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American Sniper

American Sniper
American Sniper
American Sniper
American Sniper is a 2014 American biographical war drama film directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle the deadliest marksman in U.S. military history with 255 kills, 160 of which were officially confirmed by the Department of Defense. The film is based on the book "American Sniper" by Chris Kyle. | Photo: Archives | American Sniper, Bradley Cooper, Chris Kyle, Clint Eastwood, Film, Movie, War, Violence, Sniper,

Coming home was the real struggle.

This past Saturday, I took the opportunity to see American Sniper, the movie about former Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. With 160 confirmed kills during the Iraq War, Kyle has been dubbed the most lethal sniper in U.S. history. Watching this movie was a profound experience; Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller told a compelling tale of a military family's struggles during war, and how difficult it can be for soldiers to transition from the horrors of war to a home where the war goes virtually unacknowledged.

One thing that drew me to this film was the controversy surrounding it after it was released. All manner of columnists, pundits and talking heads sounded out on the movie, a lot of them obviously without watching a single frame. Michael Moore and Seth Rogen were some of the first to sound off (both on Twitter), Moore insinuating that Kyle was a "coward," and Rogan stating that the movie reminded him of a Nazi propaganda film portrayed in Inglorious Basterds. Both walked back their initial comments after receiving tons of criticism - Moore claimed that he wasn't really referring to Chris Kyle or American Sniper (though how he expects anyone to believe that when he tweeted right after the movie exploded at the box office is anyone's guess), and Rogan released a statement that looked like it was written by his publicist as damage control.

The film has also received criticism because several times, Iraqis are referred to as "savages," most of this surrounding a single passage from his book. It is simultaneously amusing and headache-inducing to hear many who criticize Kyle quote from this passage, as it soon becomes clear that they never saw the movie, but went on TV to provide commentary after they received that single quote from some program director. A lot of the criticism over these comments completely ignores the enemy we were fighting in Iraq. The Hussein regime was barbaric, and while much has been made of the Bush administration's use of WMD programs as a justification for war, we should not ignore the fact that part of why we went to war in Iraq was to put an end to the Husseins' reign of terror. The Al-Qaida forces who went to Iraq to fight our troops after the Hussein regime fell committed innumerable atrocities as they sought to kill American soldiers and inspire fear in the Iraqi people, to prevent them from helping us.

Chris Kyle
Chris Kyle

American Sniper is a 2014 American biographical war drama film directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle the deadliest marksman in U.S. military history with 255 kills, 160 of which were officially confirmed by the Department of Defense. The film is based on the book "American Sniper" by Chris Kyle. | Photo: Archives |
We were fighting a regime who would imprison and torture its own citizens for no reason other than being from a different sect of Islam. Terrorist forces who strapped bombs to mentally handicapped women, sent them into a crowded market, and blew them up. "Savage" is a mild term for the kind of barbarity our troops faced in Iraq, which itself provides a sad commentary on the fact that we have let much of that nation fall to Islamic State forces guilty of much worse.
But what I saw in American Sniper was not a pro-war propaganda film, as some have claimed.

If anything, it shows the damage that war does to the soldiers who wage it in a stark, shockingly real way that Americans who didn't go to war often find it hard to fathom. Chris Kyle was good at war, and had a difficult time adjusting to coming home to a nation that in too many ways behaved as though there was no war. He believed in his role as a protector of our troops, and struggled with being at home while American soldiers were still being targeted by America's enemies. At the same time, he wasn't perfect, and that's why a many of the film's detractors don't like the fact that he is considered by many in the U.S. to be a hero.

The film was even a hit in Baghdad, playing to sold-out crowds until Iraq's Ministry of Culture threatened to fine and close the theater.

It's really rather sad: there could have been a very positive message coming out of this amazing film to raise Americans' awareness of the effects that war can have on our troops - effects that we may not see, because they aren't outwardly visible, but which afflict many of those who have volunteered to defend our nation from her enemies. It is extremely unfortunate that this message has become buried under the ramblings of pundits whose bloviation only serves to expose their ignorance.

Chris Kyle may not have been an angel, but he was a hero. His actions during the Iraq War saved the lives of hundreds of American soldiers, and our nation owes him, and all of our men and women who serve, a debt of gratitude.

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Updated May 6, 2017 5:51 AM EDT | More details

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