Image by © Dreamstime
by Sydney Williams
American Sniper, the movie based on Chris Kyle’s book of the same name, depicts the brotherhood of soldiers, the adrenalin mixture of fear and bravery that accompanies every soldier in combat and the fateful decisions they must make instantaneously. The movie also covers the difficulties of subsequently re-entering civilian life – what is clinically termed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. It is the gripping story of Chris Kyle’s eight years as a SEAL and his four deployments to Iraq between 2003 and 2009. There is nothing political in the story, and that is what has upset so many on the Left. It does not glorify war, but it does not condemn it. It is agnostic. It is the story of a man, a soldier and how he dealt with the demons that tormented him –not appropriately, according to the Left.
I am not a movie person; so only reluctantly did I let my wife drag me to see American Sniper last week; though I admit to having been intrigued by negative reviews from those who had not seen it, but were not shy about their criticisms. For example, former Vermont governor and Presidential candidate Howard “The Screamer” Dean admitted to not having seen the movie, yet claimed it appealed to “angry Tea-partiers.” He later apologized to the nation’s veterans, but couldn’t resist taking another jab at the “thousands of right-wing nut jobs” who had twittered him.
In their reaction to the film, the Left has become absurd in their vitriol. NBC News foreign correspondent referred to Chris Kyle as, “a racist who went on a killing spree.” Michael Moore accused snipers like Chris Kyle as “cowards.” The BBC said the film was correctly criticized “for Kyle’s attitudes toward his victims.” The actor Seth Rogen, showing his ignorance, compared the movie to Nazi propaganda. Lindy West, writing in The Guardian, said that Kyle was a “racist who took pleasure in dehumanizing and killing brown people.” Sheldon Richman of The Future of Freedom Foundation said, preposterously, that Kyle was “no different than deranged serial killer Adam Lanza.” Racist? Killing spree? Coward? “Victims?” Nazis? Comparable to Adam Lanza? What are these supposedly intelligent people thinking? Two things wrong with that last sentence: the critics are neither intelligent nor do they think.
As in most of their comments, the Left displayed a sense of moral superiority born of elitism. They assume their moral zeitgeist is the nation’s. They can neither understand nor tolerate those who question their narrative. The Left’s behavior is reminiscent of 19th Century Europeans who justified imperialism as their due, as it brought civilization to boors mired in ignorance. Leftists have transported that same notion of “the white man’s burden” from its colonial past into modern day America, as they see themselves bringing enlightenment to the unwashed masses – those who only care about guns and God. It is an attitude as insulting as it is sanctimonious.
Chris Kyle assuredly was no saint. But he had no pretensions as such. He was not an intellectual, a philosopher or an historian, but, then, neither are his critics. He did as he was ordered. His job was to kill bad guys intent on killing Americans. It was not to make policy or to debate his superior officers. He performed his duties as a soldier. And he was very good at what he did.
In the movie, Clint Eastwood provides no justification for the war in Iraq. There was no mention of President Bush, or anything about weapons of mass destruction. There was, however, a film-clip of the 1998 bombings at US Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in which 224 people were killed, and another clip of the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11. Those clips were central to the story, as the first motivated Mr. Kyle to join the U.S. Navy and the second hardened his resolve to do what he could to avenge attacks on America. Mr. Kyle was not alone in his sense that America had been violated and in his desire to help right what he clearly saw was a wrong. It was the attack on 9/11 that galvanized the nation, at least for a few months.
What Clint Eastwood achieved and what Bradley Cooper portrayed was a man who was brought up to believe in God, and that both good and evil exist. His father wanted him to be on the side of the good guys. After watching the televised 1998 bombings of the embassies in Africa, Chris Kyle joined the navy to serve a country in which he believed and which he loved – a country that allows bigots like Michael Moore to spout their venom. Through SEAL training he and his fellow recruits became brothers in blood. While he was appalled by what Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda forces did in Kenya and Tanzania and three years later on 9/11, the enemy could have been anyone; for he was a soldier. They could have been Vietcong, North Koreans, Nazis, Yankees or the British Army in 1776. Dilettantes can debate the merits of whether a war is “good” or “bad.” But that is not the responsibility of soldiers. Their duty is to obey their commanders and to aid their comrades. War is nasty and brutish. It should be avoided whenever possible, but it is strength and resolve that prevent war, not weakness and appeasement. When war is engaged, moreover, there can be only one outcome – victory. Clint Eastwood understands soldiers in a way his critics do not…and in a way many politicians do not. It was not the Iraq War per se that mattered to Kyle; it was his love of country, his sense of duty and his feelings for his comrades.
As a sniper, Chris Kyle’s job was to protect American lives. How many did he save? No one knows, but certainly multiples of those he killed. In the White House and in the halls of Congress, in editorial pages and on blogs, we may debate as to whether we should have been in Iraq in the first place, but for a soldier faced with an enemy that is trying to kill him there is no time for such discussion. Chris Kyle was courageous in a way his critics are not. He was given a mission. He achieved it. He came home to America and, after a period of adjustment, he found a new vocation in helping returning veterans re-enter civilian life, and for that he was killed. The hard Left is upset that millions of Americans see in the portrayal of Chris Kyle a hero to be admired. Let the Left complain; I just hope they understand that their freedom to do so is because of people like Chris Kyle, and has nothing to do with sycophants in mainstream media.
The views expressed on austriancenter.com are not necessarily those of the Austrian Economics Center.
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