A lot can be said about Clint Eastwood. He was never a particularly good actor, but he made some all-time great movies, first as an actor, and more recently as a director. He’s a well-known advocate for right wing politics, and some would even say he has a leaning toward fascist attitudes. So it’s no surprise to me that he made a movie about the deadliest American sniper to ever fight for our country, but it’s also no surprise (to me, at least) that the movie has led to some controversy. No, I’m not talking about the fake baby (that’s a stupid distraction for people with small minds that don’t understand movies are necessarily fake for practical reasons). I’m talking about depicting Chris Kyle the man as an American hero. I understand many see him that way, and I also understand why Eastwood chose to make a movie about him. He has a compelling story, that had the makings of a tense military thriller (one of Eastwood’s favorite genres as I understand it). As a storyteller, I understand it.
Politically, Eastwood had many of the same patriotic views as Kyle. However, by his own admission, Kyle was a mass murderer, and child-killer. That’s not a judgment on him as a man or a soldier, it’s simple fact. Now, why wasn’t he executed at Leavenworth like other men of his ilk? Because, the American idea of war and justice has been shaped for many years by legislation friendly to war-making, placing wrongdoing on the shoulders of people in charge, not in the combat zones. Even then, the “big picture” of world justice is often used to justify the murder of innocents, under the veil that it’s somehow protecting comfortable American society from terrorism.
Anyone with common sense (obviously, this excludes most Republicans, whose “kill ’em all” mentality defies even the most common of senses) knows that going to war to remove Saddam Hussein (who was removed in the early days of the war) does not equal the protection of the American people, not when Iran, Pakistan, and Syria posed, and continue to pose, a bigger threat to American lives than anyone in Iraq ever did. People can argue that the Iraq/Afghanistan war was just, but the only people agreeing with them are just as brainwashed as they are, making it a patriotic circle-jerk of epic proportions. On a global scale, no one agrees, and if the global society is not your barometer of justice, then you aren’t any better than the Nazis that made the same claim.
In the past week, since American Sniper opened wide in theaters, it has caused a lot of controversy, mostly because those that speak out plainly (Seth Rogen and Michael Moore, namely) and truthfully have been accused of being unpatriotic and attempting to further a liberal agenda. Seeing as how that liberal agenda is truth and peace, I can agree with those making that claim. But I also agree with Rogen when he says Chris Kyle was no better than a proud Nazi. “How?”, you may ask. Here’s how, in the simplest terms possible.
Kyle was a mass murderer. The definition of those words is anyone that kills, repeatedly, and in large numbers. Those are the semantics behind the words. The simplest definition. The fact that he did it “for his country” does not change the fact that he killed many. You can argue that it was required, but that’s simply not true. Chris Kyle killing people in Iraq made no difference to the life of the average American. You can argue until you’re blue in the face, but you’re simply spouting patriotic rhetoric that you believe is true. The fact of the matter is that Kyle killed around 200 people (he says more, 166 are confirmed). Those are the facts. The reasons behind them don’t change the facts.
The other fact is that Kyle admitted to enjoying it, which means that no matter what his motivation for doing it, he was a killer that enjoyed killing, to put it plainly. Now, many will say he did it on orders from those above him, which is the same defense of every Nazi at the Nuremberg trials. Changing the time frame and the country doesn’t change anything.
Now you may argue that he was protecting American freedom, and if that’s your case, I ask you to prove it. Simply, you cannot without regurgitated rhetoric. Does that make Kyle a bad person? Maybe. It’s not for me to judge. The bigger question is who is to blame? The answer is those that sent people like Kyle to fight an imaginary threat to American freedom. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan was unjust, and despite no admission of that fact, a withdrawal without a claim of victory is admission enough. In fact, the growing presence of ISIS in the Middle East is proof that as a military operation, the war-making in that region the past 10 years had the exact opposite effect that was intended. Instead of peace, stability, and the abolition of terrorist networks, we have the opposite on an even more massive scale.
Clint Eastwood is lying to us, and himself, when he says this is just by making a movie about Chris Kyle and depicting him as anything more than a bloodthirsty psychopath with a license to kill, and alternately, as an American hero. Kyle is nobody for any reasonable person to look up to, killing is not a great goal to shoot for if you want to have a happy, stable life. However, as a dramatist, Eastwood has completed a masterpiece of propaganda, a thrilling depiction of life at war. Does that mean anything he put in his movie is the unbiased truth? Obviously, any reasonable person would say no.
Now, don’t misunderstand my use of the word reasonable. The world considers a reasonable person to be someone that enjoys peace, friends, family, and prosperity. If you advocate death, destruction, or annihilation to any person, regardless of whether you consider them an enemy or not, you are not reasonable. It’s likely that you’re American, and somehow, in the past few hundred years, the adcovacy of death has somehow been mistaken as an American value. The non-extremist world (which, despite media coverage, is still the majority) disagrees. And if the globe as a whole isn’t your idea of what matters, you’re an extremist. Plain and simple, like it or not.
In short, Chris Kyle was a bloothirsty, likely racist killer. Was he completely to blame for being like that? That’s the real debate at heart here, do we hold someone who doesn’t know any better accountable? The simple answer is, when the crime is socially acceptable (such as in a war zone), then no. When it’s killing women and children in a non-war zone, then yes. After all, the 9/11 terrorists declared war on America unofficially, and without sanction of any whole state or nation, making them terrorists. When Chris Kyle killed hundreds with the support of his nation, he is a hero.
The real lesson here is to have perspective. Yes, the child that Kyle kills in the beginning was going to hurt American soldiers. But wouldn’t you want your child to throw a grenade at Iranian soldiers if they were rolling down your street in a tank after killing you because you were considered an enemy combatant? I would, and empathy is the ultimate equalizer. Eastwood did a magnificent job with American Sniper on every level, even if one of those levels was removing any sense of empathy for people defending their home from invaders.
The facts are these: War, no matter how justifiable, will never be ultimately just. It will always be messy, and anyone participating in it should be considered liable for their actions. If they aren’t, then the circle of terror will never end, new groups of people will pick up arms to fight groups of men oppressing and killing them, regardless of nationality, religious belief, or sexual orientation. Peace truly is the only answer, but when was the last time you saw a good movie about a peaceful situation?
Eastwood made a great movie, but he lied to everyone just by making it the way he did. Kudos to him, he’s the ultimate winner in all of this, even if he lied.