February 17, 2015

American Sniper…the damages of war

 By Dan Webster

This is a powerful film. It does not glorify war. I was moved by many scenes.

As a young boy, Chris Kyle is at Sunday worship in his west Texas town hearing the Christian message. He ends up carrying a pocket size bible with him into battle. At one point in the film he’s challenged on his role as warrior and tells his buddy it’s all about God, country and family.

Having grown up in San Diego and visiting my Marine Corps brother-in-law when he was stationed at the “Amphib” base on Coronado, I saw Navy SEALs in training. So the images shown of Kyle enduring the rigors of that were not surprising.

What I saw in Clint Eastwood’s movie was an unvarnished view of the chaos, confusion and futility of war.

Kyle did four tours in Iraq. His wife, Taya, is telling him the war is changing him. There’s even a scene where Kyle has returned from his tour but goes to a bar instead of home. Eastwood brilliantly shows how simple, everyday happenings can trigger PTSD in a returned warrior.

The one thing I kept wishing I was able to do is watch this movie with Pres. George W. Bush. The week before the invasion of Iraq I stood on the steps of the Utah Capitol and pleaded that the U.S. not invade Iraq. I urged the president to consider what he was unleashing by sending women and men into battle against a country that had not done anything against the U.S.

I said the toll on the American service member would bring home damaged and broken women and men who would seek to self-medicate with booze and drugs, who would be asked to do unconscionable things against fellow human beings.

It was clear Kyle had made his peace with his 160 confirmed kills, the most of any sniper in American military history. He said he was ready to meet his maker and defend every one of those shots he took, that he was just trying to protect his brothers in arms.

Well, he got to do that. He died not long before this movie was finished, killed by another returned veteran at a gun range.

So I wonder what his conversation was with God when he was welcomed into heaven. Did he only read the parts of the bible like “an eye for an eye” as one character even says before a mission? Did God ask him if he missed the parts where Jesus talks about loving your enemy, about doing unto to others as you would have them do to you, about vengeance being in the hands of God and not us?

I came home following the movie to see images on TV news of protesting Muslims waving the Koran and defending their belief in no images permitted of the Prophet Mohammed. I wondered if this whole war on terror has not come down to fundamentalist Christians and Muslims each choosing their particular scripture verse to justify their positions.

And once again, as we used to sing during the Vietnam war, “Oh when will they ever learn?” And I ask, Oh when will we ever learn?

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