Since American Sniper has become one of the “top grossing films of all time”, garnering a few Academy Award nominations and at least one, if trivial, award, there have been even more reviews written about this insidious and insipid strip of celluloid. Unsurprisingly all of them contain the same swill. I had to return to my own review just to see if I had perhaps omitted anything essential or if anyone might have thought in an at least similar direction.
The defensive focus of vocal support for the film is equally and unsurprisingly the condition of “veterans”. In fact this is probably the single most abused excuse for US war film production since the US regime withdrew its uniformed forces from Vietnam. To be fair—although by no means generous—some of the reviewers suggested that critical attention be focused on those who initiate and manage the wars that create such neglected veterans. As I have argued elsewhere, this is still the “wrong war thesis” and remains a kind of apology for the centuries of carnage wrought by the regime in Washington.
On the other side of the phony political divide are those who claim that Mr Eastwood does not present the humanity of Iraqis fairly. Of course this begs the question as to why, if Americans were concerned about Iraqi humanity, they would derive such satisfaction from destroying Iraq and maiming or murdering millions of its inhabitants, while plundering and pillaging the country for nearly fifteen years? The fact that the film has generated such high gross receipts is certainly proof that Americans are not at all concerned with the humanity of Iraqis (or anyone else for that matter) but enjoy war and murder as entertainment.
I recently had a long discussion with a good acquaintance whose daughter is engaged to a professional soldier in the German army. I asked him if he (a pacifist) and his daughter were conscious of what this could mean in even the very near future? He said his relationship to his daughter although good, despite the divorce between him and the girl’s mother, was still tenuous– or he perceived it as such. In other words, he did not want to risk breaking the contact to his daughter by pointing out that she intended to marry a professional killer. He retorted that she was aware of the risks involved for a soldier and that this did not diminish her love for the man. I acknowledged that although a 20-something woman is an adult and has her own responsibilities, she could hardly (at least in Germany) be expected to be fully aware of the immediate consequences of marriage to a professional soldier. The conversation revolved around whether one could or could not, as a German soldier, be ordered to kill people. Here it is worth mentioning that when the German government prepared to end universal conscription the airwaves were saturated with McCann Erickson advertising for the German Army—exactly modelled on the US Army’s “be all you can be” campaign from the 1970s and 1980s. Germany was being prepared for integration in the post-Vietnam US killing industry.
Quite aside from the absurdity of debating killing in the military, the issues of obedience and camaraderie as well as patriotic loyalty were raised. His future son-in-law would not intend to kill except to protect his comrades. Moreover the young man was convinced that the German Army defends the values of the old “citizen army” under universal conscription. I said that someone who believes that the German army (even under conscription) was a democratic defence institution is either stupid or crassly ignorant or worse mendacious– since especially in Germany the remilitarisation was forced on the population by the US, by its stooge Konrad Adenauer using parliamentary tricks and police to suppress general– even legislative– opposition to rearmament after WWII. Never mind that more than a few I know who served in the subscription army could recite stories about the vitality of the Wehrmacht tradition in the garrisons even in the 1980s.