Note: I’ve made a slight edit to the last section to clarify my point.
A Fox News columnist has written an article penned “It’s the patriotism, stupid. What liberal critics don’t get about ‘American Sniper.'”
The writer is Pete Hegseth is CEO of Concerned Veterans for America and the former executive director of Vets for Freedom, which gives you an idea of what to expect.
Patriotism Is All A Matter of What Country You’re In
Let’s put aside the hypocrisy and/or double standards of the liberals he criticizes and instead look at his actual argument.
You’ll notice he doesn’t present any evidence or facts to prove his point. The entire thesis of the column boils down to declarative statements that can be summarized as follows:
Normal Americans love “American Sniper” because it’s American. Didn’t you see the “American” in the title? That’s patriotic, so it must be good.
Hegseth does give any criteria as to what makes a work of art patriotic, other than it has the Americans as the good guys. If he did, he would have to explain how a film depicting an Iraqi fending off American soldiers is not patriotic. This is the fatal flaw of all “patriotic” statements. What constitutes patriotism for people in other countries?
We are told the movie “has struck a chord with the American people, and did so by tapping into the deepest civic values we have as Americans – duty, honor, fidelity, courage, love for country…and a love for others.”
Again, he doesn’t explain how this is so. He just says it.
It almost seems like Hegseth is attempting to live up to the stereotype Fred Reed depicts in his many articles about veterans and war.
The herd. In a thousand Legion halls across the nation veterans gather on Memorial Day to make patriotic speeches. There are are clichés about the ultimate sacrifice, defending our freedoms, God, duty, and country, our American way of life. Legionnaires are friendly, decent people, well-meaning—now, anyway. If there were an earthquake, they would pull the wounded from the rubble until they dropped from fatigue. They are not complex. They listen to the patriotic speeches with a sense of being a band of brothers. And if you told them they were suckers, conned by experts, used, they would erupt in fury, because somewhere inside many have suspected it.
The herd. The pack. Whip’em up. It’s for God, for democracy, onward Christian soldiers. We are a light to the world, a shining city on a hill, what all the earth would like to be if only they shared our values. We, knights in armor in a savage land, we fight fascism, Nazis, terror, Islam, it doesn’t matter what as we can always find something to fight, some sanctifying evil.
Iraq War Did Not Keep America Safe Or Defend Our Rights
Observe Hegseth did not provide any examples of how we’re free because of the war, or what specific rights have been protected. It’s hard to do that when the government is passing the Patriot Act, the Affordable Care Act, the National Defense Authorization Act and authorizing hundreds of other intrusions into our lives while waging a war that is ostensibly to defend our liberties against Third World people who lose half a million children because they’re denied basic sanitation supplies. We’re not even getting into our immigration policy; if terrorists want to come here and kill Americans, our Border Patrol is not going to stop them.
I would challenge men like Hegseth to present a single shred of evidence that the people killed over there were preparing to come to this country or that if there hadn’t been an invasion Iraq would have attacked us.
Even if they found a handful of terrorists, it does not justify the level of force used to stop them.
Movie Popularity Does Not Prove or Disprove A Political Belief
Thus we see the anti-intellectualism in the mainstream conservative movement that appeals to emotions. Under his logic – in which box office ticket sales reflect America’s political stance – Americans are also actually at their core hyper-environmentalists, the highest grossing movie being Cameron’s highly preachy Avatar – it’s #14 when adjusted for inflation, but you get the point.
Hegseth also writes that Kyle killed not because he enjoyed it but because he wanted to keep us safe.
As much as the left would like you to believe it, Chris Kyle was not a bloodthirsty warmonger; he was a noble warrior who fought to defend his fellow troops, watched over the lives of his brothers, and advanced the cause of (eventual) peace. This is where the true success of “American Sniper” comes to light.
Chris Kyle killed because he got paid to do it by the U.S. government, and he was paid to kill people that government decided was the enemy. According to his own ghostwritten autobiography, Kyle describes the Rules of Engagement that his unit followed when they were deployed to Shatt al-Arab, a river on the Iraq-Iran border.
Our ROEs when the war kicked off were pretty simple: If you see anyone from about sixteen to sixty-five and they’re male, shoot ‘em. Kill every male you see. That wasn’t the official language, but that was the idea.”
Imagine if this passage had been written by Russian soldier in a book about the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Kyle’s attitude towards these people is entirely reliant on the fact that they aren’t considered civilized by American standards. He is also utterly incapable of appreciating that perhaps some Iraqis don’t want their neighborhoods taken over by anyone, whether it be American or some local rival tribe of another religious conviction.
Chris Kyle was a War Profiteer, Not a Hero
Kyle not only killed, but he
got sought a book deal and profited off of killing these people by writing about it, which included lying about another military veteran. Had he not been killed by another veteran, it’s likely he would have made an additional fortune off of taxpayers as president of Craft International, a Homeland Security contractor that, according to William Grigg, is involved in training domestic law enforcement agencies.
“It’s quite likely that Kyle’s outfit will soak up a considerable portion of the roughly $1.5 billion dollars the Obama administration seeks to hire military veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan to work as police, emergency personnel, and park rangers,” Grigg wrote before Kyle was killed.
Compare this to soldiers of similar fame like Corporal Alvin York of World War I. The two are simply incomparable in their demeanor, conduct, attitude, and behavior.
Unlike Kyle, York was a pacifist. He didn’t volunteer to fight, but was drafted and only agreed to fight after considering it for a long time. Like Kyle, he was decorated, but his acts consisted of real bravery after he captured over a hundred German soldiers with only a handful of men during a battle in the Argonne.
The similarities end there. When York returned home from the war, he formed a foundation to increase education opportunities in his region of Tennessee. He agreed to tell his story to reporters and cooperated with an autobiography, but did not seek out publicity or attention; at least not for himself.
One reviewer wrote this about his autobiography:
“Perhaps York’s bearing after his famous exploit in the Argonne best reveals his native greatness….He will not exploit himself except for his own people. All of which gives his book an appeal beyond its contents.”
York reluctantly agreed to a film about his life – he thought films were immoral – because it would allow him to build a Bible school.
Shockingly, Hegseth fails to mention any of Kyle’s profiteering off of the war. You might retort that the movie wasn’t meant to cover all of this, but remember that although Hegseth is defending American Sniper, he is actually defending its portrayal of Kyle and claims the real man was a hero.
The true success of American Sniper is that while it may be a quality work of art, it is not an accurate depiction of who Chris Kyle was or what he did over there because it omitted relevant details contradicting this image, something which even proponents will admit.
In case anyone thinks it’s poor taste to speak ill of the dead, remember this: Regardless of his fate, Kyle was the lucky one.
For every Kyle out there who gets the book deal and makes millions off of his military experience and is praised as a hero, there are thousands of veterans who come with their bodies wrecked, limbs missing, and minds haunted by what they saw and did. Some come back in a pine box. Some never walk again. Others return to find their wives abandoned them or cheated on them, divorced them, took the kids and everything else they owned; in court, their military background is used against them during child custody hearings.
Or, they lose all hope and take their own lives at a higher rate than they are by the enemy on the battlefield.
These people do not get films made about them, because their story doesn’t fit the image our culture wants to believe of the soldier who is rewarded for their sacrifice rather than betrayed.
Kyle’s autobiography and film ensure he will be remembered, while ordinary veterans are tossed aside and forgotten, unless they’re put on a potential terrorist watchlist by the same government that sent them over there to fight.
We are not supposed to remember the people who truly suffered, because if we did we might think twice when the next war vamps up.
Libertarians don’t get American Sniper, but not for the same reason as liberals. We don’t want the message it’s trying to sell us, because no matter how effectively it appeals to our natural desire to regard our own people as heroes, it’s not true.
The whole debate reminds of a scene from the cult favorite film Red Dawn in which a group of American teenagers resisting a Soviet invasion bicker over whether they should execute a captured soldier. One of the boys keeps asking “What is the difference between us and them?”
The leader replies just before he shoots the prisoner point blank in the chest.
“Because we live here!”
At no point could Chris Kyle say the same thing about himself when he killed.
It’s about as simple as that.