Not one to ever mince his words, Maher voiced his displeasure to his panel of guests:
“Hurt Locker made 17 million because it was a little ambiguous and thoughtful. [American Sniper] is just 'American hero! He's a psychopath patriot, and we love him.'”
“Psychopathic patriot.” One wonders if Maher feels that way about all U.S. soldiers.
After reading a small blurb from Chris Kyle's autobiography—where he calls specific Iraqi militants: “savages”— Maher then went on the offensive:
“Eisenhower once said 'I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can.' I just don't see this guy in the same league as Eisenhower. If you're a Christian, 'I hate the damn savages' doesn't seem like a Christian thing to say.”
But, as panelist Bret Stephens, the deputy editorial page editor at the Wall Street Journal, notes, it sounds like something a PTSD sufferer—or war veteran—would say.
A Washington Post poll of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans puts in perspective the very real struggles veterans face:
[While] many are thriving... hundreds of thousands of others feel they have been left behind on an uncharted postwar landscape, fighting for benefits, struggling to land a job, wrestling with psychological demons unleashed by combat or coping with shattered families.
These are real demons. Real struggles. Real issues. And while Maher may be overanalyzing one small quote instead of contextualizing that point with the bigger points of Kyle's book, this isn't the first time he's failed to do so.
On Twitter, the response has been strong:
The effects of war are significant, both on landscape and on the human psyche. Maher is entitled to his oppositional opinion on American Sniper. But it's his decision to call a military veteran a “psychopathic patriot” that seemed most troubling to those who responded on Twitter.
Maher isn't the first to criticize the movie, or the American heroes it represents. But not everyone agrees with him. Pro-military supporters find the backlash against American Sniper more than just a film critique, but a sign of deeper disrespect for Americans in uniform.
[Note: This article was edited after publication.]