My Review of American Sniper

02Feb15

Poster

It is impossible to review American Sniper without addressing the two controversies surrounding it.

First, Chris Kyle has been criticized for calling Iraqis “savages” and expressing joy at killing them (he actually referred to the enemy, not all Iraqis, as savages). Michael Moore famously commented about snipers being cowards who shoot people in the back; as I write this, Moore continues to tweet derogatory comments about snipers. Writer Max Blumenthal tweeted that Kyle was a racist occupier and mass murderer comparable to the DC Sniper. Bill Maher called Kyle a “psychopath patriot”. Rolling Stone published a long diatribe about how American Sniper is emblematic of everything wrong with the American war in Iraq and proclaimed it “almost too dumb to criticize”.

I admit to being severely biased on this issue. I’m a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. I was never a sniper, but was a Squad Designated Marksman and know something of the dedication, discipline and courage required to be a sniper. Due to an odd circumstance I was on several missions with French Marine snipers in Afghanistan. On two occasions when I wasn’t embedded with them, French snipers possibly saved my life. And at least two Marine friends of mine shared battlefields with Chris Kyle. One is extremely protective of Kyle’s memory, since Kyle literally may be the reason he’s alive today.

I see nothing wrong with sniping enemy (or dropping artillery on them, or hitting them with airstrikes, or running them over with a tank while they’re asleep). Despite what much of the left seems to believe, being willing or even eager to kill worthy enemy doesn’t make us sociopathic. It means we soldiers understand some problems can only be solved with violence, and have a duty to apply it. Moore, Blumenthal et al seem to demand we feel bad when we do our duty. They apply their “war is always bad and nobody should fight even if America is under attack” mentality to us, and are shocked when we reject it.

As long as I follow the laws of war, it doesn’t matter if I think the enemy are savages. There’s a gigantic difference between hating the enemy and hating every living being in a nation. I didn’t hate the enemy, but I understood those who did.

Bradley Cooper and me at my firebase in Afghanistan during a USO visit. He's about a foot taller than me, but ducked down for the picture.

Bradley Cooper and me at my firebase in Afghanistan during a USO visit. He’s about a foot taller than me, but ducked down for the picture.

It’s vitally important that we Americans don’t rape, murder and pillage; to emphasize that importance, I wrote a long series on American soldiers who committed a horrible rape and multiple murders in Iraq. But Maher and his buddies who think we should never happily kill enemy just don’t understand us. They’d handicap us by having us dread the fight, when we should leave the wire eager for combat. Soldiers who hope to avoid contact are at an automatic disadvantage when a contact starts, but soldiers who want combat come alive when the first shot is fired. I’d much rather have troops who embrace war, like Kyle, covering my back than “soldiers” who dread it. Or brave Twitter warriors like Michael Moore who I believe would shed his uniform, drop his rifle and abandon his countrymen at the first hint of danger.

On one hand, I should respect the opinions of Moore and his ilk. After all, civilian oversight of the military is crucial to democracy.

On the other hand, screw them.

I could give a damn if some latent coward who has never and would never serve looks down his nose at me. My biggest regret in Afghanistan was having enemy in my sights but not being allowed to kill them; my biggest hope is that the one time I might have killed an enemy, I actually did. One of my happiest memories is of watching Kiowas and Apaches pounding hidden, trapped Taliban, and later learning five were killed. I would never feel happiness at the deaths of civilians, but I was ecstatic at the deaths of our enemies.

That makes me what it makes me. Don’t like it? I don’t care. Unless you’re willing to dodge IEDs, bullets and rockets beside me, your opinion means less than nothing.

So the first controversy is functionally irrelevant to me. The second, however, does matter.

Kyle has been accused of telling unbelievably untrue “sea stories” after his discharge from the Navy. A preponderance of evidence suggests he did just that. Three whoppers have been identified: the bar fight where he supposedly punched Jesse Ventura, his alleged killing of two carjackers at a gas station, and his claimed time atop New Orleans’ Superdome sniping dozens of armed looters after Hurricane Katrina. Journalistic inquiries determined those claims at best unverifiable, at worst outright lies.

Read the rest at http://www.breachbangclear.com/american-sniper-minion-review-1/

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Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com and Iron Mike magazine and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).

http://www.amazon.com/Line-Valley-Chris-Hernandez-ebook/dp/B00HW1MA2G/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=09XSSHABSWPC3FM8K6P4
http://www.amazon.com/Proof-Our-Resolve-Chris-Hernandez-ebook/dp/B0099XMR1E/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=0S6AGHBTJZ6JH99D56X7

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19 Responses to “My Review of American Sniper”

  1. 1 kim kelley

    Chris, there are a lot of bloggers out with their opinions and babble. Some make me wonder why they are free to do so with the stupidity that comes out their mouth, and silver spoon in their right hand. Then others, like yourself, remind me how blessed I am to be here, and reminded of the SELFLESS service given for these “blogging rights”. So I just want to say: this comment made my next 2 years of service something to look forward to: “Unless you’re willing to dodge IEDs, bullets and rockets beside me, your opinion means less than nothing.”

    KK

  2. 3 Dan Hammond

    Well said Brother! Semper Fi. A Vietnam Marine who understands.

  3. (FYI I also left this comment on BreachBangClear) –

    To me, trying to critique a war by critiquing a movie is absurd. For that reason I’ve long been wary of movies that try to take on ‘big’ subjects, whether bio-pics of Nixon and Kennedy or war pics such as “Hurt Locker” and now “American Sniper.” Yet at the same time, of course, these subjects can’t be avoided. To me what would be best is to critique the movie as a movie, the war as a war, and avoid getting the two confused. If possible.

    Beyond that, I think folks like me, who have not served in combat nor even in peacetime, have an unfortunate tendency to evaluate soldiers as somehow “good” if we believe the war should have been waged, or “bad” if we believe it should not have been waged. Clearly that is what is coloring the views of the critics you cite.

    My own view, going back to Vietnam, which I witnessed only on the TV as a young teenager and later read about, is that soldiers do not equal the war they fight in and just as with movies, we should not confuse the two. I tend to think that whatever side he or she is fighting on, a soldier tends to hope that it is the right side, or many times outright believe that it is; and even if at times there may be doubt, there is never any doubt about supporting comrades in a life-and-death situation.

    Another problem with movie views of war is that surely there are as many different psychological reactions and nuances to a soldier’s life as there are soldiers. Movies need to be reductionistic to fulfill their formula but life is more complex than that.

    I think the only real argument one could muster against your view of being an eager soldier would be that of a confirmed peace activitist – the Gandhis of this world and their supporters. That is an entirely different view of what constitutes appropriate action. However even there, I very much doubt that the Gandhis of this world, when they encounter & talk with the soldiers of this world, treat them with cynicism or disrespect.

    • Wholesight,

      I agree that movies are poor depictions of war, not good representations to debate the actual wars behind them. They’re not a bad starting point, but not a good representation of facts.

      And I agree that only those who oppose any type of conflict, for any reason, could reasonably argue against a soldier’s enthusiasm for fighting what he considers a just war. Those who disagree with a specific war, in my experience, generally didn’t treat us as if we were at fault for the war. I had a very positive experience back in 2007: While at a training course, I and several other soldiers found an internet café to hang out when we were off. The owners were an older ex-hippie couple, and had anti-war art for sale on the walls. They were always polite and friendly, and only once the man brought up his opposition to the war. He wasn’t confrontational, just honest. I actually agreed with several of his points, and never had a negative impression of him or his opinion.

      People like Michael Moore have nothing in common with the café owner. The owner was an honest and decent man, Moore is an arrogant fuck who thinks we soldiers are far too stupid to think for ourselves.

      • 7 Ken

        “Moore is an arrogant fuck who thinks we soldiers are far too stupid to think for ourselves.”

        This reminded me of John Kerry’s idiot statement that many in the military are in the military because they were too stupid to be anything else. The best part of this was the picture taken of soldiers mocking him with a sign saying “Halp us Jon Carry – we r stuck (backward “k”) hear n Irak”. Ha!

  4. 8 Roy in Nipomo

    “On one hand, I should respect the opinions of Moore and his ilk. After all, civilian oversight of the military is crucial to democracy.” *Elected* civilian oversight is what is important, not just any loud blowhard who spouts off.

    • That seems a rather narrow interpretation of what constitutes democracy. Why confine democratic participation – including commenting and debating – to only elected representatives? It’s impossible for one thing, but beyond that, it just doesn’t make sense to me. Are you saying your own views should also be ignored since you are not (presumably) an elected representative?

      • 10 DogoCanario

        Can you expand upon your reply to the previous poster?

        I am not sure that I want the crowd (agitated or otherwise) to direct the actions of the military. Expressing personal views on military action (or other subjects) is a separate issue, in my opinion.

        • Well, we may be talking at cross purposes here – we haven’t really defined our terms. Chris would have to be the one to say what he meant by “oversight” when he said that “civilian oversight of the military is crucial to democracy.” For myself, I do not mean to suggest that merely being a citizen entitles one to somehow having actual jurisdiction over the military – that is absurd on the face of it. What I did mean to suggest is that in a democracy, the opinions of all citizens should count for something, so long as those citizens are doing their best to contribute to a meaningful discussion. Mere disagreement should not be enough to somehow disqualify a person from participating in the discussion. And public discussion truly is essential to a democracy – which may (or may not be) the point Chris was making.

          The other thing I was trying to say is, we shouldn’t restrict democracy to something that is only handled by our elected representatives while we stand aloof except at voting time. That way lies danger.

          • 12 DogoCanario

            Thank you for your reply.

            You are correct, the owner of the blog is in a position to define his own language and intent. Maybe I misread him. I thought that he was talking about about civilian oversight of the military. You have identified a different meaning in his comment.

          • Roy, Wholesight and Dogo,

            Sorry for the delayed response. I believe the American public in general plays a crucial part in oversight of the military. As Roy pointed out, that doesn’t mean idiots like Michael Moore determine policy, but as Wholesight pointed out, that doesn’t mean only elected representatives have a say. We’ve seen the tremendous difference between wars that have public support, like WW2, and wars that don’t, like Vietnam and Iraq. Our public generally isn’t going to support immoral, ill-advised wars, but will support wars fought for good reason against worthy enemies. While no individual’s opinion on the worthiness of military action is infallible, as a whole the public seems to be a good barometer of the rightness or wrongness of our wars. For that reason, I believe popular public opinion is both relevant and crucial. Popular support is a “force multiplier”, which enables soldiers to accomplish more than they would otherwise.

            I’d like to add, I really dig it when something I write sparks interesting debate among intelligent dudes. 🙂

      • 14 Roy in Nipomo

        I’m afraid that I viewed the word “oversight” in the manner it is used in gov’t to indicate a form of supervision. To allow all citizens of this republic a direct say in the running of the military (or any other gov’t grouping) is unwieldy to the point of an impossibility. All citizens can give their views/opinions, both in public and to their elected representatives, but not give the orders to the military. The President can give direct orders and the Congress can exercise indirect control, both with war declarations, the power of the purse and confirmation of military officers by the Senate.

  5. 15 Ken

    There are valid criticisms of Chris Kyle to be made and even those have to be taken with the understanding that this man faced the horrors of war as much as any other man. Kyle was right in that most Americans don’t understand war. This is even more true for the people you mention like Michael Moore.

    The people you criticize, Chris, are people who think that all killing is wrong, no matter what. The killing of a woman with a bomb getting ready to blow up a group of fellow marines is just as wrong as killing that group of marines. The gulf between people who think like that and the people who understand that the world really is a dangerous, violent place with a need for violent, dangerous men to handle the truly frighteningly violent and dangerous men, is simply too great. When one side talks to the other, nothing can be said to change the other side’s mind. I do appreciate your comment, though, as they are correct. The mind set of people like Michael Moore and Bill Maher blinds them to the obviously correct observation that Kyle made about the people he fought: they ARE savages and anyone fighting them SHOULD be happy to kill them.

    I have some mixed feelings about Kyle, as he’s made some pretty dubious claims that seem like out right, and very unnecessary, lies in order to keep up his image. He claimed to have been called into New Orleans to sit atop the Superdome and killed dozens of looters. He also claims to have killed two hijackers on some lonely road in Texas. Neither claim has been substantiated by people who investigated those claims and both seem to be absurd claims to make. I personally think Kyle was trapped by his own identity as this badass SEAL and for some reason, needed to preserve that image at all costs.

    His own actions tragically distract from the very real and very extraordinary accomplishments he had as a SEAL. His goodness is obvious, though, as in an even more tragic twist of fate, his goodness got him killed trying to help a fellow combat veteran deal with his demons. He died, as he lived, trying to help someone who really needed help.

    • 16 Boat Guy

      Even more tragically the “fellow combat veteran ” now appears to be a fobbit poser.

  6. 17 SPEMack

    I’m in that odd situation where I don’t necessarily worship the ground Chief Kyle walked on and think publishing an autobiography is a bit boastful, but holy fuck, I’d have loved to have served with him and to know that I had such an impact he did.

    Probably, in all honesty, not going to see the movie, mainly because I’ve gotten to the point where ultra-realistic depictions of violence don’t entertain me anymore.

    Good write up and review, Chris

  7. 18 Mark W

    Chris: I think you nailed it with your following comment in your review. I have been saying this and thinking this for the last 50 years myself, If and when enough people in the world learn and accept this truism, perhaps the world will be a better place where we can all get along. I won’t see it in my lifetime, but there is hope for humanity. BTW, excellent commentary. I saw the movie and enjoyed it as entertainment, but I did reach very similar conclusions as you. Great minds think alike!

    “I remember my reply when a French officer in Afghanistan asked how we could get the local population’s support: “It’s simple. All we have to do is convince them we’re not alien, infidel invaders and occupiers trying to change their way of life. The problem is, we ARE alien, infidel invaders and occupiers trying to change their way of life.” I just never saw the war as simple us vs. them, and never condemned the enemy for attacking us; If America was invaded, no matter the invaders’ intentions, wouldn’t I fight them? Wouldn’t you?”


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