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Haters Want to Hate or...If You Haven’t Been to Afghanistan Then F*** You Hippy and Get Off My Internets!

(To read all of our “Lone Survivor” posts, please click here.)

Since we demolished Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robison’s “memoir” Lone Survivor a few months ago, a ridiculous new trend started at On Violence: haters and hateration.

Two examples. The first is from Patrick in the comment section of “He Got The Title Wrong? and 6 More Mistakes from Luttrell's "Lone Survivor” “this website is stupid. its nothing but a bunch of computer nerds and paper pushers that have never been in our boots. you guys have no idea what you are talking about...michael, are you even in the military? have you at the very least received a degree in military studies?” [SIC]

The second example--from the same post--is by Kyle, “We trust these men to do the work that 99.9% of you are too [profanity] to do...if you have ever stepped one foot on a battlefield, then you have half a right to comment on this subject. if not, shut your mouth and live your little lives that are being secured by men like this. being an infantryman myself, it absolutely sickens me that this site is even up and running. what you all should do is simply say ‘thank you for everything you did for us, marcus’ and leave it at that.” [SIC]

We’ve since deleted about three other comments along the same vein. Commenter “youguysaremorons” claimed Michael and I “sit on our couch drinking diet cokes” while others do the fighting for us. (We’ve also developed a new policy: no personal attacks. If you want to insult us or another commenter, do it somewhere else.)

Behind these profanity laced quotes is something much worse: the idea that people outside the military are unable/not allowed to comment on it. Michael C made a comment once on a post at Abu Muqawama, and another person dismissed his comment because he wasn’t a soldier. On a number of levels, it's a logical fallacy. Here are five:

1. Lots of people have not been lots of things; they still comment on them. I mean, I don’t know a soldier since Eisenhower who was president, but I know lots of Soldiers who complain about the President. Only a handful of ex-Soldiers have gone on to join our Congress, but I know tons of service members who think Nancy Pelosi is doing a terrible job. Soldiers don’t want anyone to judge their job, but they feel free to judge politicians. To paraphrase Kyle--the scholar-cum-commenter from above--”If you have ever stepped one foot in the White House, then you have half a right to comment on this subject. If not, shut your mouth and live your little lives that are being led by men like Obama and Bush.”

This sentiment is silly, of course, but so is the idea non-soldiers can’t comment on military matters.

2. A speaker’s personality/traits/anything else that defines that person, technically has nothing to do with the accuracy of a statement. Fools can say wise things; wise men can say foolish things. People forget this, which is why so many smart sentiments and quotes said by anonymous people get attributed to smarter, more famous people. It’s why Einstein, Plato, Franklin, and Ghandi have dozens of quotes attributed to them, and George Santanaya does not.

3. If you have valuable, first-hand experience, then provide it. The only benefit an expert has is using personal experience to back-up his position. In the cases of Patrick and Kyle, neither argues about the factual inaccuracies in Lone Survivor, instead they say we don’t know what we’re talking about. We have found this a lot when Lone Survivor comes up. Instead of debating the merits of our arguments, most people simply say, “if you weren’t there then you can’t judge”, as if the only relevant first hand experience, in the case of war, is that of our soldiers and them alone.

3. This is a formal logical fallacy, and a fairly famous one. The Ad Hominem attack. Neither commenter deals with the fact Lone Survivor is inaccurate and poorly written. Instead they come after us with personal attacks.

4. We live in a democracy and the military serves at our behest. Thus, everyone has a right to comment. Let me rephrase that: everyone has an obligation to comment on the military because it is the most important, most violent and most influential organization that represents us. Not trying to make it better is giving up part of one’s civic duty. Historically, the military has been the greatest threat to freedom and democracy; for every revolution by liberals there have been five coup d’etats by a military or general.

5. Oh and even though it doesn’t matter, Michael C is in the military and has been to Afghanistan. Regular On Violence readers probably spotted this very reasonable objection to the haters right off the bat. Michael C is in the military. Michael C deployed to Afghanistan. To answer Patrick’s claim. Yes, Michael C has a minor in military studies, graduated with honors from both Infantry Officer Basic Course and the Military Intelligence Captain’s Career Course, and went to Ranger School.

Not only did neither commenter not check our “About” page to learn that Michael served in Afghanistan, earned the combat infantry badge, and is currently serving in Iraq, neither read the first paragraph of the post they were commenting on. Michael wrote, “I lived in the Korengal valley; I walked the trails on the other side of the Sawtalo Spur.”



You forgot one: often, such commenters are nothing but common Internet trolls, who have none of the experiences, training, or qualifications they claim to have.

If you can’t discredit the story, discredit (or try) the storyteller.

Isn’t the internet a wonderful place?

I only recently came across your blog, and I think that it’s great. As you say, it’s important for the masses in a democracy to call its “most important, most violent and most influential organization” to account.

This post for me sums up one of the many problems of this massive forum: So many people have so many opinions (there’s an analogy to a**holes somewhere in there), and credentials are, despite—or perhaps because of—their prevalence, harder and harder to prove, maintain and assert. Really, what difference does it make if you have a degree or not? What difference does it make if you’ve been “on the ground” or not?

I think not a great deal when commenting on policy, tactics, strategy and things of that nature. Any holes in your argument will be demonstrated, and perhaps, incomplete arguments might help the discussion. Sure, it’s a huge no-no for so-called “armchair generals” to criticise soldiers for their behaviour in the heat of battle (strictly in those conditions, mind you), but it’s vital to put pressure on the soldiers, generals, policy makers &c. to raise their game and to get better.

Places like this are keys to that sort of challenge and pressure.

Keep up the good work!

@ Pete – Your comment is one of those forehead slap comments. I can’t believe I forgot to mention how, “on the internet,no one knows you’re a dog” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Internet,_nobody_knows_you’re_a_dog) But that definitely is a key factor to this post. Bith commenters claim they are soldiers, but really, who know?

@ Joe – You’re right that for armchair general to criticize Soldier’s decisions in the heat of action, that is rightly a no-no. But I feel that way about a lot of ethics and judgement, people just shouldn’t judge others so much. That said, when this lack of criticism goes to far and prevents the military from improving itself, it is just frustrating.

With respect, as I have previously noted, I think everyone has the “right” to comment on anything they choose. Whether they are prudent, wise,helpful, honest etc. is quite another thing indeed.

Thus, while I think especially in America at this time its history where our federal government appears to be fully willing to “influence” public debate in ways far beyond those envisioned by our founders and as I would further argue in actual contravention of its legitimate authority in the Constitution, your assertion “the idea that people outside the military are unable/not allowed to comment on it…” warrants a caveat. While not aligning myself with those who take an absolutist view about those outside the military opining about matters within it, I do think there are certain issues that cannot be intelligently commented on, much less criticized, unless one has had at least similar experiences to those involved in the matter commented on.

The crucible of “combat,” and we must acknowledge this something that those who have not experienced it simply cannot fathom beyond I suppose a surficial intellectual recognition. Thus it makes at least some comments by those “outsiders” less meaningful, if not wholly incorrect, unfair or even insulting that may explain some of the vitriol by some posters. I think that may be what some of those of whom you are so dismissive, and if I may say, the tiniest bit arrogant and condescending, are actually trying to say.

@ Cinncinnatus Jr – I will agree that I was dissmissive of both comments, but I think you mistook our attempts at humor as signs of arrogance.

But here’s the point: these two commenters illustrate the absolute ridiculousness of telling people “outside the military” they can’t comment on it. They told a Soldier who served in Afghanistan he can’t comment on it.

The other point? If someone actually has a really nuanced point to make, they can write it the way you did—respectfully—rather than insultingly.

Eric and Mike – if you do indeed drink Diet Coke, then those guys are completely right, and you’re deserving of every slur that is hurled at you.

Such a poor choice of beverage.

Again I’m commenting on a dead thread, but I haven’t read you guys in a while, so give me a break.

I struggle with this big time…I distinctly remember drinking in the U district of Seattle sometime in November 04 after getting back from Iraq when I heard a dirty hippie student say something that I vaguely(I drank alot of tequila, so forgive me) remember as “blah, blah, blah, no Iraq war” so I turned to him and said, “Have you ever fucking been there!??!” “No” he said. So I responded in my most intelligent vocabulary, “Then SHUT THE FUCK UP” and walked out. I then proceeded to have a mild PTSD moment walking down the middle of University Way(The Ave) and the rest they say is history.

Anyhow, its difficult for a veteran who’s been there, done that, to let someone objectively criticize what they’ve done without having the criticizer having any experience “over there”

on marcus Luttrell: (not debunking info**)

First off, is it really our right to criticize marcus luttrell? Really? I would say that nobody, not even i, would seriously know what happened that day on the mountain. Can we really make assertions based off of research to debunk a man’s eyewitness account of a battle.
so what if he fought only 30 or 40 men! he is still defending my freedom(s). (the US navy reports AT LEAST 40 taliban casualties on the mountain… just so you know)

Next, i believe that we can’t criticize the information that marcus gives us in the book. Yes, some of it sounds sketchy, but he has a degree and is special forces. Therefore, HE IS NOT STUPID. Thus, i think he would know a little more about: the Taliban, al-qaeda, Saddam, WMD’s, afghanistan, and iraq than we would. remember, he is the one receiving the intelligence briefings, NOT US.

Lastly, I believe that the person(s) who blog on this site only sit behind a computer all day researching information only to cut down the men and women who provide me with these freedoms. I feel that the “Soldier and Pacifist” are very un-american and disrespectful. I would believe that he(the soldier) would a little more respect for our country and the people who protect it. but i guess not. moreover, there should be a “topic for discussion” session, not a blog criticizing a patriot who wrote an “EYEWITNESS” (

@ Drew G – Did you even read this post? I really hope you meant your comment ironically. Wow.

I just finished the book and loved it but of course that’s coming from a non-military conservative 100% pure bred Texan (east Texan, just like Marcus). His thoughts represents a huge number of us (W is still my boy)..anyways, I mentioned it to a friend that was in the special forces and is a trainer, he had a negative take on the book based on one if his co-workers who was deployed with Marcus which is what lead me to here, the search for the truth. The undisputed facts are that Marcus was a Seal, did fight, get wounded, killed many enemy, watched his buddies die and was rescued..all for our Country. Is there inaccuracies and hypocrisies? definitely, but that doesnt diminish Lt Murphy’s MOH or the sacrifices that were made by all of them. Marcus deserves to be treated like the hero that he is, just like all of our service men and women need to be treated with respect. IMHO, it was an excellent read and should be made into a movie.

I don’t know what you are saying ..but check this video out ..This person is a real Navy SEAL and was there for op Red Wing.He was part of the QRF.

Check this video from 38.00…just chill now …!!!


There’s a pretty fundamental discrepancy here. Ed Darack, in Victory Point, writes that Operation Red Wings was a Marine mission. This SEAL claims it wasn’t. I suggest everyone read “Victory Point” or this website: http://www.darack.com/sawtalosar/ Reading Darack’s website, seems pretty obvious he knows what he is talking about.

One thought on the video: notice how at 46 mins in, they claim the enemy fighters carried all of their dead away. Think about this. The SEAL in the video already said the weather and altitude and distance and terrain caused every marine he encountered to fall out, yet the enemy fighters are so skilled they can retreat carrying one or two dead bodies with them? Just so we don’t know how many enemies we killed?

Here is an article in the current USMC professional journal, Marine Corps Gazette on the matter:

(MCG Article)

Corrected link:”

(Corrected link to MCG Article)”:http://www.marinecorpsgazette-digital.com/marinecorpsgazette/201101/?pg=67&pm=2&u1=friend#pg65

Eric wrote: “they claim the enemy fighters carried all of their dead away. Think about this. ….yet the enemy fighters are so skilled they can retreat carrying one or two dead bodies with them? Just so we don’t know how many enemies we killed?”
Eric, they do not carry their dead from the field to keep us from knowing, they carry their dead from the field because sharia requires that they wash and bury their dead within a day. Jews have a similar requirement in their religion. This is the reason that we double tap the drone attack sites because we know they’ll come back for their dead. isnt the whole point of their attacks because of Jihad? w/o their deeply and flawed religious beliefs they would not have attacked Us for fowling their Holy land during desert storm. We are the infidels. btw, We dont just give out MOH to everyone and anyone who disparages the actions attributed to posthumous honor is a disgrace and should be ashamed to call themselves an American.

@ Bart – Did some research, doesn’t apply to “martyrs” http://www.greenvillemasjid.com/funeral/.. But that’s to be expected. Suicide is strictly forbidden according to the Qur’an, and was totally unheard of in Islamic countries before modern terrorist attacks.

On your last point, I totally agree. No one should disparage the actions of someone who died for our country.

Martyrdom is reserved for suicide bombers. Bara bin Malek’s men were fighters. They pull their dead from the field just like all muslim warriors have been doing since the beginning of Islam. btw, Malek (the subject of the mission) was a commander of approx. 200 men. here is a link to a story of his death.

@ Bart – On martyrdom, read the link. Suicide bombing, if you research it, is a new phenomenon.

On Bara bin Malek, I don’t know what you’re writing about. Ahmad Shah was the subject of operation Red Wings, which was the mission in Lone Survivor.

And this link: http://www.darack.com/sawtalosar/ , if you go down the page, lists that Shah had no more than 20 men. Go down to Ahmad Shah had no more than 8-10 men, we know this because of enemy made video tapes.

the article that I linked was of the death of Ahmad Shah who was the commander of Bara bin Malek, which states he was in command of approx. 200 men. Think about it, if Shah only had 8-10 men then why was he the subject of a Spec Ops Mission? Muslims Fighters have always pulled their dead from the field just like almost every army has from the beginning of time. I came here to read the “facts“ from the other side to balance my perspective but so far yall are just coming off as haters of an American Hero. Logic and Facts are on Luttrell’s side.

Easy, Ahmad Shah wasn’t the subject of a special ops mission, he was the subject of a larger Marine corp mission. Luttrell doesn’t mention this, and that is what got Ed Darck going on this topic. Seriously, read the link I posted.

I’m sorry our website doesn’t satisfy you, but frnakly I don’t think anything we write will. Thanks for your time.

I will not get into the “one chest hair ahead of the other” contest that permeates much of this thread on several levels (the SEALS “vs” the USMC; the ever so insightful and erudite critics who ostensibly and in their own humble word “demolished” the cretinous Luttrell and his hack co-author—of fiction (gasp) no less etc. etc.).

I will merely offer my no doubt irrelevant and worthless observations that as others have noted elsewhere the “truth” is likely somewhere in the middle of all this vitriol and venom. The tenor of much of the original intellectually “devastating,” if not literarily superior to some, parsing on this blog of Lone Survivor, at least to my biased (and no doubt intellectually challenged) Christian eyes seemed rather focused on Luttrell’s temerity in mentioning, or perhaps having in the first instance, his particular faith perspective. This is a phenomenon that is quite common in our post modern society—-especially in those circles that aspire toward that kind of “higher order thinking” I see in much of academe today.

Just sayin…..

All I will say about the issue for how many insurgent/Taliban/enemy fighters/Anti-AfghanistanForces (pick your term) is that for those who have been to Afghanistan, they know of a thing called “Afghanistan math”. Basically, in any intelligence report you read, drop the zero off the end. If an intel report says 200 men, it means twenty. If the report says 87 enemy fighters, it means 8-9. Now for public affairs purposes, this never happens. The higher number is always used to sound better, even though everyone involved knows that the number is much much lower.

To be clear, we have two major problems with Luttrell. One is that he uses his combat experience to justify his “political (republican)” positions. This is uncalled for. He also disparages democrats and the media as traitors and cowards. My brother, and many of the men I served with, and the media, are not traitors and cowards, and Luttrell’s experience shouldn’t allow him to say that.

Even bigger is that Luttrell rails against the Rules of Engagement, and I have a whole series of posts about why I like the ROE. His experience does not change the mind.

@Cincinnatus, you bring up the Christianity of Luttrell several times. Have you read my NYTimes AtWar blog post on my Christianity, and what did you think about it? Considering I fight using Christian Just War theory as my ethical framework, also the reason I love ROE and the LOAC, how does this affect our treatment of Luttrell?

You are right Michael—I was overly narrow in my reference to the tenor of the previous devastation—I should have said “conservatism.” (gasp and retch) that you characterize not surprisingly given the level of discourse in the US on such things only in partisan terms.

ok Eric, I went back and read your link to respond to your quote “Ahmad Shah wasn’t the subject of a special ops mission”
see below pasted right out of that link. “unfurl not as a mission gone terribly wrong, but of a complex and difficult campaign that ultimately saw the demise of Ahmad Shan *and his *small army of barbarous fighters.” duh. Every report states that Shah was the commander of a “small army” which contradicts VP assertion that Shah had 8-10 men with him on the ambush..Which one is it? do they consider 8-10 men a small army? the ML haters numbers and facts dont add up.

your hatred of Luttrell and his politics casts a deep shadow on your intellectual honesty. other then typos like Redwing and Red WIngs..(seriously, WTF kind of petty crap is that?) all of the facts back up Luttrell’s version with biggest being the MOH bestowed on Lt. Murphy.

Sigh. Well I will say I don’t like coming across as someone who “hates” Marcus Luttrell. I don’t hate him. I think his book has a few significant errors and I do think he uses his military experience for political purposes, and I disagree with that. Of course, Luttrell isn’t alone in that, some liberal veterans have done the same thing and I disagree with that too. Liberal veterans using their experience aren’t nearly as prominent as Luttrell however.

As for the core issue of facts, we aren’t going to settle it here on this comment thread. The writers at OnV have bigger articles planned for reputable sites that will address the number of enemy fighters cited in Army public affairs reports. Think about this, over two hundred fighters, according to public affairs reports attacked Luttrell, and not a single body was recovered. Wanat did the same thing. Over three hundred enemy fighters attacked the Outpost, and only a single body was recovered. This trend occurs throughout Afghanistan, and it doesn’t make sense.

@ Bart – First, we have a policy here at On Violence: no personal attacks. Your statement “casts a deep shadow on your intellectual honesty.” crosses the line. Let’s agree to disagree, and move on.

And I don’t hate Luttrell. He put his political and personal opinions out there in books and speaking engagements, which means they are up for debate.

@ Cincinattus – Two things:

First, like Bart, please be more respectful when you comment on our blog. Mockingly referring to us as “the ever so insightful and erudite critics”. If you feel that way, don’t comment here. I should have deleted that comment earlier and that is my bad. If you can’t comment respectfully, don’t comment at all.

Two, It isn’t Luttrell’s conservatism so much as his politicizing American war deaths. I find Cindy Sheehan’s using her son’s death to promote Anti-war anti-american politics as offensive as someone using his fellow SEALs deaths to promote conservative politics and lax ROE. If I read the line, “I’d turned into a f—ing conservative, a half-assed, no-logic nitwit” i’d think that was just bad writing.

I find it ironic that Michael C gets foamed on his guest post to the New York Time site for being too overtly Christian (in spite of any evidence that he was attempting to evangelize) and gets flak on his own website for not being Christian enough.

On a personal note, I do respect Luttrell for his service. However, service and heroism do not make a person’s opinions or statements above reproach.

I’ve never read a comment before where someone takes the piss out of someone in the first paragraph, then in the next says they are a christian.

Relevant link on casualty numbers, not from us: http://ricks.foreignpolicy.com/posts/201..