Mike Kueber's Blog

March 1, 2014

Sunday Book Review #123 – Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell

Filed under: Biography,Military — Mike Kueber @ 2:08 pm
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Lone Survivor, the movie, came out several months ago to mixed reviews (Rotten Tomato critics at 75%, but the audience at 90% approval).  But several of my friends who watched it claimed that it was one of the most gut-wrenching, emotionally-exhausting movies they had ever seen.  Although one friend recommended seeing the movie first, I decided to read the book first because I still don’t have a girlfriend to take to a movie.

Much like the book Fearless, Lone Survivor includes a vivid description of the grueling process to become a Navy Seal.    And both books have similar protagonists – Adam Brown in Fearless is a country boy from Arkansas, while Marcus Luttrell in Lone Survivor is a country boy from east Texas.  These guys and their friends/family/communities are red-state to the core, and Marcus repeatedly reveals his dislike of liberals and the media.

But Marcus’s feelings go beyond the typical red-state dislike.  According to Marcus, liberals and the media are responsible for the Rules of Engagement that resulted in the death of his three comrades in arms.

Specifically, the Rules of Engagement prohibited SEALs from killing unarmed civilians, so Marcus and his three comrades were faced with the dilemma of either (a) killing some unarmed civilians in the mountains of Afghanistan and be prosecuted for murder, or (b) letting the civilians go and have them reveal the SEAL location to Taliban fighters in the area, which would likely result in the death of the SEALs.  Marcus cast the deciding vote (to his everlasting regret and against his better judgment) to let the civilians go, and that decision resulted in his three comrades being killed and in him being the lone survivor (ironically, through the help of some other Afghan civilians).

Although it is not typical for military teams to decide things by democratic vote, the SEALs are different because most SEALs are college grads and the distinction between officer and soldier/sailor is not stark.  The vote on whether to kill the civilians had one SEAL in favor of killing them, one deferring to the others, and the third (the officer technically in charge) deferring to Marcus.  Thus, Marcus essentially made the call, and the call resulted in everyone being killed except for Marcus.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Excellent book.  Time well spent.  Can’t wait to see the movie.

p.s., while promoting the movie’s release, Marcus challenged media-guy Jake Tapper for characterizing the battle as “hopeless” and the loss of life as “senseless.”  I first saw the interview before reading the book, and thought Marcus was prickly and irritable.  After reading the book, I watched the interview again, and agreed 100% with Marcus’s reaction.


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