In an op-ed on CNN yesterday, former Navy SEAL Don Mann says that Michael Moore is wrong about ‘American Sniper’ – that “Without people like Chris Kyle, Americans would face more dangers.” If this is not quite the National Review’s David French claiming, “The movie gives America something it’s lacked since the start of the war — a war hero on a truly national, cultural scale,” it is bad enough.
We can be reasonably certain that Mann is not trying to argue that “without war criminals and murderers” we would face more dangers (or maybe he is, and more’s the pity) – and here one does not have to agree with Moore that “all snipers are cowards” – but that is precisely what Mann ends up arguing, because a war criminal is precisely what Chris Kyle was.
I have previously argued the point that Chris Kyle can be equated with members of the Nazi Einsatzgruppen who scoured the Eastern Front for the enemies of ethnic nationalism, much as Kyle did in Iraq. His “savages” are to be equated with National Socialism’s “Untermenschen.” Kyle is an odd example, if so, if an Aryan Übermensch, or superman, but ethnic nationalists tend to have distorted self-images hardly representative of the culture they claim to represent.
Mann first explains the role of the sniper:
A sniper, who operates behind enemy lines, has one of the most demanding and dangerous duties in the Special Operations community. Snipers operating in Iraq, Afghanistan and a host of other countries often must crawl and make their way through treacherous urban or desert war-zone terrain for hours just to reach their position undetected, a position of over-watch, cover and concealment. Once they are on site, they sometimes stay in their position for days on end waiting for follow-on orders.
He goes on to argue – though it does not follow – that,
Military snipers are not sociopaths, coldblooded killers. Snipers believe in their hearts that when they neutralize, or “take out,” a threat that they are saving the lives of their teammates, other military personnel or other innocent people. Their target hit lists typically include terrorists or people preparing to cause grave harm or death to the innocent.
This, mind you, spoken of a man who claimed to have shot down in cold blood some thirty people during Hurricane Katrina’s messy aftermath, without trial. Even if you can excuse Kyle’s Fallujah exploits, how does Mann justify this claim by his hero? He doesn’t. He ignores it instead.
At any rate, that is Mann’s viewpoint. While Mann writes that, “I remain deeply honored and humbled to be an American and to have been part of a community where heroes like Kyle have served,” another viewpoint is that of Ross Caputi, a former Marine who also fought at Fallujah, who writes:
I am arguing that he [Kyle] was not a hero. He and I both participate in an illegal and immoral war and occupation, and that deserves no praise or recognition. In particular, we both have the same blood on our hands for helping to destroy the city of Fallujah.
The point I would make here is that if no military sniper is a sociopath (and Kyle specifically), then by necessity, the SS troops on the Eastern Front, also engaged in the indiscriminate looting and the killing of civilians (not to mention the view of them as naturally inferior to the sniper) were not sociopaths either. The evidence, however, would suggest otherwise. And sociopaths or not, their actions were and are, when they behave like Kyle, against not only the code of military conduct, but against international law.
Yet Mann would have us accept a very simplistic good vs. evil world where,
The terrorist — the enemy, the “bad guy” — strikes terror and threatens to harm and kill the innocent, like the wolf who threatens the sheep. Fortunately, there are brave men and women who sacrifice much to protect those who wish to live day to day in peace. These protectors are the community sheepdogs.
Enter, implausibly, Chris Kyle:
Chris Kyle was a champion sheepdog. Every time Kyle pulled back on his trigger and fired a shot that neutralized a “wolf,” he was saving countless lives and protecting the sheep. Every wolf he put down was no longer capable of causing harm or death to the sheep, the innocents.
But Chris Kyle not only did not regret killing these so-called “wolves” but he actually enjoyed it, in his own words:
“I hate the d*** savages and I’ve been fighting and I always will. I love killing bad guys. Even with the pain, I loved what I was doing. Maybe war isn’t really fun, but I certainly was enjoying it.
Kyle even went so far as to say, “I only wish I had killed more,” that,
I loved what I did. I still do. If circumstances were different – if my family didn’t need me – I’d be back in a heartbeat. I’m not lying or exaggerating to say it was fun. I had the time of my life being a SEAL.
This is the point Bill Maher made Friday when citing some of Kyle’s statements, calling the sniper a “psychopath patriot.”
We could question what, precisely, Kyle sacrificing was that he enjoyed it so much? We are told he was separated from his family but by his own admission it seems his family needed him more than he needed them.
His conservative defenders say of Kyle that we cannot take a single quote and use it to define a man, but it is apparently permissible to issue a blanket statement to say no matter how many laws a sniper breaks, or how much joy he takes in killing, a sniper is no sociopath.
Voices like Chris Kyle’s emerge and are embraced because they tell us exactly what we want to hear. They merely reaffirm preexisting beliefs about the benevolence of American wars and the righteousness of American armed service people. That’s why American Sniper has been so success. It reassures us of what we want to believe about Iraq and about our veterans, and Chris Kyle’s combat credentials make it believable.
And this says a lot about why conservatives in particular are eager to defend this film. It is the reassurance they need that they are the good guys, no matter how much evil they sow in America’s name.
Conservative logic dictates that because Iraq was a just war, Chris Kyle must necessarily be a hero. But of course, Iraq was not a just war; far from it, it was a criminal enterprise from start to finish, no more honest than Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939.
And in the end, if we glorify psychopaths we send to defend America, not only do we denigrate the decent young men and women serving in those wars, but are we not already at that point where there is nothing here worth defending?
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.