By Hannah Lang
In the grand scheme of things, American Sniper doesn’t matter. Bradley Cooper’s acting doesn’t matter, nor does the money made off of the movie. What truly matters are the lives of the service members and Iraqis that changed drastically due to a few politicians making rash decisions based on emotion, rather than decisions based on US values.
I don’t have a problem with the military – let me make that clear. I respect every service member and admire their loyalty and sacrifice. When serving in the military, service members are asked to do things that no regular citizen can imagine. For this, I thank service members for their service, and honor what they have given to protect America.
The problem with American Sniper does not lie with the military; rather, the problem lies with the lack of truth in depicting the political sphere surrounding the war in Iraq. In fact, American Sniper does little to even address the politics of the early 2000s. Instead, it focuses on emotion based on little fact, giving an inaccurate depiction of the Iraq War, as well as suggesting to Americans that all Muslims are the face of evil. American Sniper only strengthens the disturbing anti-Muslim sentiments in America.
Clint Eastwood is a good director – he’s won several Oscars – but he’s recently come under storm for his depiction of Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), as well as the storyline he crafted in American Sniper.
Eastwood presents a simplistic plot with little information or context to why America had troops in Iraq – instead, he presents a scene of Kyle and his girlfriend reacting to the events of 9/11 and then immediately transitioning to Kyle’s deployment, presenting an untrue image to the audience that the war in Iraq had a direct link to the 9/11 attack.
Upon looking back, it is clear that the war in Iraq didn’t have anything to do with terrorist attacks, but as John McQuaid of Forbes Magazine explains, the Iraq War was simply a way to display American might.
We cannot label all Muslims as evil based on the actions of extremists within Middle Eastern countries. Read that past sentence again – extremists within a country is what I’m particularly stressing.
There are extremists in our own country, yet they often fall under a different religious banner than Islam – no, instead they fall under Christianity. The Westboro Baptist Church, slavery, Jim Crow – these all have ties to Christianity. Yet, we do not condemn extremist Christians – instead we accept, even praise them.
How can we dehumanize one religion, yet openly accept another, when we reside in a country based on the freedom of religion? There is no doubt that Kyle saved American lives – but he also took 160 lives.
Often glossed over are the thousands of innocent civilian lives taken during the Iraq War – roughly 150,000 civilians are dead because of the war, according to the Iraq Body Count Project.
There is no denying that war creates horrors. There are atrocities on both sides, while there is good on both sides as well. There are good soldiers, both American and Iraqi. There are bad soldiers on both sides. We cannot simply say that all Americans are good, no more than we can say that all Iraqis are evil, or even in the wrong. As American citizens, we cannot lose sight of the importance of our humanity. We often forget what life in a war zone is actually like, let alone what the evacuation of homes and the sacrifice of livelihoods would have been like for Iraqi citizens. We lose sight of Iraqi humanity, wanting to believe that they are all terrible – in terms of the military, demonizing the enemy makes it easier for soldiers to do their job; but as regular American citizens, we cannot follow this line of thinking.
America has done terrible deeds in the name of “justice”, based on the opinions of politicians in charge. I’m not blaming soldiers – I’m blaming the ones that lead them.
A perfect example of propaganda comes in the form of the sheep analogy at the beginning of the film. Kyle’s father tells his children that there are three types of people in this world – sheep, who need protecting; wolves, who prey on the weak; and sheep dogs, who protect those too stupid and ignorant to look out for themselves. Kyle’s father then tells his sons that he is not raising sheep or wolves.
If we draw this analogy out, we see that in Eastwood’s depiction, American citizens are the sheep, and Kyle is the sheep dog, protecting us from the wolves. Who are these wolves, then? Eastwood does a fine job of showing the audience that the enemy, the wolves, are the Iraqis – the Muslims. Eastwood entrenches this sentiment by clearly labeling all in the movie – all the bad characters are dressed in black, with head scarves, while the soldiers are always depicted as being in the right.
It’s fine that people like American Sniper – the movie does an excellent job of pulling at heartstrings, even if it doesn’t accurately depict Kyle (look to the incredibly disturbing statements made in his book). The larger problem lies with Americans acting like racist bigots to Muslims around the world in response to American Sniper.
We cannot ignore the fact that American Sniper reads a lot like racist propaganda. Those who like the movie can be easily brainwashed into thinking that all Muslims are evil, and all Iraqis are evil, when this is in fact far from the truth. Simply look at all the anti-Muslim crimes that have been committed in the past few months, and you’ll see the effect that American Sniper has had on our public.
If we are honest, we can acknowledge American Sniper for what it truly is – racist propaganda that does little to help our country, or anyone else’s.
As a former Officer in the USAF from 1970-74 I would like to comment on the excellent and well-written “Head to Head—The Debate over American Sniper: Hero or Propaganda?”
First of all, I think that both writers conveyed the important point that soldiers do not get a vote as to where they go, and that our military is to be honored for their courage and dedication on behalf of our country.
I thought that Hannah Lang completely hit the ball out of the park with her column. I really don’t have anything constructive to add to it.
The column by Hope Titchbourne was also very good, but it did fall short in a couple of areas. First, the statement, “We weren’t going to war on Iraq or Muslims, we were going to war with the people who have killed thousands of our own innocent civilians and their own.” While the part about innocent civilians being killed by the Saddam regime is certainly true, what is meant by “killed thousands of our own innocent civilians..?” This is part of the problem with American Sniper, because Iraq and Saddam had NOTHING to do with 9-11. The terrorists who attacked us on 9-11 were NOT from Iraq, were NOT supported by Saddam Hussein, and in fact, were mostly from Saudi Arabia. Of course having pointed this out, thanks to entertainment networks like “Fox News,” and the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, MOST Americans DID believe that Saddam and Iraq were behind 9-11, just as most Americans who get their “news” from “Fox News” still believe that Barrack Obama was born in Kenya and is a practicing Muslim.
The other part of Hope’s story that falls short is the statement that we invaded Iraq to “..help bring democracy to their country.” While it is indeed true that there were some rather naïve and poorly informed politicians, such as President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, etc. who probably believed that we could march in, take out Saddam Hussein, and the entire Iraqi nation would love us and immediately start up a functioning democracy, most experts familiar with the region knew a democracy in Iraq was all but impossible. Even the conservative Wall Street Journal contained an excellent feature story about Iraq prior to our invasion, that pointed out that Iraq was basically an “artificial country,” consisting of political boundaries drawn up by past conquerors that forced three tribes of people who HATED each other to live within those boundaries.
Saddam Hussein may have been a brutal dictator, but it was his hateful boot on the neck of all three of those tribes that forced them to all coexist within the boundaries of Iraq. The idea that removing Hussein would suddenly create a functioning democracy was ludicrous.
Thanks for the outstanding feature and again, I appreciate the admiration that you shower on our brave military. Again, it does not matter what Chris Kyle believed regarding who was responsible for 9-11, he was a brave and courageous member of our military following orders to the best of his ability.