Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Review (#67 of 2014) Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell with Patrick Robinson

Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10
I applaud Marcus Luttrell for his work in writing this book, and I hope it was therapeutic for him to get ideas, feelings, and memories down. This was put out so soon after the events, the accuracy is probably better than most other works of its kind. He is forthright about the guilt and PTSD he suffers from.

The book opens with a lot of bashing of the "liberal media" and "liberal politicians" who want to restrain U.S. forces and define rules of engagement while going on about the Geneva Convention. Meanwhile, enemies like the Taliban do not observe such conventions and are eager to exploit U.S. political weakness and manipulate the media. Luttrell's views are shaped by seeing first-hand atrocities committed by the Taliban, who abuse children, oppress women, take no prisoners, and do whatever it takes to accomplish their goals of imposing their will on the villages of Afghanistan and Pakistan. At one point he tells of his regret of not killing two innocent civilians, a decision made out of fear of future prosecution, as not doing so directly led to them informing the Taliban of their position and his comrade's deaths and the worst tragedy in the history of the SEALs.

This is also a Texas story. The author has reverence for G.W. Bush (who he meets personally) and there are plenty of tales of Texas/Southern hospitality while his family is eagerly awaiting news about his life/death situation. Having briefly lived in Texas and seen more Young Marines than Boy Scouts in my time there, I believe the story that he and a bunch of other young lads devoted their teenage years to training with a Navy SEAL to get in tip-top shape in order to make the Special Forces. It seems that not entering the military never entered into their minds, although the author had the long-term goal of working as a physician. To someone outside of Red State life this may seem bizarre and tragic. They are fighting for Texas as much as anything else.

The Afghan who helped him at considerable risk to himself later came to the U.S. to help promote the book. He is, as expected, now a top Taliban target (take the source of this article with a big grain of salt). It is hard to believe events in the book all took less than a week.

As far as the war goes, the lack of a clear-cut mission is pretty obvious from the book. Luttrell contends that's not the enlisted man's problem, the SEALs are there to execute whatever their immediate orders are and not to worry about the overall objectives of the war. But the entrenchment of the Taliban in the hills and their increasing control over villages and life and the sheer hatred Luttrell describes from even the non-Taliban towards Americans seem pretty impossible to overcome or beat militarily.

I give the book 3.5 stars out of 5. It is raw and engaging, but like any book like this one wonders how much "color" was added by Patrick Robinson. I have not yet seen the movie.

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