American Sniper: Chris Hedges' "Killing Ragheads for Jesus"


A screenshot from the movie american sniper

A still from the movie 'American Sniper.' Credit: Creative Commons

Editor’s note: While we at Tikkun do not feel it’s fair to blame Christianity or imply that all Christians somehow implicitly support the kind of Christianity that leads some American Christians to feel that their murdering of Arabs or Muslims is doing Jesus’ work, and want to remind our readers of the many progressive Christians who join the Network of Spiritual Progressives and other organization that oppose the US “Strategy of Domination” and instead identify with Tikkun’s Strategy of Generosity (as manifested in our proposed Domestic and Global Marshall Plan (please re-read it by downloading the full version at, we do think that Hedges’ powerful critique of the movie “American Sniper” should be read by those who are too willing to forgive the American media for its implicit and sometimes explicit glorification of the U.S. military. And shame on President Obama and liberal Democrats for not having stopped the (what was at first just Bush’s) war in Iraq when they had control of both houses of Congress and the presidency 2009 and 2010, instead backing a “surge” and providing the background and equipment that eventually led to ISIS and all its cruel perversions and murderous ruthlessness.
Below we have excerpts from Chris Hedges’ piece, “Killing Ragheads for Jesus”, which can be found here, at
–Rabbi Michael Lerner
Excerpts from “Killing Ragheads for Jesus”, written by Chris Hedges
On the movie:

“American Sniper,” like the big-budget feature films pumped out in Germany during the Nazi era to exalt deformed values of militarism, racial self-glorification and state violence, is a piece of propaganda, a tawdry commercial for the crimes of empire. That it made a record-breaking $105.3 million over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday long weekend is a symptom of the United States’ dark malaise.

On Chris Kyle’s memoir, which the film was based on:

The book is even more disturbing than the film. In the film Kyle is a reluctant warrior, one forced to do his duty. In the book he relishes killing and war. He is consumed by hatred of all Iraqis. He is intoxicated by violence.
Kyle insisted that every person he shot deserved to die. His inability to be self-reflective allowed him to deny the fact that during the U.S. occupation many, many innocent Iraqis were killed, including some shot by snipers. Snipers are used primarily to sow terror and fear among enemy combatants. And in his denial of reality, something former slaveholders and former Nazis perfected to an art after overseeing their own atrocities, Kyle was able to cling to childish myth rather than examine the darkness of his own soul and his contribution to the war crimes we carried out in Iraq. He justified his killing with a cloying sentimentality about his family, his Christian faith, his fellow SEALs and his nation. But sentimentality is not love. It is not empathy. It is, at its core, about self-pity and self-adulation. That the film, like the book, swings between cruelty and sentimentality is not accidental.
He and his fellow platoon members spray-paint the white skull of the Punisher from Marvel Comics on their vehicles, body armor, weapons and helmets. The motto they paint in a circle around the skull reads: “Despite what your momma told you … violence does solve problems.”
“And we spray-painted it on every building and walls we could,” Kyle wrote in his memoir, “American Sniper.” “We wanted people to know,we’re here and we want to fuck with you. …You see us? We’re the people kicking your ass. Fear us because we will kill you, motherfucker.

On the culture of war:

The culture of war banishes the capacity for pity. It glorifies self-sacrifice and death. It sees pain, ritual humiliation and violence as part of an initiation into manhood. Brutal hazing, as Kyle noted in his book, was an integral part of becoming a Navy SEAL. New SEALs would be held down and choked by senior members of the platoon until they passed out. The culture of war idealizes only the warrior. It belittles those who do not exhibit the warrior’s “manly” virtues. It places a premium on obedience and loyalty. It punishes those who engage in independent thought and demands total conformity. It elevates cruelty and killing to a virtue. This culture, once it infects wider society, destroys all that makes the heights of human civilization and democracy possible. The capacity for empathy, the cultivation of wisdom and understanding, the tolerance and respect for difference and even love are ruthlessly crushed. The innate barbarity that war and violence breed is justified by a saccharine sentimentality about the nation, the flag and a perverted Christianity that blesses its armed crusaders.

To find out more about the movie and Kyle’s personal life and death, read the full article here.

4 thoughts on “American Sniper: Chris Hedges' "Killing Ragheads for Jesus"

  1. This is a rant and diminishes the scattered valid points with a clear disdain for the military. Mr. Hedge appears to forget that the empathy he would grant Iraqui terrorists (who mainly targeted civillians) should equally go to those we hire, train, and send to do our nation’s bidding.
    It also forgets the fact that the military he disdains is in other context the liberator of concentration camps in Germany, Austria, and more recently in Bosnia. Sorry, Mr. Hedges–and Rabbi Lerner–but they weren’t liberated by parachuting pacifists.
    Along the way our military actions did, do, and always have resulted in civillian casualties–unless Mr. Hedges is joining the Tom Clancy fantasy warriors who think you can have a military action with no
    casualties at all.
    With no basis he implies that Mr. Kyle shot innocent civillians. May have happened, but as there were spotters with the sniper, and each shooting was recorded, be unlikely to not have somewhere been reported.
    The movie–which is in many ways quite understated–brings out the human dilemma that snipers–and many drone issues–bring. We want the person that shoots another to be up close. But up close encounters usually are not one-shot-one-kill precision shots, and it’s in those clashes that civillians do get killed. To put it another way, the sniper is most likely to kill the intended target than the unintended target, though as with any shot from more than fifty feet it’s possible for there to be mistakes.
    And in war, as in all forms of life–even journalism–mistakes do happen.
    Mr. Hedges doesn’t understand that many, many troops risk their lives adhering to rules of engagement that in areas where there are civillians don’t let them fire or toss a grenade into a room if they don’t know who is there, to clear it out so they may pass without being killed.
    I’m willing to bet in all of Mr. Hedges columns very, very, few will castigate the Taliban and similar groups who target civillians, use them as shields, nor will we find many if any that go after those who financially support the Taliban or ISIS. In the blurr of Mr. Hedge’s vitriol, they all become creations of the overarching enemy–the United States.
    Mr.Hedges, like many in the left, choses not to focus any energy on the many issues this very large group of workers in a hazardous occupation face, wheras if they were steelworkers, coal miners, he’d forgive occaisional ambling into racist remarks because they are “workers,” while troops are not.
    Show me I’m wrong Mr. Hedges–take on rooting out, naming, exposing and confronting the funders of Taliban and ISIS and similar organizations. Show me you do have empathy by saying what you just did in front of a group of troops who have been maimed or horribly disfigured in war. Tell us how many times you have put your life on the line for someone else. Go on….we can’t wait to hear that.

    • Peter,
      Oh, phlueeze!
      The lawless, militarized behemoth you defend is the same America that murdered over 3 million in S.E. Asia based on a lie about the Tonkin Gulf; the America that, as Richard Falk has pointed out,* launched an “aggressive war” in Iraq on bogus grounds, killing or displacing millions and destabilizing and radicalizing the country; the America that toppled the democracies in Iran (’53), Guatemala (’54), Chile (9.11.73), in Brazil, Greece, etc., etc., etc. to install totalitarian fascist regimes.
      Mr. Hedges, if you’d read him closely, has no quarrel with men in uniform following orders; his brief, er, beef, is with the orders they follow and the impunity of those who issue them. We used to hang the architects of aggressive wars. Now, we’re the architects and one can always find those who defend American barbarities by bellowing, “Support our noble troops!”

    • Peter , your emotional skipping in your comparison over events as they occurs is not very supporting nor helpful to your criticism of Mr Hedges. The event of 2nd WW, is not the same as the events of invading Iraq, Afghanistan, or any other places the US politicians and war industry is sending our boys. Please don’t mix things like that as you will not only discredit the real effort for some justice that soldiers have died for, but you are giving credit to those greedy and blood thirsty corporation/ politicians who have deceived us again and again and destroyed countries and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people in their own home lands, including our American buys on foreign soil, bringing them back in body bags. Standing with our boys is an honorable thing( which I am sure this might be what you intended by your comment) but sending our loved ones, to an ill war against sovereign nation based on lies, and crying when they get hurt or die ,has nothing to do with honor and patriotism !

  2. War is as normal as apple pie and kissing babies, but woe onto those/us who start wars of preemption, aggression, not in defense, and based on lies. Wars, regardless of analysis, are atrocity-producing enterprises. “Only the dead have seen the end of war”. God bless the young and not so young men and women who volunteer to go to war in our behalf, whether based on truth or lies, who answer the call to service without any means of discerning truth from lies. “The wheels of the Gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small,” as the ancient saying goes. When I was six years old in 1942, among the crowds lining the streets of Leavenworth, who were there for the first military parade of WWII, honoring the recent army enlistees at the nearby Fort for military service in WWII, I was mesmerized by the sight and sound of marching men, martial music and rolling ordnance. Decades later on reflection on that moment, I thought: “As long as six-year-old girls thrill to the sight and sound of marching men, rolling ordnance, and martial music, there will always be wars. But I am ashamed of the way our political leaders are abusing our military in my living memory. I come from a military family, in case anyone who reads this wonders. Our leaders (and we who elect them), must interpose brakes and skepticism to the propaganda machine that makes us such suckers every time the drum rolls. War definitely is a racket. Why did it take me so long to understand this? I have no answer that will pass the straight-face test. “Who the slayer? Who the victim?” I have no answer these days.

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