Home / General / American Sniper

American Sniper

Comments
/
/
/
835 Views

ww1

[Th]he movie gives America something it’s lacked since the start of the war — a war hero on a truly national, cultural scale. Yes, we’ve learned the stories of Marcus Luttrell and others who’ve achieved great and heroic things, but with the success of this movie, Chris Kyle has entered the pantheon of American warriors — along with Alvin C. York and Audie Murphy — giving a new generation of young boys a warrior-hero to look up to, to emulate. After all, our kids’ heroes can’t be — must not be — exclusively quarterbacks, rappers, or point guards.

No one is claiming that Chris Kyle is Jesus. Every human being has flaws. And he risked no more and no less than the thousands upon thousands of anonymous soldiers and Marines who fought house-to-house during their own turns downrange, but he undeniably did his job better than any man who came before him — or any man since — and he did that job as part of his selfless service to our nation. I’m thankful that my own son counts Chris Kyle as a hero.

Leftists such as Michael Moore will rage on, and professors will judge the movie without seeing it — and all that backlash may cost the movie an Oscar — but Clint Eastwood has done something far greater than win an Oscar. He reached a great nation with a story it needed to hear.

David French, National Review

Men who shed tears if they have to kill a chicken kill on the battlefield without a qualm. They do so purely for the common good, repressing their human feeling as a painful, altruistic duty. Executioners kill a very few guilty men, parricides, forgers, and the like. Soldiers kill thousands of guiltless men, indiscriminately, blindly, with wild enthusiasm. Suppose an innocent visitor from another planet were to ask which of these two groups was shunned and despised on earth, and which was acclaimed, admired, rewarded, what would we answer? “Explain to me why the most honorable thing in the world — in the opinion of the entire human race without exception — is the right innocently to shed innocent human blood?”

Isaiah Berlin, paraphrasing and quoting Joseph de Maistre, in “Joseph de Maistre and the Origins of Fascism.”

Among the calamities of war may be justly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.

Samuel Johnson

Unfortunately, there is often a need of some concrete incident before one
can discover the real state of one’s feelings. Here is another memory
from Germany. A few hours after Stuttgart was captured by the French
army, a Belgian journalist and myself entered the town, which was still
in some disorder. The Belgian had been broadcasting throughout the war
for the European Service of the BBC, and, like nearly all Frenchmen or
Belgians, he had a very much tougher attitude towards ‘the Boche’ than an
Englishman or an American would have. All the main bridges into town had
been blown up, and we had to enter by a small footbridge which the
Germans had evidently made efforts to defend. A dead German soldier was
lying supine at the foot of the steps. His face was a waxy yellow. On his
breast someone had laid a bunch of the lilac which was blooming
everywhere.

The Belgian averted his face as we went past. When we were well over the
bridge he confided to me that this was the first time he had seen a dead
man. I suppose he was thirty five years old, and for four years he had
been doing war propaganda over the radio. For several days after this,
his attitude was quite different from what it had been earlier. He looked
with disgust at the bomb-wrecked town and the humiliation the Germans
were undergoing, and even on one occasion intervened to prevent a
particularly bad bit of looting. When he left, he gave the residue of the
coffee we had brought with us to the Germans on whom we were billeted. A
week earlier he would probably have been scandalized at the idea of
giving coffee to a ‘Boche’. But his feelings, he told me, had undergone a
change at the sight of ce pauvre mort beside the bridge: it had suddenly
brought home to him the meaning of war. And yet, if we had happened to
enter the town by another route, he might have been spared the experience
of seeing one corpse out of the–perhaps–twenty million that the war
has produced.

George Orwell, “Revenge is Sour”

I could not dig; I dared not rob:
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?

Rudyard Kipling, “A Dead Statesman”

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • Malaclypse
  • Rob in CT

    What’s really messed up about the National Review bit is this:

    Even if this guy was heroic, even if he was decent, and even if he really was exceptional at his job (of killing people)… the war was still a fucked up mess that should not have been fought. Sending the best of your society off to fight in stupid wars based on lies is awful.

    And my understanding, limited for sure, is that this guy was *not* the hero he is apparently made out to be.

    • ChrisS

      You can’t hate the war if you hate the people fighting it, amirite?

      • Rob in CT

        Huh? Missed this one.

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    “he risked no more and no less than those who fought house to house”

    what the *fuck* is *this* bullshit???

    • Lee Rudolph

      Hey, you don’t think mixing it up with Jesse Ventura is a cakewalk, do you?

      • rea

        Ventura recovered $1.8 million against Kyle’s estate for defamation by proving that the alleged Ventura/Kyle brawl never occurred. Ventura, of course, was 23 years older than Kyle and in poor health, so if they had actually ever met and got into a fight, that would not necessarily be to Kyle’s credit.

        • mark f

          And in fact, when Kyle admitted that [he imagined] “Scruff” was Jesse Ventura in an interview, he said something about him being an older guy who “fell out of his wheelchair.” I don’t know if it’s more embarrassing that he bragged about suckerpunching an old guy, or that he made the whole thing up.

          • Origami Isopod

            he bragged about suckerpunching an old guy

            Which makes him the perfect hero for today’s GOP.

    • joe from Lowell

      I don’t know about this particular guy’s career, but snipers are commonly sent out in the bush in teams of two, without any help around. If they are discovered, it’s just them.

      They may not be clearing rooms, but they’re not filling out forms in Tampa, either.

      • Vance Maverick

        The New Yorker piece makes it clear that Kyle was in genuine danger. There’s lots more to say, but let’s at least acknowledge that.

        • brownian

          Yeah, he could have fallen right off the roof of the SuperDome while he was picking off looters during Katrina.

          Of course, he bragged about looting houses in Iraq, as well. So, kudos to him for trying to see life through his victims eyes too I guess.

          • Ronan

            he appeared to be a deeply unpleasant character. different set of circumstances , less institutional restrictions on his behaviour ? he’d have probably ended up a footsoldier in ISIS

            • Ronan

              or stabler from law and order.

              • brownian

                Worst character ever.

                “Who would be a good fit for our SVU?”
                “How about Elliot Stabler?”
                “The Christopher Meloni-looking guy with a daughter who flies into a blind rage at the mere mention of a rapist?”
                “Yeah. I bet he’d do good work, and we’d never ever have to discipline him for taking the law into his own hands.”
                “Good thinking.”

                Hmm, looking back on all the policing stories coming out of 2014, perhaps he’s the most accurate television character ever.

                • Just_Dropping_By

                  Wait, is it Stabler who flies into a blind rage or his daughter?

                • Ronan

                  Im watching an episode at the minute. There’s a ransom money exchange going on. The SVU crew are there keeping an eye. Stabler’s wearing a bright green shirt, dark glasses and tweed jacket, kind of a mix between a professor/a bouncer and a hitman. He’s loitering around the individual making the drop. He’s going to blow the whole op.

                • brownian

                  Now I’m not sure, Just_Dropping_By. I was always a L&O original series man myself.

                  It’s not real police work unless Chris Noth is looking dour while Jerry Orbach drops quips like his arms are overfull of them.

          • brownian

            My previous comment was pretty disdainful, and I regret downplaying the danger that he faced in his service. I apologize for that, especially to the current and former service people here.

            • Vance Maverick

              OK, sounds like we’re not disagreeing. I’m not ex-service, indeed pretty antiwar. I just wanted to push back at the claim that his work was safe. House-to-house fighting sounds like it was worse, but just a matter of degree.

              • brownian

                Exactly. I’m anti-war myself, and I deplore my current goverment’s war-boner while cutting benefits to veterans.

                That said, my wife’s best friend’s husband is a soldier, and former sniper. The guy loves army life, and he can go about it forever. One thing he never talks about, in fact says he will never talk about, is killing. I think I may have gotten the impression from him that those who brag the most about their kill counts are seeing the least amount of action. Whether or not that’s true (it probably isn’t), or he meant to give that impression (he probably didn’t), I should be more thoughtful in my comments.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      didn’t say it wasn’t a dangerous job

      apparently going to have to agree to disagree on the allegedly heroic nature of the job, though

      • joe from Lowell

        didn’t say it wasn’t a dangerous job

        …in so many words.

      • ThrottleJockey

        Yeah, I’m a little confused. Playing soldier as a kid no one ever wanted to be a sniper. Danger aside, its not the classic ‘mano-a-mano’ icon we generally venerate. In fact I can’t think of a single other sniper popularly called a “hero”.

        • Pseudonym

          Lee Harvey Oswald?

        • drkrick

          Leroy Jethro Gibbs

  • Funkhauser

    After all, our kids’ heroes can’t be — must not be — exclusively quarterbacks, rappers, or point guards.

    For those who don’t speak dog whistle, he means “black.”

    National Review, still the respectable journal of white supremacy.

    • Malaclypse

      Note also that he assumes all heroes are male.

    • brownian

      But if there aren’t any wars, how will heroes be made—oh, well played NR.

    • Rob in CT

      To be scrupulously fair, quarterback is still pretty white.

      I’ll grant that sports figures are not particularly good role models. But having a sniper (and particularly this guy) as a role model doesn’t work for me either.

      • Quarterbacks are mostly white, and the military is probably the most successfully integrated institution in American society. Even so, that litany seems racially coded. The larger point is, I think, that by glorifying military service criticism of military is blunted. When I hear someone say to someone in fatigues, “Thank you for your service,” I cringe. “You poor sap,” I think. “You fell for it.”

        • Jackov

          the military’s enlisted ranks are probably the most successfully overwhelmingly male, racially integrated institution in American society

          Higher education appears to do a better job integrating both the womens and the gays.

        • Bufflars

          Yeah, I’d think the fact that the military pulls the majority of its recruits from the bottom 50% of the general population income scale probably has more to do with the racial integration than any other factor.

        • ThrottleJockey

          I’m not buying the coded dog whistle bit. The inclusion of rapper did suggest such a whistle to me, but the inclusion of quarterback suggests the opposite. Hell, half of America doesn’t even consider Russell Wilson a “real” quarterback so quarterback can’t mean black…It strikes me that he’s just exasperated at the choices for kid’s heroes these days, something I would agree with (on the other hand I think the US venerates the military and war far, far, far too much).

    • tsam

      After all, our kids’ heroes can’t be — must not be — exclusively quarterbacks, rappers, or point guards.

      OH FUCK YOU

    • Origami Isopod

      Given that Kyle “pranked” a friend by putting an “I Love Black Cock” bumper sticker on his truck… yeah, I think that’s a safe assumption.

  • Woodrowfan

    Sgt York: a pacifist Christian who was convinced he had to fight.

    Chris Kyle: A psychopath who loved shooting brown people. man, the righties suck at finding equivalence.

    • DocAmazing

      National Review’s David French displays an even greater historical ignorance. He mentions Sgt. York and Audie Murphy because those are names that nearly everyone recognizes, but it’s a false comparison. The name he should have brought up is Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock, the legendary Marine Corps sniper, forced from the Corps before his full retirement pay would have kicked in.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlos_Hathcock#After_the_Vietnam_War

      • FYWP

        The singular and important distinction between Kyle’s attitude and Hathcock’s is that Carlos Hathcock made it clear he did not enjoy the killing part of his job.
        Of course that Kyle was a big fat liar is also an important distinction, which is why I specified attitude. I *think* my father may have known Hathcock, but as they are both deceased I can’t ask either of them.
        ETA: I did not know that Hathcock had MS before reading the wiki entry.

      • James

        That isn’t want that wiki article says.

        It says that he was forced out and put on 100% medical disability (that is, he received a full paycheck for the rest of his life) , vs. the 50% pay that comes with normal retirement. The section is strangely written, but it says pretty much the opposite of what you suggest.

        My impression is he just flat didn’t want to go out, which is understandable. But if that article is accurate, he was very far from screwed over.

        • DocAmazing

          Being medically retired, he received 100 percent disability. He would have received only 50 percent of his final pay grade had he retired after 20 years. He fell into a state of depression when he was forced out of the Marines, because he felt as if the service had kicked him out.

          He got 100% disability, which is not the same as 100% of his final pay grade. Clearly, he didn’t think it was such a swell deal, neh?

      • ThrottleJockey

        During a volunteer mission days before the end of his first deployment, he crawled over 1,500 yards of field to shoot a high-ranking NVA officer.[18] He was not informed of the details of the mission until he accepted it.[14] This effort took four days and three nights, without sleep, of constant inch-by-inch crawling.

        I’m awfully skeptical of this claim. I don’t think the human body could stay up for 96 straight hours, much less when you’re lying prostrate for the whole of it. Sounds as far fetched as the bullshit Kyle’s dished up.

        • Ahuitzotl

          you’re completely incorrect about staying awake for 96 hours. Whether this is bullshit, or gross exaggeration, I cant say, but 15 yards/hour is reallly slow

  • Rob in CT

    Wait, so this fucker bragged (untruthfully) about shooting looters in NOLA after Katrina?

    Yeah, totally an American hero. Good Guy with a Gun ™ material.

    • rea

      Yeah, this is the guy who claimed that the Bush Administration allowed active duty SEALS to go on leave, sign up for Blackwater’s payroll, and shoot 30 or 40 looters in New Orleans during to Katrina. He made this claim, incidentally, from the perspective of a Bush supporter. Not bloody likely.

    • mark f

      He also said he was carjacked on a random stretch of highway, but shot both men dead with a Transporter move, then waited cooly for the cops, who after calling the Pentagon let him drive away without any questioning and spread the word about how badass he was to police departments all across the country.

      Needless to say, no such incident or deaths are on record anywhere near where this was supposed to have happened.

      • Rob in CT

        I was focusing on the substance of the fantasy (both stories sound obviously untrue). Bragging about shooting looters in NOLA after a devastating hurricane is more fucked up, IMO, than telling a story in which you shot armed assailants in self-defense.

        The NOLA tall tale is seriously repulsive to me in a way that the carjacker tall tale is not.

        • brugroffil

          Absolutely. One is a tale of self-defense, and based on his story, perfectly justifiable.

          The other is bragging about mass-murder.

        • witlesschum

          Yup. You can tell a lot about somebody by the tall tales they like to tell about themselves. Kyle seemed like he was more prone than most of us to tell his outloud, rather than just keeping them inside his head.

          Not that Jesse Ventura couldn’t use a punch or three.

        • mark f

          Of course I don’t dispute that. I just thought it was funny.

    • Mike G

      A psychopath, braggart and congenital liar. Sounds like a perfect exemplar of the values of today’s Republican Party.

  • mccrckn

    Stolz der Nation

  • Joshua

    I didn’t have the mental faculties to fully process it, but I remember as a teenager noting a real disconnect between the rah-rah gung-ho patriotism of the late 1990s (thanks to Saving Private Ryan and the like) and the way my grandfathers clammed up and never ever talked about their experiences in war.

    War is an evil thing.

    • Rob in CT

      As my dad (WWII British Merchant Marine) put it to me:

      “Rob, war is men dying, screaming.”

      There was more, in the same line. I’ve forgotten exactly what he said now, but that was the gist. He has a great deal of disdain for Hollywood war movies.

      IIRC, he thought the first 10 minutes of Saving Private Ryan was ok but the rest was “typical Hollywood,” which of course it was.

      My father will talk about the war, perhaps because he wasn’t an infantryman in combat. He did some shooting (AA guns) and was shot at (torpedoed twice, dive bombed,etc), but he wasn’t in a meat grinder.

      Most stories he tells concern luck:

      Two men on watch, one on either side of a ship. The torpedo hits and the guy on that side is blinded. The other guy (my father) is not.

      A ship is beached at… Gold or Sword, I forget which. It is D+1. This ship is loaded with tank ammunition. It is divebombed and shelled by artillery in Caen. It is hit. It does not explode. I exist because of this.

      He also has a rather low opinion of the USAF (friendly fire).

      • Malaclypse

        I once asked my dad, a radioman in Korea, why I was not allowed to have toy soldiers like my friends. “Because war is having a bomb go off a few feet away from you, and when the smoke clears, seeing your best friend’s boots, with the bloody stumps of legs sticking out of them, but nothing at all else left of him.” There was more, but that’s the part that suck with me for forty years now. And I never asked for toy soldiers again.

        • Rob in CT

          Right.

          Dad didn’t have that sort of personal loss in the war, thankfully. But he’s big on smacking down the idea of glamour in war. I guess you can only see so many guys bleed to death whilst crying for their mothers before you decide it’s not so cool…

        • FYWP

          My dad hated the GI Joe dolls. Since I didn’t want even girl’s dolls, I don’t remember how it came up, unless one of my male (maternal) cousins had one. When I asked my father what was wrong with GI Joe, he showed me the shrapnel fragments in his back from WWII.

      • guthrie

        My grandfather was a Royal Marine COmmando on the beaches at D-Day. As far as I am aware he never told anyone about that part of his war service, but I do recall him telling us all to shut up when myself and another child, aged maybe 7, were pretending to machine gun an area.

      • guthrie

        I understand that the comment of “When the British planes go over, the Germans duck, when the German planes go over the British duck, when the American planes go over everyone ducks” or some similar version does indeed go back to Normandy.

        • Rob in CT

          Yup. I remember Dad breaking out that one.

          No smart bombs back then. Lots of firepower, no aim.

          I’m not sure that RAF was actually any more accurate, though.

          • guthrie

            Weeelll, they did manage to hit some Canadians once.

          • timb

            They didn’t miss Dresden

          • Mike G

            Night bombing was considered accurate if 20% of bombs landed within 5 miles of the target.

            Which makes the Dambusters raid seem a lot more impressive.

      • Francis

        As we are telling family war stories, my uncle was in the Free French Navy, ended the war with a stack of medals, and never once spoke about his service. But I’ve been told that among other duty his destroyer was on the Murmansk run. And if you can read The Cruel Sea without crying, then you’ve got better control of your tear ducts than I do.

        • Rob in CT

          The artic convoys. Yikes.

        • grouchomarxist

          Much as I admire The Cruel Sea (both the original novel and the film) I still think Alistair MacLean’s debut novel, HMS Ulysses, is the best thing that’s ever been written about the Murmansk run.

          • Rob in CT

            I loved that book! Of course, I read it as a teenager. It’s possible that I’d have a different view now.

      • royko

        I happened to catch part of a short mini-documentary on TCM about some Hollywood director from the 40s and 50s and had actually been to war, and as a result, his movies were known for being more realistic for their day. And there was a clip of him talking about how war is different from how it gets shown in the movies, and one of great bits was how in a movie, a guy gets shot and falls down dead. But in war, the guy explodes and parts go everywhere, and when they send his “body” back to the States, they don’t can’t get just his body, so they just grab enough parts, one guy’s ass, another guy’s arms, you know, just enough parts to fill a casket.

        Wish I’d caught the director’s name, but it was a pretty cool interview.

        • wjts

          Sounds like Sam Fuller.

        • malindrome

          Based on that description, I’m pretty sure you are thinking of John Ford. He was recruited to make war films, and was actually present on Omaha Beach on D-Day.

          • wjts

            My favorite (possibly apocryphal) John Ford story: during the filming of (I think) They Were Expendable, Ford dressed down Wayne by saying, “Damn it, Duke – can’t you manage a salute that at least makes it look like you’ve been in the service?”

            • Mike G

              John Wayne, the original Republican chickenhawk. Evaded service in WW2 (he claimed he didn’t want to be absent from Hollywood as it would hurt his career) then made a string of films portraying himself as a war hero.

              Even stupider, Repukes turned Wayne into a conservative icon based upon the characters he played instead of his actual person, a forerunner of their infatuation with fantasy in the Reagan years.

    • sparks

      Same here. My father was a WWI veteran and we didn’t even know it until he died and we found his discharge papers.

      • timb

        My grandfather won a Silver Star at Bastogne and never mentioned it or being at the Battle of the Bulge

    • joe from Lowell

      the rah-rah gung-ho patriotism of the late 1990s (thanks to Saving Private Ryan and the like)

      Now that’s some irony right there. I always think of that film as the one with the extended, graphic opening scene about all the young lives being horribly wasted.

      • guthrie

        Exactly. It so happens a friend of mine’s grandfather was also at D-day, and apparently they watched the film in the cinema couple of years before he died. The grandfather was a bit re-traumatised but also happy to see that somebody portrayed it with all the guts and waste of lives.

      • Rob in CT

        It starts really, really strong.

        It gets pretty rah-rah at times, though, so if that’s what you want to take from it, you can. And that’s what a lot of folks want to take away…

        • Vance Maverick

          The opening, though, is bluntly manipulative. I’m thinking of the sequence where one of the soldiers landing on the beach gets dinged in the helmet, then takes it off and gawks at the bullet hole for a long moment — then is drilled through the forehead.

          To be clear, it’s not a wrong choice to make the famously dramatic attack, well, dramatic. But in watching it I found those choices distancing. (Pay attention, you’re about to experience an effect!)

          • Mike G

            Spielberg’s movies are full of blatant manipulative scenes like this, to the point where I find them unwatchable.

            SPR broke new ground in the opening scene for its portrayal of the gore of battle; the rest of the movie was a much lesser work, an average episode of Combat, to the maudlin salute-the-grave cliche at the end.

        • RonC

          Every single scene after the first was lifted from a war movie from the 50s. I know because apparently Speilberg and I went to the same movies as kids.

          • wjts

            My dad and I were discussing the movie once, and neither of us could figure out why it was praised in some circles for its originality and/or depiction of “how things really were – not like in the movies!” when every single character (stoic but fair commander; grizzled veteran sergeant; big ox with a heart of gold; Jewish wise-guy from New York City; quiet, religious southern sharpshooter; nervous new guy who loses his shit; the Guy from Brooklyn; and The Medic) and pretty much every scene and beat had appeared in damn near every WWII movie we’d ever seen. There was more swearing than there was in Bataan, though, I’ll give it that.

          • timb

            I saw all those movies in the 70’s on Sunday mornings and Spielberg had his Jewish warrior, his Brooklyn guy, his Southern hick marksman….it was a massive cliche, except, I think, for the Hanks character

            • Ugh. I hate Saving Private Ryan so much.

              Also, if you read Emerson, you are a cowardly pussy.

      • witlesschum

        Yeah, but it didn’t end after that. It continued on for some long period of time filled with a lot of pompous Spielberging.

    • mud man

      Except for the Civil War, which was totally an exercise in human rights which totally fixed everything.

      • Rob in CT

        *eyeroll*

        If it wasn’t for a bunch of people engaging in treason in defense of slavery, that war could’ve been avoided. But since they decided to pick a fight, it got fought. And, mercifully, some good did come of it.

        You know, if I were a libertarian, I’d be annoyed that you were on my side on the internet.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          i imagine most gatherings of libertarians are prickly affairs

          • Malaclypse

            Watching them try and split the check would be good fun though. Except for the waitperson, who you know will be lucky to get a 3% tip.

      • Malaclypse

        I’m stunned to see a libertarian blithely dismissive of slavery. Why, one might even get the impression that they only care about property right of white males or something…

      • sibusisodan

        Sigh. I mean, that’s not even good trolling.

        • Malaclypse

          I don’t know – the way he combines going completely off-topic of the thread, while simultaneously saying that ending slavery was unimportant, on the day after MLK day, means I give him an 8 out of 10.

      • joe from Lowell

        The Civil War was an evil thing imposed upon the country by the slavers. It was one of the greatest evils this country has ever experienced.

        They imposed that evil with their slaving, and then with their military attacks.

        I may be grateful to the firemen who pull people out and put out the fire. I may even consider them and their actions heroic. But the fire was a great evil.

        • witlesschum

          Yup. Even a just war or whatever passes for that concept in reality is still a war.

        • Mike G

          The Civil War was a monument to the selfish greed of the slaveowners, and the obedient gullibility of the stupidly tribal non-slaveowning Southerners to go off and die for the slaveholders’ interests.

          It’s a good thing there are no longer any cultural parallels to this situation in today’s South.

    • Linnaeus

      My maternal grandfather served in World War II and did participate in the D-Day invasion. As children, my brother and I were curious about his experiences (not fully understanding at the time, of course, the things we were asking him to recall) and he would sometimes tell us “funny” stories about some of the absurdities of military life, but he never talked about D-day and our grandmother gently instructed us not to ask him. Everything we know about what he did and saw that day (and the days after) we learned from our grandmother.

      • Rob in CT

        My dad has a “funny” story that, once you think about it for a few seconds, has to make you at least a little uncomfortable.

        The merchant mariners weren’t given AA guns. This bothered them. They were being shot at and wanted to be able to shoot back. The Navy argued that, well, you don’t know what the fuck you’re doing, so it’s a bad idea. But eventually they gave in and my father’s ship was given a gun. This gun had metal bars that prevented you from swiveling the gun too far (and too high/low too, IIRC). They were frustrated, because they would be tracking a plane and then bang they’d hit the bars. So the men wanted their young lieutanent to let them remove them. My father, not displaying the best of judgment, agreed.

        They promptly sprayed the deck of one of their escort ships. Hah, hah, stupid! Their gun was taken away.

        Wait, Dad, did your crew kill or injure British sailors on that other ship?

        “I don’t know.”

        That’s war.

        • Just_Dropping_By

          If it is any consolation, they probably didn’t kill anyone because that almost certainly would have triggered an investigation that your father would have been aware of. In World War II, friendly fire incidents between naval vessels were much more likely to be investigated than other types of friendly fire simply because it was much easier to figure out who was likely responsible for the incident.

          • Rob in CT

            I figured that too.

            But they very easily could have and it’s sheer luck they didn’t. Giving untrained young men under stress guns is not a good idea.

    • Richard Hershberger

      My father did two tours in Vietnam. He got two bronze stars. He never told any of us what they were for. I have asked various people’s opinions on whether the medal means anything or is a glorified good hygiene award. Inasmuch as there is any consensus, it is that a bronze star in that era means something if there is a V attached to it. I looked up his service record after he died, and there are the V’s. The thing is, he was a chaplain. How a chaplain ends up with two of those escapes me. Especially considering that he managed to miss Tet.

  • tsam

    “Wars not make one great”

    Yoda

  • Halloween Jack

    Just a reminder about the real Chris Kyle.

    • Rob in CT

      That story…

      It’s just fucking awful, all around. The whole thing.

    • Crusty

      The New Yorker article about him was very interesting. So interesting that when I first saw coming attractions for the movie, I thought man, I gotta see that. But then I realized it was directed by Clint Eastwood and I wasn’t sure if it was going to be Clint Eastwood, director of Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby and Letter from Iwo Jima, or if it was Clint Eastwood of the republican convention and the empty chair. For anyone else on the fence, I recommend the New Yorker article instead of the movie.

    • Origami Isopod

      Kyle described his dream: starting a company that offered customized tactical training to people from law enforcement and the military.

      Such a pity that he did not live to realize this dream.

  • jeer9

    Saw the film this weekend and thought it was very well done. While it can certainly be viewed as a paean to patriotic duty, honor, and feelings of brotherhood (he keeps returning through tour 4 out of a sense of obligation and concern for his fellow soldiers), the war is depicted as horrific and deeply scarring to its participants (like The Hurt Locker)with the end result (his ironic death at the hands of a PTSD veteran whom he was trying to help) fairly explicit, though probably not enough so for the NR type critic. It certainly was less repugnant than Zero Dark Thirty, though, again, some may feel that’s a low bar.

    Kyle is portrayed as a blind follower of authority who sees the world in black-and-white starkness and who does his utmost to repress the feelings that such a killing machine is not allowed to possess. There is criticism of the war by his brother and a commanding officer which he fails to understand because political thought/criticism corrodes his commitment and subverts the self-righteousness of his actions.

    Watched the film in my very rightwing town (the theater was packed; only a week before we’d seen Selma with an audience of eight, though I shouldn’t complain as it was a miracle Selma even played here) and the reaction of the viewers as the real-life footage of Kyle’s funeral played on screen was a sense of reverence and awe. That the wrong message will be taken from this story (geez, living the life of a Wall Street shark looks like it’s fun) is sad, but then art requires more analysis than many people are capable of.

    • brownian

      Don’t spoil it! I want to see for myself if they eventually find those weapons of mass destruction after all.

    • Murc

      The problem isn’t that the movie isn’t well-done. It’s that it portrays someone who was either a colossal fabulist or a self-admitted serial killer as worthy of admiration.

      • FYWP

        I’m not certain it’s altogether either/or in his case.

        • timb

          Is it ever?

    • joe from Lowell

      Saw the film this weekend and thought it was very well done.

      I would be surprised if Bradley Cooper agreed to star in crap.

      Nice review, jeer. This film was never on my radar, but now maybe I’ll check it out.

      • wjts

        I would be surprised if Bradley Cooper agreed to star in crap.

        The prosecution asks that The Hangovers I-III be submitted into evidence.

        • Just_Dropping_By

          Objection, prejudicial!

        • joe from Lowell

          I mean at this point in his career. He’s gotten himself into the position where he’s a well-respected, serious actor, and can choose his roles. He seems to be choosing them pretty well.

        • Joshua

          The first Hangover was a fine buddy comedy, and Cooper was very good in it.

          The others were a disaster, sure. I don’t know if Cooper signed up for a trilogy at first or just took the massive payday.

          Still, would Bradley Cooper even be making movies like this or Silver Linings Playbook without The Hangover?

          • joe from Lowell

            The first Hangover was a fine buddy comedy, and Cooper was very good in it.

            The scripts are crap, of course, but some of the performances are excellent. Cooper. Galifinakas. Ken Jeong was damn funny.

            I think we can say that the actors saved that movie from itself.

      • timb

        Bradley Cooper bought the rights to the film himself. He can act AND be a businessman

    • Mike G

      Kyle is portrayed as a blind follower of authority who sees the world in black-and-white starkness

      Which is considered an admirable quality in authoritarian right wing circles.

      Different people interpret the same work of art in different ways according to their preconceptions. Republican morons can listen to Springsteen’s Born in the USA and hear nothing but the chorus as a jingoistic anthem to how inherently exceptional you are because of the political jurisdiction in which your mother gave birth.

  • FDChief

    Not in a big hurry to see this, as “war films” typically either irk me because of the Hollywoodization of military life/wartime or because I get all arsed up nitpicking the stupidities, but speaking generally;

    1. I don’t know about this guy in particular, but in general I never felt that my company or battalion snipers – much less some high-speed, low-drag, air-ram, fuel-injected slicky-boy from some special operations outfit – were particularly “heroic” or in some way worthy of worship as being combat gods.

    They were good at their trade, but I know that I thought of their trade as kind of sneaky and shitty. I think a lot of that had to do with my (and a lot of my buddies’) attitude towards snipers in general and ENEMY snipers in particular. I was a grunt medic in the ’80’s and our Vietnam-era NCOs were full of hairy-assed tales of VC/NVA snipers loving to pick off medics and radiomen and how they had taught that nasty little trick to our hypothetical Soviet enemies.

    So…good troop? Maybe (keep in mind we have only his word for some of this stuff and if the whole Ventura/NOLA stuff is any indication his word might not be all that…) “Hero”? Maybe not so much.

    2. And then there’s the whole problem of context. Take away the guy’s apparent personal moral vacuum, there’s the problem of making a flick lionizing a dude who is a stone-killer for an invading, occupying army blowing away locals fighting for their home turf. Is there any way to do that without making it the functional equivalent of remaking the Stalingrad film Enemy At The Gates only with the German sniper as the hero?

    I’m not going all Godwin here; the US Army and USMC in Iraq gets off the hook because of the whole “not genociding the local (insert pariah group name here)” deal. But otherwise? Unprovoked, aggressive war? Check. Foreign invader? Check.

    Lots of German soldiers did lots of fighting equally well in 1943. But there’s a reason that the Germans don’t make films about them (OK, there’s “Generation War”, but, still…) You’d think that, being all Land of the Free and stuff, we’d have some humility at having been shown to be the bad guy in this one.

    • Salem

      But the reason the Germans don’t make films about those guys is that they lost. Meanwhile, in American films, German WW2 commanders are frequently portrayed as “worthy foe” – i.e. heroes who just happen to be on the wrong side. My recollection is that this was also true of the German sniper in Enemy At The Gates, although it’s a while since I saw that movie.

      There is also no shortage of films glorifying an aggressive, invading army. Zulu is the one that had the greatest effect on me as a child.

      • rea

        The Zulus were more like a rival empire than hapless victims of British aggression. They wanted to be left alone to oppress everyone else in the neighborhood.

        • FDChief

          No argument that the Zulus weren’t going to sit around singing Kumbaya. But in this particular case the Brits did gin up a war to crush the Zulu, so if there could be said to be a “wrong” side the Brits were on it. Doesn’t make the Zulu angels but – at least in this case – they were the “defenders”.

          But in the big picture, yeah; two tough, aggressive polities that both wanted the same piece of real estate. Somebody was gonna go down one way or the other, and it wasn’t likely to be the side that had the Maxim gun (or the Martini-Henry, as case may be)…

      • Just_Dropping_By

        It starts out that way in Enemy at the Gates, but the German sniper then deliberately kills a boy and uses his corpse as bait, which seems to pretty clearly undercut the “worthy foe” narrative.

      • Joshua

        Did we win Iraq?

        • Richard Hershberger

          Of course we did. Always win.

        • witlesschum

          No, but there was literally nothing the military we sent in there could have done to make that happen.

          • Malaclypse

            You forgot about liberals stabbing the troops in the back.

      • FDChief

        Zulu is a classic example of the sort of “war film” that drives me nuts from both perspectives.

        As a soldier and a human I hate the fact that all the British troopers in the flick are “people” but the Zulus – fighting to defend their country (tho not at that particular engagement; in fact, Cetshwayo had given his indunas particularly strict instructions not to cross over into Natal, and the story is that Dabulamanzi, the Zulu commander, was pissed off that his troops hadn’t gotten some at Isandlhwana and buggered off into Natal and got his ass kicked…) – are like human lemmings, there to form a living backdrop for British heroism. It’s jingo-film-making at its worst.

        As a military historian every time I run across the “Men of Harlech” scene (where the defenders sing the Welsh anthem in response to the Zulu mass-giya) I tear my hair, since the 24th of Foot wasn’t particularly Welsh at that time; it was as Irish as most British infantry outfits and didn’t become the “South Wales Borderers” until three years later.

        Bad history, bad politics…but a hell of a lot of thud and blunder, so, yeah…

        Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that I don’t “get” why 1) Germans don’t make WW2 films, or 2) lots of people make films glorifying war, or 3) why the U.S. public doesn’t buy the notion that we were the invaders in Iraq. It’s just depressing to be reminded that the Public really is more or less an Ass.

      • CP

        But the reason the Germans don’t make films about those guys is that they lost. Meanwhile, in American films, German WW2 commanders are frequently portrayed as “worthy foe” – i.e. heroes who just happen to be on the wrong side. My recollection is that this was also true of the German sniper in Enemy At The Gates, although it’s a while since I saw that movie.

        This might be the World War Two movie trope I hate the most – the Good German Officer who’s really a very good guy, just tragically doomed by his patriotic duty to serve a madman. (Supplemented by the easy separation of “SS bad, Wehrmacht good.”)

        If they’re trying to make the point that not all Germans were bad, that’s wonderful. It would be fucking nice if they occasionally took a break from glorifying and whitewashing the Wehrmacht, though. There are plenty of “Good Germans” you could be glorifying who weren’t neck-deep in Hitler’s rise to power, Hitler’s wars and Hitler’s war crimes.

        (Honorable mention to The Great Escape: “You talk about the Luftwaffe and the high command, and then you talk about the Gestapo and the SS. To me, they’re the same, we’re fighting the bloody lot! If the high command didn’t approve of Hitler, then why didn’t they throw him out?” It’s not actually clear that we’re supposed to agree with him, but it’s nice that the movie at least acknowledged that point of view).

    • DocAmazing

      we’d have some humility at having been shown to be the bad guy in this one

      There are unfortunately a lot of “we” who are never going to grasp that “we” were the invader and the aggressor. “American exceptionalism” means, as far as I can tell, that It’s A Good Thing When We Do It, and A Bad Thing When They Do It.

      • Lee Rudolph

        “American exceptionalism” means, as far as I can tell, that It’s A Good Thing When We Do It, and A Bad Thing When They Do It.

        Yeah, that seems to cover it.

        • NonyNony

          I’ve been straight-up told by right-wing family members that that’s what American Exceptionalism means. Also it’s not a crime when a (Republican) President does it.

    • malindrome

      Lots of German soldiers did lots of fighting equally well in 1943. But there’s a reason that the Germans don’t make films about them.

      FYI, there are tons of German war movies, particularly about Stalingrad. Just a few:

      Hunde, wollt ihr ewig leben? (Dogs, do you want to live forever?), 1958, Frank Wisbar dir.
      Die Patriotin, 1979, Alexander Kluge dir.
      Stalingrad, 1993, Joseph Vilsmaier dir.

      Many Germans love movies about Stalingrad because it allows them to remember the war in a way in which ordinary, patriotic Germans were also victims of Hitler and the Nazis. (Under-equipped, isolated, betrayed by senior leadership, etc.) For obvious reasons, this is a very very attractive storyline.

      Robert G. Moeller wrote a great article analyzing the place of Stalingrad in German memory and cinema: “‘In A Thousand Years, Every German Will Speak of This Battle’: Celluloid Memories of Stalingrad”.

      • Stag Party Palin

        Many Germans love movies about Stalingrad because it allows them to remember the war in a way in which ordinary, patriotic Germans were also victims of Hitler and the Nazis.

        Not all of them though. My German mother-in-law nursed an infinite hate for Hitler and the Nazis for starting a war and then sending her husband off to Stalingrad. She emigrated as soon as she could after the war and only went back once.

        • malindrome

          Nursing an infinite hatred of Hitler is entirely compatible with enjoying war movies that portray Hitler and Nazism as a blight upon Germany and the good German patriots who suffered and died at Stalingrad.

          Indeed, for some (of course not all) people, hating Hitler is a way of claiming victim status. It allows some (of course not all) Germans to implicitly equate the suffering of the German people with the suffering of, say, Russians and Poles. Hitler did this to us. We were not complicit.

  • Linnaeus

    [Th]he movie gives America something it’s lacked since the start of the war — a war hero on a truly national, cultural scale. Yes, we’ve learned the stories of Marcus Luttrell and others who’ve achieved great and heroic things, but with the success of this movie, Chris Kyle has entered the pantheon of American warriors — along with Alvin C. York and Audie Murphy — giving a new generation of young boys a warrior-hero to look up to, to emulate. After all, our kids’ heroes can’t be — must not be — exclusively quarterbacks, rappers, or point guards.

    The more I read stuff like this, the more I’m reminded of Corey Robin’s discussion of the role of violence in conservative ideology in his book The Reactionary Mind. He really nailed it, I think.

  • From what I know of history, snipers and “sharpshooters” (as they were once called) were considered to be loners and not really well liked by average infantry grunts.

    • Murc

      That wasn’t so much because they were loners as because they were snipers.

      Your typical infantryman spent a lot of time living in mortal terror of snipers. Other infantry, artillery barrages, air strikes… that stuff could be plenty horrifying, but it didn’t carry with it the sheer sudden terror of how your buddy would stand up out of the foxhole to stretch and suddenly be missing his head. Or the daily knowledge that, regardless of what you’d been taught in boot and had drilled into you, you had better not salute your LT or the Captain, because saluting them would actually put them in genuine peril if someone happened to be peering down a scope at them from a mile away.

      This… I don’t want to call it fear, but this aspect of it tended to transfer over to your own snipers. You didn’t necessarily dislike them (although you might), but they were unlike you in a very obvious way; you were a soldier. They were a hunter. A hunter of men. So there’d be a certain amount of distance.

    • FDChief

      Like I said above; I know that even our own weren’t considered all that. And there was a fair amount of the usual GI bullshit about what would happen if we ran across one of their snipers…

      And what Murc says. Sniping wasn’t really soldiering, not like we thought of it. It was kind of…I guess unfair was the word that comes to mind. The other guys’ grunts took their chances just like you did. You hated them, but it was a sort of random, normal hate. But here was some asshole hiding behind a rock a thousand yards away that would drill you like a guy bagging an elk for dinner. That seemed really asshole-ish, sneaky and unfair, and meant that sniping was considered a low sort of profession to want.

  • Crusty

    Something about this reminds me of the pretend movie that was the centerpiece of Inglorious Basterds.

  • dean colby

    Geez, Professor. This is just brilliant.

  • so-in-so

    German war movies – Das Boot comes to mind.

    We also make them for the Germans, Cross of Iron and The Eagle Has Landed.

    • I have a real soft spot for Cross of Iron.

      • grouchomarxist

        The book is much better than the movie.

  • Since we’re telling war stories, one Grampa’s war story was short and sweet: “When the Kaiser heard Frank O’Connell was coming, the Germans surrendered.” He was on one the last troop ships to Europe, and said they marched off the boat, turned around, marched back on the boat, and sailed back to America.

    The other Grampa fought the British during the Irish Revolution, and after partition, emigrated to America, and never returned to Ireland. When war stories came up at family dinners, he wouldn’t say a word, but decide it was a good time to go out for a walk.

    Dad was a Korean War vet, spoke German, and was a radio operator. His experience was playing ping pong in the barracks, drinking good German beer, and driving around on one side of the river watching the Russians, while the Russians drove around on the other side of the river watching the Americans.

    The draft ended when I was in high school. I never even had to register for Selective Service. When Afganistan started up, I came close to volunteering. My thinking was, “I’m a linguist, the army’s going to be doing a lot of civil administration.” The other side of my brain said “Bush is going to find a way to fuck this up.” My pacifism from growing up during the Vietnam era over-ruled. I probably would have ended up as one of those poor stop/loss bastards sent to Iraq, if not worse.

    My favorite war movie hero? Yossarian

    • gusmpls

      Yeah, though the movie couldn’t do the book justice, Alan Arkin was great as Yossarian.

  • Barry Freed

    I find the reception of American Sniper very upsetting so allow me instead of commenting on it to put in a plug for a war movie I can highly recommend that’s not likely to have gotten much play in the US. It’s Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir. An animated (yes, animated) feature that deals with memory, willful forgetting, complicity and atrocity like no other recent film I’ve seen. Folman was a veteran of the IDF and participated in the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. It’s a haunting film and IMO an absolute must-see.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1185616/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waltz_with_Bashir

  • creature

    I’ve not seen the movie, I probably won’t. One of my high school friends got drafted, and went to ‘Nam. He was a sniper, and he came back quiet, morose and withdrawn. When we pressed him for details of his time ‘over there’, he only said that he had to kill people, and it didn’t seem very fair to do it from a distance. He never did go back to being his amiable self. He did go to work as an ironworker (as was his father, uncles and cousins). One day, after a couple years back, he stepped off an 11th floor job site. His name is not engraved on the Wall, but he died in the war.

    • Stag Party Palin

      Shit. I had a fraternity brother who came back from Vietnam in an empty shell. Bad times.

      If anyone wants to see a really good war movie along these lines, try Grave of the Fireflies. You’ll only want to see it once.

It is main inner container footer text