An Afghan’s perspective …
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There has been much debate about the accuracy of Lone Survivor, a movie based on a riveting story chronicling Operation Red Wings, where four highly trained Navy SEALs are sent on a mission to kill a dangerous “Al Qaeda” leader in a remote mountain village of Afghanistan, but they are discovered and overrun by enemy fighters.
Despite valiant fighting, three of the SEALs are killed. However, the fourth, Marcus Lattrell, is given a second chance in life by an Afghan village leader who risks his own life, his family’s life and perhaps his village’s future security to give this stranger refuge from his enemies.
This movie misses the mark by brushing over what makes this story different than other war stories: the time Marcus Luttrell spends holed-up in this remote village. In the movie, Mark Wahlberg asks over and over “Why are you helping me?” A great question that Peter Berg (the director) fails to answer. Not all Afghans are uncivilized, gun toting, American haters.
You see, Mohammad Gulab, follows the ancient Pashtun code of honor called, Pashtunwali. The main principals of Pashtunwali are hospitality, protection for all guests, justice against wrong doers, bravery, loyalty to family, righteousness, belief in Allah, courage, and protection of women. This unwritten code of conduct among traditional Pashtun tribes serves as a system of law and governance in parts of Afghanistan.
In his book, Marcus Luttrell details his memorable stay in the Afghan village. In the movie, he spends less than 2 rushed days in the village!
Marcus Luttrell explains that Gulab's duty as a Pashtun is to protect him against his enemies and get him to safety. Even though the insurgent fighters are enraged, in the real story they never attack Gulab's village nor do they try to kill Gulab while he is fulfilling his duty as a Pashtun. The villagers who live in the remotest part of Afghanistan live by a code not dissimilar to the SEAL’s code of honor. Unlike the movie, the book highlights how the villagers and the Talibs work with in this system to resolve the dispute over the American.
The movie opens with brutal SEAL training scenes that help forge a strong bond among the SEALs. What follows is forty minutes of non-stop battle where the SEALs are attacked by hundreds of fierce looking Afghan men senselessly popping out from behind trees and bushes into the SEAL's bullets.
After tumbling off rock cliffs, the SEALs dust themselves off with quick witty exchanges. The fight scenes resemble video games where the bad guy’s pink blood splatters across the screen as he flies into his death. In this case the bad guys are Afghan fighters dressed in nicely starched, colorful outfits with comically large turbans.
When I read the book, I was really moved by the story. It showcases the humanity of ordinary Afghans normally overshadowed by unceasing stories of violence. So, when I discovered the book was being made into a movie, I contacted the studio to get involved as a cultural advisor for the production. I’ve done this type of work with previous productions. They didn't enlist my assistance. Still, I hoped the movie would capture the strength of ordinary Afghans but in the end, I'm irritated that this movie tells half of the story.
Marcus Luttrell and Gulab have stayed good friends
Although the movie is billed for showcasing American heroism, I think it should have also given Afghan heroism due respect .
I dedicate this post to the memory of NATO forces, the brave men of Operation Red Wings and all Afghans who have perished in the past 34 years of war in Afghanistan. May they all rest in peace.