*Warning: graphic scenes from the film and autobiography of the same name, “American Sniper,” are discussed in this piece. Reader discretion is advised.*
The lights came up slowly as the credits faded into the screen.
It was dead silent.
It was the single quietest exit from a movie theater I’ve ever experienced in my entire life.
I had taken my father to see the film for his birthday, and while both of us were well aware of the story and the events we were about to see, I’m not sure either of us were prepared for the experience itself.
To be certain, I can take a lot. It was often to me, or my father, that my brother directed his heart-wrenching, sometimes gruesome recounting of the hell he experienced during his time in Iraq. They were always just moments, brief moments—never more than a few minutes—and then they would disappear into the recesses of his memory.
In this image released by Warner Bros. Pictures, Kyle Gallner, left, and Bradley Cooper appear in a scene from "American Sniper." The film is based on the autobiography by Chris Kyle. (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures)
But put together, they painted a picture so many of us don’t want to think about: the evil that faces not just American citizens, but the world.
As I left the theater, my brother was on my mind—along with a deep sadness at the realization of the enemy we face while being led by people who refuse to call it like it is.
Present in my mind as well were the hoards of people around the world who subscribe to the idea that those who believe in the absolutes of good and evil are “black-and-white ideologue[s].”
Here’s the deal: evil is for real.
And recognition of evil in the world is critical to our survival against it.
Let me repeat that for you: evil is for real. And—despite attempts to prove it to the contrary—it’s not embodied in the likes of Chris Kyle.
Let me paint you two different scenes.
Chris Kyle is on a rooftop, providing cover for Marines about to pass through the area, in a town that is supposed to be entirely devoid of civilians.
Suddenly a young boy and his mother emerge from a building, and in horror Kyle watches as the mother hands the young boy a grenade. Desperate for confirmation from other spotters before Kyle takes the shot, a fellow soldier on the rooftop with him whispers: “Dude, they’ll fry you if you’re wrong!”
He’s not wrong. The kid starts to run towards the convoy with the grenade. Kyle takes the shot. The kid goes down, and the mother runs to the body—not to hold her son, but to pick up the grenade he dropped, and throw it towards the soldiers. Kyle makes the gut-wrenching decision to take her out too.
Former Navy SEAL and author of the book "American Sniper" Chris Kyle was shot dead Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013. (AP)
He’s just taken out a mother and a child. His first two kills. As his buddy congratulates him on saving those lives, Kyle hisses, “Get the f*** off me.”
He’s dealing with the fact he just killed a woman, and a child. Enemy combatants, yes—but a woman and a child, nonetheless.
In his autobiography, the story differs—but only slightly. The woman indeed steps outside with her child, but sets the grenade herself. Kyle ended up killing the woman. It was, as he notes, the only time he killed anyone other than a male combatant.
Kyle continued, “I can stand before God with a clear conscience about doing my job. But I truly, deeply hated the evil that woman possessed. I hate it to this day.”
He hated the evil. Not the person.
Fast-forward to the moment when Kyle and the others encounter a bloody torture chamber. He recounts the incident in his autobiography:
“We would do a full search of each house. In this one house, we heard faint moans as we went down into the basement. There were two men hanging from chains on the wall. One was dead; the other barely there. Both had been severely tortured with electric shock and God knows what else. They were both Iraqi, apparently mentally retarded—the insurgents had wanted to make sure they wouldn’t talk to us, but decided to have a little fun with them first. The second man died while our corpsman worked on him. There was a black banner on the floor, the kind the fanatics like to show on their videos when beheading Westerners. There were amputated limbs, and more blood than you can imagine. It was a nasty-smelling place.”
Which one sounds like evil to you?
Is it Chris Kyle—who saved lives (American AND Iraqi) by destroying those bent on destruction, or the men so full of evil and so devoid of a conscience that they routinely torture and kill their own countrymen; those not aligned to their own worldview?
You tell me.
Chris Kyle (CBS DFW)
“We called ourselves the Punishers,” wrote Kyle, in reference to a 1970s Marvel comic book. “We all thought what the Punisher did was cool: He righted wrongs. He killed bad guys. He made wrongdoers fear him. That’s what we were all about.”
Tell me something: shouldn’t we want a person who wants to wipe evil from the face of the earth, behind the barrel of a sniper’s gun?
Critics of the film (some, like writer Dennis Jett, who ironically admits he didn’t even see the movie) and of our presence in the Middle East in general will cite that the insurgents Kyle and others fought were reactionary only; that their heinous, torturous actions would be otherwise non-existent if it weren’t for the presence of the West in the Middle East.
Explain then, the unspeakable violence Islamic State has waged—in the name of Islam—against their fellow Iraqis . . . despite the fact that our military has left the country.
Explain then, the slaughter of over 2,000 Nigerians at the hands of Islamic terror group Boko Haram.
Explain then, the unbelievable treatment of women like Taliban wife Bibi Aisha, who was mutilated for trying to escape her abusers, or Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai who survived the gunshot wounds of Taliban fighters who attacked her simply for trying to get an education.
Explain, then, the beheadings that two Japanese citizens (a nation completely uninvolved in the airstrikes against Islamic State) face at the hands of Islamic State terrorists.
I could go on. The blood spilled at the hands of the extremists like those that Chris Kyle fought flows far and wide.
Nonetheless, Lindy West of The Guardian writes that Kyle is nothing more than “a racist who took pleasure in dehumanising [sic] and killing brown people.”
If Kyle and his fellow soldiers were such dehumanizing racists, I wonder why they took the time to try and save the poor tortured Iraqi before he finally succumbed to the hell he had endured?
Just a thought.
And, like it or not, war is hell. It's not pretty. But what else would we expect it to be? As Kyle wrote, “Tell me: do you want us to conquer our enemy? Annihilate them? Or are we heading over to serve them tea and cookies?”
Evil isn’t going away just because we refuse to recognize it. And it's about time the world acknowledge its presence— and hail the heroes who stand on the line to fight it.
Mary Ramirez is a full-time writer, creator of www.afuturefree.com (a political commentary blog), and contributor to The Chris Salcedo Show (TheBlaze Radio Network, Saturday, from noon to 3pm ET). She can be reached at: email@example.com; or on Twitter: @AFutureFree.
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