Review: Lone Survivor – Marcus Luttrell

Lone Survivor Marcus LuttrellMy version: Paperback
Genre: Non Fiction Military, US, Afghanistan
Little Brown (Hachette)
First published: 2007

From the cover:

On a clear night in late June 2005, four U.S. Navy SEALs left their base in northern Afghanistan for the mountainous Pakistani border. Their mission: to capture or kill a notorious al Qaeda leader. Less than twenty-four hours later, only one of those Navy SEALs remained alive.

This is the stoy of fire team leader Marcus Luttrell and the desperate battle in the mountains that led, ultimately, to the largest loss of life in Navy SEAL history. But it is also, more than anything the story of the men who fought ferociously beside him until he was the last one left. Luttrell recalls their valiant efforts in one of the most powerful narratives ever written about modern warfare – a stirring tribute to his teammates, who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

I have put together a Pinterest Board for Lone Survivor. Pictures and links of the people and events in the book

There’s no doubt that the Navy SEAL acceptance (physical) exam and then their training, is tough. Very, very tough. The people who pass it, are without doubt extremely tough and determined, both physically and mentally. They have to be to become a Navy SEAL and judging by what he goes through here, they have to be every day whilst they are a Navy SEAL. So his credentials – and those of his colleagues – for the job are in place and never in doubt.

Of course, with these type of books – like the one i’m reading currently about the Bengazi attack, called ’13 Hours’ – a pure description of the incident, even with some observation points mixed in, wouldn’t make for a very long book. So, here, there is a lot about his background, and a lot about his training and the week long ‘final’ test SEALs have to go through to become a SEAL, called ‘Hell Week.’ It sounds a lot and it sometimes sounds too much, but I can fully see the logic and why they make them do it. It’s storing up mental and needless to say physical, toughness to survive in the environments they will be ordered to survive in.

Then there’s thing with modern-day soldiers. It is a job. A job they wanted to do. They know, or really should know, what is involved in getting in, and they will soon find out what is required once they qualify. It is a job, that they wanted to do. No one has forced them to join, no one is keeping them in if they want to get out. And they get paid. People in the First World War, were conscripted. People in the Vietnam War were drafted (unless they had Heel Spurs). They had no choice but to put their life on the line. They deserve all the praise and help and remembrances they can be given. These soldiers today, can not be compared. They volunteer for this. They know they might die in the job. When they do, they get brought back, televised, with a flag draped over their coffin. The guy that will fall off some scaffolding tomorrow and die, not so much. Even though he is just as dead after just doing his job, he won’t be remembered on the 11th November. That’s my problem with the flag-waving and nationalistic ‘pride’ in the armed forces.

The guys he is surrounded with, have been through the same as him and presumably, if not exactly, then think 75% the same as him. They are true professionals, who can and want to do this job. If I’m right, and I’m going from what they say, then they see themselves as defending their country. By attacking a land barely out the stone-age, 7,420 miles (as the crow flies) away. There’s a discussion to be had there. Attacking Afghanistan was an easy option for Bush. An easy way to be seen to be retaliating for the 11th of September attacks (the attacks on Afghanistan began 7 October, 2001). Don’t try and pretend it wasn’t. It was a “we got to do something!” For ‘do,’ read ‘attack.’

Then the problems start.

As a piece about the incident, it would be outstanding. The battle where his co-SEALs are killed, is an incredible piece of survival and of description, fully justifying the “one of the most powerful narratives ever written about modern warfare” line on the back of the book. However, much of my sympathy has already been shown the door by that point, and the rest is pushed out, with the door firmly locked behind it, by his irrational hatred for “the liberal media.” There is never a media without a liberal in front of it in his blinkered world.

And it is irrational, as this is well before Trump probably made it easier for these jerks to rationalise it. For the first, he’s crediting the ‘liberal media’ with much more power than they actually have. As surely, if they were as powerful in shaping public opinion and Government policy after the shooting has started, as he says, then there wouldn’t have been a war on Afghanistan in the first place, would there?

For a second, who is he thinking is influenced by ‘the liberal media’? Politicians? Aren’t they the people who sent him out there? The people? Isn’t he supposedly out there to protect them? Including the families of those working in ‘the liberal media’? Is he saying he should have carte blanche to do whatever he sees fit?

Surely his experiences by the end of the book will at least have taught him the value of waiting to make sure who it actually is you’re shooting? He would be too young to remember the Mỹ Lai incident. I’m not.

It seems to be the rules he has to abide by while out there, doing his job, doing the job the Powers That Be have ordered him to, that really seem to raise his ire. He’s clearly in the shoot them first, let God ask the questions later, camp here.

And to add irony to the whole sorry bonfire, he talks about his own ‘faith’ remaining unshaken (it is, after all, God who places his (Luttrell’s) rifle near to him after every hair-raising escapade. So he can shoot other people who believe in the same deity), but he doesn’t once stop to consider that it might be his hated ‘liberals,’ with their damned turn the other cheek, engage them in dialogue, make sure they’re actually combatants before blowing them to pieces, who are closer to his god’s message.

Yes, he’s really got it in for them ‘Liberals’ They aren’t patriotic. Not as patriotic as him and the rest of his mates and the fighting forces anyway. Liberals aren’t even American in his eyes, I’d say. All they do is try to make his job more difficult. He’s one who’d love to see The Geneva Convention rules torn up. A bit like Hitler did. He does agree with me that War is actually the absence of rules, or when rules have broken down, but the Liberal Media’s sole objective is to cause him grief and stop him defending the USA the American flag, the constitution, the home of the brave *music swells*, land of the free and probably Apple Pie as well. For all the courses in this, that and the other he’s taken, he really hasn’t actually learned anything.

To be fair (!), though he does kept it hidden a little, his experiences with the Afghans who help him, maybe – just maybe – have taught him something about seeing the bigger picture. Though it’s probably safer to say that he picks the parts from their moral codes that reinforce his views on life, rather than having anything approaching an epiphany.

If you’ve seen the film, or wondered that the guy in the book may just be the guy whose name is on the book, you know he survives. He is sheltered and, unknowingly at the outset, protected by the Afghan code of hospitality, even unto death. But there’s still a final pathetic dig at the liberal press “And I am left feeling that no matter how much the drip-drip-drip of hostility towards us (SEALs/Armed Forces) is perpetrated by the liberal press…” We’re, of course, not presented with anything approaching hard evidence to support this, apart from “Some members of the media might think they can brainwash the public any time they like, but I know they can’t. Not here. Not in the United States of America.”

That’s where I stopped.

Of course, if he wasn’t a Yank, he’d know what irony was.

You can buy Lone Survivor from The Book Depository


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