I Am A Navy SEAL
by Phyllis Chesler
I parachuted out of a plane onto the back of a submarine. Then we silently submerged into the sea. I waded under water loaded down with gear in order to "extract" a "package": a female CIA agent captured and undergoing torture. I trained in California and Virginia and put my skills to use in South America, the Philippines, Somalia, Chechnya, and the border between Mexico and the United States.
Was I dreaming or was I watching a new kind of action movie that made me feel as if I was actually "embedded" with Navy SEALs, those valiant and elite commando warriors? It was no dream. I sat fully awake, riveted to my seat for 101 thrilling minutes watching a preview of the new movie Act of Valor.
Yes, Navy SEAL heroes "got" Osama bin Laden in his posh Pakistani abode. These warriors undertake the most dangerous missions to defend America from enemy combatants and non-state terrorists. And yet, even I, a non-athletic civilian of a certain age, felt as if I were almost "in their boots and on the ground."
And so will you.
Psychologically, the movie is in 3-D. It may even constitute a new genre — the scripted reality show in which the real warriors play themselves but in a fictionalized version of what they do. The (unnamed or falsely named ) eight SEALs are the "actors" but they are not exactly acting. With the Navy's full approval, we see how the SEALs operate, relate and talk to each other — and to their families; we watch them interrogate a suspected terrorist-related smuggler. The SEALs advised the producer-directors, Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh and the scriptwriter Kurt Johnstad as to how their team would actually strategize a given mission — and they then proceeded to do so on camera.
Remember Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 anti-Vietnam war film Apocalypse Now with the helicopter gunships moving into Vietnam accompanied by Wagner's massive music for the Ride of The Valkyrie, those fabulously fierce female Amazon divinity-warriors on flying horses? Da-da-da-DA-dum, da-da-da-DA-dum.
That extraordinary scene now pales in comparison to many of the sequences in Act of Valor – definitely not an anti-war or anti-American film. On the contrary, it emphasizes America's need for special combat forces to defeat the global Islamist terrorist threats we face both here and abroad. It is a film which valorizes without glamorizing our commandos .
Scene: A Navy SEAL team jumps in formation out of a plane, free-falls for a heart-stoppingly long while, and then almost effortlessly parachutes to earth.
Scene: A Navy SEAL team walks underwater as if they are deadly human submarines. Their choregraphed formations constitute a dreadful beauty.
Scene: A workshop in Chechyna with a long row of silent women sewing lightweight suicide bomber vests with undetectable, ceramic gel "balls." A violinist plays Brahms as the women work. The vests await 16 Muslim "martyrs" who will enter the United States through Mexico and disperse to 16 locations — San Francisco, San Diego, Las Vegas, Houston, and beyond.
Scene: The SEAL team finds the tortured CIA agent. She is a woman and a physician. One soldier says, "We are taking you home." But he also asks her what her mother's maiden name was and the name of the street she grew up on.
Scene: A riveting and dramatic car chase and gun battle with real ammunition that far surpasses Hollywood's best.
Actually, Hollywood dropped the ball on World War IV. Too many films have remained invested in exposing the CIA and American military forces as corrupt and greedy torturers, and as psychiatrically traumatized and murderous ex-soldiers (Syriana, Valley of Elah, Safe House). This obsession has trumped showing viewers who, exactly, declared war on America for the last 33 years (Khomeini began it when he took the American Embassy personnel hostage) and whom we must now fight.
With a few exceptions, if Hollywood dares depicts Muslims, they are invariably sympathetically portrayed as innocents who have been wrongfully accused, imprisoned, or deported by infidels or as the potential liberators of their long-suffering people.
When documentaries with real footage of real Islamic/Islamist attacks on civilians are shown to counter terrorist police officers, American Muslim organizations, (mainly CAIR, which is the Muslim Brotherhood in America), invariably condemn the showing as "Islamophobic." This recently happened in New York City when the film The Third Jihad was shown to fewer than 1500 police officers. Mayor Bloomberg condemned the showing, Police Commission Kelly apologized for having appeared in it.
Wearily, wearily, I repeat: Not all Muslims are terrorists. Certainly not. I work with anti-Islamist Muslims and ex-Muslims every day. But most terrorists today are Muslims who claim they are acting in the name of Islam. Whether other Muslims view them as having hijacked a peaceful religion is irrelevant.
What matters is whether the "moderate" or silent Muslim majority is willing to oppose the Islamist Muslims who have declared war on both Muslims and infidels, on civilians and women everywhere, but especially on Israel and America.
What also matters is that Americans of all faiths and races appreciate and support our armed forces, especially our elite units like the Navy SEALs who defend our freedom and who are willing to risk death every day to do so.
Like surgeons, we see that Navy SEALs joke before missions to normalize the extraordinary acts in which they normally engage. Many SEALs have fathers or grandfathers who served in the military before them. Some think they have "warrior blood in their veins." One warrior leaves a letter for his unborn child, a son, in which he writes: "Live your life as if death has no place in your heart….die like a hero going home." A SEAL's team is "family," tightly bonded. One warrior says: "If you are not willing to give up everything you've already lost."
Navy SEALs, (the United States Navy's Sea, Air, and Land Teams), operate in the air, at sea, and on land and have been involved in hostage rescues, counter terrorism, unconventional warfare, direct action, and special reconnaisance most recently in Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan, and the Persian Gulf.
Their precursors were the "frogmen" and Alamo scouts of World War II and members of the OSS (which became the CIA) all of whom saw critical action in every theatre of the war.
Many men apply to become Navy SEALs, few are accepted, even fewer stay the course. The drop out rate is often 90 percent. The training is exceptionally long and arduous. SEALs learn hand-to-hand combat, high altitude parachuting, shooting, swimming, foreign languages, interrogation technqiues, undercover skills, etc.
What makes Act of Valor different from the very excellent film The Hurt Locker is this: Both show us warriors in their element. Jeremy Renner, the lead character in The Hurt Locker is no longer fit for any kind of domestic life; he thrives on the danger involved in defusing explosives. In Act of Valor we are shown SEALs interacting normally and tenderly with their wives and children –whom they must leave again and again, never knowing if they will return. So many don't.
The film is dedicated to the many Navy SEALs who have lost their lives defending America.
I humbly salute them.
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I recommend this book be put on the reading list of every American school.
--Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Author of Infidel and Nomad
This is a bold book, intimate and rich in detail… Chesler is a voice crying out for women. She will never stop
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