Let me start by agreeing with the critics of American Sniper on one point. The movie does present Iraqis in a one-dimensional way and doesn't spend much time trying to understand the complexities of the war.
Yet the fuss over the film is still ridiculously overblown.
Snipers have a specific task -- which is to incapacitate or, more often, kill their target; and from a distance. With that job description, there is little room for snipers to worry about what their targets' lives are like or even the politics of war. If they did, they would never be able to pull the trigger and would become useless in battle.
This is a point that many critics of the movie, most notably Michael Moore, are missing. In order for snipers to do their job, they simply can't be expected to engage in philosophical soul-searching about the conflict they're engaged in. And to criticize them after the fact is to repeat the shameful mistake that Americans made after the Vietnam War in their shabby treatment of veterans.
It's true that Chris Kyle, the subject of the film, was apparently a troubled man and not the perfectly noble hero we imagine our soldiers to be. His statement that he found his job "fun" is disturbing too.
But ultimately so what? Kyle was not deployed to be a nice guy or even a thoughtful one. He was sent to Iraq to be a sniper, and that's what he did. If we were to get on a moral high horse about every member of our military, or even our political leadership for that matter, we would have about five people left to do anything in this country.
Everyone is imperfect. Chris Kyle was imperfect, and so were many others who fought in the Iraq war. It's fine to question the war itself and war in general, but to target the people who did our dirty work for us is frankly unconscionable, and as I said before, a repeat of the post-Vietnam fiasco. We should be better than that now.
Here's the other thing too: American Sniper is not a documentary. It's a mainstream feature film made to entertain audiences, and serves that purpose well.
To Clint Eastwood's credit, he has not tried to whitewash war but shown it as the extremely brutal affair that it is. His only oversight was to present Kyle in a more sympathetic light than he may have deserved, but that is simply artistic license. American Sniper is not the first movie to simplify history in order to make it more easily digestible for a wide audience, and there's nothing wrong with it.
If there was, the other much-talked-about movie of the year, Selma, would fall into the same category. Just because Selma reportedly twisted historical facts about Lyndon Johnson's role in advancing civil rights does not make it a bad film. It, like American Sniper, was balancing historical accuracy with the need to tell a compelling story with power and simplicity.
Sure, there are plenty of films that present a more nuanced and complex view of war, and those are fine too. It all just depends on the preferences of the filmmaker and the audience, and that's why we cherish our democracy.
If you don't like it, don't watch it, but to use a movie as an excuse for launching an assault against those who believe that our troops do an amazing job on our behalf and deserve our respect -- no matter how we feel about a particular war -- is grossly insulting to our men and women in uniform.
Or in other words: you don't need to be pro-war or anti-war to #SupportOurTroops