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Jan 17

Written by: Diana West
Friday, January 17, 2014 2:21 PM 

All I can say is that it's been way too long since Tom Stone has published a guest-blog here.


"Regarding Michael O’Sullivan’s review of Lone Survivor in the January 10, 2014 Washington Post, Weekend Section."

by Tom Stone

I don’t know if Mr. O’Sullivan has ever been in the military, let alone in combat.  Let us not get into an argument over whether we should go to war, for whatever reason, this movie is not about that. War is a terrible thing, has been for thousands of years, an unavoidable consequence of man’s ignorance, of man’s inhumanity to man.

War is in our genes and will never cease.  I dare anyone to argue that.

I have seen war in Vietnam, and like my father and my father-in-law in WWII, and my son in Iraq and Afghanistan, experienced the worst that war has to offer.  I do not here argue for the need for war, only to defend the actions and behavior of those who go to war.

Lone Survival is not an endorsement of war, but a story of what men do when placed in a position of living and dying.

I told my son before he went to Iraq in 2005, before he went to Afghanistan, that war is the simplest thing he would ever do, and he would understand that when he came home and had time to decompress and think about what had just happened to him.  War is a very simple task.  Do not question why you are there, but only zero in on surviving.  You eventually think about nothing else.

That is what war is.  As basic as you can get, live or die, you kill him or he kills you.  I was taught that in Parris Island in the Marine Corps’ Rifleman’s Creed, and I validated that tenet in Vietnam.

Mr. O’Sullivan looks at this movie as an entertainment venue, something to please the audience.  I did not see it that way.  It was a story of the horror of war and the lengths man will go, hey, pick your side, doesn’t matter which, them or us, to survive.

Am I coming down on the Taliban? No, and I think they are what they were born into, a birth they had no control over. They have no choice over what they are, as evil to us they might be. They know no better.  Walk a mile in my shoes and you will be me.

So this is a story, and then a movie, about war, two sides trying to kill each other.  Forget whether the war is right, is legal, is ethical, is proper, is needed, and is on and on and….that is an entirely different discussion.

The point is the men are there, in a combat situation, and they must survive, they must live, forget fairness and cause and politeness, rationality, and for God’s sake, they must forget the cruelly imposed rules of engagement tattooed on their backs by the politicians/generals sitting back at home, thinking nothing of the welfare of the troops, only their political agendas.

Believe me, it comes down to one thing - him or me.

So to Mr. O’Sullivan’s piece.

He finds Lone Survivor a “loud and grinding affair…” and then goes on to say, “the violence is so unrelenting and fierce that it’s hard to believe that there’s anyone left alive, let alone with any bullets left to fire.”

Ground control to Major O’Sullivan – that is what war is…..loud and grinding, violent, unrelenting and fierce, bullets flying all over the damn place.

I again would ask if Mr. O’Sullivan has ever been in combat (I did but he did not respond), or even in a situation where it boils down to him or me, what he would do (understand, no one knows what they would do in those situations until they are in it, so I will grant him his anticipated response – I don’t know), and if he had ever been in either of those situations he would not have written such irrational senseless comments.

“…lame lines of dialogue…”?  That’s the way soldiers talk Mr. O’Sullivan, that’s the way football players talk, that’s the way many of your obviously idolized movie stars and whomever you review talks. The talk is down and dirty, and at times trite and mundane, maybe necessary to take the edge off the horrors.

Do you expect those involved in life or death events to think nothing but deep, deep thoughts, philosophical inquiries, ego bending doubts?  Is that what you think?   Do they think about home, do they talk about it, do they even joke about it, or do they as you would have them,  take their talk to a higher level, hey, before we fire, let’s think about what we are about to do, take a few seconds and think about the merits or errors of that action.  Yeah, well, by the third thought they are dead.

Mr. O’Sullivan obviously does not understand that.

I fear Mr. O’Sullivan thinks everything in life should be lived and bespoken of as in a Shakespeare play.  Everything should have meaning and allow one to dissect it into neatly reviewable scenes, just perfect stuff, in line, logical, poetic to be sure, incontrovertible, a plate filled with easily digestible food to excite his palate with harmonious and sense calming deliciousness.

Aaah.  Where have all the flowers gone??  Can’t we all just get along???  Kumbaya my lord, Kumbaya….

No Mr. O’Sullivan, war ain’t like that, a basic fact you have overlooked and ignored and obviously have absolutely no knowledge of.  This movie was not meant to entertain, but to try to make all who view it to see what war is like, on both sides, and I think they did it very well, very realistically. I can vouch for that.

That, Mr. O’Sullivan, is a judgment you cannot make, if in fact you have never been to war.  I grant you the right to argue over the necessity and rightness of war, but I deny you the right to denigrate the character and honor and courage of those who are put into harm’s way and do just the best they can to survive.

My son went to high school with Erik Kristensen.  They graduated together, played lacrosse together.  Erik was, according to my son, the gentlest of giants, a strong role model, but hardly one anyone would expect to go on and excel as he did in the Navy Seals.  Erik died while my son was in Iraq. Erik was the Seal Commander, a young man killed trying to rescue the four man seal team when his helicopter was RPG’d down.

Mr. O’Sullivan has insulted Erik, the Seals involved in this horrific story, their families, and all those who internally hold their breath when their son or daughter goes off to war.

But O’Sullivan did end his piece with a bit of humor, made me laugh anyway, his comment at the end of his mindless diatribe, in his own words, “Now there’s a guy I would have gladly watched a whole movie about.”  I assume he is referring to the brave Afghani who took Luttrell in and in fact saved his life.  Maybe Mr. O’Sullivan should read up a little on the basic facts of Pashtun morals and practices, and then maybe you really would not want to see a whole movie on the Pashtun man and the Pashtun Village that harbored and saved Luttrell. Things I won’t talk about now.

You really should study up on that.

Really.  Do that.  You need to.

The Pashtun man who saved Luttrell was indeed to us a true hero, but I doubt he did what he did because he loved Americans.  No, it was more his belief that he had come across a man being hunted, a man in peril, and he protected him, and he did that because he was bound by the Pashtun Nanawatai, a Pashtun’s law that requires all Pashtuns to protect those hunted by their enemies, those in peril, whomever they might be.  He was better than the Taliban to be sure, but do not give him credit for fighting for America.  He and his tribe were not America lovers, they were just doing the best they could to follow Pashtun law.

And know that I do not criticize the Pashtuns, the Taliban, even as I could not walk a mile in their shoes  without being disgusted (O’Sullivan, read up on the Pashtuns), but hey, what do I know, I was not born into their culture, if we dare call it that.

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