[P2P-F] Fwd: American Sniper--the movie, responded to by Chris Hedges

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Wed Jan 28 17:24:47 CET 2015

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From: Tikkun <magazine at tikkun.org>
Date: Wed, Jan 28, 2015 at 10:41 PM
Subject: American Sniper--the movie, responded to by Chris Hedges
To: Michelsub2004 at gmail.com

 Editor's note: While we at Tikkun do not feel it fair to blame
Christianity or imply that all Christians somehow implicitly support the
kind of Christianity that leads some American Christians to feel that their
murdering of Arabs or Muslims is doing Jesus' work, and want to remind our
readers (before reading Chris Hedges piece below)  of the many progressive
Christians who join the Network of Spiritual Progressives and other
organization that oppose the US "Strategy of Domination" and instead
identify with Tikkun's Strategy of Generosity (as manifested in our
proposed Domestic and Global Marshall Plan (please re-read it by
downloading the full version at www.tikkun.org/gmp
we do think that Hedges' powerful critique of the move American Sniper
should be read by those who are too willing to forgive the American media
for its implicit and sometimes explicit glorification of the US military.
And shame on President Obama and liberal Democrats for not having stopped
(what was at first just Bush's)  war in Iraq when they had control of both
houses of Congress and the presidency 2009 and 2010, instead backing a
"surge" and providing the background and equipment that eventually led to
ISIS and all its cruel perversions and murderous ruthlessness. --Rabbi
Michael Lerner   rabbilerner.tikkun at gmail.com

*Killing Ragheads for Jesus*

*By Chris Hedges*

January 26, 2015 "ICH
-   “American Sniper”
the most despicable aspects of U.S. society—the gun culture, the blind
adoration of the military, the belief that we have an innate right as a
“Christian” nation to exterminate the “lesser breeds” of the earth, a
grotesque hypermasculinity that banishes compassion and pity, a denial of
inconvenient facts and historical truth, and a belittling of critical
thinking and artistic expression. Many Americans, especially white
Americans trapped in a stagnant economy and a dysfunctional political
system, yearn for the supposed moral renewal and rigid, militarized control
the movie venerates. These passions, if realized, will extinguish what is
left of our now-anemic open society.

The movie opens with a father and his young son hunting a deer. The boy
shoots the animal, drops his rifle and runs to see his kill.

“Get back here,” his father yells. “You don’t ever leave your rifle in the

“Yes, sir,” the boy answers.

“That was a helluva shot, son,” the father says. “You got a gift. You gonna
make a fine hunter some day.”

The camera cuts to a church interior where a congregation of white
Christians—blacks appear in this film as often as in a Woody Allen
movie—are listening to a sermon about God’s plan for American Christians.
The film’s title character, based on Chris Kyle, who would become the most
lethal sniper in U.S. military history, will, it appears from the sermon,
be called upon by God to use his “gift” to kill evildoers. The scene shifts
to the Kyle family dining room table as the father intones in a Texas
twang: “There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves and
sheepdogs. Some people prefer to believe evil doesn’t exist in the world.
And if it ever darkened their doorstep they wouldn’t know how to protect
themselves. Those are the sheep. And then you got predators.”

The camera cuts to a schoolyard bully beating a smaller boy.

“They use violence to prey on people,” the father goes on. “They’re the
wolves. Then there are those blessed with the gift of aggression and an
overpowering need to protect the flock. They are a rare breed who live to
confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog. We’re not raising any sheep in
this family.”

The father lashes his belt against the dining room table.

“I will whup your ass if you turn into a wolf,” he says to his two sons.
“We protect our own. If someone tries to fight you, tries to bully your
little brother, you have my permission to finish it.”

There is no shortage of simpletons whose minds are warped by this belief
system. We elected one of them, George W. Bush, as president. They populate
the armed forces and the Christian right. They watch Fox News and believe
it. They have little understanding or curiosity about the world outside
their insular communities. They are proud of their ignorance and
anti-intellectualism. They prefer drinking beer and watching football to
reading a book. And when they get into power—they already control the
Congress, the corporate world, most of the media and the war machine—their
binary vision of good and evil and their myopic self-adulation cause severe
trouble for their country. “American Sniper,” like the big-budget feature
films pumped out in Germany during the Nazi era to exalt deformed values of
militarism, racial self-glorification and state violence, is a piece of
propaganda, a tawdry commercial for the crimes of empire. That it made a
million over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday long weekend is a symptom
of the United States’ dark malaise.

“The movie never asks the seminal question as to why the people of Iraq are
fighting back against us in the very first place,” said Mikey Weinstein,
whom I reached by phone in New Mexico. Weinstein, who worked in the Reagan
White House and is a former Air Force officer, is the head of the Military
Religious Freedom Foundation, which challenges the growing Christian
fundamentalism within the U.S. military. “It made me physically ill with
its twisted, totally one-sided distortions of wartime combat ethics and
justice woven into the fabric of Chris Kyle’s personal and primal
justification mantra of ‘God-Country-Family.’ It is nothing less than an
odious homage, indeed a literal horrific hagiography to wholesale

Weinstein noted that the embrace of extreme right-wing Christian
chauvinism, or Dominionism, which calls for the creation of a theocratic
“Christian” America, is especially acute among elite units such as the SEALs
the Army Special Forces.

The evildoers don’t take long to make an appearance in the film. This
happens when television—the only way the movie’s characters get
news—announces the1998 truck bombings
the American embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in which hundreds of
people were killed. Chris, now grown, and his brother, aspiring rodeo
riders, watch the news reports with outrage. Ted Koppel talks on the screen
about a “war” against the United States.

“Look what they did to us,” Chris whispers.

He heads down to the recruiter to sign up to be a Navy SEAL. We get the
usual boot camp scenes of green recruits subjected to punishing ordeals to
make them become real men. In a bar scene, an aspiring SEAL has painted a
target on his back and comrades throw darts into his skin. What little
individuality these recruits have—and they don’t appear to have much—is
sucked out of them until they are part of the military mass. They are
unquestioningly obedient to authority, which means, of course, they are

We get a love story too. Chris meets Taya in a bar. They do shots. The
movie slips, as it often does, into clichéd dialogue.

She tells him Navy SEALs are “arrogant, self-centered pricks who think you
can lie and cheat and do whatever the fuck you want. I’d never date a SEAL.”

“Why would you say I’m self-centered?” Kyle asks. “I’d lay down my life for
my country.”


“Because it’s the greatest country on earth and I’d do everything I can to
protect it,” he says.

She drinks too much. She vomits. He is gallant. He helps her home. They
fall in love. Taya is later shown watching television. She yells to Chris
in the next room.

“Oh, my God, Chris,” she says.

“What’s wrong?” he asks.

“No!” she yells.

Then we hear the television announcer: “You see the first plane coming in
at what looks like the east side. …

Chris and Taya watch in horror. Ominous music fills the movie’s soundtrack.
The evildoers have asked for it. Kyle will go to Iraq to extract vengeance.
He will go to fight in a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, a
country that columnist Thomas Friedman once said we attacked “because we
could.” The historical record and the reality of the Middle East don’t
matter. Muslims are Muslims. And Muslims are evildoers or, as Kyle calls
them, “savages.” Evildoers have to be eradicated.

Chris and Taya marry. He wears his gold Navy SEAL trident on the white
shirt under his tuxedo at the wedding. His SEAL comrades are at the

“Just got the call, boys—it’s on,” an officer says at the wedding reception.

The Navy SEALs cheer. They drink. And then we switch to Fallujah. It is
Tour One. Kyle, now a sniper, is told Fallujah is “the new Wild West.” This
may be the only accurate analogy in the film, given the genocide we carried
out against Native Americans. He hears about an enemy sniper who can do
“head shots from 500 yards out. They call him Mustafa. He was in the

Kyle’s first kill is a boy who is handed an anti-tank grenade by a young
woman in a black chador. The woman, who expresses no emotion over the boy’s
death, picks up the grenade after the boy is shot and moves toward U.S.
Marines on patrol. Kyle kills her too. And here we have the template for
the film and Kyle’s best-selling autobiography, “American Sniper.” Mothers
and sisters in Iraq don’t love their sons or their brothers. Iraqi women
breed to make little suicide bombers. Children are miniature Osama bin
Ladens. Not one of the Muslim evildoers can be trusted—man, woman or child.
They are beasts. They are shown in the film identifying U.S. positions to
insurgents on their cellphones, hiding weapons under trapdoors in their
floors, planting improvised explosive devices in roads or strapping
explosives onto themselves in order to be suicide bombers. They are devoid
of human qualities.

“There was a kid who barely had any hair on his balls,” Kyle says
nonchalantly after shooting the child and the woman. He is resting on his
cot with a big Texas flag behind him on the wall. “Mother gives him a
grenade, sends him out there to kill Marines.”

Enter The Butcher—a fictional Iraqi character created for the film. Here we
get the most evil of the evildoers. He is dressed in a long black leather
jacket and dispatches his victims with an electric drill. He mutilates
children—we see an arm he cut from a child. A local sheik offers to betray
The Butcher for $100,000. The Butcher kills the sheik. He murders the
sheik’s small son in front of his mother with his electric drill. The
Butcher shouts: “You talk to them, you die with them.”

Kyle moves on to Tour Two after time at home with Taya, whose chief role in
the film is to complain through tears and expletives about her husband
being away. Kyle says before he leaves: “They’re savages. Babe, they’re
fuckin’ savages.”

He and his fellow platoon members spray-paint the white skull of the
Punisher from Marvel Comics on their vehicles, body armor, weapons and
helmets. The motto they paint in a circle around the skull reads: “Despite
what your momma told you … violence does solve problems.”

“And we spray-painted it on every building and walls we could,” Kyle wrote
in his memoir, “American Sniper.” “We wanted people to know, *we’re here
and we want to fuck with you. …You see us? We’re the people kicking your
ass. Fear us because we will kill you, motherfucker.*”

The book is even more disturbing than the film. In the film Kyle is a
reluctant warrior, one forced to do his duty. In the book he relishes
killing and war. He is consumed by hatred of all Iraqis. He is intoxicated
by violence. He is credited with 160 confirmed kills, but he notes that to
be confirmed a kill had to be witnessed, “so if I shot someone in the
stomach and he managed to crawl around where we couldn’t see him before he
bled out he didn’t count.”

Kyle insisted that every person he shot deserved to die. His inability to
be self-reflective allowed him to deny the fact that during the U.S.
occupation many, many innocent Iraqis were killed, including some shot by
snipers. Snipers are used primarily to sow terror and fear among enemy
combatants. And in his denial of reality, something former slaveholders and
former Nazis perfected to an art after overseeing their own atrocities,
Kyle was able to cling to childish myth rather than examine the darkness of
his own soul and his contribution to the war crimes we carried out in Iraq.
He justified his killing with a cloying sentimentality about his family,
his Christian faith, his fellow SEALs and his nation. But sentimentality is
not love. It is not empathy. It is, at its core, about self-pity and
self-adulation. That the film, like the book, swings between cruelty and
sentimentality is not accidental.

“Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious
emotion, is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel,” James Baldwin
us. “The wet eyes of the sentimentalist betray his aversion to experience,
his fear of life, his arid heart; and it is always, therefore, the signal
of secret and violent inhumanity, the mask of cruelty.”

“Savage, despicable evil,” Kyle wrote of those he was killing from rooftops
and windows. “That’s what we were fighting in Iraq. That’s why a lot of
people, myself included, called the enemy ‘savages.’… I only wish I had
killed more.” At another point he writes: “I loved killing bad guys. … I
loved what I did. I still do … it was fun. I had the time of my life being
a SEAL.” He labels Iraqis “fanatics” and writes “they hated us because we
weren’t Muslims.” He claims “the fanatics we fought valued nothing but
their twisted interpretation of religion.”

“I never once fought for the Iraqis,” he wrote of our Iraqi allies. “I
could give a flying fuck about them.”

He killed an Iraqi teenager he claimed was an insurgent. He watched as the
boy’s mother found his body, tore her clothes and wept. He was unmoved.

He wrote: “*If you loved them [the sons], you should have kept them away
from the war. You should have kept them from joining the insurgency. You
let them try and kill us—what did you think would happen to them?*”

“People back home [in the U.S.], people who haven’t been in war, at least
not that war, sometimes don’t seem to understand how the troops in Iraq
acted,” he went on. “They’re surprised—shocked—to discover we often joked
about death, about things we saw.”

He was investigated by the Army for killing an unarmed civilian. According
to his memoir, Kyle, who viewed all Iraqis as the enemy, told an Army
colonel: “I don’t shoot people with Korans. I’d like to, but I don’t.” The
investigation went nowhere.

Kyle was given the nickname “Legend.” He got a tattoo of a Crusader cross
on his arm. “I wanted everyone to know I was a Christian. I had it put in
red, for blood. I hated the damn savages I’d been fighting,” he wrote. “I
always will.” Following a day of sniping, after killing perhaps as many as
six people, he would go back to his barracks to spent his time smoking
Cuban Romeo y Julieta No. 3 cigars and “playing video games, watching porn
and working out.” On leave, something omitted in the movie, he was
frequently arrested for drunken bar fights. He dismissed politicians, hated
the press and disdained superior officers, exalting only the comradeship of
warriors. His memoir glorifies white, “Christian” supremacy and war. It is
an angry tirade directed against anyone who questions the military’s elite,
professional killers.

“For some reason, a lot of people back home—not all people—didn’t accept
that we were at war,” he wrote. “They didn’t accept that war means death,
violent death, most times. A lot of people, not just politicians, wanted to
impose ridiculous fantasies on us, hold us to some standard of behavior
that no human being could maintain.”

The enemy sniper Mustafa, portrayed in the film as if he was a serial
killer, fatally wounds Kyle’s comrade Ryan “Biggles” Job.  In the movie
Kyle returns to Iraq—his fourth tour—to extract revenge for Biggles’ death.
This final tour, at least in the film, centered on the killing of The
Butcher and the enemy sniper, also a fictional character. As it focuses on
the dramatic duel between hero Kyle and villain Mustafa the movie becomes
ridiculously cartoonish.

Kyle gets Mustafa in his sights and pulls the trigger. The bullet is shown
leaving the rifle in slow motion. “Do it for Biggles,” someone says. The
enemy sniper’s head turns into a puff of blood.

“Biggles would be proud of you,” a soldier says. “You did it, man.”

His final tour over, Kyle leaves the Navy. As a civilian he struggles with
the demons of war and becomes, at least in the film, a model father and
husband and works with veterans who were maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan. He
trades his combat boots for cowboy boots.

The real-life Kyle, as the film was in production, was shot dead at a
shooting range near Dallas on Feb. 2, 2013, along with a friend, Chad
Littlefield. A former Marine, Eddie Ray Routh, who had been suffering from
PTSD and severe psychological episodes, allegedly killed the two men and
then stole Kyle’s pickup truck. Routh will go on trial next month
The film ends with scenes of Kyle’s funeral procession—thousands lined the
roads waving flags—and the memorial service at the Dallas Cowboys’ home
stadium. It shows fellow SEALs pounding their tridents into the top of his
coffin, a custom for fallen comrades. Kyle was shot in the back and the
back of his head.  Like so many people he dispatched, he never saw his
killer when the fatal shots were fired.

The culture of war banishes the capacity for pity. It glorifies
self-sacrifice and death. It sees pain, ritual humiliation and violence as
part of an initiation into manhood. Brutal hazing, as Kyle noted in his
book, was an integral part of becoming a Navy SEAL. New SEALs would be held
down and choked by senior members of the platoon until they passed out. The
culture of war idealizes only the warrior. It belittles those who do not
exhibit the warrior’s “manly” virtues. It places a premium on obedience and
loyalty. It punishes those who engage in independent thought and demands
total conformity. It elevates cruelty and killing to a virtue. This
culture, once it infects wider society, destroys all that makes the heights
of human civilization and democracy possible. The capacity for empathy, the
cultivation of wisdom and understanding, the tolerance and respect for
difference and even love are ruthlessly crushed. The innate barbarity that
war and violence breed is justified by a saccharine sentimentality about
the nation, the flag and a perverted Christianity that blesses its armed
crusaders. This sentimentality, as Baldwin wrote, masks a terrifying
numbness. It fosters an unchecked narcissism. Facts and historical truths,
when they do not fit into the mythic vision of the nation and the tribe,
are discarded. Dissent becomes treason. All opponents are godless and
subhuman. “American Sniper” caters to a deep sickness rippling through our
society. It holds up the dangerous belief that we can recover our
equilibrium and our lost glory by embracing an American fascism.

*Chris Hedges previously spent nearly two decades as a foreign
correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans.
He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The
Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News
and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15

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