American Sniper and Michael Moore

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I like Michael Moore. I like his movies. I share many of his views. Though I don’t know him personally, from what I have seen of him on television, he likes to argue – – he is a bit of a provocateur and I think he enjoys being the stick in the eye of conservatives. A few weeks ago, he riled-up a lot of those conservatives with some comments about snipers being cowards.

Michael is not dumb. I’m sure he is aware of the tactical value of snipers. In addition to being highly skilled marksman (as highlighted in the movie American Sniper) snipers use their abilities to sneak behind enemy lines to provide command with information about the enemy’s size, strength, and location. The information they provide and the actions they perform can save lives. If you’re a soldier heading into a hot zone, you want good snipers on your side — And by most accounts, Chris Kyle was one of the very best.

Michael Moore relies more on the definition of “snipe” than the tactical role of a sniper to try and strengthen his argument that snipers are cowards.

Here is the definition of the word snipe:

a shot, usually from a hidden position.

to shoot at individuals as opportunity offers from a concealed or distant position.

to attack a person or a person’s work with petulant or snide criticism, especially anonymously or from a safe distance.

And here are Michael Moore’s comments about snipers:

‘I think most Americans don’t think snipers are heroes’

“My uncle was killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren’t heroes. And invaders are worse.”

That last sentence – – – “And invaders are worse” – is most telling.

I suppose if you look at the definition of snipe, then sniping can be seen as a cowardly act. The sniper is almost always protected (by distance) from retaliation. His enemy is almost always unaware of his presence, there is rarely any direct confrontation with the enemy – there is no dodging machine gun fire to rescue a fallen comrade – no being overwhelmingly outnumbered while holding off an advancing enemy — and no ultimate sacrifice by jumping on the proverbial grenade to save your buddies – – all of which we (in the traditional sense) consider “heroic”.

Clearly Michael Moore’s remarks about snipers and the movie American Sniper are by proxy a commentary on the Iraq war itself – I think he felt compelled to speak out because of all the fanfare that the movie is receiving – he is likely appalled and disgusted at the possibility that people who see this movie will forget that the invasion of Iraq was, at best, a horrible mistake, and at worse a criminal act (. . .And invaders are worse.”).

As expected, his remarks set off a predictable response on social media – those on the right lambasting him as a Hollywood-elitist-scumbag (while canonizing Chris Kyle as the ultimate Patriot) and those on the left criticizing the movie as propaganda and some even attacking Chris Kyle’s character.

There is a scene in American Sniper where an adult woman hands a grenade to a child so that it can be used against an advancing American Convoy – – In Chris Kyle’s book, there was no child –  the film makes this Iraqi woman more evil and inhumane by having her send a child to his death. Simplistic caricatures that dehumanize Iraqis as savages in the movie probably rubbed Mr. Moore the wrong way – not because he loves Iraqis, but because he feels such portrayals obfuscate the bigger picture of the Iraq conflict – of which he has very strong views.

In my eyes, all the hubbub from Michael Moore’s comments highlights the differences between liberals and conservatives when it comes to how they view the Iraq war.

Many on the right can overlook the complexities and ambiguities of everything that led up to the Iraq war. To many of them, Chris Kyle is a hero simply because he is an American Soldier at war – end of story.

Those on the left tend take a more nuanced comprehensive view of the war – – and therefore have trouble disentangling Chris Kyle the soldier, from the misguided decisions that put him in Iraq. Those on the left get angry when they see a movie like American Sniper that disregards the bigger and the messier questions about how we ended up in Iraq in the first place.

To me, anyone who volunteers to serve deserves our gratitude and respect. I can understand how Michael Moore’s comments might be interpreted as disrespectful to American servicemen. And although I agree with his views on the war – criticizing snipers as a way of reminding us that invading Iraq was a huge mistake feels a bit strained – even to a lefty like me.

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