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An Open Letter to Universal and Peter Berg

(To read all of our Lone Survivor posts, please click here. The most important post is "A List of the Mistakes and Differences Between Lone Survivor (Film), Lone Survivor (Book) and Reality" so read that first if you are new to the blog or this topic.)

To Peter Berg and Universal Pictures,

We're begging you, please don't make a Lone Survivor movie.

According to news reports, you stopped work on Lone Survivor to film an adaptation of Battleship (yes, the board game). We never thought we'd say this, but we're glad that you're making a Battleship movie. It gives you time to reconsider the mistake of filming Lone Survivor.

There are way too many reasons not to make this film. Here are nine:

Reason 1: The backlash will be gigantic.

Remember the backlash from Soldiers against the Hurt Locker? Lone Survivor will get a full blown tidal wave, and from more than just the milbloggers. Liberals will think it is too ideological, and Soldiers will think it is too over-the-top. Based on what some people wrote in our comment threads, even SEALs laugh at Luttrell.

Reason 2: Luttrell got his facts wrong.

As we wrote on Wednesday, Luttrell exaggerated the importance of his target Ahmad Shah, totally misunderstood why the US went to Iraq, and even over-estimated the number of fighters in the ambush. How can you take this book seriously after reading mistakes like these?

Reason 3: Lone Survivor is too political.

Luttrell is off-puttingly political. War stories shouldn’t be political, they should be honest. Black Hawk Down worked because it ignored politics. It told the story of Army Rangers in an awful situation, but it told it forthrightly. Lone Survivor doesn’t come close to this level of honesty.

Reason 4: Wait for a better story.

The battle of VPB Wanat. The attack at COP Keating. Operation ROCK Avalanche. The Pat Tillman Ambush/Incident. Peter Berg, you could tell countless stories that have more honesty and importance than Lone Survivor, without the political rants or exaggeration.

Even better, tell the stories of memoirists who wrote about Afghanistan. Our personal favorite is Brandon Friedman's The War I Always Wanted. Craig Mulaney's The Unforgiving Minute, though it has problems, is infinitely better than Lone Survivor.

Reason 5: Lone Survivor will get soldiers killed.

Simply put, Luttrell doesn't get counter-insurgency. If Soldiers followed Luttrell’s advice, they will either get themselves or innocent civilians killed in Afghanistan. (We'll have more on this in the future.)

Reason 6: Luttrell needlessly vilifies Muslims and Afghans.

Luttrell labels all Muslims--Shia, Sunni, Persians, Afghans, and Middle-Easterners--as hate-filled terrorists. This is ignorance at its best. First, not even 1% of Muslims are terrorists, and two, terrorists can be from Africa, Japan, Pakistan, or even America (think Timothy McVeigh, the Unabomber or Eric Robert Rudolph). I can't imagine why a director or a studio would want to promote hate-filled propaganda.

Reason 7: Lone Survivor prevents political discourse.

You can’t call liberals evil, hold them responsible for the death of your friends, and then have a courteous political discourse. Afghanistan shouldn't be a Democratic issue or Republican issue, it should be an American issue. Letting partisan politics get in the way of serious security issues disgusts us.

Reason 8: It will ruin the history of Afghanistan for years.

Michael C takes this personally. Many Vietnam veterans don’t like Vietnam war movies because that is how most Americans will remember Vietnam. Many active service hated the Hurt Locker because it mis-represented the experience of Iraq. A Lone Survivor movie would do the exact same for Afghanistan. Please don't make the same mistake again.

Reason 9: We didn't even touch the surface last week.

We only like to really post three to four times a week at On Violence. But we've posted 7 times last week to accommodate Lone Survivor's awfulness. One bad review wouldn't do. My original unfinished review reached 2,000 words. Eric had six pages of notes. So did Michael. On almost every topic--facts, ROE, literary merits, political context--Lone Survivor gets something wrong. (We have two posts in the wings on Lone Survivor's writing and counter-insurgency understanding. Stay tuned.)

How You Can Help: Hopefully, Peter Berg and Universal will see our posts, or read Ed Darack's Victory Point, and do the right thing and stop this film. Please retweet this post, like it on facebook or link to it, so everyone knows how truly awful Lone Survivor is an awful book.

And if someone recommends Lone Survivor to you, don't listen.

eight comments

It wasn’t THAT bad… the politics and writing are off-putting, but the story was great. Have you tried “War” by Sebastian Junger?

Yeah, it’s a good story, for a novel. But it probably never happened the way they said.

the book was awesome. whats wrong with his “political rants???” its the TRUTH. im in afghanistan right now. about a month ago we had an insugent outside of the base during a base attack. he was holding an RPG. we tried to get cleared to engage him and it took nearly 10 mins for a clearance to kill a man with an RPG! really? the same thing (but much worse) happened to marcus in a round about sort of fashion. he told the truth about the ROE’s. its stupid. modern day americas political state of mind is stupid. everything seems like it has to be pollitically sensitive. its a war. preople die. people kill. its the way it goes. THEY SHOULD MAKE THIS MOVIE. BUT IT SHOULD BE A POWERFUL MOVIE. something so powerful that it changes a person. i say make the movie. great book. hands down. and by the way….ERIC “it probably never happened the way they said” let me ask you this… how do you know? were you there? have you EVER been shot at? have you ever been in fear of your life? have you even been to a combat zone?

Patrick, your feelings on ROE will get soldiers and civilians killed.

killing a man holding a RPG while your FB is under attack is not something that should need approval. even if it does, it shouldnt take that long. politics get us killed. under fire we have to worry about pulling the trigger. we have to worry about being put in prison for defending ourselfs and our brothers. i used to be at ST-10. everyone that i have talked to that was deployed with marcus thinks those guys should have been waxed…never once have my view points on ROE caused any deaths in any of the 3 platoons ive been in. including civilians. stop being a liberal conservative.

1. If you think America doesn’t wholeheartedly love its troops, then we have to agree to disagree. Virtually no troops have been imprisoned for killing civilians, that’s a fact. There is nothing to worry about.

2. Lutrell shouldn’t have killed a 15 year old boy. I can’t believe you’re endorsing that.

3. What’s a liberal conservative?

Lone Survivor is one of the best books I’ve ever read. People might criticize it because they don’t agree with many of Luttrell’s opinions on things like ROE…but that should not persuade you not to read the book. I promise it is worth everyone’s time to give it a chance.

It seems like Eric just doesn’t agree with Luttrell’s opinions and beliefs and doesn’t think ANYBODY should read the book because of it. In my opinion, if there is ANY truth in his story, it’s worth the read. It’s a number one best seller for a reason. And as with many best sellers…it will probably be made into a pretty decent movie.

Patrick, Lt. Michael Cummings wrote this post.

And the book contains many factual inaccuracies (Luttrell AAR said 20-30 attackers, the book had 100, later interviews Luttrel says over 200), needless conservative rants (Iraq had WMDs, Bush was a great president), poor writing (one person memorizes a crossword) and on the whole is just bad literature. (read the previous post.)

I’ll agree with you on one thing. If this book is made into a movie, it will force Lone Survivor out of the conservative radio/Fox News bubble and will probably have the story’s many inaccuracies finally exposed to a wider audience.