Michael Moore, the filmmaker/Lego on Republicans' rugs, recently made a controversial tweet about Clint Eastwood's new movie American Sniper. Said Moore:
That's harsh! However, it is a fairly typical viewpoint of an American soldier in World War 2. To them, snipers were a deadly cheating nuisance. War correspondent Ernie Pyle had this to say in one of his dispatches to readers on the Home Front:
Sniping, as far as I know, is recognized as a legitimate means of warfare. And yet there is something sneaking about it that outrages the American sense of fairness.
Here in Normandy the Germans have gone in for sniping in a wholesale manner. There are snipers everywhere. There are snipers in trees, in buildings, in piles of wreckage, in the grass.
Snipers kill as many Americans as they can, and then when their food and ammunition run out they surrender. ... [A soldier's] feelings about the sneaking snipers can't very well be put into print.
On the other hand, Chris Kyle, the subject of Eastwood's film, was positioned behind advancing American forces, shooting people who were trying to kill his comrades. (According to Kyle, he killed 255 bad guys and gals.) Sometimes he did it over incredibly long distances. I do not know the circumstances of all the people he killed, except that Kyle was convinced of his own righteousness.
Does this make Chris "I love war" Kyle more honorable than a Nazi hidden in French rubble, waiting for enemies to walk into his crosshairs? Kyle certainly thought he had to kill the people he killed to save his fellow soldiers. Yet killing - even necessary killing - should rarely be celebrated. But when a person kills not as a savage means to a crude end, but because he can, Moore is right. That's cowardly.
[More Ernie Pyle columns here.]