Sunday, January 18, 2015

Maybe That Hero Shouldn't Have Shot So Many People. #AmericanSniper

I'd really like to be a patriot, here. A movie just came out, and it was about this American hero. So obviously I'm trying to get behind this. We're all pulling for the same team, right?

The thing is though... evidently the guy is mostly famous for killing a lot of people.

And I do mean a lot of people. A pile. It seems like a completely unreasonable number of dead folks we're talking about. But I admit I'm not an expert on this kind of thing.

I want to support the troops, sure. Who doesn't? I just think that when the number gets up there, you have to wonder whether we should have been doing that as a nation. Killing all those people, I mean. It just doesn't seem like something to celebrate, you see?

I know what you're going to say: He had to kill them. They were bad guys. And I might believe you if we were talking about a couple dozen. But the number was -- well, the official count is 160, but the guy himself claimed it was more than 250. At that point, how are you checking? How did they really know that each one of those guys absolutely had to be...

"If you see anyone from about sixteen to sixty-five and they’re male, shoot ‘em. Kill every male you see.”

Okay, that was from the guy's autobiography. It was quoted here. So maybe you can understand my problem. Look, I get that the guy is a hero. I know I'm supposed to be impressed by his ability to end the lives of other human beings at incredibly long distances. How many people have that skill? I can't help it, though: After a certain number of kills I start wondering whether we should be applauding. Seems... I don't know. Ugly.

I hope I didn't offend anyone. I don't want to suggest that shooting people to death is somehow wrong when a soldier does it. Really. (I mean an American soldier. It's wrong when other soldiers do it, unless they're working with Americans. I know that.)

And yes, people have to fight an enemy to prevent them from doing harm to us here at home. That seems like a great argument, and my only problem is the guy killed all those people in that country we thought was a threat to us, but it turned out absolutely wasn't a threat to us. Maybe it's no biggie. It's just that all those deaths happened right after most of us realized that we'd made a mistake with the invasion. "Gosh, we really, really screwed the pooch." I remember thinking that, yes. And it seems to me the smart thing would have been somehow to not kill a bunch of people afterwards. I still don't know why we didn't consider that.

Anyway I'm sure the guy actually valued human life, and he felt torn by what he did, though, so...

[He] reportedly described 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 about murdering looters during Hurricane Katrina, though that was never substantiated.

That was from The Guardian. It certainly raises some questions.

I don't want to seem harsh or anything. But couldn't having the ability to kill a jumbo jet's worth of people be kind of a character flaw? Okay, sorry. Forget I asked it.

I just feel like if we're trying to win an ideological struggle in the Muslim world, maybe we shouldn't treat them like extras in a game of Grand Theft Auto. I don't know everything about this, of course. But it seems that people get angry when you kill their friends or their relatives. And these guys - the incredible number of dead people we all owe to this hero, and don't think I'm not grateful! - I can't imagine they didn't have friends or relatives. Sure, the hero made us all safer. Of course he did. He's a hero. But I wonder whether those friends and relatives are going to, you know... Do something about all the people we let that guy kill.

That worries me. Doesn't it worry you?

Anyway the movie did really well. It starred that actor who might be fucking that actress.

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  1. Dunno about anybody else, but I'm not feeling the love here. I was just a dumb grunt medic and while I was perfectly happy to have my company and my battalion snipers around I never considered them goddamn heroes and neither did anyone I worked with. For one thing, I know we HATED the idea of enemy snipers - particularly the radiomen and medics, since the story went that the VC/NVA snipers had been particularly talented at picking us off back in the day and the Soviets were supposed to have picked up that nasty little habit. But that sort of carried over to our own snipers. Sort of how we felt about the chemical guys; glad they were on our side, but...kind of a fucked up job to have.

    The historical record shows that snipers in general tended not to get captured. A LOT. Regular GIs, regardless of their uniform, don't much like the sonsofbitches.

    So. This guy was a stone killer for an invading army who butchered a lot of locals, armed and otherwise.

    Seems kinda like making Enemy At The Gates only with Konig as the hero. does that go again?

    1. I am doing everything I can to capture that ambivalence you're describing, and sort of spread it around among my fellow countrymen. I think the ambivalence is good. I'm not a pacifist. But one shouldn't feel comfortable with killing. Especially when you are, as a civilian nation, sending people out to do it for you so you can make movies about them afterwards. Thanks for reading, man!

    2. Not sure it has as much to do with either the act of killing itself or a distaste for war in general as it is in this case the fact that these killings took place in a war wherein the United States invaded a nation that had not threatened it based on lies and the machinations of evil men, the definition of "aggressive war" that our country executed people for in the Forties. There wasn't even the thin gruel of a rationale that "justified" our intervention in the Vietnamese civil war or Panama in 1989 or Lebanon in 1982.

      I'm not kidding when I compare this to making EATG only with the NAzi as the hero; this guy was only doing what the German sniper in Stalingrad was doing.

      Were the U.S. Army and USMC in Iraq the moral equivalents of the Nazis in Stalingrad? Well...there's the whole "mass-murder" deal that kind of lets "us" off that hook. But aggressive war? Invading another country? Killing the locals fighting back? How was "our" war different in that respect from "theirs"?

      So my ambivalence isn't about killing per se - I was a GI, fercyin'outloud; killing was part of my trade - or making a flick about it. It's about the nasty feeling that I and my Army brothers were the "bad guys" here, the Hessians, the Confederates in Pennsylvania in 1863 or the Kaiser's troops in Belgium in 1914, and that all our killing and dying were in a very bad cause.

    3. Wow you put that wonderfully. I deployed to Iraq in 2006 and while I never saw combat I did spent a lot of time volunteering at the hospital in ballad. I wish I could force every American to visit an ER in a combat zone. In a single hour there most would see more carnage and suffering than they will experience in their lifetime. Perhaps it would them think twice before starting wars. But instead Americans seem to have crazy myths of a war being good vs evil. Its almost like they believe life is the lord of the rings.
      I thought the reason for the Nuremburg trials was to declare war a crime. But war seems to be how America negotiates.
      I hate it when people thank me my service. What are they grateful for? I was part of a force that destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan. We didnt make America safer or freer by commiting war crimes anddestabiling an entire region. I'm not proud, I'm ashamed we all should be.
      I don't understand why or how Americans are so fearful, violent and disconnected from facts, logic , and history they think bombs and mercanary armies are instruments of peace. But i guess in that kinda warped logicba racist sniper is a hero!
      I can't imagine how history is going to judge us but I have a feeling it will be worse than we judge the Nazis. After all they didn't have a democracy nor did they have the internet to find out what their leaders were doing.

    4. Thanks! I'm going to link your comment on my FB page. It's a good thing when a vet adds some reality to the conversation about war.

  2. FDChief gets the spirit of it, having been there himself. Thankfully, I never have. From talking with veterans and reading the lit I get the distinct idea that snipers have always been suspect - by their own side as well as the other side. Somebody who can kill in a calculated way, not in the heat of battle, is different. In a bad way.

    Even in WW1, when artillery killed far more men than anything else, artillerymen were taken prisoner alive, but not snipers. Same in the American Civil War.

    A sub-demographic of this country has a sick romance with snipers. I get army surplus and guns 'n ammo catalogs (ya order one backpack...) and there is this meme threading through them about snipers, their stories, techniques, and equipment. I think it's about feeling thwarted and powerless. Being the sniper makes a person kind of supernaturally powerful, in an old testament way. The finger of God.

    To get really specific, I think there is a cohort of middle aged white guys who know that their (our) kind used to run the show and now they are losing their grip on power. It's mostly the 1% and a little women/minorities, but guess who gets focused on.

    So, guns. And sniping.

  3. We can debate Kyle's total lack of nuance or humanity until the cows come home. I continue to have real problems with the overuse/misuse of the word "hero". A hero offers the ultimate sacrifice in service of his or her ideals, and picking off brown people from hundreds or thousands of yards away simply doesn't qualify.

    1. That is a really important point, and I didn't go into it.

  4. You don't have to offer up your life to be a hero.

  5. When a sniper is in a university clock tower taking out americans, is he still a hero? CEastwood the hoolywood fake tough.


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