By Al Maurer
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., January 12, 2014 — Lone Survivor, the story of a tragically failed mission in Afghanistan, opened this weekend to what USA Today calls “a surprisingly lopsided win” at the box office. There’s really nothing surprising about it, though. It is a powerful story that focuses on quintessential American values. Every American needs to watch this movie, hard as it may be at times, because it reminds us of who we are and what we stand for.
The movie and the book behind it, written by survivor Marcus Latrell, is about the failed June 28, 2005 mission “Operation Red Wings.” Four members of SEAL Team 10 were tasked with the mission to capture or kill notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shahd. There is a solid, if somewhat complex plan to carry out the mission. The team is dropped in the right location, they spot their target and it seems as though this will be an easy task.
Then fate intervenes.
Three goatherds with their herd of goats appear on the scene and the team is discovered. If this were a Greek tragedy or a Shakespeare play, this moment would be the climax, and everything else denouement. Everything subsequent flowed from the decision Lt. Michael Murphy made — with, according to the movie at least, plenty of input from the team.
There were three choices: Let the shepherds go, tie them up and leave them to an uncertain fate, or kill them outright. Lt. Murphy made the ultimately fatal decision to let them go. Watching an interview of Marcus Latrell with Glenn Beck, Latrell does not regret the decision. It was an American decision, based on time-honored Western values and principles. It reflects the best in us as a people, because the four soldiers we sent there were the best of us.
The situation is actually a repeat of a situation that occurred during the Gulf War.
In January 1991, an eight-man British SAS team was inserted behind enemy lines in western Iraq, with a mission to take out SCUD missiles. The Bravo Two Zero mission, as it was code-named, landed in an unexpected concentration of Iraqi soldiers. As the team waited for nightfall in a cave, a shepherd boy wandered in. Faced with the same choices, the British soldiers made the same decision. Only one made it to the safety of neighboring Syria; four were killed, four were captured and brutally tortured. The four captives were released at the end of the war.
In both cases, communications proved unreliable and the teams were forced to make their own decisions. Why would Anglo-American soldiers—highly trained professionals and “trained killers” according to leftists in this country—release these shepherds at great risk to themselves and their missions?
The answer is that in our shared Western Judeo-Christian culture, every life matters. Every individual counts. It is not morally right or permissible to take a life “proactively,” without cause. The multiculturalists are wrong: all cultures are not equal. The Taliban would not have made that choice. Muslim terrorists make it their business to kill innocent civilians.
Others have what we would consider good values, too. Latrell is found and helped by an Afghan village. He asks several times, “Why are you helping me?” As the movie explains at the end, it because of their own 2000-year old code of honor, pashtunwali. As the village leader who rescued Latrell tells the Taliban simply, “He is my guest.” In traditional cultures, that means a lot.
Ultimately, then, this is more than a story about courage, determination and fighting against overwhelming and seemingly hopeless odds. It is all that but it is also a story of honor, of duty and of service above self. It is about making the morally right decision when you know that it could cost you your life.
Contrary to what we often hear, we don’t send our soldiers overseas to “be safe” — we send them to do the right thing. Most military people will get it; many others will not.
And that’s why everyone needs to see this movie: to touch base again with those shared values that make this a great nation. To honor those who fought and died for us. To renew our dedication to those values. To remember, as Lt. Murphy said, “You’re never out of the fight.”