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On V’s What to Read on "American Sniper" Link Drop

(To read the rest of our posts on the 2015 Oscars and American Sniper, please click here.)

As I wrote last week, we didn’t have time to fully debunk either the facts or ideology of Chris Kyle’s American Sniper. Fortunately for us--and the country--many other writers did. (Some of them got attacked for it.) Today, we’d like to share the best of those links.

A note first. This post is in no way exhaustive of the people criticizing American Sniper and/or Chris Kyle, which is a good thing; unlike, say, Lone Survivor, where it really seems like On Violence and Ed Darack were the only people who addressed the facts and ideology of the book and film.

(And before someone points out that we shouldn’t criticize Kyle’s political beliefs because he passed away, well, that’s illogical. Many people criticize the writings of people who passed away. And he wrote the book and profited from it. Fair game. If you don’t want criticism, don’t write books.)

First, two particular articles stand out for addressing the problematic portions of American Sniper before the movie came out and setting the stage (by finding the most egregious quotes in Chris Kyle’s memoir) for later criticisms of American Sniper. Laura Miller, for Salon, wrote “Death of an American Sniper”, the first article I could find that points out the problematic politics of the memoir, including Kyle’s hate of the Iraqis he was there to help. Next up, Isaac Chotiner, for The New Republic, wrote “If Chris Kyle Had Been a Muslim, We’d Call Him an Extremist”. The title sort of says it all.

A few of our favorite writers--and friends of the blog--chimed in with some of our favorite takes:

- Brian Turner (our review of his poetry here) wrote “I Served in Iraq, and American Sniper Gets It Right. But It’s Still Not the War Film We Need.” for Vulture. He points out that a great Iraq war film has yet to be made, because it won’t focus on the plight of the Iraqis.

- Alex Horton, for the Guardian, points out that we don’t need another war film glorifying special operators.

- Zach Beauchamp really takes the film to task in “American Sniper is a dishonest whitewash of the Iraq war” pointing out the numerous errors in the film. (Also check out this Vox piece on the film and the sheepdog analogy.)

- John Horgan has a great take on the science of war and American Sniper, linking this film to a discussion of the anthropology of war. (We’re huge Horgan fans.) Also, this post has an insane comments section.

- The folks at Kings of War connect American Sniper to force protection. This post actually asks the question I wished more people asked, did Chris Kyle’s kills save American lives?

- And Don Gomez at Carrying the Gun chimed in.

After the movie came out last month, a number of writers then tackled the book and film’s politics. Again, we love seeing this sort of response, with many (liberal) writers addressing a problematically popular film based on a book steeped in right-wing politics:

 

- Lindy West, for The Guardian, really went after Chris Kyle in “The real American Sniper was a hate-filled killer. Why are simplistic patriots treating him as a hero?

- Dennis Jett, in another The New Republic article, wrote “The Real 'American Sniper' Had No Remorse About the Iraqis He Killed”, which is both true and sad.

- Finally, Matt Taibbi really lets loose on the book in “American Sniper is Almost Too Dumb to Criticize”. In particular, he identifies a passage in the memoir where Kyle hints that he shot innocent people to up his kill count.

- And you can find more (albeit very, very liberal) political takes in Salon’s “Our “American Sniper” sickness: How American exceptionalism wrought Guantanamo”, another Salon piece “American Sniper’s” biggest lie: Clint Eastwood has a delusional Fox News problem”, and Mondoweiss “How a culture remembers its crimes is important: A review of ‘American Sniper’”.

As for debunking American Sniper, Snopes.com has a pretty thorough summary. Also, we just found this blog post by Michael McCaffrey at his personal website, and it appears to be one of the most thorough accounting of the facts behind American Sniper.

So in the end, that’s a lot of great stuff to read. There are still a few more issues left to be discussed, in our opinion. (For example, rules of engagement and determining whether Chris Kyle’s kill count makes America more or less likely to win in Iraq.) But at least this is a start.

And we know writers who will be willing to do this sort of criticism in the future.

three comments

Curious if you guys read Garrett Reppenhagen’s I was an American sniper, and Chris Kyle..

It’s probably one of my favorite reads regarding American Sniper, next to the stuff you guys wrote, of course!


@ Eric R – I think I saw that article at some point, we read a lot on that film.

And thank you!


@ Erik – R. – that’s a good article. It reminds me of a quote (to our hosts: I’m pretty sure this one is verifiable!) by the Duke of Wellington: “The history of a battle is not unlike the history of a ball. Some individuals may recollect all the little events of which the great result is the battle won or lost, but no individual can recollect the order in which, or the exact moment at which, they occurred, which makes all the difference as to their value or importance.”

While the analogy may have lost some of its vividness in modern society it still holds true, and is a reason why memoirs in general shouldn’t be considered definitive sources of information. Aside from all of the proven factual errors and biases in the subject memoir, it (and movie) is told (I’m assuming – having neither read/seen the products) from a very narrow perspective.

Moreover, no one should be basing policy decisions on the word of an E-anything, or anyone below about O-9 (and even then info should be corroborated).