Home/Rod Dreher/On Not Getting ‘American Sniper’

On Not Getting ‘American Sniper’

I saw American Sniper today. Good movie. Not a great movie, but a good one. I deliberately avoided reading anything substantive about it prior to seeing the movie, because I didn’t want to be swayed by the controversy. The only thing I knew about it was that the New Yorker film critic David Denby called it both a pro-war and an anti-war film.

And you know, that’s exactly what I thought coming out of the picture. I don’t get why so many people on my Facebook feed see it as a rah-rah patriotic movie. It’s not. There are a couple of moments in the film, towards the end, when characters close to Chris Kyle (the excellent Bradley Cooper) express doubt to him about his mission. His wife says that she and their children need him at home. A fellow soldier in Iraq admits to losing heart in their purpose there. Kyle reacts with empty slogans that he clearly believes because he can’t bear to think otherwise.

But it’s not a standard left-wing movie by any means. These soldiers really are going up against some evil SOBs, people who need to be killed. Evil is real in this movie, and it can’t be explained away.

In fact, I don’t know that the movie has much of a politics. The main takeaway for me was the cost of war on a soldier. It made me angrier at Bush, Rumsfeld, and the lot for putting true-believing, faithful soldiers like Chris Kyle into Iraq under false or foolish pretenses. What was that for, anyway? The movie says that you can go to war and kill evil people who need killing, and become an all-time legend as a warrior, and still end up a mess inside. I would say the film is pro-war in that it shows that sometimes evil must be confronted with nothing short of lethal force, and that soldiers often put themselves at great risk for each other. The film is anti-war in that it shows simplistic good-vs-evil narratives do not account for the emotional complexities of war, and that even the winners in a war are losers — and so are their families.

Here is the last letter home from Navy SEAL Marc Lee, who was one of Kyle’s comrades. In the film, Kyle and his wife attend Lee’s funeral, where their hear Lee’s mother read part of his last letter home. In real life, the Kyles didn’t go to the funeral, but the letter is genuine. Here’s the full text. This letter is the real spirit of American Sniper — the film, I mean, not Chris Kyle. Marc Lee’s letter:

Glory is something that some men chase and others find themselves stumbling upon, not expecting it to find them.  Either way it is a noble gesture that one finds bestowed upon them. My question is when does glory fade away and become a wrongful crusade, or an unjustified means by which consumes one completely?

I have seen war. I have seen death, the sorrow that encompasses your entire being as a man breathes his last. I can only pray and hope that none of you will ever have to experience some of these things I have seen and felt here.

I have felt fear and have felt adrenaline pump through my veins making me seem invincible. I will be honest and say that some of the things I have seen here are unjustified and uncalled for. However for the most part we are helping this country. It will take more years than most expect, but we will get Iraq to stand on its own feet.

Most of what I have seen here I will never really mention or speak of, only due to the nature of those involved. I have seen a man give his food to a hungry child and family. Today I saw a hospital that most of us would refuse to receive treatment from. The filth and smell would allow most of us to not be able to stand to enter, let alone get medicine from.  However you will be relieved to know that coalition forces have started to provide security for and supply medicine and equipment to help aid in the cause.

I have seen amazing things happen here; however I have seen the sad part of war too. I have seen the morals of a man who cares nothing of human life…I have seen hate towards a nation’s people who has never committed a wrong, except being born of a third world, ill educated and ignorant to western civilization. It is not everybody who feels this way only a select few but it brings questions to mind. Is it ok for one to consider themselves superior to another race?

Surprising we are not a stranger to this sort of attitude. Meaning that in our own country we discriminate against someone for what nationality they are, their education level, their social status. We distinguish our role models as multimillion dollar sports heroes or talented actors and actress who complain about not getting millions of dollars more then they are currently getting paid.

Our country is a great country, don’t get me wrong on this, otherwise none of us would be living there. My point of this is how can we come over here and help a less than fortunate country without holding contempt or hate towards them if we can’t do it in our country. I try to do my part over here, but the truth is over there, United States, I do nothing but take.

Ask yourself when was the last time you donated clothes that you hadn’t worn out. When was the last time you paid for a random stranger’s cup of coffee, meal or maybe even a tank of gas? When was the last time you helped a person with the groceries into or out of their car?

Think to yourself and wonder what it would feel like if when the bill for the meal came and you were told it was already paid for.

More random acts of kindness like this would change our country and our reputation as a country.

It is not unknown to most of us that the rest of the world looks at us with doubt towards our humanity and morals.

I am not here to preach or to say look at me, because I am just as at fault as the next person. I find that being here makes me realize the great country we have and the obligation we have to keep it that way.

The 4th has just come and gone and I received many emails thanking me for helping keep America great and free. I take no credit for the career path I have chosen; I can only give it to those of you who are reading this, because each one of you has contributed to me and who I am.

However what I do over here is only a small percent of what keeps our country great. I think the truth to our greatness is each other. Purity, morals and kindness, passed down to each generation through example. So to all my family and friends, do me a favor and pass on the kindness, the love, the precious gift of human life to each other so that when your
children come into contact with a great conflict that we are now faced with here in Iraq, that they are people of humanity, of pure motives, of compassion.

This is our real part to keep America free! HAPPY 4th Love Ya

Marc Lee

P.S. Half way through the deployment can’t wait to see all of your faces

Did you see the film? What did you think?

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

leave a comment

Latest Articles