American Sniper: Killer or Hero?

american-sniper-chris-kyleThe long awaited Clint Eastwood movie “American Sniper” was released last Friday and managed to pull in a cool $105 million over the weekend making it the highest grossing movie ever about the Iraq War. There have been dozens of Iraq War, themed films released over the last ten years, movies like “The Hurt Locker,” “Jarhead,” “Generation Kill,” “The Messenger,” “Green Zone” and “In the Valley of Elah” to name a few, but not one of these films managed to generate the buzz or earn the kind of money as “American Sniper.” Even the critically acclaimed  film “The Hurt Locker” which won the academy award for best picture in 2010, has, to date, only managed to generate $50 million worldwide, making it the lowest grossing film ever to win the best picture nod from the academy.

So what the big deal about “American Sniper?”  It’s not only pulling in the big bucks, but was also nominated for  6 academy awards including best picture. Why has this film succeeded where other Iraq war films have failed? Could it have been an incredibly written screenplay?  A well planned marketing strategy? A killer trailer? The lead actor Bradley Cooper? Or could it simply be a matter of timing?  It’s been a few years now since our involvement in Iraq officially ended, maybe Americans are finally ready for a film dealing with the unpopular war or perhaps Clint Eastwood has once again managed to hit on a topic that thoroughly fascinates us – snipers. The movie is based on real life, American sniper Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL who, with 160 confirmed kills, is said to be the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history.

So why the sudden fascination with military snipers. As part of the military strategy the sniper plays an integral role. Unlike regular infantrymen these specially trained gunmen make up a very small percentage of America’s soldiers. They do not simply aim and fire in the direction of the enemy as most combat soldiers do and are not on the front lines or war zone engaging in combat with the enemy. No, these killing specialists are well hidden and blend into their surroundings hundreds of yards from their intended targets. Using specially designed weapons equipped with high powered scopes they surveil their victims until the ideal kill shot is obtained and the ‘go’ order is given. They aim to kill, and do.

For decades snipers have had a bad reputation and were often viewed as homicidal maniacs or psychopathic killing machines, who took great pleasure in taking out the lives of unsuspecting humans.In addition some people continue to believe that the notion of taking out targets by surprise violate the rules of fair military play. Although the methods they employ may be interpreted as cold-blooded and ruthless, they do get results, and in time of war their efficient killing skills are a necessary evil.

It has only been in the last 15 – 20 years that sniper’s have been seen in a more heroic light. Some researchers claim that the nations growing acceptance of the crucial role played by the sniper in wartime has more to do with the desensitizing of the American Psyche than a growing appreciation of a sniper’s killing skills.  Our over-exposure to gun violence, mass shootings, bombings, torture, war, etc., both real and imitated in movies and on TV  has had a numbing effect on our emotional response system to the point that we seem to accept the violence we see and hear about each and every day and accepted it as just a part of life. We simply go on about our business as usual. Do we actually care less? It would appear so as this is an extremely dangerous pattern affecting the lives of countless Americans. Think about it, do images or video footage on TV of war, shootings and other violence have the same affect on us that they had forty years ago even twenty years ago? I think not. Clearly we have become desensitized.

Now we have “American Sniper,” a movie that portrays a sniper as a trained professional soldier who carried out his killing with pride,  a man who actually enjoyed his job and thought killing was fun. Can this really be a true war hero?  I have no idea whether it is right or wrong to glorify a sniper used in time of war.  I believe that to end a war we must sometimes rely on drastic measures. A sniper is one tool or weapon in our arsenal to be used when needed, a means to an end. The whole point of using a sniper is to minimize the greater threat to our soldiers and  expedite the end of the war.  And that my friends is a very worthwhile purpose. But a war hero? Well, you’ll have to decide that for yourselves.

Just a Thought…

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2 Responses to American Sniper: Killer or Hero?

  1. Paul McCully says:

    Killing the enemy is the point of war. What kind of enemy is another question. I would have the obligation to shoot a soldier from the other side even knowing that they were forced into combat by their government( who wishes to kill our sons and daughters). On the other hand the Islamic fanatics we deal with today, who wish us all dead, women and children as well, because we are not Islamists, shows us that there is no reasoning with these animals and I do mean animals. Decapitations of innocent people, literally crucifying Christians on crosses in there own country and so on. They are evil period! I would take great satisfaction in stopping one of these lunatics from doing such a thing. As a father protecting my family it would be my obligation. Having said that I am grateful that someone has the balls to do that for me. If they like killing those that wish to do harm to innocent people, so what. If you can shoot the leaders of these animals, even better. People talk about collateral damage in war, a sniper does a surgical strike and if he can take out those leaders that incite all of this even better. I may not like having to kill a uniformed soldier but if I could stop a terrorist from deliberately killing innocent women and children, and remember they do this to their own countrymen, I would, and honestly enjoy it. The self righteous individuals who judge our soldiers, have lived their comfortable lives at the cost of others, they don’t have a clue of the realities of life until one day someone comes to their door to cut THEIR heads off. Thank God for those still willing to kill for us. So we don’t have to.

  2. contento49 says:

    Point taken. I agree killing the enemy is the point. Snipers do just that. By doing so they save lives. As I stated snipers are another tool in our military arsenal a very effective tool that should be utilized to their fullest potential. They serve the greater good by taking out enemy leaders and combatants. They serve a purpose. However I personally don’t think that sniping or the taking of life should be enjoyed no matter what reason you give for enjoying it.
    As I researched this article I learned that some snipers don’t go for a quick kill shot but enjoy mortally wounding their target with a gut shot for instance and watching them bleed out slowly. Kyle even said that he once watched a team of well supplied and loaded down enemy soldiers use four very large beach balls as flotation devices to assist them across a large body of water. Instead of taking out the team Kyle waited until they were midway across then as he said “he decided to save bullets and shot the beach balls” instead and watched the soldiers flounder and finally drown. This sounds more like a sadistic sociopath than any hero I’ve ever heard about.

    I know that war is hell and calls for drastic measures, but I’m sorry buddy that’s just not right. We are supposed to be better than our enemy, more civil, more humane or so we say. Are they heroes? In your eyes it’s obvious that snipers are and I believe that most are as well. I believe that any soldier who serves his country in any war zone is a hero and deserves to be treated as one.
    But I’m also saying that there are some soldiers out there who simply enjoy killing too much. You can find them in any war throughout history. Warriors, stone cold killers,
    maybe a soldiers training should include courses on how to ravage and pillage.
    just sayin’

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