May 31

(Today's guest post is by Joseph Suh. Joseph is currently a student at the University of Utah who writes for their The Daily Utah Chronicle. He is currently in the Army ROTC program, and plans to join the U.S. Army after graduation. If you would like to guest write for us, please check out our guest post guidelines. We look forward to publishing reader posts on future Thursdays.

Quick note: The views of guest writers are not necessarily the view of Michael C or Eric C. For our take, please check out the comments below.)

Think that the West is the root cause for the most casualties with its most malevolent intentions? You aren’t alone. Scholarly studies and pundits have been tirelessly repeating the claim that the United States’ foreign policy is the underlying cause for the violence in the places it intervenes in.

The general sentiment from such arguments is that America’s violent invasion of countries is the indisputable motivation for the sanguine killing and the catastrophic violence in the aforementioned regions. Despite the convenience of such simplistic views, they don’t correlate with the facts. Let’s take, for instance, the facts about the United States' wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here are thereligionofpeace.com’s statistic on killings in 2006 Iraq:

  • Iraqi civilians killed (mostly intentionally) in 2006 by the Iraqi resistance: 16,791.

  • Iraqi civilians killed (mostly accidentally) in 2006 by Americans: 225.

All of these deaths, undoubtedly, are extremely tragic and disheartening. However, a comparison of body counts is the only way to dispel the myths surrounding such a heated issue.

The common, “blame America” explanation fails to expound why the number of Muslim civilians murdered by other Muslims is so magnanimously disproportionate. Perhaps, in spite of their supposed mission statements calling for war against the West, the fact that the vast majority of targets chosen by insurgents suggest their war is against other Muslims.

In Afghanistan, this paradigm is also sadly ever-present.

According to the United Nations in a 2010 report, 75 percent of the deaths in Afghanistan are caused by the Taliban while 16 percent are caused by NATO and Afghan forces. Again, although Western forces may be contributing to the aggregate total of Islamic extremists to fight in Afghanistan, and ergo inciting more frequent skirmishes, it’s ultimately irrelevant. Simply because Western troops are present doesn’t necessitate the clash between the different sects of Islam.

Yet another example of this turbulence in Afghanistan is the repugnant and under-reported Taliban massacre of the Shi’a Hazara population in Afghanistan. This massacre took place in May 2000 and January 2001, significantly before any type of direct American intervention. This should further illuminate the core problem not as Western invasion.

In response, the counter-argument could be made that this pattern is only applicable to a particular region at particular times.

Not so. According to a 2009 study by West Point, “non‐Westerners are much more likely to be killed in an al‐Qa’ida attack. From 2004 to 2008, only 15% percent of the 3,010 victims were Western. During the most recent period studied the numbers skew even further. From 2006 to 2008, only 2% (12 of 661 victims) are from the West, and the remaining 98% are inhabitants of countries with Muslim majorities”.

These are global, international numbers — so if these Islamic extremists were created due to Western occupation of Muslim lands, then why is it that their victims are almost unanimously adherents of the same religion?

Even though some contend, to this day, that western foreign policy is the foremost and root generator of Islamic extremist violence, their positions are undermined by the sheer facts that illuminate most of the bloodshed to be Muslim-on-Muslim, a truism which doesn’t sit well with this strain of contention.

After all, if it was due to Western intervention that’s responsible for the killing in the Near East, why is it that in Iraq after the US left, fellow Muslims are murdering each other? Why is it that before the US and its allies invaded Afghanistan, the Taliban were killing the innocent Hazara people? Ultimately, it may not be because of the difference of sectarian beliefs of the same religion. It may simply be power politics played by a stronger sect in order to ensure its position.

One thing is unequivocal and irrefutable, though: the core cause isn’t Western foreign policy.

May 30

(To read the rest of "Over-Reacting to COIN (Again): On Cultural Empathy and 'Gratitude Theory'", please click here and scroll to the bottom.)

I want to describe two scenarios in Afghanistan.

In the first, we have two brothers. Both drive “jingle trucks” to support their family. One spends his nights working for the Taliban; the other doesn’t. One fateful evening, while smuggling illegal weapons, a U.S. missile kills the Taliban brother. The family asks why; the government says, “He was Taliban.”

(A picture of a jingle truck)

The surviving brother has a choice: support the government or join the insurgency.

In the second case, we again have two brothers. Both drive jingle trucks to support their family. Neither has joined the insurgency. One fateful evening, a U.S. missile kills one of the brothers in a missile attack, unwittingly executing a tribal vendetta (after receiving bad intel from an unvetted source). The family asks why; the government says, “He was Taliban.”

The surviving brother has a choice: support the government or join the insurgency.

From the U.S. perspective, each situation played out the same way--intelligence led to an operation and a dead Taliban soldier. From the Afghan perspective, though, they couldn’t be more different. In the first case, the brother should rightfully fear for his safety. Unless he turns himself in, he will probably end up in a crater like his brother. In successful counter-insurgencies, fear of impending death sweeps through the insurgency, and it collapses in on itself like a dying star going supernova.

But consider the thoughts of the brother in the second scenario. He knows that U.S. forces will soon come for him too; they just killed his brother because of a spurious intelligence report. Wouldn’t they think he was Taliban as well? So if the Americans plan to kill you--even if you aren’t Taliban and even if your brother wasn’t--why not join the insurgency? You’ll die either way.

The arguments for a “combat focused” or “target-centric” approach to counter-insurgency--or against the idea of providing security to the population as the utmost priority--rely on the first scenario. Proponents of looser rules of engagement use the first scenario to buttress their arguments. They point to it--for example, its uses in Malaya--and say, “See violence wins wars!”

But, as a commenter said a few weeks back, we must “kill the right people”. I totally agree. I just emphasize the word “right” and most of the Army emphasizes the word “kill”. Too many thinkers emphasize the “kinetic” or “target-centric” or “killing”--whatever euphemism works--approach without explaining the drawbacks. While they sing the praises of killing more people, they avoid the consequences of killing the wrong people.

The logic for killing more insurgents makes sense. Kill an insurgent, then another, then another and soon word will spread that someday the the counter-insurgents will kill all the insurgents. Rationally, if you want to survive the war, you should stop being an insurgent.

But this same logic applies to the population. Kill an insurgent, then an innocent family, then capture another innocent guy and his brother. Soon word will spread among the population that someday the counter-insurgents will kill you too. Rationally, if you want to survive the war, you need to stop the counter-insurgents.

Remember that killing (or violence) has political ramifications. We wrote a few weeks back about humanity’s innate desire to avoid making decisions; killing the wrong people helps them make a decision...against the government and counter-insurgents. If killing the right people will help end an irregular war, killing the wrong people prolongs it. Pro-killing/target/kinetic-centric advocates--when pitching their wares in talks, blog posts, or op-eds--should always bring up the huge downside to killing the wrong people; it can lose the war.

This is why, as I have said before, accuracy is the most important value in an insurgency, not body counts or quantities or totals or anything else that sounds good leaked to reporters. And if people want more offensive operations--like kill/capture raids--fine. But stress accuracy over any other value. And warn door kickers that kicking down the wrong doors prolongs the war. (And costs U.S. soldiers their lives too.)

May 29

(To read the rest of "Over-Reacting to COIN (Again): On Cultural Empathy and 'Gratitude Theory'", please click here and scroll to the bottom.)

I mentioned in our first round on “gratitude theory” that I absolutely despise the phrase, “I don’t care if they like me as long as they respect me”. Plenty of people disagree with me though. Take, for example, this comment:

“Essentially, they're [On Violence] working to show that the "I don't care if the population likes me, as long as they do what I require" attitude is flawed. (It's not, at least not when it's a third-party counterinsurgent who holds it.)”

That’s just one example. This unsourced article on West Point’s website writes that “popularity or likeability among the population is NOT a consideration [in an insurgency]”. It then advises that, “being ‘liked’ is insignificant.”

Insignificant?

Saying “likeability” is insignificant ignores the basic role of emotion in warfare, which I discussed back in December. Saying, “I don’t care if they like me” does not mean, “I don’t care if they hate me”. It is wildly significant if the population hates you. While you can lose an insurgency even if the population likes you, you can’t win an insurgency if the population hates you.

Think of the Russians in Afghanistan. By all regards, they tried to cow the Afghan rural populations into submission through carpet bombings and excessive force. The Russian Army did not care if the rural population liked or hated them, only if they feared them. As a result, they lost Afghanistan. (And I know, U.S. provided Stinger missiles and generally poor strategy also helped.) Conducting operations simply to inspire fear--another emotion ever present in war--also engenders hatred.

Hatred motivates insurgents and terrorists the world over. Hatred of the U.S. and Shia Islam drives Al Qaeda as much as their own love of Sunni Islam. Insurgents, from Iraq to Somalia to Afghanistan, absolutely hate foreign invaders, as we wrote about in “Everyone Hates Everyone Else’s Soldiers”. This has been true since the dawn of time. Hatred can motivate a household to store weapons. Or motivate a child to spy on U.S. forces. Or motivate a teenager to blow himself up in a suicide vest.

So while a counter-insurgent “doesn’t care if people like him”, he still must acknowledge the emotions of the population. It matters if the population loves, hates or fears the government...or the insurgents. Saying you “don’t care” is admitting you don’t care about a significant form of intelligence about the battlefield; you might as well say, “I don’t care if we win or lose here.”

Since we should use emotion to our own advantage in warfare, here are my tips to improve the use of emotion in counter-insurgencies:

1. Think about the emotional response of the population during planning. Specifically, I’m writing about kill/capture raids. Rationally, they could discourage an insurgent from fighting. Raids that detain the wrong person, or kill women and children, emotionally turn the population against the government. (Same with drone strikes.)

2. Security defeats fear, and creates confidence. Most criticisms of the fictional “gratitude theory” say, “It doesn’t matter if you buy people things if the Taliban comes at night to threaten the population.” In other words, a fearful population won’t support the government. The best solution isn’t reconstruction, it is more security. (Which means more troops, but that is a different issue.)

3. Care about your personal relationships. It is so much easier to do business with someone who likes you as opposed to hates you. So maybe I don’t care if the “population” (most of whom I never interacted with) “like” me, but I better have a good relationship with my interpreters, my government counterparts, and my Afghan Army partners. Those good relationships can filter down to the population at large.

4. Collect emotional intelligence. To be honest, eventually the Army’s human intelligence folks got good at conducting “atmospherics”. Unfortunately, the units with the most human intelligence collectors lived the furthest from the battlefield (isolated at Division and Corps headquarters). Battalion and Company commanders should work with their human intelligence and line platoons to measure the emotions of the population they work with. And the Army in general should push as many human intelligence folks to the lowest levels possible.

The big P, General Petraeus, lived these ideas. I don’t recall a lot of articles about General Petraeus in Iraq describing him as brow-beating people into working with him. In fact, he was/is famous for getting people to like and respect him, then getting work done. At the CIA, he reinvigorated the Open Source center to focus on global atmospherics.

I showed before Thanksgiving that people really do care if they are liked. They do, at least, among their countrymen. Every insurgency ever attempted started with two twin pillars: ideology and leadership. Leaders and ideologies rely on emotions to influence their followers. Love, hatred, respect, fear and gratitude are all emotions that can influence the population. We forget this at our own peril.

May 24

The Band of Brothers series so far:

The Sobel Problem: Band of Brothers "Currahee"

Why Officers Lead from the Front

The Sobel Problem Redux: Band of Brothers "Currahee" Round 2

Little Groups of Ineffective Paratroopers: Band of Brothers "Day of Days"

Take No Prisoners Part 1: Band of Brothers "Day of Days"

Take No Prisoners Part 2: Band of Brothers "Day of Days"

The Mini-Series Memoir: Band of Brothers "Carentan"

World War II's Rules of Engagement: Band of Brothers "Replacements"

Why We Hate ASUs: Band of Brothers "Crossroads"

When the Army Left its Fallen Comrades Behind: Band of Brothers "Bastogne"

How Many Men Did Easy Company Sacrifice? Band of Brothers "The Breaking Point"

War at its Worst: Band of Brothers "Breaking Point"

The Feeling You Might Live Through It: Band of Brothers' "The Last Patrol"

I Have No Idea What I'd Do: Band of Brothers' "The Last Patrol"

Band of Brothers' "Why We Fight" or: No, That's Not Why We Fought

The Myth of the Good War: Band of Brothers "Points"

A Review of HBO's "The Pacific"

Our Band of Brothers Sequel Pitch

Really, Really, Ridiculously Good Look Soldiers: The Pacific Part 10

As you may have guessed (if you read the title of this post), we’re starting a new series on Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and HBO’s preeminent World War II mini-series, Band of Brothers.

But--huge but here--we’re not planning on reviewing the series, because, honestly, what’s left to review?

On almost every level, from writing to directing to cinematography to historical interest to special effects to whatever, almost everyone everywhere admires Band of Brothers. The series won six Emmy’s out of 19 nominations, a Golden Globe and a Peabody. On Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB, Band of Brothers garners a 9.7, a 96% and a 9.6 rating, respectively. When I tried to find Band of Brothers criticism, the only critiques I could find were written by white supremacists. On a personal level, our dad has plunged his way through the series at least four times; if the series comes on TV, he watches the whole damn thing.
   
Reviewing the series would mean ranking and comparing episodes against one another, which means we would have to disparage one episode in favor of another, pointing out criticisms that come across as nitpicks. (When Chuck Klosterman suggested that The Wire was the second best television series of all time--pretty strong praise--some internet commenters interpreted that as, “Klosterman hates The Wire!”) Who cares if “Carentan” isn’t as good as “Points”? Both episodes are better than most TV in general.

We don’t want to do that.

Instead, we want to ask big questions. Researching this series, I found this essay by Leonard Pierce, “Saving Private Ryan, Band Of Brothers, and The Pacific: Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks’ World War II“. Describing Saving Private Ryan, Pierce sums up the goal of our series on Band of Brothers:

“Spielberg and screenwriter Robert Rodat deserve equal praise for depicting, in what is essentially an action-movie format, the kind of Big Questions that are usually reserved for smaller, more philosophical films: Is any goal worthy of the carnage of total war? How much value do we place on a single human life, and is one life worth more than another if it has symbolic value? Where do we find heroism and courage, and how do we deal with cowardice and failure?”

Big questions. Band of Brothers inspires big questions, so we’re starting a series on the miniseries. It makes us think. It makes us want to write, on everything from paratroopers to the media portrayal of officers and World War II to the futility of killing civilians in war. It’s all in there. (Leonard Pierce, strangely enough, was the one critic we could find who didn’t like Band of Brothers. For the exact opposite opinion--hating Saving Private Ryan but loving Band of Brothers--read Paul Fussel’s review of the series on Slate.)

Here’s how the series is going to work: every other week, using one episode as a jumping off point, we’re going to write about an idea sparked by the miniseries. Some episodes may have more than one post, and we’ve already invited regular guest poster Matty P to contribute his ideas.

Guest posts on Band of Brothers are more than welcomed. Again, we don’t want reviews of the episodes, or posts on which episode is your favorite. We want the thoughts and ideas Band of Brothers gave you about your life, the military, the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, on art, whatever.

Enjoy!

May 22

As I’ve been told many times, pacifists, to believe in their silly, idealistic philosophy, have to deal with a problem. I call it “The World War II problem”. As Michael C challenged me in his post on civilian bombing: what about World War II, the most unassailable just war?

At the very least, the Allies saved continental Europe from fascist, dictatorial rule. At the very best, they saved the entire world from Hitler and accidentally saved tens of millions from the concentration camps. Craig Mullaney, as a conflicted young cadet at West Point, discusses his lack of enthusiasm for killing with his priest in The Unforgiving Minute:

    “...Do you believe in a just war?”
    “I think so, Father, like World War II.”
    “Sure, that’s a good example. Do you think Hitler could have been stopped without war?”
    “Of course not, Father.”
    “So you agree that war, although always evil, is sometimes necessary to stop evil?”

The World War II problem: how do you stop Hitler, the embodiment of evil, without war? There isn’t a good answer, ergo, the position of pacifists is morally untenable. Take that pacifists.

Not so fast “just war”-iors. From my perspective as a pacifist, I think soldiers--and war hawks, Gingrich-type realists, pro-war pundits and politicians--have a different problem, one that questions their entire reason for supporting the use of deadly force. I call it “The World War I problem”.

How does a soldier justify fighting in World War I?

World War I was essentially a pointless war, fought for no reason, costing millions of lives.

Look at the casualties alone: 21 million injured, 16 million dead, including 5 million civilians. That’s about 10,000 people dying every day. Putting that in perspective, that’s more people per day than America has lost in both the 9/11 and the war on terror. Counting total death tolls including American, Iraqi and Afghanistan deaths, using the most generous estimates, this war was 32 times as deadly in a world one fourth the size.

And no one died well in World War I. Trench warfare, the ugliest, most fatalistic style of war ever created, meant charging over a trench wall, essentially committing suicide by machine gun fire, all the while dodging sniper fire, artillery and gas. If you retreated, you could be shot for treason. That’s if you didn’t die in the trenches from disease.

Yes, as many, if not more, people died in World War II. And yes, proportionally more people died in the Thirty Years War. What’s more upsetting than the casualties are what the soldiers “died for”. They died for nothing. European “entangling alliances” and military buildups forced by pushy generals created the keg, and the anarchist-inspired assassination of an insignificant archduke lit the fuse. There was no reason to fight and no reason to keep fighting, except to honor those who had already died.

America’s entry into World War I is even more illogical. We had nothing to do with either side, had stayed out of the war for most of it, and only joined because German submarines kept sinking our ships.

Worse were the tangential effects. The Ottoman empire committed not one but two genocides. The Russians killed 60,000 to 200,000 Jewish people in Pogroms. The Germans raped Belgium. Long term, World War I caused both World War II--because of the Versailles treaty--the Cold War--because of the Russian revolution--and twenty years of economic calamity--because of reparations. World War I disenfranchised, ruined, an entire generation.

All of this loss, for what? Not security. Not safety. What? Again, and I can’t emphasize this enough, World War I was a pointless war, horrific in its costs and senseless in its purpose.

Which brings me back to my original question. Instead of pointing to the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and World War II, let’s look at the Mexican American War, or World War I, or Vietnam, or the Spanish American War. Let’s look at the pointless, needless wars. The Franco Prussian war, the Crimean War, the Napoleonic Wars, the Thirty Years War, the Gallic Wars, the Punic Wars, and like 1,200 Chinese wars.

How do soldiers, “just war”-iors, war hawks and “war is war”-iors justify the pointless wars? Instead of pointing to the most just war of all time asking, “How could you not fight that war?”, I point at World War I and ask, “How can you possibly go to fight that war?”

To put it more bluntly, how can a soldier who fought in World War I justify what he did? You killed other men, took lives, for no reason. How can you justify that?

There really isn’t a good answer. Just like pacifists, the position of soldiers is morally untenable.

May 21

(To read the rest of our series, “The Case Against War with Iran”, please click here.)

Whether or not the U.S. decides to attack Iran--or whether it supports Israel in a similar attack--boils down to which historical analogy we (or the decision-makers) choose to frame the situation.

Unfortunately, if we go by the current debate, only two analogies matter: the war in Iraq and the appeasement of Nazi Germany.

Analogy 1: The Iraq War.

Based off faulty and scant evidence, the Bush administration invaded Iraq, overthrew Saddam Hussein, and spent eight more years trying to reestablish order. Skeptics of war with Iran--like myself--point to the horrendous disaster of intelligence that led to war with Iraq and ask, “Again?”

Iran seems eerily similar: the same warnings about “weapons of mass destruction”...the same warnings about Iranian involvement with terrorist organizations...the same warnings about crazed, unreliable, irrational dictators who do not listen to reason (War hawks have repeated this last point going back to the Cold War and the leaders of the U.S.S.R. and China, but don’t worry about that now.)...the same “failure” of the U.N. to handle the country in question...the same worries about how war will affect gas prices or stability in the Middle East.

Except that the differences loom just as large: Iraq was a secular government headed by the religious minority; Iran is a religious theocracy led by the majority. Inspectors could not verify in any way if Iraq had a nuclear or biological or chemical weapons program; the world knows that Iran has a nuclear energy program, just not if Iran has a nuclear weapons program, a crucial distinction. Iraq has 30 million people and is about the size of California; Iran has nearly 80 million people and is about the size of Alaska.

Iran will probably fight the U.S. much harder than Saddam Hussein’s forces, but Iran also has a nuclear program, something Hussein didn’t even have. In other words, the consequences of inaction or action with Iran are higher than they ever were with Iraq.

If America decides to go to war with Iran--with all the terrible consequences that will entail--the analogy of our previous failure in the Middle East doesn’t really matter; it will be a bad decision on its own.

Analogy 2: The appeasement of Adolf Hitler by Neville Chamberlain.

Ah, Chamberlain, the most vilified Briton in the 20th century. The analogy goes--and war hawks make it relatively easily--that appeasing Iran will lead directly to World War III. In the most worrying association with World War II, the end result is not a long bloody war like World War II, but a nuclear holocaust over Israel which will certainly happen--the arguers say--if the world negotiates with Iran.

But I mean, rational debaters in America wouldn’t just casually throw out this accusation against Barack Obama willy-nilly, would they?

I won’t even try to torture out similarities between Iran/Germany and Barack Obama/Chamberlain. Instead, the gaping chasms of differences stand out. Germany spent the years before World War II building up its military and taking territory. Iran’s military cannot, according to Anthony Cordesman and any coherent military observer, conquer any nation around it. Moreover, if Iran attacked Israel, Israeli submarines would fire nuclear weapons back in retaliation, destroying Tehran and countless other cities. America looms over Iran like a thousand Englands facing Germany.

So which analogy should we choose?

Easy. Neither.

I agree with George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (Not a quote behaving badly...if you cite Santayana.) But “the past” or its paraphrase “history”, have many more examples than World War II and Iraq. Iraq wasn’t the first time America went to war for bad reasons. Think the Vietnam War, the Spanish-American war, the Mexican-American War, or World War I. Hitler isn’t history’s only appeased dictator, merely history’s current personification of evil.

Instead, the comparisons with Iraq or Chamberlain turn these historical analogies into anecdotes, paralyzing the debate with emotionally charged connections. As I said above, we don’t need historical analogies when it comes to Iran: going to war will be a terrible decision all on its own.

May 16

(To read the entire "War is War” series, please click here.)

Before we coined the term “war is war”-iors, we were writing about “war is war”-iors. In the second part of our “War is War is Film” post, we want to revisit the movie characters we’ve discussed before, looking at them as "war is war"-iors.

Colonel Jessup

We’ve written about A Few Good Men before, because, like other great films, it asks tough questions, like the “The "Have You Been There" Argument” and whether, in real life, officers ever get charged with war crimes.

But Colonel Jessup is also a “war is war”-ior. He does what it takes to keep this country safe, and he doesn’t want politicians or non-warriors to question his methods. Famously, he monologues:

“Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg?...I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand to post.”

 Aldo Raine

Aldo Raine, in an opening monologue and the trailer of Inglorious Basterds, (We’ve written about him before here and here.) explains exactly why he plans to commit war crimes and torture Germans:

“We will be cruel to the Germans, and through our cruelty they will know who we are. And they will find the evidence of our cruelty in the disemboweled, dismembered, and disfigured bodies of their brothers we leave behind us. And the German won't not be able to help themselves but to imagine the cruelty their brothers endured at our hands, and our boot heels, and the edge of our knives. And the German will be sickened by us, and the German will talk about us, and the German will fear us. And when the German closes their eyes at night and they're tortured by their subconscious for the evil they have done, it will be with thoughts of us they are tortured with.”

 

In the hypothetical book, War is War, Aldo Raine would write the introduction.

Gabriel

In one of our first On Violence posts, we wrote about Gabriel--the character from Swordfish, not the angel--who eloquently sums up a process for defeating terrorism:

“Someone must bring their war to them. They bomb a church, we bomb ten. They hijack a plane, we take out an airport. They execute American tourists, we tactically nuke an entire city. Our job is to make terrorism so horrific that it becomes unthinkable to attack Americans.”

Michael C wanted to chime in: “I would call Gabriel’s solution to the war on terror, ‘the Hatfield and McCoy logic of waging wars’. As we’ve written before, violence begets violence. Gabriel should, more accurately, say, “They bomb a church, we bomb ten, and they bomb a hundred in response. We bomb a thousand back. Someday, one side will run out of churches.”

I’m guessing we’d have to move on to schools after that.

Lieutenant-Colonel Matthieu

Do whatever it takes to win in war, especially counter-insurgencies, sayeth the “war is war”-ior. This quote by Colonel Matthieu--from the often-cited-on-On-V-due-to-its-own-excellence The Battle for Algiers--explains:

“Our duty is to win. Therefore to be precise, it is my turn to ask a question. Should France stay in Algeria? If your answer is still yes, then you must accept all the consequences."

Those “consequences” include torture, indefinite detention and all the other things that cause a population to turn against you.

John Rambo

As I wrote earlier, when I started trying to think of “war is war”-iors, I mostly planned to write about action heroes like John Rambo. (We’ve written about First Blood series before.) Rambo blames politicians for losing Vietnam, “But somebody wouldn't let us win!”   

“Somebody wouldn’t let us win” is code for massacring villages, not following ROE/loosening ROE, or bombing the hell out of North Vietnam. Basically, “war is war”.

Lt. Rasczak

Finally, we wrote about this before, but thought we’d include the link to our previous post, “War is War is Starship Troopers”, which now has the embedded video.

May 15

(Today's post is a guest post by longtime reader Matty P. If you would like to guest write for us, please check out our guest post guidelines. We look forward to publishing reader posts on future Tuesdays.)

I never served in the military.

While this is true for the vast majority of our country, I realize that the rest of the country isn’t a part of my family. We’re a military family. Dad served in the Special Forces (and yes, he did teach me to capitalize that) in Vietnam. Mom treated wounded soldiers as a nurse in Vietnam, at one point one of the highest ranking women in the US Army, one day away from a star. One brother deployed three times to active conflicts and one flies missions over them. There are multiple Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts present at our family gatherings. I, on the other hand, lounge in comfort and relative safety.

In my family, I am a coward.

It’s not that I wasn’t interested in the military. To be honest, I was groomed for it. I held my first gun when I was seven. I was taught knife techniques when I was a freshman in high school. Dad always promoted situational awareness wherever we went. For father/son time, we took martial arts lessons. I took to all of it like a fish in water. To me, it seemed like the things a father should teach a son. With my parent’s status and connections matched by my grades, I was a shoo in for West Point.

But I never went. I knew the option was there, but I never even applied. Something bothered me. And it took me awhile to figure out what.

Clearly it wasn’t the culture. I was familiar with it, experienced it. Though military life can be hard on a family, my own immediate goals did not include a family, but education. Further, the extreme personalities that can be found in military culture I found to be a stereotype of poorly made war films. While I had experienced the gun-ho, ultra patriotic, abrasive, uber-Christian, meat-head grunt type; I found this to be in equal proportion in the military as it was on the college campuses. In reality, the men and women I’ve encountered that serve are no different from the rest of the population with the notable exception of wanting to serve their country.

What truly gave me pause was the question on whether I could take a life. The common question: could I or couldn’t I? Perhaps better phrased: should I or shouldn’t I? Raised a good Christian--hell, even President of my youth group, I believed that killing, no matter the circumstance is a bad thing. The bible says so. There are explicit passages on this and forgiving enemy. Yet, my brothers and my father taught me that you protect those who cannot protect themselves. That honor is in action and that the greatest act one can do for another, is lay down his life. A sentiment also explicit in the Bible (reference John 15).

As much as I battled back and forth on the morality of action I may never have to take, the unsettling truth became apparent. I was comfortable with the moral implications, a moral grey for me that while never good, the taking of life could be justified in extremis. Thus, my dilemma wasn’t that I could never take a life. The problem was, I’m almost sure I could and would. And I would probably sleep soundly the following night. Everything I believe highlights the sanctity of life. As Eric has said, it should break your heart to kill and I was afraid it wouldn’t. That’s why I’m a coward, because I refused to put myself in a position to find out.

May 14

(To read the entire "War is War” series, please click here.)

Since we’ve finally figured out how to embed Youtube links on the site (Or more accurately, I got around to figuring out how. It took all of two minutes.), and, since we ignored art posts all last month, we decided to combine our love of film with our hatred of “war is war” in a two-part post, “War is War is Film”.

Today’s section opens with films we haven’t written about at On Violence. Tomorrow we’ll re-cover films we’ve discussed before.

But before that, a digression: this post isn’t an ad hominem attack on “war is war”-iors, though it may come across that way. When I first started researching this post, I expected to find mostly bad ass action heroes like John Rambo or “Dirty” Harry Callahan. Instead, I mostly found super villains. And comparing “war is war”-iors to Grand Moff Tarkin or General Jack D. Ripper is like comparing them to Hitler. (That said, on a forum Michael stopped reading a few years back, a commenter made that point that Hitler was great at stopping counter-insurgencies. Just saying.)

Or it might just be that if super villains espouse your military theory, you may be on the wrong side of history.

Grand Moff Tarkin

Despite our love of Star Wars, we’ve never really written about the greatest trilogy of all time here, except for the stray Star Wars reference. Luckily, Grand Moff Tarkin--the best of the Grand Moffs in our opinion--allows us to legitimately discuss Star Wars on the website, because Tarkin is the greatest “war is war”-ior ever. What’s the best way to stop a rebellion? Torturing prisoners? Yeah, Tarkin does that, and then he blows up planets.

More than the what is the why. Tarkin explains his “war is war”-ior philosophy to Leia, “The regional governors now have direct control over their territories. Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station.” And next, “No star system will dare oppose the Emperor now...Not after we demonstrate the capabilities of this station.”

Fear. Tarkin’s enemies will fall because of fear. Overwhelming, crippling fear. Make your enemy scared enough, and he will quit. You just have to blow up a planet and kill billions.

General Jack D. Ripper

Primarily, “war is war”-iors believe that, if you just make the opponent scared enough, they’ll give up. After that, they want the politicians to get out of the way. In a film filled with awesome dialogue, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, General Jack D. Ripper stands out with this monologue making just that point:

General Ripper is a villain, and a fool. (“Purity of essence!”) Sadly, though, the idea that Kubrick, through General Ripper, ironically mocks--that war is “too important to be left to the politicians”--many conservatives and pundits now unironically embrace. Researching our series on Iran, one paper said that Iranians would be bolstered by Americans political bickering back at home.

In fact, war is too important to be left to the generals. The Constitution of the United States specifically limits the power of the U.S. military, firmly placing it under civilian control. Because America has an elected government (again as defined by the Constitution), everyone in the U.S. (of voting age) has the right and obligation to comment about the American military.
   
Colonel Kurtz

Of all the “war is war”-iors, Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now most eloquently espoused this twisted philosophy. Here’s an excerpt from his famous, closing monologue:

“I remember when I was with Special Forces, seems a thousand centuries ago, we went into a camp to inoculate some children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there, and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms.

“...And then I realized, like I was shot, like I was shot with a diamond, a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought, my God, the genius of that! The genius! The will to do that! Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we, because they could stand that these were not monsters, these were men. Trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love, but they had the strength, (the strength!) to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men, our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral, and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling, without passion, without judgment, without judgment! Because it's judgment that defeats us."

Two thoughts:

1. I can’t confirm that the Viet Cong ever cut off inoculated arms. I’ve heard many people and pundits say this, but I can’t find confirmation of it. If anyone knows of any books or papers on this subject, I’d appreciate it.

2. Kurtz endorses this insane do-what-it-takes strategy, literally praising the insurgents for cutting off children’s arms. That’s both insane and “war is war”.

Dirty Harry

The first good guy on our list, “Dirty” Harry Callahan, doesn’t play by the rules.

District Attorney Rothko: Where the hell does it say that you've got a right to kick down doors, torture suspects, deny medical attention and legal counsel? Where have you been? Does Escobedo ring a bell? Miranda? I mean, you must have heard of the Fourth Amendment. What I'm saying is that man had rights.

Harry Callahan: Well, I'm all broken up over that man's rights!

Substitute “that man’s rights" with “rule of engagement” and boom, you’ve got yourself a “war is war”-ior.

May 11

As you may have read on Monday, this week On Violence is celebrating our three year anniversary and our 500th post. As we’ve done before, we’re going to compile a “best of” our last 100 posts. We’ve divided them into our best series and our best individual posts. (To read past “Best of On V” collections, check out the sidebar or click here.)

Series

The biggest stylistic change for On Violence over the last year is our move towards long-form series on a single idea. Probably the most important thing we wrote in the last 100 posts, if not the entire history of the blog, is our series arguing against war with Iran. In addition to a larger paper and an op-ed, expect more posts on Iran coming up in the next few weeks and months.

Next up, we finally wrote about a topic Eric C wanted us to write about since we started the blog, the firebombing of Dresden. Michael C discussed the ethics of civilian bombing campaigns, while Eric C discussed the things we lost in the fires and Matty P looked at Dresden not so analytically.

For our most thought provoking event of 2011, we selected the Arab Spring, looking at revolutions, things getting better, Twitter, American foreign policy and predictions.
   
Michael C continued harping on the “War is War” philosophy, with posts on “War is War is No Solutions”, “War is War is Heinlein” and “War is War is Politically Unfeasible”.

We also started a personal favorite series arguing for the role of emotion and cultural empathy in counter-insurgencies. While our most popular post in this series was “Getting Rid of the Chicago School of Counter-Insurgency”, our favorite posts were “Everyone Hates Everyone Else’s Soldiers”, “Who Watches the Watchmen?”, and “From the On V Future Archives: When Persia Put a Garrison in Wyoming (in 2048)”.

Finally, and probably least interestingly, we started looking back at our old ideas in a new feature called, “An On V Update to Old Ideas”. We hope to keep this feature going every month or so.

Posts

Michael C had three favorite posts. First, he described the Army’s over-emphasis on physical skills over mental. Second, he wrote about the most dangerous branch of al Qaeda, and that it’s run by the U.S. government. Third, he solved the war on terror by proposing a new International Criminal Court, though he doubts it will ever happen.

Eric C’s favorite art posts discussed Kafka, analyzing “In the Penal Colony” and sharing some stray thoughts on Kafka.

The standout memoir of the last 100 posts was Dexter Filkin’s The Forever War. Eric C reviewed it here, and compiled a “The Best of The Forever War” and two “War at its Worsts” collections, here and here.

Matty P killed it with “There’s No Honor in this” and “A Savior Named Barrabas”.

Our dad’s favorite posts were on language. We debunked the pronunciation of Iraq here, and proposed broad societal changes here.

May 10

Solomon, the prophet and king of Israel who killed his brother Adonijah, summarized in six short words, my feelings on violence:

Futility of futilities. All is futility.

I’ve been writing about violence, and how we should feel about violence, through my art posts for three years here at On Violence. But violence isn’t the right word thematically. I want to understand reciprocal cycles of violence and vengeance.

It’s taken me three years to finish this blog post. I wrote the first draft before we even began the blog, and I’ve been rewriting it ever since, vainly trying to explain, or describe, or lament this theme. Three years later, I think I’ve finally succeeded.

Reciprocity of violence is the first literary theme I ever learned, way back in ninth grade English class. It’s the most important theme I learned, and it remains first and foremost in my mind. A few years ago my dad asked me to name the great literary themes. It was kind of a trick question--he had an answer he expected me to say the concept of the forbidden other, as in The Scarlett Letter, which is a major literary theme--but I blurted out “reciprocity of violence”.

To me, this is the great theme of literature and art. And life.

Vengeance begets more vengeance. Violence creates violence. Revenge causes unending cycles of violence. A man kills an enemy. The enemy’s son then comes to kill him. Then his son kills the other son in turn. Violence creates violence.

Think of the Greeks. Hector kills Polymachus, Achilles kills Hector, and Paris kills Achilles. Violence begets more violence; the cycle evolves, but the pattern remains the same. Oedipus kills his father, so his uncle banishes him. Oedipus’ sons then start a war, and Creon refuses to bury one brother. This leads to another war, in which Creon dies.

Think of the Hatfields and McCoys, or the Corleones, or the Skywalkers. Or think about 9/11. I’ve always wanted to write an essay tracing a line through the First Gulf War, through to 9/11, then to Afghanistan and Iraq, again, and back to domestic terrorism. Americans place military bases in Saudi Arabia. Terrorists attack Americans. Americans attack Afghanistan and Iraq. Iraqis and Afghans become insurgents.

The Germans destroy Coventry, so the Allies destroy Dresden. Violence begets violence.

The Elizabethans vicariously enjoyed the appropriately titled “revenge plays”, an entire genre dedicated to vengeance. At the end of each revenge play, every character dies a bloody death, coating the stage in a layer of blood. Motivated by a murder, the protagonist avenges the murder, but dies himself. Think Hamlet, the most famous example of a revenge play. Claudius kills the king, Hamlet gets his revenge, then everyone dies.   

Art isn’t about the what happens, but how it makes you feel about what happens. The best artists understand this cycle of violence, then make us feel it, capturing its senselessness, hopelessness, meaninglessness, futility.

From A Farewell to Arms to Dispatches to The Forever War, hopelessness pervades the best war literature. Why did Lt. Henry join the Italian military? He doesn’t know. But the Italians do--because their countrymen have died. Some novels try to rescue meaning from the abyss; the best ones know they can’t. “So it goes” Vonnegut’s narrator writes in Slaughterhouse-Five.  

This is “War at its Worst”, retreats to nowhere, senseless slaughter of men and horses, starving civilians living next to feasting generals.

And going back far in the literary tradition, war at its worst occurs throughout the Old Testament, with its endless blood feuds and battle and wars and deaths and violence.

And Ecclesiastes. “What does Ecclesiastes have to do with violence?” you may ask. There’s barely a mention of war or warriors in this enigmatic, little chapter. And Solomon--the chapter’s assumed author, by tradition--lived a relatively peaceful life compared to the rest of the Old Testament.

The connection and the magic comes from the the opening line:   

"Futility of futilities, all is futility."

Every version of Ecclesiastes has a massive footnote on the first page trying to define this opening sentence, or, more precisely, the thrice repeated word “hevel”. Some translations define it as "Absolutely pointless! Everything is pointless." or “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” I prefer the King James’ version, “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.”

The word “hevel” roughly means futility, hollowness, absurdity, emptiness, meaninglessness, or vanity in the 15th century sense. Precisely, it means breath or air, something transitory, a literary flourish for something without substance and weight, a formless thought we can’t get around.

It is also a name. In English, we know the name as “Abel”, brother to Cain, son to Adam and Eve, and the first victim of murder, the act that, symbolically, began off the chain of violence humanity’s endured throughout its history. It’s no accident that one of the two pictures at the top of this page is of Cain killing Abel.

Violence, in Hebrew, is a synonym for meaningless, inescapably linked to futility and vapor. We’ve been killing killing each other from the very beginning, and the Hebrew scholars knew how to describe violence, how we should feel about it:

“Vanity of vanities. Futility of futilities,” says the philosopher, “All is meaningless.”

May 08

Knowing our three year anniversary and our 500th post were coming up, Eric C asked me and Matty P to write posts on the topic that embody our writing here at On Violence, the most important thought we hadn’t written about yet. So I asked myself, why do I write on this blog?

The answer hit me reading two sentences from Colonel Gian Gentile’s review of Lewis Sorley’s biography of General Westmoreland in The National Interest:

“Washington lost because it failed at strategy. It failed, in short, to discern that the war was unwinnable at a cost in blood and treasure that the American people would accept.”

Very early on in this blogging adventure, I asked a question that echoes Gentile in a post called, “The Problem with America’s Force Protection Bias”:

“Specifically, would a U.S. soldier trade the entire U.S. Army staying in Iraq or Afghanistan for one week longer if he knew his whole platoon could come home safe?”

While that question seems hypothetical, soldiers make that decision every damn day when they’re deployed. During the initial invasion of Iraq, if soldiers hit IEDs, they counter-attacked with a “death blossom”, firing in a circle at everything that moved. That helped create the insurgency. When soldiers tortured inmates, killed civilians or refused to patrol constantly, they helped fuel an insurgency. When more and more soldiers deployed to “Super FOBs”, they failed to stop the insurgencies.

In my tour to Afghanistan’s Kunar Province, I faced that question head on: Where do we patrol? How often? Simply getting on a helicopter could mean entering a horrific firefight, but we did it to win, because we had to. Still, I decided we would never go to some sections of my district, like Ganjgal valley, where many marines and Afghan soldiers later lost their lives.

In Kunar, I lived a contradiction that I had dreaded since I joined the Army ROTC program. I quoted the Cadet Creed in that earlier post, and I have to repeat it here:

People First, Mission Always

People and mission, two incompatible ideals. And the American people don’t understand that.

When I first started my training at Fort Benning, I saw how training to keep soldiers (people) alive wouldn’t help beat a budding Iraqi insurgency (mission). I started scribbling in a notebook. Eventually, those thoughts became this blog. So in honor of our 500th post and third anniversary, I want double down on that contradiction. I don’t have a topic I wish I wrote about more, I have some questions I wish I could ask everyone in America.

1. If I could guarantee victory in Iraq (when we were there) or Afghanistan (now) or Iran (in the future), how many soldiers would you sacrifice--how many would you let die--for that guarantee?

I want a number, America. You owe the soldiers that much. Every politician should have to state the cost up front.

2. To the generals, would you accept victory in Afghanistan if it meant losing your entire division? To the battalion commanders, would you accept victory if it meant losing your entire battalion? Half a battalion? How many men would you sacrifice for victory? What is more important, victory or survival?

It’s an easy answer: the professional army refuses to sacrifice large numbers of men for the mission. So far the combined wars of Iraq and Afghanistan have cost 7,000 lives. In historical terms, that’s the least amount of soldiers the U.S. has ever lost. Ever. In World War II, the generals leading our Army sacrificed that many men to take single beachheads.

Here is the important point: if military leaders or the American people won’t sacrifice their own men, then they aren’t prepared to win.
   
We want to win wars, but we don’t want to lose any men, but these causes are as noble and as vital as ever...so long as we keep casualties to a minimum. The duality or hypocrisy or irony of all those competing ideas--don’t lose men, cannot lose, but don’t win and sacrifice any of our own men, but we have to win--just make me to want to scream. But I don’t really blame the generals or the politicians, I blame the people who can’t decide what they want.

America, if you want to truly, really win a war, how many men will you sacrifice?

If the number is too high, then don’t go to war.

May 07

Please put up with a little self-indulgence from the On Violence crew today. Yesterday, May 6, was our third anniversary--the leather anniversary!--and coincidentally, on Friday, we publish our 500th post. So we want to celebrate.

Our plan for the week? The regular writers--Michael C, Eric C and regular guest poster Matty P--plan to write about topics that encapsulate our thoughts and writings over the last three years. On Friday, our 500th post will, asbe a "best of" the last 500 posts.

But before that, we want to look back. First, the numbers alone are kind of breathtaking, if we do say so ourselves:

- Number of years:      3
- Number of posts:      500
- Number of words.     Over 300,000.
- Total Visitors:           Quarter of a million.

And we just had our most popular week ever last week.

Most importantly, we feel we have added to the discourse. Looking back on these last three years, we asked ourselves: what have we given the world? We named the phenomenon of “war-is-war”-iors, Michael C shared some excellent personal experiences of war, we explored “intelligence is evidence” and published an op-ed on,“I didn’t deserve my combat pay”. Eric C reviewed countless post-9/11 war memoirs, we debunked “quotes behaving badly” and “facts behaving badly”, we exposed Lone Survivor, had On V song battles, and some pithy thoughts on war films.
       
We’ve also moved towards larger and longer series. We echoed John Horgan by asking, “Will Humans Ever Stop Fighting Wars?”, argued for cultural empathy, and, most recently, started making the case against going to war with Iran. We’ve had some misfires--defining political war, not nearly enough posts on the military budget--but feel our successes far outweigh our mistakes.
       
Since one half of our team got a degree in English, we also cannot help but conduct a meta-literary analysis of the progress of our own blog over the last three years. The quality of our writing has improved...dramatically. We hit our stride about eight months in, but we’ve kept improving over the years. We’ve also improved our blogging by adding in photos--we’ve slacked on this of late--and, recently, videos.

Finally, we want to thank all of our supporters, friends and families. Blogging has taken way longer than we ever expected and we’ve devoted thousands of hours to this site, and I hope it comes across. So this thank you goes out to anyone who has commented, told their friends, liked or retweeted or favorited anything we have written, or supported us in this endeavor.

Those people are too countless to name, but sincerely, thank you.

May 03

(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.)

We’re still kind of shocked no major media outlet has yet covered the inaccuracies (which we discussed in depth in this series) in Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson’s war memoir Lone Survivor, especially since Luttrell has a second book coming out next week and Peter Berg--the planned director for the upcoming film adaptation of Lone Survivor--has Battleship coming out this month.

But to make the disparity clear, we want to compare Lone Survivor to two other “debunked” memoirs, Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea and Luis Carlos Montalvan’s Until Tuesday. Looking at the tale of the tape, we hope some enterprising journalist will see they should investigate Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor.

The Mistakes

Lone Survivor

- Inflates the number of attackers from 30-40 insurgents (according to the official Navy Medal of Honor citation) to over 100. (Later, in interviews, this number increases to 200.)

- Misidentifies the target as a high ranking lieutenant of Osama Bin Laden (he wasn’t) and a member of al Qaeda (he wasn’t).

- Fails to explain the larger purpose of the marine-led mission, Operation Red Wings.

- Claims a vote took place during the mission that the father of Lt. Mike Murphy and other military officers doubt took place.

- Gets the title wrong (Operation Redwing versus Operation Red Wings) and more.

Three Cups of Tea

From Wikipedia:

“- The story recounted in Three Cups of Tea about Mortenson getting lost and separated on the way down from K2, ending up in Korphe in Pakistan, and promising to build a school did not actually take place.

- The story recounted in Stones into Schools about Mortenson's capture by the Taliban did not occur. His purported kidnappers state he was a guest and the Taliban did not exist in the country at that time.

- Schools that the Central Asia Institute claims to have built either have not been built, have been built and abandoned, are currently used for other purposes such as grain storage, or have not been supported by CAI after they were built.”

Until Tuesday

According to an AP investigation:

- Claims Montalvan shot an attacker, but a fellow soldier claims that he did not.

- Exaggerates the injuries Montalvan sustained in the attack.

- Exaggerates why he was attacked, claiming it was an assassination attempt.

- Exaggerates a car bombing.

So while Mortenson fabricated more events than Luttrell, Montalvan certainly didn’t. Maybe Lone Survivor escaped scrutiny because it isn’t as popular. Let’s see.

Popularity

Lone Survivor

- In Eric C’s opinion, the most popular war memoir released by a soldier since 9/11.

- Lone Survivor reached number one on the New York Times bestseller list, remains a top twenty New York Times bestseller and has spent at least 70 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

- The movie adaptation of Lone Survivor starts filming in September, starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Peter Berg.

- Marcus Luttrell has appeared on NBC's Today Show, every Fox News show, and has so many popular speaking engagements lined up, The Hollywood Reporter wrote an article about it.

- On a personal level, three different people recommended Lone Survivor to me. That’s three more times than any other war memoir.

- Michael found a copy of Lone Survivor in Afghanistan, ironically, in the Korengal valley.

Three Cups of Tea

- In Michael C’s opinion, until the debunking, the most popular book related to Pakistan in America.

- Reached number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and remained on the list for four years, only dropping once the media scrutiny got too intense.

- Mortensen was interviewed everywhere, like Parade magazine, USA Today, Outside magazine, and others.

- One of our high school teachers recommended the book to us. It also became required reading for soldiers deploying to Afghanistan.

- Michael also found a copy of this book in the Korengal library.

Until Tuesday

- Eric C hadn’t heard of it until it got debunked.

- Appeared on The New York Times bestseller list at #19.

- Waterman Entertainment bought the film rights, according to Variety.

- Doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page, at least not one that shows up on Google.

So Lone Survivor is probably tied with Three Cups of Tea in popularity, but way ahead of Until Tuesday. Did the media cover the the discrepancies equally?

Media Coverage

Lone Survivor

- Blog posts on On Violence.

- A Marine Corps Gazette article by Ed Darack.

- A website by Ed Darack.

Three Cups of Tea

- An expose by Jon Krakauer and 60 Minutes.

- According to Google News, the Three Cups of Tea controversy had at least 485 news articles written about it...this week alone.

- Last year, every major news outlet covered the Three Cups of Tea controversy.

Until Tuesday

- The AP investigated Montalvan and the facts in Until Tuesday.

- ABC News, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, The New York Times “At War”, and the Army Times all ran stories on the controversy.

Far and away, Three Cups of Tea got the most coverage, with Until Tuesday pulling in a strong second with Lone Survivor a distant, distant third. Maybe Lone Survivor has a really heartwarming message that causes journalists to avoid debunking it.

Message

Lone Survivor

- Luttrell wishes he had killed the two goat herders and the fifteen year old boy.

- He hopes the military relaxes rules of engagement and that the media quits reporting unfavorably on the military.

Three Cups of Tea

- Mortensen promotes the idea that If we build schools in Afghanistan, we’ll create peace.

Until Tuesday

- Dogs help PTSD recovery.

- Montalvan has spoken out against the Iraq war, and advocated for increased veteran benefits.

Wow.