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26 January 2015


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FB Ali


Excellent post. I agree that Taibbi has it exactly right.

Many of those who attack American civilians justify their killing of non-combatants by saying (and believing) that their targets sanctioned and supported the US wars that killed tens or hundreds of thousands of civilians they considered their compatriots.

However, as often contended, the US public by and large were (and are) never given the choice as their leaders take them into these conflicts. Where they become complicit is in the willing acceptance of these narratives that focus on the travails of US soldiers fighting in these wars, while obscuring their effects on the other side.

This disconnect will become even greater as the killing is done more and more by machines instead of these "tragic" humans.

Patrick Bahzad

Very good post, thx for the input. Quite sobering assessment about a movie that makes me a bit sick actually.

There's also some connection to the whole "Zero Dark Thirty" nexus ... could be interesting for future studies to keep an eye on the "after the facts" perception that Hollywood tries to give to these disastrous foreign policy adventures.

Afraid there might be some spin doctoring here, twisting reality so it fits D.C.'s politically correct worldview.


I basically agree, FB Ali, where I slightly disagree is--ironically enough as a German--concerning some kind of collective complicity of the US public.

Movies no doubt help to shape public perception, but they also have--at least as far as Hollywood--is concerned only one main aim: making money.

This is an industry. There aren't really any single screenwriters anymore. There usually are several. There are also previews that check the publics' responses, which in turn occasionally leads to changes. That's why the work so perfectly on us.

Eastwood is a professional, I agree with Taibbi on that. I suppose that Taibbi admits this, although he may not stand politically on Eastwood's side.

Do you recall how the media worked after 911 smoothly in support of the US admin's narrative? ... Taibbi is no doubt a great writer, and someone that deserves attention. ... I had lost sight of him, admittedly.

How would you on a purely legal level try to assess complicity in this larger context?


"Matt Taibbi: It's a scene that ratified every idiot fantasy of every yahoo with a target rifle from Seattle to Savannah.

... One Academy member wondered to a reporter if Kyle (who in real life was killed by a fellow troubled vet in an eerie commentary on the violence in our society that might have made a more interesting movie) was a "psychopath."

If I may respond with more private associations in this context.

There is an interesting British scholar that looks into the standards in the field of psychopath/sociopath. A soldier one way or another has to turn into a "sociopath", if he doesn't he will not survive. He adds a few other groups that may need profile as defined by science based on the studies of criminals. I remember that the surgeons also stood out in this study.

I have to admit, that the 'eerie' commentary drew my attention. I guess that's my own private very German obsession from very, very early on, I asked myself what exactly makes something like the "Third Reich" possible on a purely human level.

Last but not least. I met a lot of American soldiers in Berlin, for one reason, I'll keep out here. Among them also were some returnees from Vietnam. OK, maybe I need a little context. I worked as a barmaid for a short time during my studies. Which meant I could overhear their conversations too. I wish I had written a diary at that point. The people I went to concerts with or some that I met occasionally were all mainly soldiers that tried to avoid being sent to Nam. They usually had agreed on serving longer than they had too, since apparently they thought that may help to keep them out from there. And at least for them it worked.

But I vaguely remember horrible tales, I may even have partly avoided them, since they were hard to stand. These people, at least the ones I met, were all more or less traumatized. And often heavy drug addicts. There must have been a good market in serving their needs.



"... A soldier one way or another has to turn into a "sociopath", if he doesn't he will not survive." the "sociopaths" here are all deeply grateful for your kind words and comparison of us to the weaklings and cowards you associated with as a student barmaid. pl


Since there is no use in keeping me from not cluttering threads with private reminiscences occasionally.

I read Horowitz's FrontPageMag for a while. I even looked at him and his sponsoring concepts. At one point he headed with his apparently high profile group to Scotland. He had, I think it disappeared by now from the web, maybe surfaced under a changed name: anyway these sponsors where mainly interested in his expertise in "pop culture". Checked very, very superficially, Wikipedia did not catch it. And I would assume that FrontpageMag has used his legal knowledge to prevent Archive.Org from collecting data from Frontpage too.

There was one article that made me unsubscribe immediately. Although, yes I looked a little into the context of the author of the article that caused this.

"Savages" surfaced prominently. The author was American Indian, apparently, but not necessarily a typical one. He grew up with piano lessons, if I recall correctly, and studied. I do not remember the article, it disappeared from the web, as if it had been a prejudiced fantasy of mine. I made no copy either. And no, it wasn't about "Arab savages" or "black savages" it was about Indian savages. But my memory may trick me here, in any case it supported the narrative of "uncultured savages" versus culture, which of course is completely "unsavage" since you guessed it, we have culture, after all.


Pat, you misunderstand.

The sociopath/psychopath is defined on missing empathy, this is one of the central features that a test may use. Ironically enough, the question I had the most problems with in my work with the most diverse female, I am afraid, all of them, psychologists was what did you feel then. Oh, the last fell asleep. I thought she was very, very concentrated first till she started to snore.

Now another trait the "empath" versus the "psychopath" has, is not necessarily what you remember about your own feelings, but what feelings you have about others in a very, very general way.


Ok, I didn't want to in any way write something bad about Eastwood. I loved him as an actor and stumbled across his GOP party support once. I don't know much about what and why he did.

I generally liked his movies, at least the ones I saw. I even have to admit that some of his movies, which I read about but didn't look into made me wonder about the rumors I stumbled occasionally. I guess he is more complex then that. But is that a surprise?

Patrick Bahzad

Leander, I appreciate you taking the time to give us your view on things, but I'm afraid you might be a little out of your depth here, and so is the british scholar you're referring to.
Just so you see I'm not "talking out of my ...", let me state first of a sociopath is someone who transgresses social norms out of a pathological need to do so. War and soldiering, as far as I'm concerned, is by no means a transgressions of social norms, insofar as it is ruled by the "laws of war", which have existed for a long time, not just since the Geneva conventions.
war as such is no transgression of a social norm, it is a form of collective human behaviour aimed at "conflict resolution" through means of organized violence. It is perferctly legitimate to wage war in certain circumstances, and even if it isn't, armies still abide to the common laws of war, unless they are led by psychopaths and sociopaths like Nazi Germany was, in which case, there's a top to bottom transgression of social norms, i.e. war crimes and crimes against humanity.
So unless you consider, like some prominent German lefties, that "all soldiers are potential murderers", I would keep away from any comparison, scholarly or not, regarding members of the armed forces as psychopaths/sociopaths. It's both too simplistic and too inacurate to explain what's going on in combat.
As for the horrible tales, well, that goes along with every war I'm afraid, dont want to burst your bubble, but war is never a nice business, even when your cause is noble.
As for what you take away from it, that is the luggage you carry with you for the rest of your life, better to "never feed the beast" as we say ...

William R. Cumming

It is clear to many that corruption drives much of the leadership in the USA and the DAVOS crowd.

But failure to use the "C" word means that the struggle for power is largely masked because it is almost always the case that those writing and speaking about corruption are largely suppressed.

After all in reality the NATION-STATE system largely dead and now the struggle for power largely driven by the notion that nation-states largely exist only to protect globalized corporate activity.

JM Gavin

Bush-bashing, it just never gets old. Always a good idea to trot that out. Settles the argument every time.

 Ishmael Zechariah

JM Gavin,


Ishmael Zechariah


LeAnder, you didn't mention that in order to get the millions to make a movie the and additional millions to market one, the product must be ideologically acceptable to our Commercial [de facto] Commissars of Culture.


Did Eastwood have control over the final edit? I always thought there was something odd about his Unforgiven. It seemed to me that the ending didn't fit formally - it was as if it had been stuck on but skewed somehow so that it jarred.

Could be the only thing skewed was my perception.


"So unless you consider, like some prominent German lefties, that "all soldiers are potential murderers"

Actually, the quote was unqualified. They said 'Soldiers are murderers'.

In our political context that probably meant to say that '(all German) Soldiers are murderers', which was and is no less offensive to me.

It had its origin in a Tucholsky quote on WW-I:

„Da gab es vier Jahre lang ganze Quadratmeilen Landes, auf denen war der Mord obligatorisch, während er eine halbe Stunde davon entfernt ebenso streng verboten war. Sagte ich: Mord? Natürlich Mord. Soldaten sind Mörder.“

– Kurt Tucholsky

Translates as:

"So, there were, for four years, whole square miles of land on which murder was obligatory, while it was strictly prohibited just hald an hour away from it. Did I say murder? Of course murder. Soldiers are murderers."

By and large uttering the phrase is conciderd exercise of free spech.


LeaNder, PB,

I think the term "sociopath" is often misused in a misleading manner outside psychology.

A "sociopath" simply lacks "natural empathy" for other humans who are suffering. Almost anyone who approaches a situation where there is much suffering in a cool, analytic, and detached fashion is, to some degree, "sociopathic" and that is not necessarily a bad thing--otherwise, we'd all be Samantha Power and her crazy ilk calling for eternal interventions driven by a sense of irresponsible righteousness and empathy for all sorts of "victims."

A "psychopath," on the other hand, is someone who actually enjoys the suffering of "others." The movie critic was using the term correctly, and the movie didn't really hide whether Kyle (at least the character in the movie--who knows about the real person) was going down that path as portrayed by Eastwood.

Personally, I did not really think the movie was a chapter in glorification of the Iraq War and I thought Taibbi was going out of his way to be obnoxious. It struck me as how, under the difficult circumstances that were suitably fictitious, a person who started own decent enough was slowly going insane, down the path of downright psychopathy. It is troubling if this path to psychopathy is actually seen by many as "glorification." (Among the people that I talked to, incidentally, few if any thought it was "glorifying" the Iraq War, for what it is worth.) I think the political commentators on both sides are seeing what they want to see, and since Eastwood did make a fairly barebones movie without too much obvious commentary of his own, who knows what he "really" means.

JM Gavin

I recommend resisting the urge to quote Rolling Stone in any serious discussion. Rolling Stone's last shred of self-respect died with Michael Hastings (who was a fine reporter and a good man).

I don't know if George W. Bush's wars are personal for you. They are very personal for me.

If you take me to be a fan of the 43rd President, or any other president, I am not.

Conveniently, blaming George Bush absolves everyone else. That's not how it works. If you are a citizen of the US or any one of coalition of countries, and you were over the age of 18 on 11 Sep 2001, you own this every bit as much as George W. Bush.

If you think that Bush was prone to military misadventures, well, let me introduce you to his successor. If you think the 44th President is different than GWB, you just don't know him very well.


F.B. Ali and All,

Over the Christmas Holidays I was in several discussions with a group of privileged, very well educated, male and female Americans who are in their mid to late 20s. Some were very active in Washington politics on the Democratic side and others similarly active on the Republican Conservative side. These are all youngsters whose first political memory does not predate 9-11. They are all the progeny of the twentieth century American war dogma and have virtually no understanding of the consequences of the twentieth century ethnically based world wars.

In our conversations, what struck me was their common consensus and belief that whatever power and wealth in the world the U.S. can take (= steal) by military action or otherwise in foreign affairs was entirely moral and justified regardless of the effect on the target nation. Of course, none were in the military and none had any appreciation of the destructive human cost on the American military, the use of the military option has on Americans. The American military is really hidden on a day to day basis in the U.S. with a nearly complete disconnect between the military and civilians.

Among the group, I found none who had any concept whatsoever of the idea that foreign peoples had any right to self-determination, or for that matter were even people. For them all, the foreigners were equivalent to video game characters--never human.

As in my earlier observations about the Israeli view of Palestinians as Not-People in my posts on the Gaza War, these young Americans, both on the Left and the Right, had no concept that the foreign lands where the U.S. dominates was actually occupied by cogent, feeling humans. To them, the inhabitants of the Islamic lands were simply not human and deserved no real moral accommodation.

I fear that the film American Sniper is a mirror of this realm of belief and this realm belief bodes very badly for the future of the American nation and its victims-all who are not "like" the Americans and Northern Europeans are just enemies to be controlled through violence.

Col. Lang has mentioned numerous times that he is constantly badgered to tell his war stories to civilians, but declines to do so. Most of his recollections and those of his compatriots who have served are kept hidden for some very good reasons. But the hidden nature of American veteran's war experiences means that the new generation has no memory of war and its consequences beyond their video experience. Those outside of North America have a collective memory of the horror of the twentieth century wars which may temper their actions abroad, but the only present memory in the U.S. is the glory of the "Greatest Generation" and their triumph over the Axis Powers. There is no collective memory of any destructive war in the U.S. since our Civil War and that memory is lost the post 9-11 generation. This post 9-11 generation simply views the American Wars as video and the rightful exercise of the Manifest Destiny of the presiding super power and having no personal consequence on themselves.

America will wreck increasing havoc at the older generations die out who at least have some inkling of the moral consequences of U.S. fighting abroad. The post 9-11 generation simply has no moral understanding of the impact the U.S. is having on the world.

Patrick Bahzad

afraid you lost me there ... but one could argue that you can feel "empathy" for the ennemy/adversary and still recognize the absolute necessity to kill/destroy him, all of it with the greatest empathy of course ... again too simplistic and reductionist to fit the complexities of the real world and real dilemmas you may face in combat, especially of the asymetric type

Laura Wilson

JM Gavin--I'm not sure it is "Bush bashing." Rather, it is assigning responsibility. It is clear to many Americans that, sans the Bush-Cheney administration, the US would have gone into Afghanistan in retaliation for 9-11 but would not have invaded Iraq. That's just history. (Okay, the tiny brain was a bit of a bash.)

History which does not absolve each of us as citizens from the fact that we did NOT protest enough and were too fearful to object strenuously enough to stop the faux mongering.



You are correct in making a difference between the social term "psychopath" ( bad untrustworthy person) and the more clinical term "psychopathy" which itself long suffered from an academic lack of consensus until the core feature of lack of empathy was identified that is felt to be underlying much of what a clinical psychopath may exhibit in terms of emotions and behaviors.

With rising interest in the Mirror neurons, we know that we ( and many animals and even birds) are hard-wired for empathy- which allows us to have emotional and psychological inference about
other persons' mental states and feelings in social contexts.



It appears that some individuals are born with defects in ability to empathize while others can be taught directly or indirectly to decrease empathy: the famous term of "erosion of empathy" has been used.

Without naming it, training for warfare must involve erosion of empathy in order to maximize efficiency of the warrior without allowing interference of the empathy factor.


The appropriate test to apply in situations like this is the Golden Rule.

Would "sniper" still be an edifying film, causing us to confront our own failings and leaving us full of life fortifying lessons if it was about a Chinese sniper killing Americans in the Korean war?

If the answer is no, then "Sniper" is just another piece of puerile trash served up to an ignorant and narcissistic audience who lap it up.

To put that another way, people who get a kick out of that movie have just identified themselves as beneath contempt.

Lest this be taken for American bashing, I am sorry to say the film was the biggest grossing movie in Australia this weekend.


"Just so you see I'm not "talking out of my ...", let me state first of a sociopath is someone who transgresses social norms out of a pathological need to do so. "

I have to disappoint you. Look into standard conventions and repetitions in science in that context. Which may have to do with the field's heroes and the basis of their authority. And there is a very, very simple reason for that. The rest is the mythology of science, to put it really starkly.

Repetition pays a lot more than serious research in academe. That's my sad but rather rigid experience. With some profs you can challenge received wisdom, but more often you cannot. Since they work from a rather narrow base. And to confront them with perspectives outside their reading lists is a rather dangerous enterprise most of the time. It means more work then they can or want to devote.

That's why occasionally standards that leap out at you are upheld over centuries sometimes.

Medicine Man

Counterpoint -- that particular crew deserves all of the ire heaped upon them and more.

ex-PFC Chuck

Check out "The Sociopath Next Door," by Martha Stout, written about ten years ago. amzn.to/17VMEax I'm working from the memory of having read the book soon after it came out, so what follows is a likely somewhat flawed recollection.

The author cites MRI studies that the brain regions associated with empathy do not light up when a sociopathic (she regards sociopathy and psychopathy as essentially synonomous) subject is presented with images that typically evoke empathy, and that about 4% of people in randomly selected sample groups so test. Only a subset of that 4% are active criminals; many are run-of-the-mill a**holes in some or most aspects of their lives. However, she points out that the category is over-represented in some careers such as senior business executives, financial traders, high-pressure/high-prestige fields such as surgery, highly successful politicians and, yes, senior military officers. She argues, IIRC, that the trait has probably persisted because there is an evolutionary advantage to the group if a few people in the band exhibit the trait in times of trouble.

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