I’ve watched the film depiction of the life of the late Chris Kyle, America’s deadliest sniper, Navy SEAL, and veterans advocate, twice. It is a gripping portrayal, but it is a portrayal nonetheless. While the screenplay perhaps lacks nuance, it is also a product of Hollywood and should be considered a truncated and dramatized version of one man’s life story.
The complexities of biography often elude filmmakers who are charged with creating dense and intricate portraits of a human being in 120 minutes. Nevertheless, the movie is quite enjoyable. The performances are stirring and the wartime themes, difficult as they are, are confronted tastefully.
Having seen the film, I feel qualified to write about it. That was not an obstacle for author and AlterNet Senior Writer Max Blumenthal who determined that it was a bright course of action to sharply criticize a film he had admittedly not seen simply because he detests its subject.
WARNING: The following post contains some limited spoilers as it is necessary to refute Blumenthal’s emotional indictments with the facts to which he confessed he is not privy.
“I haven’t seen American Sniper, but correct me if I’m wrong: An occupier mows down faceless Iraqis but the real victim is his anguished soul,” Blumenthal wrote smugly on his Twitter account. “[T]he whole film’s appeal seems to derive from the latent racism that led America into Iraq.”
He cites a portion of the film (reproduced in the movie’s two-minute trailer) in which Kyle is forced to pull the trigger on a pre-adolescent Iraqi child who is tasked by his mother with smuggling a grenade into a column of advancing Marines. Kyle is later forced to dispatch the boy’s mother as well when she declines to mourn her fallen son and instead attempts to execute the task at which he failed.
Kyle is, indeed, anguished by this morally challenging moment; one which he finds himself forced to confront on more than one occasion, and which he has the parochial temerity to call “evil.” This blithe disregard for the left’s attachment to moral equivalencies may be the most infuriating element of the film for the likes of delicate flowers like Blumenthal.
It is not the only aspect of this film that stabs at the heart of the far-left’s attachment to the dishonorable character of the armed services. In the film, American soldiers routinely encounter the use of children by enemy combatants as ordnance delivery vehicles or objects of leverage over local Iraqi civilians.
But Blumenthal does seek to exonerate Kyle for what he regards as his misdeeds. You see, the SEAL sniper was simply robbed of his free will by a far more devious institution: The American military. To make this comparison, Blumenthal compares the late Kyle to the mass murdering Lee Boyd Malvo (though he confuses the name).
“John Lee Malvo, another mass murdering sniper, would not be glorified on prime time,” Blumenthal averred, confusing the young accomplice of the “D.C. Sniper” for the prime suspect in those killings, John Allen Muhammad.
When confronted with the tastelessness of his comparison by a Twitter user who contended that the impressionable Malvo was misled, Blumenthal indicted the military. “[H]e was brainwashed and stripped of his humanity,” Blumenthal scoffed. “But that never happened to our servicemen, of course.”
Such trite parlor socialism hardly merits a response, but it certainly does deserve wider exposure. This type of thinking – comparing an American serviceman who saved countless lives with over 160 confirmed kills, any number of which might have led to prosecution if they were shown to be targeted indiscriminately, to a mass murderer who expressly targeted American civilians – is pathological. It is also, however, quite common on the extreme left (though usually more tastefully expressed).
Blumenthal’s kneejerk and misguided appeals to relativism brings to mind Ashton Blackwell’s piece in American Thinker on the far-left’s predictable and tortured efforts to erect dubious equivalencies between the United States and its enemies. The post is a rather apt counter to Blumenthal, who has determined that “racism” drives most Americans to excuse the killing of children who act as battlefield combatants. Blackwell noted that America’s enemies in the War on Terror also make targets of children, but they do not distinguish between combatants and civilians.
It is only human to want to make sense of tragedies, as many decent people attest to when they expressed their horror and incomprehension at the slaying of children in Pakistan this week. The mere idea of hurting a child leaves most civilized people stricken— but not all people are civilized, and that is an important truth to not obfuscate in today’s onerously politically correct climate. The mirror-imaging fallacy is the honor attendant of the moral-equivalence fallacy. In the intelligence community, mirror imaging is known as dangerously presuming that your enemies are operating under the same assumptions that you are, and that they are also rational actors or inculcated with similar values of honor. Assuming others behaving irrationally have a rational explanation is, in itself, an irrational expectation on the behalf of the individual receiving the “explanation,” or “grievances,” or “demands.” A person prone to this kind of soft thinking and logical errors are liabilities in a geopolitical sense.
Blumenthal falls right into this trap of fallacious logic. He has his all-consuming prejudices to blame.