bureaucracybusters

TRUTHS ABOUT “AMERICAN SNIPER” AND THE MILITARY

In Entertainment, History, Military, Social commentary on January 26, 2015 at 1:02 am

Clint Eastwood’s latest movie, American Sniper, has become the most controversial film now being considered as Best Picture at the upcoming Oscars.

The Academy Awards ceremonies are scheduled for February 22.

Clint Eastwood

The criticism is coming from the Left, and this has triggered outrage from the Right.  Some of this criticism is correct and fair, but some of it isn’t.

The film suggests the Iraq war was in response to 9/11. The movie cuts from American Sniper Chris Kyle watching 9/11 on TV to him serving in Iraq.  Critics charge that this implies a connection between the two.

FACT: This film is a biography of Kyle, who became the deadliest sniper in American history.  It is not a documentary.  And, in fact, Kyle did his service in Iraq.

Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle in “American Sniper”

The movie depicts a terrorist sniper who becomes Kyle’s evil nemesis.  Named “Mustafa,” he is portrayed as a Syrian Olympics champion marksman.  In a furious mano-a-mano duel, Mustafa almost nails Kyle.  But, at the end of the movie, he meets his end with a well-placed bullet from Kyle’s rifle.

FACT: Mustafa is mentioned in a single–and short–paragraph in Kyle’s book.  Kyle admits: “I never saw him, but other snipers later killed an Iraqi sniper we thought was him.” So the Mustafa-Kyle duel never occurred.

But Eastwood clearly decided its inclusion was necessary to make a dramatic finish for his movie.  This is what’s known as “dramatic license” in filmmaking.

The movie portrays Chris Kyle as tormented by his rising casualty rate among Iraqis.  During his fourth tour of duty in Iraq as depicted in the film, he agonizes over the possible need to shoot a child who’s about to pick up a dropped rocket launcher.  He mutters, “Don’t pick it up,” and when the child runs off, leaving it behind, Kyle feels relieved.

FACT: Throughout his autobiography–on which the film is based–Kyle makes clear his contempt and hatred for Iraqis.  He brags of having told a military investigator: “I don’t shoot people with Korans.  I’d like to, but I don’t.”

He refers to his Iraqi enemies as “savages.”  And, having been credited with killing 160 Iraqis, Kyle writes: “I only wish I had killed more….I believe the world is a better place without savages out there taking American lives.”

Chris Kyle was a hate-filled killer, but the movie turns him into a hero.  

FACT: It’s entirely natural for soldiers to hate their enemies.  They live in a world where they–or their comrades–can be blown away at any moment.  So they fear and hate those they know are intent on their destruction.

The toughening-up process starts in boot camp, where the restraints of pacifism and individuality are broken down.   The purpose of boot camp is to turn “boys” into “fighting men.” This must be done in weeks, so the process is shockingly brutal.

Soldiers who aren’t toughened by boot camp are by the battlefield. As General George S. Patton famously warned: “When you put your hand into a bunch of goo, that a moment before was your best friend’s face, you’ll  know what to do.”

General George S. Patton

During the Indian wars, soldiers called Indians “Red niggers.” In World War II–the “Good War”–America’s servicemen fought “Japs” and “Krauts.”

During the Vietnam war, Vietnamese became “dinks” and “gooks.” Today our servicemen and women refer (unofficially) to their Islamic enemies as “ragheads” or “sand niggers.”

“In Kyle’s version of the Iraq war, the parties consisted of Americans, who are good by virtue of being American, and fanatic Muslims whose ‘savage, despicable evil’ led them to want to kill Americans simply because they are Christians.”  –Laura Miller, in Salon

FACT: British military historian B.H. Liddell Hart noted in his introduction to the memoirs of World War II German General Heinz Guderian, the creator of the Blitzkrieg theory:

“[Guderian] did not question the cause which he and his troops were serving, or the duty of fighting for their country. It was sufficient for him that she was at war and thus in danger, however it had come about.

“As a dutiful soldier, he had to assume that his country’s cause was just, and that she was defending herself against would-be conquerors.”

Heinz Guderian

What proved true for Guderian proved equally true for Kyle–and for soldiers in armies throughout the world.

Moreover, every great war movie tells its story from a given viewpoint–German, Russian, American, British.  In All Quiet on the Western Front, the narrator is a young, idealistic German soldier who is disallusioned by the horrors of war.  When he dies at the end of the movie, we feel saddened by his loss.

Similarly, when we learn, at the end of American Sniper, that Chris Kyle was killed while trying to help a fellow veteran, we feel a similar loss.

In the end, a biographical or historical movie can tell only so much.  It is for the audience to decide its meaning–and whether to learn more about that subject through their own researches.

A WARNING FROM HISTORY–AND FILM

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 26, 2015 at 12:37 am

January 26, 2015, marks the 130th anniversary of the fall of Khartoum, the Sudanese city that sits on the banks of the White Nile and the Blue Nile.

The siege and fall of Khartoum is one of the truly epic stories of military history.

Khartoum in the 1800s

From March 18, 1884 to January 26, 1885, the charisma and military genius of one man–British General Charles George Gordon–held at bay an army of thousands of fanatical Islamists intent on slaughtering everyone in the city.

At stake were the lives of Khartoum’s 30,000 residents.

By comparison:The defenders of the Alamo–a far better-known battle, in 1836–numbered no more than 250.  And the siege of the San Antonio mission lasted only 13 days against an army of about 2,000 Mexicans.

The Alamo

Gordon’s story may seen antiquated.  But it bears close inspection as Republicans press the Obama Administration to commit ground forces to “freeing” Syria of its longtime dicator, “President” Bashar al Assad.

The neocons of the George W. Bush administration plunged the United States into an unprovoked war against Iraq in 2003.  After Baghdad quickly fell, Americans cheered, thinking the war was over and the troops would soon return home.

Suddenly, American soldiers found themselves waging a two-front war in the same country: Fighting an Iraqi insurgency to throw them out, while trying to suppress growing sectarian warfare between Sunnis and Shia Muslims.

And now, with Syria, Americans are being urged to plunge headfirst into a conflict they know nothing about–and in which they have absolutely no stake.

Consider the combatants:

On the one side, is the Ba’ath regime of Bashir al-Assad, supported by Russia, Iran, Hizbullah, and elements in the Iraqi government. Hizbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims, who form a minority of Islamics.

A sworn enemy of Israel, it has kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 299 Americans.

Flag of Hizbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims, who form the majority of that religion.

It is intolerent of non-Sunni Muslims and has instigated violence against them.  It denounces them as “takfirs”–heretics–and thus worthy of extermination.

Flag of Al-Qaeda

In short, it’s a Muslim-vs.-Muslim “holy war.”

It’s all very reminiscent of events in the 1966 epic film, “Khartoum,” starring Charlton Heston as British General Charles George Gordon.

Charlton Heston (left); Charles George Gordon (right)

In 1884, the British Government sends Gordon, a real-life hero of the Victorian era, to evacuate the Sudanese city of Khartoum.

Mohammed Achmed, a previously anonymous Sudanese, has proclaimed himself “The Madhi”  (The Expected One) and raised the cry of jihad.

Laurence Oliver (left); Mohammed Achmed (“The Madhi”)

The Madhi (played by Laurence Oliver) intends to drive all foreigners (of which the English are the largest group) out of Sudan, and exterminate all those Muslims who did not practice his “pure” version of Islam.

Movie poster for “Khartoum”

Gordon arrives in Khartoum to find he’s not fighting a rag-tag army of peasants.  Instead, the Madhi is a highly intelligent military strategist.

And Gordon, an evangelical Christian, also underestimates the Madhi’s religious fanaticism: “I seem to have suffered from the delusion that I had a monopoly on God.”

A surprised Gordon finds himself and 30,000 Sudanese trapped in Khartoum when the Madhi’s forces suddenly appear.  He sends off messengers and telegrams to the British Government, begging for a military relief force.

But the British Government wants nothing to do with the Sudan.  It had sent Gordon there as a sop to British public opion that “something” had to be done to quell the Madhist uprising.

The siege continues and tightens.

In Britain, the public hails Gordon as a Christian hero and demands that the Government send a relilef expedition to save him.

Prime Minister William Gladstone finally sends a token force–which arrives in Khartoum two days after the city has fallen to the Madhi’s forces.

Gordon, standing at the top of a staircase and coolly facing down his dervish enemies, is speared to death.

George W. Joy’s famous–and romanticized–painting of “The Death of Gordon”

(Actually, the best historical evidence indicates that Gordon fought to the last with pistol and sword before being overwhelmed by his dervish enemies.)

When the news reaches England, Britons mourn–and then demand vengeance for the death of their hero.

The Government, which had sought to wash its hands of the poor, militarily unimportant Sudan, suddenly has to send an army to avenge Gordon.

As the narrator of “Khartoum” intones at the close of the film:“For 15 years, the British paid the price with shame and war.”

There is a blunt lesson for Americans to learn from this episode–and from the 1966 movie, “Khartoum” itself.

Americans have been fighting in the Middle East since 2001–first in Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda, and then in Iraq, to pursue George W. Bush’s vendetta against Saddam Hussein.

The United States faces a crumbling infastructure, record high unemployment and trillions of dollars in debt.

It’s time for Americans to clean up their own house before worrying about the messes in other nations–especially those wholly alien to American values.

FETUS FANATICS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on January 22, 2015 at 9:21 pm

January 22, 2015 marked the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s landmark case legalizing abortion.

And, to highlight this occasion, Right-wing Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives voted 242-179 to pass a bill to codify a ban on federal funding for abortions. The bill would:

  • Restrict a woman’s ability to buy private insurance plans that include abortion coverage;
  • Deny small businesses a business tax credit if they include abortion care in their health insurance plans;
  • Prevent women from having their abortions covered by Medicaid; and
  • Prevent the District of Columbia from using its own local funds to subsidize abortion care.

The bill’s vote was deliberately timed to coincide with the annual “Right to Life” march in Washington, D.C. by abortion protesters. So what’s responsible for all this fetus fanaticism? Several factors.

First, there is an energized constituency for politicians willing to wave this red flag.  Almost every major Republican Presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan has tapped into this voting bloc.  And each has found plenty of votes to be gotten from it.

Second, many fetus fanatics simply dislike women.  They fear and resent the women’s movement, which has given women the right to enter the workforce and compete directly with men.

They especially hate the legal right of a woman to avoid becoming pregnant via birth control–or to abort the result of a male’s sperm if they do.  They see this as a personal rejection. The Right is made up overwhelmingly of white males.  Many of these men long for a Christianized version of the Taliban.

They crave a world where women meekly cater to their every demand and believe only what their male masters approve for them to believe.

Third, many fetus fanatics feel guilty about their own past sexual transgressions–especially if these resulted in pregnancy. And they want to prevent others from living the same life they did.

Some of these people are well-intentioned.  Even so, they usurp unto themselves a God-like right to intrude on the most intimate decisions for others–regardless of what those people may need or want.

Fourth, many leaders of the fetus-fanatics movement are independently wealthy.  Even if abortion were outlawed for the vast majority, these privileged caliphs could always bribe a willing doctor–here or abroad–to perform such an operation on their wife, daughter and/or mistress.

Fifth, many fetus fanatics are “pro-life” when it comes to fetuses, but hypocritically refuse to support the needs of children from low-income families.  This includes refusing to provide funding for food and medical care. Sixth, many fetus fanatics embrace contradictory goals.  On one hand, most of them claim they want to “get government off the backs of the people.”  That usually means allowing corporations to pollute, sell dangerous products and treat their employees as slaves.

On the other hand, they want to insert the government into the vagina of every woman.  That means empowering State and Federal authorities to prevent women from getting an abortion–even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

Seventh, many fetus fanatics are just as opposed to birth control as they are to abortion. Thus, when Georgia University law student Sandra Fluke asked Congress to require insurance companies to cover birth control, Rush Limbaugh branded her a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

Eighth, many fetus fanatics are “family values” hypocrites.  For example: Representative Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), an anti-abortion, “family values” doctor, had an affair with a patient and later pressured her to get an abortion.

He also supported two abortions by his then-wife, Susan.  According to divorce records, the first was for “therapeutic reasons” and the second because “things were not going well.”

Scott DesJarlais and his current wife, Amy.

Ninth, many fetus fanatics are not truly “pro-life.”  They totally oppose abortion under most–if not all–circumstances.   But they also fully support:

  • making military-style assault weapons available to nutcases;
  • capital punishment;
  • going to war for almost any reason;
  • wholesale massacres of wildlife;
  • despoiling of the environment; and
  • even nuclear war.

And many of those who fanatically defend the right of a fetus to emerge from the womb just as fanatically oppose welfare for those mothers who can’t support that newborn.

Tenth, many fetus fanatics believe that since their religion teaches that abortion is wrong, they have a moral duty to enforce that belief on others.

This is especially true for evangelical Christians.  These are the same people who condemn Muslims–such as those in Saudi Arabia–for segregating women, forbidding them to drive and forcing them to wear head scarfs or chadors–loose, usually black robes.

Taliban: Islam’s version of the “Right-to-Life” movement

But while they condemn Islamics for their general intolerance of others’ religious beliefs, they lust to impose their own upon those who belong to other churches.  Or who belong to no church at all.

* * * * *

It’s time to face the blunt truth: A “Conservative Victory,” as Sean Hannity put it, would impose an anti-women Taliban on America.

A woman who seeks to control her own destiny would be insane to vote for a Right-wing candidate.  Just as it would have been insane for a Jewish citizen to give his vote–and his life–to Adolf Hitler.

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