What Libertarians Don’t “Get” About “American Sniper”

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.

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11 Responses to What Libertarians Don’t “Get” About “American Sniper”

  1. Pingback: What Libertarians Don’t “Get” About “American Sniper” - Freedom's Floodgates

  2. Thanks for your valuable article here. I am looking forward to see American Sniper, as I am a film buff myself and am interested in how Clint Eastwood’s artistry would work for me. Yet I will keep the real facts in my mind and soul, the fact that Chris Kyle was a murderer for the State deserving of death and that the movie, like the book, is filled with lies, deceit and glorification of aggression in the name of “murica” and “democracy.”

    Having said that, I would like to give a little commentary on your commentary of the Red Dawn scene. The execution of the captured soldier could be justified in that sense because the soldier was part of an invading force and was himself taking part in aggression against those who were defending their lives and liberty.

    Also, “we live here” is actually far less objectionable a defense of executing enemies than “democracy” and “Murica” because “we live here” actually has some valid basis in self-defense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, and that was my reason for citing the quote. Chris Kyle could not say he lived there, while many, but not all, of the people he killed could have said that. If a soldier can’t say he lives where he fights, when his opponent can, chances are what they’re doing is not right.

      A lot of people will watch Red Dawn, condemn the Soviet behavior in it, and not consider the irony when they go on to defend Kyle who acted in a similar manner.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. D says:

    Great article, as always. York is an excellent example, ive been thinking about him recently as well. Guys join the military for many reasons, its similar to the war hysteria of 1914, they think war is hollywood, you come back a hero. They dont picture themselves standing at a gate for 10 months and being blown into a fine mist right before they are about go home. If they did they wouldnt join up, country be damned. Going to war is a gamble and everyone is hedging their bets that they will come back alive and with all their limbs and the admiration of their community, if not national fame. Nobody actually wants to give up their leg for their flag. If someone really had to decide okay, if i give up my life right now in order to win in iraq would i do it, no one is honestly going to say sure, i believe in this cause so much i will sacrifice my life right now.
    We in the military like to think we fight to keep americans safe because it strokes our ego. Look at me, im the knight in shining armor protecting you from all of the evil of the world, give me the respect i deserve. But even as a neocon in iraq, deep down, i wasnt sure what iraq had to do with the US. I knew we were trying to do a nice thing for the iraqi people but how it was supposed to help my freedom back home i could not have explained.
    I think it speaks volumes that Kyle was working a book deal before he even left the navy, to me it proves that he was after a title and he was going to get his kill numbers no matter what ethical lines had to be crossed. A mans desire for wealth and fame should never be underestimated.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. D says:

    https://ceinquiry.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/chris-kyle-snipers/

    This article perfectly sums up what happened and how this sociopath got his ‘kills’.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Kamjw says:

    I saw this article, but before I read it – I thought I would comment. Ordinarily I know that is stupid. I just went with the title of the article. I assumed it would be critical of Chris.

    There is no amount of pay which will incentivize a moral person, and Chris was moral, to kill someone immorally. I mean, what amount of money would it take for you to carry a weapon, and use it, and also watch your friends die besides you? I can’t think of an amount. You do it for real love of country. Maybe you can put a price on that?

    Nobody ever joins our special forces on the basis of money, and I don’t mean to discount history and mercenaries. But mercenaries used to make a difference – and today these kinds of people are mistaken in their belief they may profit from conflict or war. They cannot do so – they are clearly identified to the entire world. Their acts of barbarism, and acts against humanity, are now everyday news fodder.

    I’m not sure what it might take to join these ISIS ‘forces’… but I think it must be an abandonment of one’s own capacity to think. No religions, recognized by people on this earth, supports their acts. They are an affront to all humanity,. I’m American, and so proud of that – but it was not my choice, I was born here. So I try to understand everyone else, but I will never understand their horrible acts. I have tried to understand it, even read the Koran – and go with passages that suggest not suffering the infidel, not to dissimliar to our the old testament of the Bible. But I say everyone is the infidel, today, because we think – and we misinterpret our ‘bibles’ to suit our purposes.

    I hate to see anyone die, but I think ISIS must give up on this folly of theirs, or else you absolutely must die. You are acting like thugs among your own people, and you have no excuse to be the way you are. No religious backing, no people backing, no humanity backing – you are drawing yourselves into a small area really, and your terrible selfishness means a lot of innocents will go with you.

    Now I will read your article. But I can tell you this last thing – and I promise you it is true. Whether it is is country, politics, or family ties – when you actually serve, you know what it means to represent something bigger than yourself. I wonder, if anyone else posting here, understands that they are not the most important person on this planet. Government’s can be bad, and because of them, countries. But that is not what is permanent. People are permanent. And when a force subjugates a country by reason of religion, or territory – and then they behead them, I’m sorry – I want to be on that front line, and killing those bastards. Put whatever insignia you want on their sleeve. Someone, somewhere, has to keep the peace. The rest of you – go ahead, become victims.

    ** Now I read the sparse comments here. I don’t fault any of you for your beliefs. I just wonder what is your basis for judgement? The movie is Hollywood. The gunshot against the insurgent sniper, whatever. But the truth is, if you had that shot to take, would you take it? I would.

    I’m sorry – but these are my feelings, and mine alone.

    Like

    • I’m going to focus on only one of your statements:

      “There is no amount of pay which will incentivize a moral person, and Chris was moral, to kill someone immorally.” (bold emphasis mine)

      Your underlying premise is that Chris Kyle was a morally sound person. How did you come to this conclusion?

      As for the basis in my judgment, it’s pretty simple. Kyle voluntarily chose to go to another country and get paid by the U.S. government to kill people there the government determined to be worthy of death. I judge him based on his own statements as to their ROE and the lies he put into his book concerning another veteran.

      Americans support him solely because he was American. If he had been a Russian, same behavior just different flsg, they would have seen him differently. https://anarchistnotebook.com/2015/01/17/american-sniper/

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Kamjw says:

    And so I read this again – trying to find merit in the arguments made. Yes, America is not innocent in these wars. But a man who serves his country, the way Chris did – I think you need to give him the benefit of the doubt. Not only that, but he ‘allowed’ this story to happen with his own commentary, because it would have happened no matter what based on his ‘legend’. He wanted his own words to be used. He expressed those words – through book, and to a lesser part – through the movie that attempted to represent those words (which I think they did well enough). Do any of you know what money he made? Or do you just figure he stepped into some billionaire status? I’m pretty sure you don’t have a clue.

    Yeah, the Iraq War was not something to be proud of, imho. And, subsequent action over there, in my opinion, was not justified either. I hate that damn area, more than anything. But when a man goes, to represent his country, then you should respect that. You have no right to judge him.

    For me, I was in when the hostage situation came up in Iran, and Jimmy blew it. Probably not really his fault completely, but our inability to deal with such a bizarre situation. But a year of not getting those people back? That should still be talked about today, but it is not. It was a terrible situation.

    So – here’s my last comment (I promise)… this area, where these terrible atrocities are occurring (and they are atrocities), was once the ‘Seat of Civilization’. What happened to that incredible beginning? How did they lose their way? Forget religion, think about prosperity, and innovation. Eventually the contributions of this area have been replaced. First by Europe, then America (and today, Asia and China) So I say, on my own analysis, this entire area of the world is jealous of the rest of the world. My solution, way back during the Iran crisis, was to fence this entire area off, forget about them, and let evolution catch up. What they need is to participate in hope, and ability to take care of their families. But they can’t, and therefore these people of ISIS have ground go flourish in. But they will die. And they deserve to die. If you can’t see that simple fact, then you are in some narcissistic fantasy world that real people will not live in. Good luck with that.

    Like

    • “Yeah, the Iraq War was not something to be proud of, imho.”

      If it wasn’t something to be proud of, then how was Chris Kyle’s actions admirable? If the U.S. military shouldn’t have been in there, then how does one condone or approve of his behavior?

      From my perspective thousands of miles away, ISIS is a collection of barbaric thugs, and unlike other libertarians I don’t see many enemies of the U.S. around the world to have any better moral sensibility, something I’ve written about elsewhere on this blog.

      Liked by 1 person

    • D says:

      “a man who serves his country, the way Chris did – I think you need to give him the benefit of the doubt.”
      No, don’t give him the benefit of the doubt, thats ridiculous. He is making a claim, that he was this awesome sniper with 160 confirmed kills and over 200 unconfirmed and he wrote a book. You don’t just get a pass because you were in Iraq.
      “Not only that, but he ‘allowed’ this story to happen with his own commentary, because it would have happened no matter what based on his ‘legend’. He wanted his own words to be used. He expressed those words – through book, and to a lesser part – through the movie that attempted to represent those words (which I think they did well enough).”
      His ‘legend’ was his own creation. In the Special Operations community we think this guy is a joke, which he is. For starters you aren’t supposed to write books, which shows right off the bat why he joined-to become famous. We sign contracts stating we won’t discuss what we do. Why he wasn’t prosecuted i don’t know, but SEALs rarely are.
      As for adding his ‘own words’, he was a known pathological liar. Ventura, 30 people in new orleans, 2 car jackers, and thats only what he said in the states. Do you know the only source for his supposed kill numbers? Him. Thats it, the navy doesnt keep track of those things. So we have a guy who we know for a fact likes to lie-big lies, telling us about all this great stuff he did. I am SOF veteran with the same amount of time in Iraq as Kyle had and let me tell you, there is no possible way he killed that many bad guys. Battles like Falluja were rare. The typical insurgent hid among the population. What was this great gift Kyle had of distinguishing unarmed bad guys from unarmed good guys? There wasn’t one. His goal was to become the top sniper and he essentially admits in his book that there was a competition among the snipers to see who could get there. Two SEALs have confirmed the use of baiting, even though it is well known among veterans that SEALs did this often in order to get kills (baiting is when you put set cord or something on the side of the road and shoot the first cat who picks it up-it isn’t combat-its murder).
      “Do any of you know what money he made? Or do you just figure he stepped into some billionaire status? I’m pretty sure you don’t have a clue.”
      He made several million before he died, that information is public, as is his promise to donate it all to wounded warriors. Another lie by the way, of those millions he gave less than 5% to charity.
      This guy was a dirtbag of the highest order. Neocons would have been much better off picking a medal of honor winner or hell, ANYONE else to make a movie about. But instead they picked one of the biggest scumbags to ever wear a uniform. This is a guy who would have been right at home in Mai Lai.

      Like

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