of a Patriot Tour coming to various U.S. cities this year. The purpose is to demonstrate appreciation for the U.S. military and to expose the brutality of the terrorists who cut off heads and massacre their own people. This, too, is shown in the film.
The release of the film comes as a new book by former defense secretary Robert Gates asserts that President Obama doesn’t believe in the Afghanistan mission, and apparently doesn’t care if al Qaeda takes control of the country.
The movie, however, makes it clear that American soldiers fighting the Taliban believe in this mission, and understand what they’re fighting for and against. It also shows that many Afghans want the U.S. to succeed, and their country to be free of terrorist control.
The Taliban is the Islamic movement that protected al Qaeda in Afghanistan before the terrorist group carried out the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America. President Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan in retaliation for the attacks and then, with Congressional approval, an invasion of Iraq in 2003 in order to expand a military campaign against terrorist-supporting Arab regimes.
The timing of the film could not be more significant. Terrorism expert Peter Bergen has recently written that “…al Qaeda appears to control more territory in the Arab world than it has done at any time in its history.”
In a related development, The New York Times reported on Friday that the fall of Falluja, Iraq, to al-Qaeda-affiliated forces, has “stunned” American troops who fought terrorists there in 2004 and liberated the city from terrorist control. One soldier told the paper, “It made me sick to my stomach to have that thrown in our face, everything we fought for so blatantly taken away.”
The film has drawn attention to Luttrell’s 2007 book, which became a best-seller and describes in detail how he became the “lone survivor” of the mission to kill a notorious Taliban commander.
Luttrell says he is not a political person, but his book is very complimentary toward President George W. Bush and detailed in its criticism of the “liberal media” and “liberal politicians” who he says thwart victory in the war effort.
He even defends the invasion of Iraq, where he had previously been deployed, saying he saw at an al-Qaeda training camp north of Baghdad, Iraq, “evidence of the strong links between the Iraqi dictator and Osama bin Laden’s would-be warriors.” He adds, “Some of the guys who had been in Afghanistan said it was just about a direct replica of the camp the United States destroyed after 9/11.”
He went to Iraq in 2003 and Afghanistan in 2005.
Luttrell makes clear that he believes restrictions on the U.S. ability to wage war, some of them emanating from fear of the media, have put the U.S. at a significant disadvantage.
He writes that in the Middle East, a captured terrorist “knew that the way out was to announce he had been tortured by the Americans, ill-treated, or prevented from reading the Koran or eating his breakfast or watching the television. They all know Al Jazeera, the Arab broadcasters would pick it up, and it would be relayed to the U.S.A., where the liberal media would joyfully accuse all of us of being murderers or barbarians or something. These terrorist organizations laugh at the U.S. media, and they know exactly how to use the system against us.”
The “liberal media,” writes Luttrell, “knows nothing of combat, nothing of our training, and nothing of the mortal dangers we face out there on the front line.”
He says the Taliban and al Qaeda are among “the monsters of history” with their savage attacks on innocent civilians. But American soldiers go into combat with “an extra element of fear and danger”—“the fear of our own, the fear of what our own navy judge advocate general might rule against us, the fear of the American media and their unfortunate effect on American politicians. We all harbor fears about untrained, half-educated journalists who only want a good story to justify their salaries and expense accounts.”
He writes about the “media war” associated with combat operations against terrorists; when the media get involved, “you’ve got a damned good chance of losing, because the restrictions on us are immediately amplified, and that’s sensationally good news for our enemy.”
The intense fighting in the movie follows a decision by the four American soldiers on a secret mission to release a group of goat herders that stumble upon their location.
If they kill the goat herders and save themselves from an anticipated counter-attack from the Taliban, they figure the news will reach CNN and Al Jazeera, and the American soldiers will be portrayed as bloodthirsty killers. Luttrell’s fellow soldier Michael P. Murphy says, “The media in the U.S.A. will latch on to it and write stuff about the brutish U.S. Armed Forces. Very shortly after that, we’ll be charged with murder.” Luttrell says the “terrible reality” of those words hit him hard. “Was I afraid of the liberal media in the U.S.A.? Yes. And I suddenly flashed on the prospect of many, many years in a U.S. civilian jail alongside murderers and rapists.”
Luttrell’s book even predicts the Al Jazeera headline that would result if they kill the non-combatants and word leaks out:
BRUTAL US TROOPS GUN DOWN
PEACE-LOVING AFGHAN FARMERS
US Military Promises SEALs
Will Be Charged
Releasing the goat herders would mean the Americans would be fighting for their lives as the Taliban learned about their presence and came after them. The latter option is what they chose, however, because they couldn’t morally justify killing the goat herders or leaving them tied up to die. After their release, one of them is shown running down the mountain to inform the Taliban of the American presence after being released, leading to death and destruction.
As a result, three of the four American soldiers on this dangerous mission pay with their lives, fighting against a much larger force of 50 Islamist fighters. Another 16 soldiers die in a rescue mission when the Taliban brings down their helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade.
Almost miraculously, Luttrell survives the onslaught and is saved by a local Afghan villager named Mohammad Gulab. Taliban terrorists attack the village to find and kill Luttrell, but are beaten back. Eventually, the villagers contact American forces who rescue Luttrell. His book portrays the Afghans who save him as tough people willing to stand up to the terrorists, but in need of U.S. help to prevail.
This commentary originally appeared at AIM.org and is reprinted here with permission.