Snipers Are Cowards? The Value of a Good Sniper and Critics Like Michael Moore

In combat zones, military snipers are effective good guys for the troops they defend. Yet, the question has been raised. Are snipers cowards?


When independent film producer Michael Moore tweeted the following statement, it went viral.

My uncle was killed by a sniper in WWII, we were taught that snipers were cowards. Will shootu in the back. Snipers aren’t heroes and invaders r worse. But if you’re on the roof of your home defending it from invaders who’ve come 7K miles, you are not a sniper, u are brave, u are a neighbor.

As a result, he was subjected to much criticism from people who understand that in order to protect your own troops, positive results often require quick tough decisions.  So let Michael raise the question and provoke the national conversation and in response to Moore’s claim that “snipers are cowards,”   I present a story of how one “cowardly” British sniper saved a father and his eight year old son from death by beheading on a day when a miracle was badly needed and promptly delivered by a sniper.

In early August 2015, an elite British Special Forces (SAS) patrol that had been operating on the Syrian -Turkish border came upon a gruesome scene of headless bodies. Through binoculars they witnessed members of ISIS terrorize locals with speedy trials accompanied by more head chopping, a favorite depravity of ISIS killers.  Branded as no better than “infidels” the child and his father were condemned to die because they belonged to a minority sect of Shia Islam that ISIS considers to be heretical. Yet, the father and his son refused to denounce their faith. With a knife to the child’s throat, the British sniper intervened just in time. A single shot to the head of the ISIS militant, did the trick. Better yet, 2 other ISIS villains were also quickly dispatched into the embrace of Allah. Three ISIS thugs, three shots, one each to the head in rapid succession from a distance of at least 1000 meters saved the lives of two people just in time..  For those of us in the good old USA who still think in terms of feet and yards, 1000 meters translates into 3280 feet.  Well done, sir! 

Now let’s address another argument of Moore’s tweet,

if you’re on the roof of your home defending it from invaders who’ve come 7K miles, you are not a sniper, u are brave, u are a neighbor.

The term “invader,” reflects an attitude that prejudges the situation, facts be damned.  That Michael Moore would by default, view an enemy sniper as just a “brave neighbor” just “defending his home” assumes that the individual is acting from a defensive position. Judgement based on such prejudice and assumptions, prefers to dismiss any facts that might possibly reveal an American soldier or any of our allies as the true heroes of a given situation. In reference to the scene in ‘American Sniper,’ when Kyle tried to save a child from an excruciatingly painful death by the hand of a maniac whose murder weapon of choice was a hand drill, a “good neighbor” sniper provided cover for the evil doer, so the child died. Since the days of the Vietnam War, our troops and many of our allies can testify to the horrors of what some enemy troops have on occasion committed against their own people.

Eastwood’s film ‘American Sniper,’ clearly explains how snipers like Kyle are trained to define, identify and document their actions. The aid of a backup witness assigned to the sniper may or may not be supportive, but any action taken or not taken still falls to the judgement of the sniper, as do the final consequences.

Standards of moral integrity and sound judgement of how U.S. snipers are expected to operate in combat zones are very high. The Western mind is morally compelled to correctly identify a legitimate enemy combatant from one that is not, before engaging fire. Yet, within other cultural landscapes such a burden of truth is not always necessary.  Others claim that the issue is not about what is or is not moral, but rather how it may be differently defined in cultures alien to us. However, I argue that some things such as defending the weak and helpless, are universal truths and not subject to redefinition without a fight.

The psychological and emotional trauma our troops experience for prolonged periods of time bounce between carrying out the mission, caring about what your comrades in arms think, what the folks back home think and staying alive. Those of us who have never had to make the kind of decisions required of people like Chris Kyle, can never understand the responsibilities and burdens of the judgments they are forced to make, except local law enforcement, especially in the last two years of the Obama administration. Then when a story like this pops up about evil doers stopped in their tracks from an excellent marksman far away, everyone celebrates, except the bad guys and those who support them.

So at least one father and son lived to see another day and three ISIS militants now reside in their “Paradise” and out of our lives forever. We still don’t know who the British Sniper is and perhaps that is as it should be, but he vindicated Moore’s claim that sniper’s are “cowards.” Snipers are the best of sharp shooters. They must be very patient, always watchful, much like life guards at the beach, always alert and able to stay still in uncomfortable positions for hours at a time.  Snipers are good at what they do and we want them on our side. Yet, when they are not, such as the Japanese sniper who killed Michael Moore’s uncle during WWII, sad but true the man was just doing his job.  Moore’s uncle was a legitimate target, as was my father, Tarawa in 1943, thankfully Dad survived.

That such a story could have a dramatic and unexpected happy ending may be too much for some people, as doubt has arisen among some in social media. Just a little too convenient? Sounds too much like a Hollywood script?  Then perhaps these people don’t want to believe in miracles or they do, but maybe they need that riveting interview with the sniper made public before they can accept the story as truth? OK, questioning the veracity of a news story is a good thing but to expect active duty operators to go public and make known their deeds and identity is unrealistic. Yet, wonderful rescues do happen and that it may have been delivered by the trigger finger of a sniper does not make it any less worthy.

In conclusion, I am no fan of Michael Moore’s. However, why not give him a little credit for challenging some of us to do our homework.  Sometimes he may even have a point. Is that not what civil discourse is all about?

To those snipers out there, military and law enforcement, who protect and defend us – Thank you!

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