Many of you know Sebastian Junger from his reporting, his bestselling book “The Perfect Storm”, and the movie “Restrepo”. I had a chance to interview him about his new film “Battle Company Korengal”, and screened the movie a few weeks back. Definitely worth checking it out. Enjoy. -Brandon
1. Thanks for taking the time for SOFREP’s readers Sebastian. Could you give us a quick background on yourself and how you got involved in your current profession?
I was a struggling freelance writer in Boston when the war broke out in Bosnia in the 1990’s. I went over to try to become a war reporter; after 6 months I came home to write my first book, the Perfect Storm, but I went back to war reporting as fast as I could. In 1996 I went to Afghanistan to write about terrorist training camps outside Jalalabad, and in 2000 I was with Massoud and his northern alliance as they battled the Taliban. I was hooked.
2. What has been both your most terrifying and rewarding experience embedding with the US military?
The scariest thing for me was before patrols where we thought we were going to get hit. The anxiety beforehand was way worse than the fear during. Also I hated – HATED – riding in Humvees after we hit an IED. We were all ok but it kind of ruined the driving experience for me. Wasn’t crazy about the Chinooks either…they always seemed on the verge of crashing. Most rewarding experience was certainly my closeness to the men. I mean nothing else was even close.
3. We’ve been at war for over a decade now and it seems like the World is not a safer or more stable place. If you were Secretary of State what would you change about American Foreign Policy?
I think its way safer. Al Qaeda has been completely dismembered; other local groups like Al Nusra have no capacity to strike the US, and not even much motivation to. Shia and Sunni are so busy killing each other in the Middle East that they don’t have time for us. The Arab Spring is the inevitable reaction to decades of political oppression – mostly by allies of ours – and it had to end sometime so we might as well get it over with. France is intervening directly in North Africa which is great (meaning that we don’t have to do it) and there is a regional coalition being formed to deal with Book Haram in Nigeria. (Again, we don’t have to do it.) All this is really good. Ukraine is moving towards the West, Putin overplayed his hand, and Afghanistan had an incredibly successful election. The lead candidate, DR. Abdullah, is a highly educated, honorable man and would be an amazing ally. I think on the whole its actually turning out quite well – at least from our perspective.
4. What do you think the US media could be doing better when it comes to reporting in general today?
TV correspondents keep themselves on camera during firefights and become the hero of their little story. It’s ridiculous. Their experience is not “news”…they are just a medium for transmitting the news. I never want to see another TV reporter crouched behind something, taking fire. And many journalists openly advocate a certain point of view. Which is not journalism, its advocacy. If you don’t play prosecutor and defense at the same time, you’re not a journalist. Fox News is the most blatant, but there are plenty of Left-leaning outlets that do this as well. It’s revolting and dangerous.
5. Can you fill us in on the inspiration behind your current project?
I made a film called Restrepo, about a platoon in combat, and there was so much more good material I just had to go back into it.
6. What do you hope to accomplish with the film?
Korengal is an attempt to help soldiers understand their own experience. By extension, civilians might as well. Ultimately, I want to facilitate the journey home for the nearly three million vets who have served overseas in the past
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