Despite the notion among many Americans today, hero is not a synonym for obedient government-trained killer.
Clint Eastwood’s controversial record-breaking movie, “American Sniper,” has launched a mass public conversation about war and heroism. The once great actor-turned-director has provided a badly needed service for this country.
This is neither a review of the film nor a review of the late Chris Kyle’s autobiographical book of which the movie is based off. My interest is in the evaluation of Kyle, America’s most prolific sniper, a title he earned through six years and four tours in Iraq.
Let’s recall some facts, that perhaps Eastwood thought were too obvious to heed mention: Kyle was part of an invasion force: Americans went to Iraq. Iraq did not invade America or attack Americans. Dictator Saddam Hussein never even threatened to attack Americans. Contrary to what the George W. Bush administration suggested, Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Before Americans invaded Iraq, al-Qaeda was not there. Nor was it in Syria, Yemen or Libya.
The only reason Kyle went to Iraq was that Bush/Cheney & Co. launched a war of aggression against the Iraqi people. Wars of aggression, let’s remember, are illegal under international law. Nazis were executed at Nuremberg for waging wars of aggression. With this perspective, we should ask if Kyle was a hero. Defenders of Kyle and the Bush foreign policy will say, “Of course, he was a hero. He saved American lives.”
What American lives? You mean the lives of American military personnel who invaded a foreign country, one that was of no threat to them or their fellow Americans back home? If an invader kills someone who is trying to resist the invasion, that is not considered a heroic act of self-defense. The invader is the aggressor. The “invadee” is the defender. If anyone’s a hero, it’s the latter.
In his book, Kyle claimed to have killed more than 255 people, repeatedly describing killing as “fun,” something he “loved.” He was unwavering in his belief that everyone he shot was a “bad guy.”
“I hate the damn savages,” he wrote. “I couldn’t give a flying fuck about the Iraqis,” he bragged. Why did he think that about the Iraqis? Because Iraqi men and women resisted the invasion and occupation he took part in?
That makes no sense. Resisting an invasion and occupation, even when Arabs are resisting Americans, is simply not evil. If America had been invaded by Iraq (an Iraq with a very powerful military, that is) would Iraqi snipers picking off American resisters be considered heroes by all those people who idolize Kyle? Of course not, nor would the rest of America think so either. Rather, American resisters would be the heroes.
Eastwood’s movie also features an Iraqi sniper. Why isn’t he regarded as a hero for resisting an invasion of his homeland, like the Americans in my hypothetical example?
Of course, Kyle’s die-hard followers will disagree with this analysis. They rush to the defense of not just Kyle, but their country and what their country means. They call for the rape and death of anyone ungrateful enough to criticize their beloved American hero Chris Kyle. Because Chris Kyle is good, and brown people are bad, and America is in danger, and Chris Kyle saved us.
– Alden Bisson