“American Sniper,” the Movie

WARNING: SPOILERS, SPOILERS, SPOILERS

Do not continue reading if you haven’t seen the movie…

Now, with those warnings out of the way, let’s begin. I’m really wanting to discuss this movie with some of you all, so let’s open the bar and have a good conversation…

I’m dying to know your all’s thoughts about the movie…

I finally saw it tonight and I’m really torn about how I feel about it.

On the one hand, it’s a good movie. Maybe even a great one, if you haven’t read the book first. (In fact, almost all of my problems result from me having read the book first, I think.)

But I left the movie pretty torn about it. And one of the things I was most frustrated about was how complete it was. What I mean is that the movie, while mostly based on truth, turns Chris Kyle’s four tours into more a test of endurance in search of this phantom, super-talented enemy sniper. On the one hand, using this device gives the movie some suspense and a thrill to it. You pull for Chris Kyle. You understand why he has to go back.

On the other, it’s not true, and war is never about such a test. (Or rarely, at best.) War at the individual ground level is about disappointment, boredom, sacrifice, pain, sweat, hurry-up-and-wait, and life-altering meaningless broken up by soul-exploding violence, which marks and scars you forever.

“American Sniper,” the movie, gets much of this right, but it sells Chris Kyle’s life short. The greater story is that, in reality, Chris Kyle went back for four tours without any of this fake meaning or suspense. It was nothing on Kyle’s part but pure sacrifice and service, over-and-over and over-and-over. Four times.

Granted, such a movie wouldn’t set box-office records, so perhaps I should just shut up. After all, the current version with its suspenseful angle is certainly telling his story in probably the largest (and broadest) way possible.

But in my mind, Chris Kyle’s story is far greater because I’m confident he learned the truth about war and its soul-ripping meaninglessness on his first tour, and he STILL went back three more times. Not to hunt some phantom sniper mentioned in only a single paragraph of the book, who Kyle never even shot, but to answer that bitch named “Duty.”

Chris Kyle knew the price of real war, and he paid it. In spades. He nearly sacrificed his marriage. He missed much of his kids’ early days. And he endured “three gunshot wounds, two helicopter crashes, six IED attacks, and numerous surgeries.”

He didn’t do that to kill some phantom sniper that was killing dozens of Marines and soldiers. He didn’t do that to set some sniper record for most kills.

He did it because he was one in ten million. Maybe one in one hundred million. And that’s the bigger story in my opinion.

Even more crazy is that the most lethal sniper in American history almost certainly would have served more tours if hadn’t departed the SEALs to save his marriage…

Chris Kyle was special, and his real life was much greater than even the incredible image portrayed in the movie.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

What are your thoughts? Am I off-base and being too critical? What did you think of the movie?

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

About me: I’m a full-time, action-fiction author with books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior infantry Marine with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years writing every day in the newspaper business. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about things that either motivate you, inspire you, or make you laugh.

40 Comments

Filed under Marine Corps, Movie thoughts

40 responses to ““American Sniper,” the Movie

  1. Old Retired Guy

    Hey Stan,
    […that bitch named “Duty.”]
    You channeling Stephen Hunter in “Time to Kill”? I love that phrase.

    Thanks for the spoiler alert, but I haven’t seen it – and won’t until it’s out on DVD. Cannot imagine many things more repellent than sitting in a packed movie theater with a bunch of civilians getting vicarious thrills (and sharing their germs).
    Everything I’m reading from those I consider legitimate says that this is the real deal and an honest tribute to an American Hero.
    I would expect nothing less from Eastwood.
    What’s really blowing a warm wind under my kilt is the absolute vitriol pouring out of the Left. They are simply going berserk over the fact that they can’t control the narrative of this thing.
    50+ years of re-education at every social level and they still can’t dominate the patriotism that resides deep inside the vast majority of those living here.
    All who love freedom owe a debt of gratitude to Kyle for what he did, and to Eastwood for taking the message to (literally) millions who never heard of our American Sniper.
    Semper Fi, bro
    OG

    Like

    • […that bitch named “Duty.”]

      Hey OG,

      Yes, I am definitely channeling Stephen Hunter on that phrase! I, too, have never seen it more appropriately stated. (And I wish I had remembered that Hunter said that when I wrote the post, as I would have appropriately credited him. I just remembered the phrase, not the author.) Thanks for pointing that out!

      And yeah, the left is definitely going crazy. I’m trying to decide whether to address all of that in a follow-up post or not.

      If you don’t mind, when you do see the movie, circle back around and give me your thoughts on it. I’d love to hear them. (Or, just email me privately.)

      Thanks!

      Semper Fi, Brother,
      Stan

      Like

  2. Haven’t seen it, so I didn’t read this. I’ll be back. 😛

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  3. Great to get the insight of someone who was actually in the military. I really hadn’t thought of this movie before from that perspective, so it was an interesting read. Having seen the movie, Stan’s thoughts were a bit of a revelation, as they gave me one more big reason to not like this film at all.

    My biggest reason for not liking the movie was that it felt like an “America, fuck yeah!” story, to put it bluntly. I get that the focus of the story was an American sniper. But not only did the story lack almost any empathy for the people being shot and killed by the sniper and others, but it felt like a video game the way he picked them off one by one. War is hell. It’s one of the worst things we, as humans, do to each other. But it was like this film just blew all that off, in favor of creating a superhero for Americans to root for: a guy who’s bigger, stronger, and a better shot than anyone those nameless Muslims have. And then they dress it up in being a memoir, as if it’s real. War movies should make you feel like total shit, because so should war. I don’t want to pretend it’s not what it is.

    Another issue I had was I didn’t feel like the ending was earned. For much of the film, he was aloof from his wife and family, staring off into space when he was around them, leaving them over and over for tours of duty. Then, suddenly, when it was most convenient for the plot making him look like a great guy we’d all miss, he quickly just became a great dad and husband. One day, he’s staring blankly at the TV, haunted by the memories of his time at war, then nearly killing the family pet, and the next he’s the dad of his wife and kids’ dreams, supposedly because he started working with wounded vets. That’s it? Willpower and some camaraderie, and now he’s a completely different man? I don’t buy it, at least not as quickly as that happened. I think they wanted you to be more emotionally wrecked when he died shortly thereafter.

    And then, there’s the issue of his wife. Or, more pointedly, the stock character that actress is playing. I’m so, so tired of the “Concerned wife” character in every one of these movies. She only exists to say the same tired lines in the same way: “We need you here!” “You need to be a father!” “Please don’t go back!” I swear, you don’t even have to write this character anymore. You can just take the exact same lines and copy/paste them into your new script. It’s been done. Military movies, cop movies, athlete movies, etc., etc. Men trudge off to do their macho man duty, and women stay home to whine about wanting them to stop during their occasional screentime. Give women better roles, Hollywood. I’m over this one.

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    • OldGyrene

      [“…But not only did the story lack almost any empathy for the people being shot and killed by the sniper and others…”]

      To clarify, you think there should be some kind of “empathy” for the terrorists being killed?

      I do fully agree with your description of Kyle:
      “…a guy who’s bigger, stronger, and a better shot than anyone those nameless Muslims have.”
      Although I would quibble with your calling them Muslims. Some pretty significant Muslim leaders have denounced these Islamic terrorists for attempting to pervert their religion. As any civilized person (regardless of religion) would aver, beheading schoolgirls because they do not agree with your religious philosophy isn’t exactly the way to enlightenment.

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      • “To clarify, you think there should be some kind of “empathy” for the terrorists being killed?”

        Terrorists? I didn’t say anything about terrorists. The non-American sniper gets barely a look near the end of the movie. We’re on their turf. They’re not “terrorists” for fighting back.

        “Although I would quibble with your calling them Muslims.”

        You’d quibble with me calling Muslims Muslims?

        “Some pretty significant Muslim leaders have denounced these Islamic terrorists for attempting to pervert their religion. As any civilized person (regardless of religion) would aver, beheading schoolgirls because they do not agree with your religious philosophy isn’t exactly the way to enlightenment.”

        I’m wondering what sort of mindset would lead you to think I’m saying the movie should have given a flowery portrait of people who are beheading schoolgirls.

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        • We aren’t at war with Muslims. Those who lump our enemies in the general category of “Muslim” are doing a real disservice to those practicing that faith – which is what you did.
          We are fighting against terrorists of all stripes; many of whom claim an association with the Muslim religion.
          The real problem is that you are attempting to argue from a position of ignorance. In your own words, you’ve never served in the military, much less swapped rounds with our enemies.

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          • “We aren’t at war with Muslims. Those who lump our enemies in the general category of “Muslim” are doing a real disservice to those practicing that faith – which is what you did.”

            Don’t accuse me of things, OG. I didn’t “lump our enemies in the general category of ‘Muslim,’ and you shouldn’t read more into things than what I actually say. I don’t think that’s remotely fair. I didn’t say we’re “at war with Muslims,” nor did I say our enemies are in some “general category” of “Muslim.” I only used the word “Muslims” one time, buried a good deal down in my 2nd paragraph, and you somehow used that to suggest I’m making some vast generalization about them. My focus was on the people of Iraq, where the movie is mostly set and where 99% of the people are Muslim. That’s not an exaggeration. Literally, 99% of Iraqis are Muslim: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_by_country. You’re welcome to disagree with my views on the movie, OG. But please don’t accuse me of accusing all Muslims of being in league with terrorists, or saying we’re “at war with Muslims.” That’s insulting, and isn’t fair in the slightest. I never said that, didn’t mean it, and have never even considered the thought.

            “The real problem is that you are attempting to argue from a position of ignorance. In your own words, you’ve never served in the military, much less swapped rounds with our enemies.”

            Not sure what this has to do with anything, but I’ll freely admit that. I wasn’t in the military, and I haven’t “swapped rounds” with any “enemies.” All I’m doing is sharing my views on a film. Your disagreement is noted. Should you prefer to simply dismiss my views on that particular part of the film because I haven’t shot at anyone, “enemies” or not, feel free to do so.

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    • Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on the movie, Jeff! Looks like you and OldGyrene are having a friendly discussion about it, so I’m going to step away before I get blood on me! lol

      (OG, Jeff’s a good guy. Went to college with him. Jeff, likewise OG’s a good guy. You all show at least some moderation. Have a good row and then agree to share a beer afterward!)

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  4. I just saw the movie tonight, but read the book a couple of years back when it came out.

    Book review first. I didn’t particularly like ‘American Sniper’. Military memoir type books that I liked in the past were “One Bullet Away”, “the Men, the Mission & Me”, etc. So I read these books for substance, what can I learn? and all that good stuff.

    Chris Kyle in the book came off as an a’hole. And that’s fine, in and of itself, I knew plenty of a’holes in the Marines who carried their weight and then some.

    So benefit of the doubt for Chris, don’t know him, so I just assumed the ghost writer, who wasn’t all too familiar with the military, just wrote it the wrong way.

    As for substance, there was next to none in the book. Basically, just a lot of bravado, which again is fine if we were telling stories in the beer garden, but in a book, there should be more, introspection, character stuff, ideas, etc.

    OK, I figured, this book’s NOT gonna do well, and then I started seeing it on bestselling lists, talked about in the news, etc. I was shocked.

    I read a lot of military blogs and news, so after reading the book, the whole Ventura fiasco developed. I figured marketing ploy. Then I read about Kyle’s sniper mission after Katrina, and my ears perked up, what would SOCOM be doing there? Then the clincher for me was his carjacking story in TX in which he kills 2 assailants. It’s a very troubling story, because the story itself should be easily corroborated just by simply googling the news. Nothing.

    Basically the story goes, Kyle killed the carjackers, the cops come, he tells them he’s a SEAL, cops verify it, then let him go. That’s just not how the criminal justice system (especially TX) works, excusable homicide or not, the process has to churn, but most importantly bodies have to be documented, none of which happened.

    The Ventura story, is a ‘he said/she said’ type of story;

    Katrina, hell maybe SOCOM did send snipers there, Blackwater was documented as being there (but Prince’s angle was more on publicity and business, “this is what we can do” calling card), but posse comitatus would render such decisions nil/void for SOCOM, or anyone in the military for that matter, no officers would ever risk their rank for this stunt.

    IMHO, Kyle’s a liar. Hero or not.

    Then I read last summer that Ventura won his defamation case.

    Then to top it off, I read that Clint Eastwood was doing a film adaptation of his book, and I shook my head thinking, the book sucked precisely because Kyle was an anti-hero, and 3 big lies confirmed that he had character issues.

    So why is Hollywood making a bigger hero of Chris Kyle?

    I wasn’t gonna see the movie at all, but after all the crap surrounding it, no doubt a great marketing opportunity for Eastwood, I had to go see it, if only to see what the big deal was.

    Surprisingly, I loved the movie. The Chris Kyle in the book and the Chris Kyle in the movie, are two different people. It’s basically two movies in one, the war movie and the coming home/PTSD movie. It almost feels like watching “Flags of our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima” at once. Eastwood’s take on the whole war I think was in Marc Lee’s letter read by her mom at his funeral.

    I disagree with Jeff Haws, it’s not an “America, fuck yeah!” movie, when you leave the theatre you feel genuinely sad for Chris Kyle (when I read Chris Kyle was shot by a former Marine, my first thought was, I wonder what Kyle said to him to piss him off). Eastwood created a character whose PTSD was so apparent, his failure to recognize it so tragic, that when the last SEAL gave his salute,

    for me the ending was earned, but it wasn’t Chris Kyle I saw in that movie. And I admit, I did shed a tear, but it wasn’t for Chris Kyle, that movie for me, reflected very close friends. That I think was Eastwood’s genius, at least in the opinion of this Marine. And why I think everyone should see the movie,

    but it’s not Chris Kyle, I don’t think that guy is deserving at all of our attention and respect.

    Now for the smaller criticism, the movie made Marine scout snipers look like idiots. In the book, Kyle described himself and his Marine scout sniper counterparts as picking off enemies jointly. In the movie, I didn’t understand what they were doing with Kyle up on those roofs, one guy played his Gameboy (whatever they call ’em now), another guy whispered Leavenworth (Marines don’t know Leavenworth, and if they did it surely would not play into their choice of shots, Qualified Immunity, mf’ers!), yet another during that scene when a kid picked up that RPG but dropped it, that Marine sniper was just staring blankly into space, WTF over?

    That was my only critique of the film. Although, I agree with Stan’s critique of the Mustafa sniper, who apparently works for both Sunnis and Shi’a, it didn’t rub me wrongly as much, just reminded me of Enemy at the Gates.

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    • “I disagree with Jeff Haws, it’s not an “America, fuck yeah!” movie, when you leave the theatre you feel genuinely sad for Chris Kyle”

      To be clear, those two reactions are not opposed to each other in even the very slightest sense. In fact, they pretty much go hand in hand.

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      • Jeff, totally understood your point, man. Just wanted to make clear that this movie actually had nuance and was deeper, which I credit Eastwood.

        When you compare it to “Team America” (which was a very good movie, LOL!), you’re implying the movie was devoid of subtlety.

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    • Great comments, LCpl_X.

      I, too, was unfortunately aware of Kyle’s mis-statements — and they ARE huge ones. I actually didn’t hate him after reading the book, but just wanted to get to know him and understand him better. So, I’d start watching him on YouTube clips and then listened to his 911 call when he was chasing down those punks who shot his dog.

      And I was increasingly perplexed as each of the three mis-statements came to light. I have no idea why he said those things, or why he’d even feel he’d need to say those things. He lived a warrior life and he had plenty of honest stories he could have told.

      But in the end, I never brought up these stories because the man went through more than I went through, and I try not to speak ill of those no longer with us. (With the exception of Hilter and a few others, obviously.)

      In the end, Kyle served our nation and sacrificed much, and even though his mis-statements cast a shadow on his name, he died trying to help still more vets. Perhaps he was sorry for his mis-statements. Perhaps he got used to the “high” of attention from the media, and found himself being compelled to tell outrageous stories. Perhaps he even wanted to apologize for them, but couldn’t find the right opportunity.

      I can’t speak to those things, but I will always do my best to honor his courage, his sacrifice, and his giving at the end of his life.

      Semper Fi, Brother,
      Stan

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      • I hear ya, on the “don’t speak ill of the dead” issue, Stan.

        But the flipside to all this, is that most Americans having never served, tend to read and watch these books and movies with no context.

        Marines are both hugely cynical and skeptical, it’s just part of our DNA, maybe since Gen. Butler and further back, new LTs tell us to jump, and we say ‘What the f’ for?’.

        So when we sniff out possible bs in these stories, I think we have a responsibility to expose it, granted more respectfully than I did above, because many who’ve never served aren’t aware that there are a’holes, liars, dirtbags, douchebags, both socio and psycho-paths, etc. in the military.

        And if we allow them to dictate narrative on these wars, then we’d have learned nothing.

        This former SEAL’s comment is spot on:
        http://www.spikesconsulting.com/blood-and-bullshit/

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      • Stan – correction on a WIDELY misunderstood fact. Ventura/Janos was never a SEAL. Not ever. Never earned the title, but he has been lying about it (with great success) for over 30 years.
        Who was and was not a SEAL is something tracked very carefully by an organization of former SEALS, and I love the motto:
        “There may be secret missions, but there are NO secret SEALS.
        Janos has been outed definitively, but that fact seems to be thoroughly ignored by almost all the media.
        More later.
        OG

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        • It used to bother me, too, until I saw Sr Chief Don Shipley’s take on it:

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          • I’ll have to dig up the link where I read about Janos. The author was an old time SEAL/UDT guy and did the research of those who actually served with him; as well as a couple of his C.O.’s. His brother was universally regarded as a high speed kind of guy and very well respected. This clown was universally thought to be a flaming loud mouth jerk.
            His book: “I Ain’t Got Time to Bleed”, might have some cred if he’d actually seen some combat and suffered any wounds.
            Back when I get the link

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            • OldGyrene

              I found this link while looking for the other one. Several pages to read through, but I think it is worth it:
              http://cursor.org/stories/seal_or_udt.htm
              Another one here:
              http://cursor.org/venturawatch/dangerous_game.htm
              Salisbury is a bona fide real deal SEAL (16 years/Det OIC/XO)
              Bottom line: Janos was UDT in Po City, the Philippines – NOT any way, shape, or form of SEAL in Vietnam..
              Janos could remove all doubt (either way) if he would simply do what Salisbury says:
              “So c’mon, Jesse, show us your DD 214. “

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              • From the linked article: My friend, whom I’ll call Jake, is active in the retired community and said Jesse had been the main topic of discussion during a recent meeting of an organization called Old Frogs and SEALs. “Guys are of two minds,” Jake said. “Some don’t think he should be holding himself out as a SEAL, while others think it’s okay. Say it’s good publicity.”

                My comment:
                This was the main take away I got. It’s still semantics. Like Pogue and Grunt, still Marine. Marine in Afghanistan vs. one lucky enough to just do one deployment or two on a MEU, still a Marine.

                If there was more consensus on SEALs being butt hurt of other UDTs claiming SEALs then maybe there’s an issue, but I get the feeling that most of them, don’t make a fuss of this. ‘Til then it would have to be a non-issue.

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                • “non-issue.”
                  You might want to read the articles again. You cherry-picked one comment by one person out of all the examples provided.
                  Yes, there are those who won’t refute the complete fabrications of Janos, apparently either those who want to keep sucking up to his celebrity, or those who don’t want to argue in public about a matter they consider extremely personal and private SEAL business.
                  Vietnam Vets have been going through the whole “Stolen Valor” situation almost since the time we got home, and if you don’t yet understand the difference between 5321 and 5326, at least understand the absolute contempt (not nearly a strong enough word) for non-veterans claiming they are.
                  The book (of the same name) by B. G. Burkett barely skims the surface of what these slime balls have done through their theft.
                  Semantics, my ass.

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                  • OG,

                    I didn’t cherry pick, I boiled it down to one issue, which is that this whole article is about

                    internal gripes, one largely based on semantics.

                    UDT or SEAL? But as Chief Shipley pointed out, the assignment of which was totally arbitrary, so that 5321 vs. 5326 designator probably didn’t mean as much to other SEALs or UDT of that era.

                    The bulk of the issue may be more on unit dick measurement, than it is actual Stolen Valor.

                    If Ventura is on record stealing valor, making up stories or embellishing, then that’s a separate issue, one that should be addressed, BUT without further, it’s semantics— An internal discussion, they (the UDT/SEAL community) have to agree on first, before outsiders can take sides.

                    But so far, IMHO, the consensus has been that UDTs and SEALs are one and the same, at least ’til the 1980s, where they actually became separate entities.

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        • OG, one thing they do agree on is that UDT the precursors to SEALs are SEALs, at least symbolically, and many who were UDTs when the SEALs program was developed were grandfathered in. Underwater Demolitions was continued as part of EOD, those who stayed in demolitions became EODs. But UDTs are considered SEALs by many SEALs.

          (Stan, it was a cookies issue, logged via Twitter finally)

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          • OldGyrene

            Janos is only 63 years old – went through BUDS in 1970. That grandfather thing would apply to the old-timers (WWII/Korea).

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            • OG,

              But my point is that SEALs themselves consider UDTs one and the same up to the 80s, so 70s that double branch grew together before separating.

              There’s other issues with Ventura as an individual, one aptly written about by the article I’ve linked above about being self-appointed, unqualified spokespersons for a community not too hot on being “represented” in the media.

              There’s definitely room for discussion there, but as for the title, as Chief Shipley pointed out, since the term UDT/SEAL was so arbitrary in the 70s, SEALs themselves don’t fuss about it.

              You can talk of Ventura’s lack of combat experience, politics, or if he lied about certain things, etc. but this UDT/SEAL issue, that’s like saying some Marine in the 60s who only did 2 yrs, is not a “real” Marine. It’s semantics.

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  5. This was one of those “character” issues I had with Kyle, he was interviewed and was asked about Ventura, and he denied him being a SEAL that he was UDT, and didn’t elaborate further on the relationship between SEAL and UDT. That would’ve been a great moment to share a great trivia in our nation’s history.

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  6. I saw the movie on 1/26 at a special showing by Sealed Mindset in the Twin Cities. Sealed Mindset http://www.sealedmindset.com is a personal defense training outfit founded and operated by former SEAL officer Larry Yatch, who was a teammate of Kyle during Kyle’s first tour. Also in attendance was another former SEAL, Eric Davis. Several other current and former SEALs were in attendance at the screening. All of these men had good things to say about Kyle, most from personal knowledge of the man. When the subject of discussion is a certain individual, it is a good idea to listen to the thoughts of people who knew that person.
    From what I have seen in the media and on discussion boards, a lot of the anti-Kyle writers have focused on the three oft-repeated but unsubstantiated stories regarding Kyle’s out-of-uniform conduct: the bar fight with Ventura, the sniping in New Orleans, and the shooting of two assailants at the Texas gas station. The anti-Kyle writers have said that since those events were evidently partially or completely fabricated, Kyle’s entire story is, therefore, not worthy of consideration. One reviewer did say that he wondered if those stories were the result of Kyle’s PTSD, which I think might be very plausible.
    To those who slam Kyle and dismiss his entire life, I say, do you say the same about Bill Clinton? This was a man who lied right to the faces of 300 million Americans, who had lied repeatedly about his infidelities for years, who had lied under oath in legal proceedings, and who only ‘fessed up when the evidence overwhelmed his spin. Yet many of the most virulent Kyle critics have also been unabashed Clinton supporters for years, and many no doubt will support his wife if she runs for president. Why does Clinton get a pass?
    Kyle will never be able to answer questions about those three alleged incidents. The Ventura story was challenged by Ventura in court and the jury voted 8-2 to believe his version. I have heard that the court record is sealed (no pun intended) so we will not, at least for awhile, have an opportunity to examine the testimony. The fact that 2 jurors believed Kyle indicates that the evidence, such that it was, was certainly not definitive.
    In any event, the movie was about one man’s experience in war and the impact it had on him and his family. Eastwood and the screenwriter, like all directors and screenwriters, used some literary license with certain aspects of the story, but the story itself, everyone but his harshest critics agree, can be considered a reasonably accurate portrayal of these events in the life of Kyle. That upsets some people who either think Kyle should be dismissed entirely because of the aforementioned tall tales, or because (as is clearly the case with most critics on the left) the movie does not follow the obligatory political narrative that the Iraq war was unjustified and American soldiers were either mindless dupes or rapacious beasts preying upon innocent Muslims who were just minding their own business until 2003.

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    • Hey David,

      Thanks for those comments from Kyle’s teammates. That helps solidify my thoughts about Kyle.

      And what a great analogy about Clinton. I had never even considered that perspective, but have also heard many people — including Republicans — say, “Well, yeah, he lied, but he was a pretty good President.”

      By that yardstick, Kyle was certainly an amazing sniper by any measurement.

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    • PTSD as an excuse just doesn’t quite cut it. The fame aspect makes sense, that needs more delving into.

      Clinton’s a politician, and like any politician most people don’t really place them on pedestals (or shouldn’t). But more importantly, lying about extra-marital affairs is the most well understood phenomena since humans evolved the ability to lie, it’s an apple vs. orange comparison.

      Why a person, a SEAL, with all the combat experience, end up lying and/or embellishing stories should be a concern and more people should be asking why,

      1). Could his penchant for tall tales have affected those shots he’s now known for (for example, could he have made justification for those shots to further his stories?)?;

      2). Isn’t this a type of Stolen Valor? Clinton wasn’t trying to take credit for valor, he was simply denying something, many married men with much to lose would deny, Kyle however was taking credit for something that never happened, two very different things, my interest is more on the Why?

      And for all the SEALs in that room who saw the private screening, there’d probably be more who’d have been more critical of Kyle also SEALs, it’s the ones who are more critical of their colleagues I’m interested in hearing, sadly they are not the ones with books coming out.

      As for the Ventura defamation, from my understanding the evidence that made it 8 to 2 (remember libel and/or slander of a famous person is pretty difficult to prosecute, you have to prove that it’s a lie, and then prove malice), was physical not circumstantial, having to do with his blood thinning medicine. So from a civil case perspective, that 8 to 2 should’ve been for Kyle, ‘cept there was that physical evidence.

      But a better question is why would you add a bar fight in your book, then talk about it all over media? Jesse Ventura’s character is already understood, but it adds to the Chris Kyle picture of self, his character.

      When I read the book, and then heard about the other stuff that happened it was very easy for me to conclude, Kyle’s got a bad habit of telling tall tales.

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      • And LCpl_X provides the most perfect rebuttal. Okay, I’m going to let you guys continue to debate this — if you choose — and I’m probably going to be continued to be swayed by your words! Good stuff…

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        • Yes, Clinton was (and in fact still is) a politician. So this exempts him from being held to the same standards of truth Chris Kyle and everybody else are held to? Call me madcap, but I think people we elect to high office, especially the highest office in the land, should be held to high standards. They are representing us, they are working for us, and their work is vitally important. In many cases lives–our lives–literally depend on their trustworthiness. Eisenhower was a politician, but he held himself to high standards. He wasn’t perfect by any means, but he did his best and he didn’t settle for mediocrity in himself or the people who were subordinate to him, in the military or the White House. And people admired Ike then and now because he was the guy we could look up to, the guy we could trust.
          As I said before, Kyle is no longer around to explain those stories. Had he lived, he would’ve had to address them once the movie came out. As far as I know his wife has chosen not to do so. Her own book is coming out in a few months and perhaps then she’ll reference those issues.
          Finally, let’s assume that Kyle’s stories about Katrina sniping, the Texas gas station fight and Ventura were complete fabrications. So what if they were? The critic will say that he told those whoppers only to embellish his own rep in order to boost book sales and eventual movie box office. He would not be the first one to do so, and won’t be the last. Does this disqualify him from our consideration of his life in totality? Kyle was a human being and thus imperfect. He had warts. So did JFK and Ike and FDR, MacArthur and Audie Murphy and Alvin York. Brett Favre sent dirty pictures to a woman who was not his wife. Should he be kept out of Canton?

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          • I’m saying Clinton lied, plain and simple (I didn’t vote for him). But his lie is easily understood. Kyle’s lie is of a totally different type. Lies of denial and lies of fabrication are two very different kinds of lies. Everyone lies, it’s the Why that is problematic, and needs to be looked into.

            There are great politicians I’ll grant you that, but my point is people shouldn’t expect them to be upstanding citizens. Power corrupts period, that’s why the citizenry shouldn’t think their politicians as angels, they should always be suspicious. But that’s a different discussion.

            Your last paragraph is exactly my point here. Most people who read or watched the movie American Sniper are non-military. Most of whom cater to this bleacher mentality of boooo’ing them and a big yaaaaaaaaaay for us.

            You can read American Sniper in like 4 hours (and I’m a slow reader), that’s how devoid it is of any sort of nuance–basically there is no WHYs. I think everyone here who has read American Sniper will agree there.

            The next question is, does Kyle get to be the symbol of the war in Iraq? NO. It’s all about which lens we as citizens choose to view these wars. Better perspectives with depth about these wars or the Kyle-type simple view of the war, that’s the choice basically.

            So the issue I’m addressing is actually bigger than Chris Kyle, it’s the idea of myth-making, hero-making, the choice of myths and heroes, and why after almost 15 yrs of these wars, we as a nation are still very gullible, and ignorant.

            I know Marines who’ve deployed back to back to back to back, only taking a month off or less because their MOS was specifically needed and they’ve yet trained others to take the slack, and their depth of understanding of Iraq and later Af-Pak would fill libraries, sadly they’re not in the market to write books, but those are the types of heroes Americans should demand from publishers and media.

            Why does Chris Kyle get to be the hero? How was he chosen for this role? Luttrell hooked him up with his publisher, but that’s not the answer here, how was he made into a celebrity, a deeper question? A very specific portion of the population did this, stemming from very specific media groups.

            Chris Kyle’s a liar, period.

            Everyone lies, so that’s not really the issue. Again, Why people lie is a more important question. Now if you are right, that in fact, Kyle lied to fluff his celebrity status, then that is a start. I think it’s something deeper, hence I suspect his penchant for this behavior taints everything else. But that’s a different topic.

            The point I’m making is that we as Americans should demand more of our heroes, not settle for less or rationalize their lies (these are big character defining lies, you shouldn’t attempt to minimize them, ie. if a close friend told you these lies you wouldn’t be as forgiving).

            The bigger picture is that our heroes should help us understand these wars, not simplify it for us. People have lost too much for these wars to be simplified. We have to learn from our mistakes in order to make better decisions, that starts with our choices of heroes.

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            • You say that Americans who hold up Kyle or, presumably, any other soldier from this conflict as heroes are “gullible” and “ignorant.” Quite frankly I find that offensive. By implication you are saying that the great unwashed out here who see and appreciate the movie portraying Kyle’s career are unable to think of his service and the war in a comprehensive, thoughtful way; they are unable or unwilling to consider the implications of the political decisions that thrust men like Kyle into battle. On the contrary, I think we are quite capable of considering those decisions and placing the war in a larger context. But that doesn’t mean we have to in every case, with every depiction of this or any other war. We can watch “Saving Private Ryan” and admire the courage of those men on Omaha Beach without having to debate FDR’s decision to invade Western Europe in lieu of negotiating an armistice that would have saved thousands of Allied lives. We can read “The Last Stand of Fox Company” and cheer the Marines at Chosin Reservoir without arguing over Truman’s decision to shackle MacArthur’s tactical and strategic decision-making in Korea. We can even watch “300” and weep over the sacrifice of Leonidas and his Spartans without having to think about Xerxes and what his real motives were in his invasion of Greece 2500 years ago.
              My father served in the Army in Germany during the 1950s and he’s a hero of mine to this day (which is his 80th birthday, by the way). Not just for his service to his country but for everything he has done as a man. An imperfect man, mind you, who undoubtedly has done and said some things in his life he wishes he could take back. But just considering his service back then, helping hold the line against the Soviets, that in itself is heroic, in my opinion. He and his fellow soldiers were willing to put themselves on the front lines in case Russian tanks started coming through the Fulda Gap. Quite probably he and many other Americans would have lost their lives doing so. They would have done so to protect West Germans and the citizens of other NATO allies from subjugation by a tyrannical system of government. One does not have to consider the relative merits of Eisenhower’s political decisions placing him and his buddies in harm’s way to consider those men as heroes. Or do we? From your posts, LCpl, it would seem that we have to.
              The prevailing opinion today is that the men who fought for the US in Vietnam were there for the wrong reasons. That can and should be debated, and the jury is still out on it historically—the some 2.5 million Vietnamese who were killed by the communists after our withdrawal might have an opinion about that, if they were still alive—but do those political decisions, if we judge them to be morally wrong, override the heroic acts performed by many of our troops during that conflict? I think not. Read the story of PFC Sammy L. Davis and tell whether or not he was a hero.
              If our goal is to understand the Iraq war or any other in a broader historical context, assuming such a thing is objectively possible while we are still in those times, then I grant you that is a worthy goal. It is not wise to allow our leaders to send our young men and women willy-nilly around the world into harm’s way. I remind you that the US Congress voted to support the 2003 invasion of Iraq. You can argue all day long about the merits of the reasoning, but the decision was made by our country collectively. Even Obama has called the conflict in Afghanistan the “right” war, and has, to his credit, decided not to give up on it as he gave up on Iraq—and is now, very reluctantly, getting us back into it because his prior decision proved wrong.
              But at the same time, can we not look at the lives and actions of individual warriors, or groups of them, and give them credit where credit is due? Here’s what Mark Twain had to say about heroes:
              “Unconsciously we all have a standard by which we measure other men, and if we examine closely we find that this standard is a very simple one, and is this: we admire them, we envy them, for great qualities we ourselves lack. Hero worship consists in just that. Our heroes are men who do things which we recognize, with regret, and sometimes with a secret shame, that we cannot do. We find not much in ourselves to admire, we are always privately wanting to be like somebody else. If everybody was satisfied with himself, there would be no heroes.”
              Those Marines you cite should certainly tell their stories. What if their stories turn out to be a lot like Kyle’s, like Luttrell’s, like those of hundreds of other troops? I’d wager that they will sound a lot alike. The majority of those men probably hated being in Iraq. The movie certainly reflects how the men felt about being there. Most of them, including the depiction of Kyle’s brother, weren’t exactly enamored of the place. The Marines on Iwo Jima probably weren’t singing hosannas about that place, either. Not too many of Joshua Chamberlain’s men on Little Round Top in 1863 were thrilled to be there.
              Finally, as I close my part in this discussion (with a thanks to Stan for tolerating it), I will say that I think the reason this movie has resonated with so many people is not because we’re all flag-waving rednecks who hate Muslims. Very few of us are like that, as I’m sure LCpl knows very well. But we do want heroes. We need people who stand up and say, “You can count on me,” who are willing to get their hands dirty, to stand a post and do the hard work that is sometimes necessary to keep liberty alive. Without them we would certainly descend into depths so terrible that none of us can contemplate how black they would be. None of us here, anyway; the people of Iraq and Afghanistan have a pretty good idea.

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              • I.

                If you read my first comment above, I differentiated the book-Kyle from the movie-Kyle–two different Kyles. I loved the movie. And so do plenty of my friends who are Obama voters, as do friends who are fans of FOX News–there is a consensus with Eastwood’s rendering. The book, I hated. And the fact that people who saw the movie aren’t aware of the book-Kyle and his lies, kinda bothers me, hence all the commentaries.

                No need to be offended, the fact that most Americans are gullible and ignorant, especially when it comes to geo-politics and their military is not up for argument. Although I am a firm believer of the wisdom of the crowds, the ease at which the media manipulates the American public is a much stronger force sadly.

                I agree with your historical examples of wars and the films or books about those wars. But the current WOT, is ongoing, 15 yrs and you ask a random HS or college student, or even a working adult, what’s going on in Iraq, or Yemen or Syria or Afghanistan, and you get glazed-over eyes (that’s the majority, you can idealize it all you want but that’s fact). 15 yrs of this and still not too many bothered to read up on these wars–there’s been some interest of late, but it’s the conspiracy theory type crap, ie. Obama is a Muslim, Muslims are all violent, the Caliphate, blah, blah, blah… etc.

                The crucial difference here is that the WOT isn’t history, so the need for depth is necessary, not so much consensus that’s the stuff of historians, just more info. And so far we’ve been short changed, either by design or happenstance.

                The book American Sniper (and also Lone Survivor) are easy reads precisely because it ignores the important stuff, or simplifies it, bleacher mentality.

                You and Stan are published authors, and well aware that a book succeeds or fails, largely on marketing. That’s not to say that there are books out there that haven’t gained popularity based on merit (the quality of the writing and story), just that when a whole corporation/conglomerate backs a book, it will succeed.

                Most of my opinions on military affairs are Marine-centric or biased, I apologize in advance.

                If you watch Restrepo with Marines you’ll get a totally different perspective of the documentary, basically that Army Co. f’ed up (granted they were insurmountable odds), because they as individual soldiers just didn’t have the whole concept of operations. Marines tend to be very critical, so that type of criticism also bleeds into Luttrell and Kyle’s memoirs, namely the understanding of the big picture, ie. the reason Luttrell was saved, Fallujah and Anbar, Marines turned the tide there. All those missing elements make up the WOT.

                So when you look at what’s missing and what’s being pushed as the WOT, in literature and the media, there’s a big gap. So that’s one component of the issue I’m presenting here.

                II.

                The other is Chris Kyle, himself. I’ll agree with you that no one’s perfect. And I agree with Mark Twain’s sentiment, I’m a big fan of him, there’s not an opinion piece he wrote that I disagree with (and his books were good too). Heroes are placed on pedestals precisely because we ourselves have placed them there, so there’s an element of choice–whether true or manufactured for us.

                Hence my point about his lies. For example, if your father denied an affair, you’d probably take it personally, but once you’re grown you’d probably better judge it as an adult, ie. maybe your mother was too aloof, etc. or your father was just an a’hole, but eventually you’d come to understand his choices and the lies justifying it, ie. he lied to keep the family together, etc.

                Marine bases are known for adulteries and affairs. I’ve judged my buddies for it, was an accomplice to it. But when we went to work, my concern was twofolds, if he can do the work and if he is trustworthy. Matters of the heart, never bled into work because it was easily understood (it was part of living on base, military reality), but if I had a buddy or colleague who came back after libo and started telling me about shooting people at a gas station, I would be very suspicious.

                Quite frankly, I’d be more offended because the lie is directed at me, I’m the victim. But also suspicious because the very nature of the lie is not common–Why is he telling me this?

                It’s not a virtue, particularly and especially in the military, where we judge each other on our merit and word. His lies are the exact opposite of the very sentiment you’re lionizing him for: “You CAN’T count on me” (emphasis mine). And that’s the second point here.

                Thank you for giving me the last word.

                (and thank you to Stan for tolerating this discussion.)

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                • Hey, I’m loving the discussion! Debate as long as you all please.

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                  • Well, thanks, but I’ll say that I’ve enjoyed the give-and-take. LCpl has made some good points. I have not yet read Kyle’s book. I was remiss in not pointing that out before. Autobiographies, even ghost-written ones (which most are), sometimes can be tough reads or at least light reads, as LCpl points out regarding Kyle’s book. My bookshelves are filled with them but on balance I prefer biographies, which tend to be more objective about the subject matter, not to mention more detailed.
                    LCpl is certainly correct in pointing out that in the military you have to trust the guy next to you and the guy who’s giving the orders. If said individual has a rep for being untrustworthy out of uniform, how can one reasonably expect him to be trustworthy when he’s on duty? Having said that, there is a difference between someone who simply tells tall tales to inflate his own rep or for whatever reason, and someone who does certain things that he shouldn’t be doing and then lies about it to cover his heinie. I pointed out Clinton as an example of the latter. A man we were supposed to trust with the keys to the country, so to speak, yet he couldn’t even deal honestly with his own family.
                    History will ultimately be the judge about Chris Kyle, his conduct in uniform and out. History has a tendency to sort these things out and give us a more complete and objective picture of a person after some time has gone by. Harry Truman was vilified by many upon leaving office with record low approval ratings, yet 60 years later a lot of people consider him to be one of the better presidents we’ve had. The band Chicago even did a song about him.
                    Whatever his personal failings and undoubtedly he had a few, Kyle was one of the top sheepdogs this country has produced in the last quarter-century. It’s tough being a sheepdog, as I’m sure Stan and LCpl know from their own military experience. A high school sports injury kept me out of the military, to my eternal regret, but I have been training in the martial arts for many years so that I will be able to do my part, if called upon, to protect the sheep. We’ll always need sheepdogs because there are a lot of wolves out there, as we are reminded every day.

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                    • Enjoyed this little discussion as well, David.

                      I think the first point, we can come close, even to an agreement.

                      But the second point, regarding Kyle’s lies, we are definitely at an impasse. The best person to inquire regarding Kyle’s lies would probably be your Crossfit/MA instructor, but my stance on it is simply that these types of lies are the same lies manufactured by Stolen Valor-types, hence should be deemed more reprehensible.

                      I’m reading Burkett’s “Stolen Valor” right now (per OldGyrene’s rec), the section where he categorizes these Stolen Valor, specifically of Vietnam vet’s themselves is of note here, you should definitely pick up “Stolen Valor” along with “American Sniper” (you think you can offer a review on Kyle’s book, once done?)

                      Re Sheep/Sheepdawgs/Wolves, that’s a problematic metaphor, precisely because the categories aren’t permanent and definitive, ie. a Sheepdawg can just as well be a Wolf, or a Sheep a Wolf. It allows people to take on the mantle of Sheepdawg, and in doing so, he can stand taller than the Sheep (helpless victim by definition). Grossman made a fad of this metaphor, now it’s just out of control, it’s been too politicized.

                      Bruce Lee never had much use for similar metaphors, when I was in the Marines, neither did I, I’m sure Stan would concur, we’ll do fine without it. It’s like the word Tactical or Combat, paint it black and add velcro, and it’s tactical or combat. Just be cool, not tacticool. Render this metaphor obsolete, it’s useless. This was the low point of the movie for me, when Kyle’s dad did this speech. I particularly liked the Tecumseh quote in “Act of Valor” though.

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