I saw “American Sniper” on its opening weekend. It’s hard to say I enjoyed it. I’m not sure anyone can enjoy a movie such as this. I can say it was well-acted, well-produced, and well-written. I can say that Bradley Cooper and Clint Eastwood did a fantastic job with a very difficult subject. I can say it was a fascinating, sad, emotional, inspiring, and interesting look into the mind and heart of a man who saved hundreds, if not thousands, of American lives.
Whatever you may think of the Iraq war, the intelligence failures that led us there, the 9-11 Commission report, the Iraqis, or the hundreds of Iraqi threats neutralized by Chris Kyle, he was a warrior – and a very skilled one. He did his job, and he did it superlatively. He saved American lives, and there are warriors out there who are grateful that he was up there with that rifle, protecting them from on high. He was a father and a husband. His view of the war was certainly different than many others’, but having saved so many American lives, he was a hero.
As a friend of mine put it, “the simple fact is, when we deploy, we have a mission and an objective, that’s all. Politics, religion, point of view……don’t factor in. We go, we do the job, some of us write a book about it, and some of us just buy a bottle and move on.”
Some people just don’t understand that. From the first day “American Sniper” hit the theaters, attention-whoring celebutards rushed to condemn the movie, comparing it to Nazi propaganda and calling Chris Kyle a coward (to be fair, Seth Rogen walked back his stupid comment after being widely panned as a moron), while the usual crowd of leftist writers proceeded to use the movie, and Kyle’s life, as fodder for their continued EvilBooshIraqWarBad campaign.
Enter this dude. Now normally, I wouldn’t give Salon the time of day. Even without reading the article, you know this is going to be an EvilBooshIraqWarBad screed, but because this was written by ostensibly an American sniper, who claims to have served in Iraq, I figured I’d give it a read.
Salon describes the writer thusly: “Garett Reppenhagen served as a Cavalry Scout Sniper with the 1st Infantry Division in the US Army and deployed on a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo and a combat tour in the Diyala Province, Iraq in 2004. Garett works as a Regional Director for Vet Voice Foundation and is a veterans advocate and social justice organizer.”
Social justice organizer… This alone sets off all kinds of alarms, but I decided to give it a read anyway. In this essay Reppenhagen describes events much differently from Kyle’s experience.
Unlike Chris Kyle, who claimed his PTSD came from the inability to save more service members, most of the damage to my mental health was what I call “moral injury,” which is becoming a popular term in many veteran circles.
As a sniper I was not usually the victim of a traumatic event, but the perpetrator of violence and death. My actions in combat would have been more acceptable to me if I could cloak myself in the belief that the whole mission was for a greater good. Instead, I watched as the purpose of the mission slowly unraveled.
I served in Iraq from 2004 to 2005. During that time, we started to realize there were no weapons of mass destruction, the 9/11 commission report determined that Iraq was not involved in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, false sovereignty was given to Iraq by Paul Bremer, the atrocities at Abu Ghraib were exposed, and the Battle of Fallujah was waged.
The destruction I took part in suddenly intersected with news that our reasons for waging war were untrue. The despicable conduct of those at Abu Ghraib was made more unforgivable by the honorable interactions I had with Iraqi civilians, and, together, it fueled the post-traumatic stress I struggle with today.
He warns the reader not to take “American Sniper” as the sole view of the Iraq war. OK… he’s correct. Everyone’s experience in the war is different. I was also deployed to Kosovo, and I’m fairly sure that my one-year experience there was much different from Reppenhagen’s. That’s not an unfair warning. Like I said, everyone’s experience is different.
That said, what really bothers me is that the people trying to appropriate Chris Kyle’s story to their own experience. Reppenhagen obviously doesn’t get what “American Sniper” was about. This was Chris Kyle’s story. It was his war. It was his experiences. It was his point of view. This was one man’s account: Chris Kyle’s. And yet, Reppenhagen seems chafed that “American Sniper” didn’t tell his story, didn’t focus on his political views and his doubts, didn’t show his disenchantment with Abu Ghraib, the 9/11 Commission Report, or his view of the Iraqi people.
Guess what! It’s not Reppenhagen’s story. It’s Chris Kyle’s. And Reppenhagen seems to want to appropriate Chris Kyle’s story and apply it to his own experiences.
Know what? When you sell your own memoir and get a movie deal, you can tell your story. But the continued attempts to spew a political message using an American hero as a vehicle, while discounting his experiences or downright smearing him and what he went through is getting old.
Additionally, Jonn mentioned Reppenhagen was a candidate for the board of the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) in 2010. Interestingly, he was apparently good buddies with Stolen Valor phony Rick Duncan aka Richard Strandloff, and couldn’t tell the guy never served. That’s also interesting. Normally veterans are damn good at weeding crap out of their ranks. This guy… apparently bringing Strandloff into IVAW and “raising a lot of awareness” for his political agenda was important enough to overlook his fraud.
So yes, maintain a 360 point of view when it comes to “American Sniper,” but understand the movie and the book as one man’s point of view, and extend that objective 360 eye to the people who see it fit to criticize the movie.
Their motives aren’t as pure as they may lead you to believe.