Why the 'American Sniper' is controversial

This epic war film is simply taking America by storm.  What gives? Why are people flocking to see this latest drama flick about what is basically a cold-blooded killer, and what is the apparent controversy all about? In my view, it’s about hypocrisy. It’s not that the film is hypocritical in and of itself. The hypocrisy lies between the American patriotism that is heroically portrayed, and the patriotism that is actually happening vis-à-vis American politicians and her enemies right now. David Denby of The New Yorker calls it "both a devastating war movie and a devastating antiwar movie…”

American Sniper is based on Navy SEAL Chris Kyle's true-to-life novel American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in US Military History. Kyle, who earned two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars with Valor in Iraq, was one of the deadliest snipers in American history, with 160 confirmed kills from 255 claimed kills. Ironically, he was shot in Texas at a shooting range by a fellow veteran in 2013. Love him or hate him, Americans are celebrating the film.  It has been nominated for six Oscars, and has enjoyed the highest January debut ever. Note that like many war movies before it, it is rated R for a reason: It’s not the kind of movie you want your kids to be watching.

Let’s deal with hypocrisy for just a moment. To stare it in the face, one needs to look no further than the situation in the Middle East. Much of the film was actually filmed in Morocco, but we’ll take Saudi Arabia as an example.  Presumably, one would conclude that Saudi Arabia, where women can’t drive and atheists are treated like POW’s, having beheaded more people than ISIS, and being a key source of funding for terrorist organizations – is far more similar to the Iraqi rebels (the enemy in the movie) than any other Western country.  They’re certainly no fan of freedom of speech, that’s for-sure. And yet, several days after the recent killings in Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris, there were no US representatives to be found in attendance at the unity rally, or even someone from the White House State Dept.  But when the Saudi nation’s leader, King Abdullah died last week, Kerry hailed him as “a man of wisdom and vision. US has lost a friend and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Middle East, and world has lost a revered leader.” President Obama himself rerouted his travel plans, paying his respects to the point of personally visiting the new Muslim leader in Saudi Arabia. Tony Blair tweeted: “He was loved by his people and will be deeply missed.” Loved? Deeply missed?  Maybe I’m missing something here. This doesn’t sound like the type of speech that Kyle would be saying about someone like that in the movie.

Where is the enmity towards the totalitarian regimes that the soldiers of the film are valiantly fighting? Where are the folks standing up for what’s GOOD? One of my favorite lines occurs when Kyle's friend gets cold feet before leaving the mission tent and asks him dryly: “That holy bible of yours, is it bullet-proof? You got a God? ………… I just want to believe in what we’re doin’ here.” Kyle’s answer is forthwith (in his Texan accent): “Well, there’s evil here, we’ve seen it. You want these (savages) to come to San Diego or New York? We’re protecting more than this dirt!”  The film goes on to strike a deep, emotional chord for the self-sacrifice of the good guys until the very last moment. Alas, for the rest of us, we have to walk outside of the theatre into our world where the difference between good and evil is so skewed by the mainstream media and politicians that they are convincing Americans (and Israel) to “give diplomacy a chance” when it comes to facing a nuclear Iran!

The truth is that today’s politics between the West and Iran have striking similarities to Germany and the rest of Europe before the rise of Hitler and WWII. However, after the Paris attacks, more Europeans are calling a spade a spade, and are seeing the threats of Muslim religious extremists for what they are. I think that is what Eastwood had in mind when directing the film. However, we see that governments are still afraid to do what has to be done to do away with these threats completely.  Indeed, my last blog article was about another controversial movie: The Interview, and it would appear that some of the principles also apply here. If you can’t despise Kim Jong Un, who is starving his people to feed his military; or if you feel only indifferent to the Klan when they blow up black kids; if you are not utterly shocked at finding Hamas terrorists using Palestinian children as bullet-proof vests, you are in the same hypocritical boat as Kerry and company. And that is precisely what makes the film so divisive and controversial, i.e. – people see the stark contrast between the threats as portrayed in the film, and the potential threats that we are now facing from these extremists in general, and Iran in particular.

To wit: The Guardian stated that the film should be admired for nothing else but its unabashed clarity.  It’s a movie about killing. Period. Not a lot left to the imagination as to whether the killing is necessary or whether those who are killed are absolutely guilty, but suffice to say that it’s clear, the boots are on the ground for a reason. To his credit, many times Kyle must make the fatal decisions himself: “It’s your call,” and in the book he does say: “I’m prepared to meet my Maker and answer for every shot I took.” Simply put, the film celebrates a man who has a talent for shooting people dead when they are not looking and who, apparently, likes his job.  “After the first kill, the others come easy,” writes Kyle. “I don’t have to psych myself up, or do anything special mentally. I look through the scope, get my target in the crosshairs, and kill my enemy before he kills our men...”

In Israel, just about everyone in the army can relate immediately to Kyle, as war after war has followed the Jewish Nation since Temple times, and before.  In 70 AD it was the archers and slingers of renown that shot from the Herodian Temple down on to the incoming Roman forces. The science behind it is obviously the same, i.e. – the concept of eliminating the enemy from afar either as a defensive measure, or even an offensive one. Going back even further in history, one can see this concept appear after the Exodus from Egypt as well. As I write in my recent book: The A.R.K. Report, the legendary Ark of the Covenant would actually shoot out a type of holy fire (“chashmal” in Hebrew) to kill the snakes and scorpions that lay before the ancient Israelites on their 40 year trek through the Wilderness. Whether this was a divine beam of energy, or an electrostatic discharge is dealt with at length in the book, but the idea is the same: clearing the path so that the mission can be carried out. Today, Israeli snipers are key to securing our soldiers’ fighting, which is mostly on our own soil!

And let’s not forget the other heroes that predated Kyle in previous modern American wars. Soldiers who also stood out for their bravery, loyalty and outstanding skill. Marine sniper Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Norman Hathcock II was one of Kyle’s predecessors, and his exploits during the Vietnam War became legendary within the Marine Corps. One thing we do learn while viewing the film is that all of these snipers have one thing in common: the war forces them to make terrible choices, catapulting them into an elite category all their own.

So at the time when Kyle finally kills his arch rival, a Syrian sniper named Mustafa, with a mile-long shot, audiences practically cheer. I would love to see representatives from the US, UN & EU all see this movie together in one room just to understand what the difference is between fighting for the good and turning a blind eye to the evil. It’s hypocrisy when you attempt to do both at the same time. When governmental bodies support these films on the one hand (along with the golden reviews, etc.), and then go on to appease the very enemy they are fighting in the movie. Reminds me of that classic line that Schwarzenegger says in one of the great movies of the 90’s: True Lies. When his wife finally discovers he’s a spy, she immediately whispers: “Did you ever kill anybody?” To which he answers,

 “Yes………………. but they were all bad!”