"Lone Survivor,” Film by Peter Berg, 2013
This film is eerily similar to the 2005 Russian one on the Soviet war in Afghanistan, “The 9th Company.” It is better than this American version, as it is not as ‘gung ho.’ The soldiers talk about their doubts about the war. It includes an astonishing scene where the Soviet commander tells his soldiers that they do not have to go to Afghanistan if they do not want to. In reality, the Soviet company lost 6 dead, 39 wounded and defeated 250 mujahedin, though that film reflects worse damage.
“Lone Survivor” is a ‘true story’ about a group of 4 American Navy Seals on patrol, scouting a village where the Taliban might be. They are surrounded by Taliban, and only one survives – who just happens to be played by Mark Wahlberg, likable Boston tough-guy. The key scene is a debate in which the soldiers argue over what to do with 3 goatherds from the village who have accidentally come upon them in the mountain. The three – a young man, a boy and an old man – have ruined their mission by discovering them. One Seal says, “kill ‘em all.” Another says, ‘tie ‘em up.’ (where it is alleged they may die of exposure on the mountain.) And the commander – perhaps humanely, or over-humanely – says ‘let ‘em go’ and we’ll get out of here. One solider comments from the looks the 3 give the Seals - ‘they hate us’ – which might tip us off as to what is going to happen.
What happens is that the young man quickly plunges down the mountainside like a goat on fire to warn the numerous Taliban below, who then move up the mountain to find the American patrol stuck on a high ridge, with no way to get away. Their military radio has been malfunctioning since the day before, so they cannot get timely air support. A fight ensues, many Taliban die as in ‘cowboy and Indian’ movie, all by clean shots, and the Americans, as the battle rages, repeatedly fall down the mountain on large rocks. This shattering of bone and flesh is gruesome. The bloodied American soldiers die one by one in somewhat heroically stupid moves. Retreat or not retrieving the body of a fallen comrade are not options evidently. At some point, a call gets through and air-support shows up, though one copter is brought down with a surface-to-air missile. (Some of which the U.S. donated to the mujahedin during the war against the Soviets…)
The ‘soft-hearted’ decision by the patrol commander to not restrain the goatherds in any way becomes the key mistake. Of course, you might wonder what we are doing in their country anyway, but that is not the subject of pro-war movies like this that make out Americans to be kind and heroic, and also really effective killers. Showing Americans being hurt also hides the fact that many more Afghan and Pakistani civilians, goatherds, Afghan soldiers and Taliban have died in this war. The Taliban and “Al Qaeda” are interchangeable. This is a clear propaganda film.
Eventually the one soldier played by Wahlberg is pulled out alive. How this is done is central. He is discovered hiding and bleeding by the head of the villagers, who hate the Taliban (quite rightly). They shelter him in their wattle houses as a sign of Islamic courtesy, and chase the Taliban out of the village with AK-47s. The Taliban retreat and return with a larger force, fighting the villagers and looking for the U.S. solider. At just the right moment, U.S. helicopter gunships arrive and strafe the Taliban, killing many and forcing their retreat. The soldier owes his life to the village elder. In real life, they also had a reunion.
It is obvious why this film has been made. To show the Americans as the victims. To show that all Afghans do not like the Taliban – our enemy. And to show that Afghans will even ‘ally’ with the U.S. – even if it puts them in danger. It is essentially a film that supports our invasion and more than 13-year occupation of Afghanistan, disguised as a small story of warrior heroism. Some might say, 'but its a true story.' The question is, of all the 'true stories' of this war, why this one?
June 14, 2014