What ‘American Sniper’ Tells You About Its Critics
Matthew Braun

I am not at all surprised that Michael Moore and Seth Rogen don’t like American Sniper. For them, the idea of military sacrifice is absurd. We get an idea of how badly they understand the motivation of the modern American fighting man and woman when they can’t tell the difference between someone like me, with 15 years of experience in law enforcement, military intelligence, and counterterrorism, and a Nazi. No. Seriously.

That movie is “Nation’s Pride,” the faux Nazi propaganda film-within-a-film directed by Eli Roth that plays during the film’s climactic theater scene.

Moore, for his part, offered these thoughts:

He later said, implausibly, he just happened to tweet this while “American Sniper” was pulling in a massive $105 million opening weekend box-office haul and wasn’t talking at all about “American Sniper.” Moore’s experience with martial matters is exactly zero, and his understanding of snipers is based on a tragic anecdote from World War II. Moore never allows for the possibility that Nazi snipers might have been cowards, and that American snipers might be saving lives.

Newsflash: Like the Nazis, Al Qaeda Is Bad

War movies have changed a lot since the 1940s. War movies in the 1940s didn’t have to explain that the Nazis were bad. We take Nazis as evil for granted now; with 65 years of hindsight there are far more people around now who were never alive for Hitler’s Reich, but all of us understand that Nazis are bad. Film has been, perhaps, the best teacher of this simple truth. Nazis were just Nazis in movies, even when their evil was supernatural or no longer based in reality.

Unlike the war films of generations past, ‘American Sniper’ actually has to explain onscreen that al Qaeda insurgents were (and still are) bad.

The Left continues to think of the American military and foreign illegal fighters as basically being two sides of the same coin. Worse, they can’t seem to tell the difference between American service members and al Qaeda. Unlike the war films of generations past, “American Sniper” actually has to explain onscreen that al Qaeda insurgents were (and still are) bad. In explaining, and in depicting, Kyle’s firm and unflinching lack of remorse or understanding for the plight of the torturing, ambushing, child-murdering insurgent, we see a fun word on Twitter: Jingoistic.

The American Left has never been able to find the line between patriotism and jingoism. They were so proud of the campaign to humiliate and vilify U.S. soldiers and Marines during the late 1960s and early 1970s. They were proud it scared American politicians out of significant military action until the Gulf War. They wanted Iraq and Afghanistan to be just like Vietnam. They are unwilling to consider anything that might portray the American military in a positive light. The Left did their long march through all of America’s beloved institutions, and Hollywood was no exception. Where John Ford and Frank Capra once did propaganda films during World War II, Hollywood today is irredeemably corrupted by a worldview that blames America for all the ills of the world.

Certainly, the bulk of War on Terror films to date are a testament to this—see “In the Valley of Ellah,” “Stop Loss,” “Grace Is Gone,” “Lions for Lambs,” “Redacted,” “Fair Game,” “Rendition,” “Home of the Brave,” or “Green Zone.” Or rather, don’t see any of these films. They are by turns terrible, dishonest, and manipulative. They are also uninteresting films that add nothing to anyone’s understanding of the complexities of threats America faces in the world. The few non-insulting films to tackle the subject, such as “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” are ambiguous about America’s mission at best. Note that the latter film was subject to a crusade to snub it at Oscar time simply because it acknowledged the historical fact that enhanced interrogation techniques yielded intelligence that helped us capture Bin Laden.

‘American Sniper’ Is About a Man the Left Cannot Understand

Why is this? Because the military is a cartoon to the elite Left. They believe veterans are people who had few options and were forced by circumstance to hide in a uniform. They assume that because we stopped worshiping at the altar of individualism for a while that we have no ability for original thought. Since we gave up complete slavery to whims and fads, we must have no ambition or personality. We are chattel to them, and they feel no loyalty to us since we volunteered.

I suspect that critics of ‘American Sniper,’ of Chris Kyle, and of the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, have a much in common with each other, but little in common with most straight white men.

They are further separated from us because they don’t know anyone like us, and we don’t know anyone like them. When we interact, we speak past each other because we don’t share a common language or understanding of the world. They believe everything is a construct of our own personal experience, and that ideas like “morality” and “nation” and “loyalty” are just abstract silly vestiges of a bygone era… and all bygone eras are probably racist and misogynist. They’re pretty sure they’ve outsmarted thousands of years of Western thinking.

“American Sniper” is about a plain man, raised to be physically and mentally tough. He tested himself with rigorous training, to find the edges of what he could accomplish. He fought and killed. He saw the enemy as evil, and he killed them with little compunction. I’ll warn you now: He’s white… that is, his ancestors came from the northern half of Europe. He’s a man, both in his gender identity and his biology, which are never at odds. He’s heterosexual, as evidenced by his super gender-normative marriage to a woman, and their subsequent children created by what we are led to believe is normal sexual congress. I’m sorry if this is very different from what you see on the Internet, but it’s actually fairly common.

I suspect that critics of “American Sniper,” of Chris Kyle, and of the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, have a much in common with each other, but little in common with most straight white men. They don’t believe in anything, so certainly fighting and killing over the idea of a nation, or right and wrong, does not make sense to them. They assume, because they are ignorant, that killing makes a person bad. They cannot imagine the sacrifice in fighting, let alone the sacrifice of taking enemy lives for our country. I suspect they cannot imagine much at all outside of their own needs and desires.

When Kyle is depicted shooting a child who has a grenade and is intent on attacking Marines, he kills, but he does not murder.

Killing, you see, is not evil, when done in the right time and place for the right reasons. A sloppy translation of the Sixth Commandment is, “Thou shall not kill.” A better translation is, “Thou shall not murder.” The difference should be clear to anyone, but I’ll explain. When Kyle is depicted shooting a child who has a grenade and is intent on attacking Marines, he kills, but he does not murder. When the mother of that child is shown handing that grenade to him, she aims to murder. She is not “defending” her home from an “invader.” She commits an actual war crime, and she pays the price.

Here’s the Difference Between a Terrorist and a Freedom Fighter

Recently, a friend asked, “What’s the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter?” Moore doesn’t know, but I do: Obeying the laws of land warfare. Iraqi insurgents never tried to obey those rules, and al Qaeda has flouted them by design since its inception. Iraqis could have lawfully opposed the occupation of Coalition forces and adhered to the Geneva conventions. They would have been lawfully allowed to do that, but America was never faced with a lawful, conventional enemy in Iraq. We faced a mercenary army of radicals, who deliberately put civilians at risk. They abused protected structures, engaged in perfidy, and tortured and murdered both American prisoners and Iraqi civilians in ways that are only briefly suggested in the film. The truth was much worse.

Our men and women have to fight and kill, but all within the confines of elaborate and changing policies.

I’m not sure how much the American people understand the complex rules of engagement the military units must follow. Much of the stress of working in a place like Iraq or Afghanistan is that you know where the bad guys are, and you know what they are up to, but until they attack you cannot engage them. “American Sniper” deals with this quickly, very early on, when Kyle’s spotter reminds him, “They’ll fry you if you get it wrong.”

Our men and women have to fight and kill, but all within the confines of elaborate and changing policies. What is distressing about all this criticism is that it’s totally devoid of fact or basis in reality. While Kyle didn’t punch Jesse Ventura, he fought with bravery and honor while in Iraq. He saved lives. He protected Americans. The modern American sniper allows infantry to work with better situational awareness. This situational awareness, as well as deploying snipers to counter snipers, saved Iraqi lives, since a recognized counter-sniper technique (from WWII) was to use artillery to destroy the city block where the sniper was hiding. This is something many people forget about WWII: the Allies bombed cities for months before we invaded. We could have done the same in Iraq, but we didn’t, to protect innocent lives.

The American Left can’t imagine a person who actually fights to protect other Americans, who actually believes America is the greatest country on Earth, and who does it all with a Bible in his pocket. That’s a farce to them. It’s too far off from the people they have known and deal with every day to be real, so they think it’s propaganda for the Right, for America, for war. I used to think that atheist, communist, America hating, effete liberals were absurd, too far gone from everyone I’d ever met, and spouting opinions you would rarely encounter. But along came Hollywood’s shameless liberals, who suddenly felt the need to rub their unpopular, uneducated politics in their customers’ faces.

Americans somehow know, even in the face of nearly everything they’ve ever seen on TV or the movies, that we are right to be proud of our troops.

Maybe the American public is war-weary, and many a reasonable and thoughtful citizen has doubts about our military strategy since 9/11. But few Americans are confused about the moral difference between American soldiers and al Qaeda insurgents. The fact that a movie such as “American Sniper,” which is by no means unreflective about the moral complexities of modern warfare, is premised on making this clear distinction might explain why it made $105 million in its first weekend. Americans somehow know, even in the face of nearly everything they’ve ever seen on TV or the movies, that we are right to be proud of our troops. Not just proud because they fight and protect us, but proud because they do an impossibly complex job with skill, determination, and guts.

Clint Eastwood aside, I don’t expect Hollywood executives and directors to wake up tomorrow and not be liberals with negative views about America. Thankfully, they are at least greedy, and a film like “American Sniper” that makes that much money on an opening weekend in January can’t be ignored. Maybe next time Hollywood wants to make an Iraq War film, they’ll get the message: Money talks, and Michael Moore walks.

Matthew Braun is the founder of Panoply Consulting.

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