A Few Thoughts on the ‘American Sniper’ Movie Controversy
In the last few days, many of you might have heard or read about multiple controversies surrounding a movie called ‘American Sniper‘. Some have raised questions about its authenticity and accuracy, while other have criticized the simple-mindedness and USA-centric bias of the film. While I was tempted to dissect the movie for this post, doing so would have shifted attention to the far bigger issue raised by this film.
The big question that almost nobody seems, or dares to, ask is: How would you rationally classify the real-life and now deceased protagonist of this film?
Some of you might say that he was just some soldier doing his job- and that is technically correct. However that conventional and stock answer obscures a lot of things- such as why he was in Iraq in the first place. So let us start by answering that question first. Available literature suggests that Chris Kyle voluntarily joined the U.S. Navy in 1999 and served in a special warfare unit, mostly famously as a sniper, until he was honorably discharged in 2009. His tenure in the U.S armed forces coincided with the U.S.-led military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And this brings us to the reason behind his fame or infamy. Why are we talking about him, rather than some other guy who served parallel tenures in the U.S armed forces? We.. he is supposedly the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, accumulating 160 confirmed kills out of 255 probable kills. Now it is certainly not unusual for snipers to be presented as national heroes. Many of you have probably heard about the Russian sniper, Vasily Zaytsev, who killed over 400 germans , including many during the battle of Stalingrad, in WW2 and there were many others like him.
There is however a common thread that runs through the life stories of all highly regarded snipers. Pretty much every respected sniper in history was fighting in a war imposed upon his country by another nation. There is a reason why men like Simo Häyhä, Ivan Sidorenko, Mikhail Surkov, Vasily Zaytsev are seen as heroes while other high scoring snipers such as Matthäus Hetzenauer and Billy Sing are mere footnotes in history. A person fighting for his nation on its own soil against an external aggressor is always seen as fighting the good fight. In contrast to that, a person fighting for the aggressor nation in a war it started is technically a mercenary.
As we all know, U.S.A was the aggressor nation in the Iraq War which started in 2003. It is also common knowledge that the public rationale for invading Iraq in 2003 was largely based on made-up intelligence reports and wishful thinking. In any case, the Iraq war was merely the continuation of a post-WW2 trend under which waging war against small or poor nations has become a standard part of the foreign, domestic and industrial policy of U.S.A. The fact that such actions often leads to defeats for the U.S.A, such as those experienced in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan, has not done much to dissuade it from entering new ones.
But back the main topic of this post- What was Chris Kyle doing in Iraq during the 2003-2009 time period? and why?
Well.. according to his own book he was busy killing Iraqi “insurgents”. But why? and how exactly do you define “insurgents” if you are on the side that invades a country. Was Iraq under Saddam ever a credible threat to the U.S.A? If it was not, as was plainly obvious both before and after the 2003 invasion- wasn’t the local population justified in resisting and killing the invaders? I mean, would you not do (or at least wish for) something similar in that situation? Then there is the question of whether you classify somebody as insurgent before they are killed or after they are killed. Given the easy availability of guns in post-2003 Iraq and the unstable domestic situation after the invasion, pretty much every guy who could get a gun had one (or more). This is not a trivial point, as sophistic arguments centered on possession (or use) of guns could be used to classify every Iraqi adult or child as an insurgent- especially if they were killed by american military personal.
So his claim of killing between 160-255 Iraqi “insurgents” is best seen as a claim of killing 160-255 Iraqis. I should add that none of those who he killed posed a threat to the U.S.A (as defined by the area contained in the official boundaries of the country, its overseas territories or other officially known territorial possessions). To put it another way, he killed 160-255 Iraqis because he was told to, wanted to or likely a combination of both. And this brings us to the question..
How exactly was Chris Kyle different from a Hitman for a large organized ‘crime’ syndicate?
If you think about rationally, what he did was identical to the job function of a Hitman for an organized ‘crime’ syndicate. Some of you might say “but.. but, the U.S.A is not an organized crime syndicate. To which I would say- actions, not words, tell you what people and organisations really are. In any case, isn’t size the only real difference between modern nation states and organized ‘crime’ syndicates?
What do you think? Comments?