The ugly truth about “American Sniper”

25 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘American Sniper’ Exposes Unresolved Issues About The Iraq War.

As controversy rages over American Sniper, many supporters of the movie have suggested that it’s apolitical and shouldn’t be construed as supportive of war or bigotry; that it’s merely a character study of a tortured soldier. The problem with that analysis is that the film isn’t focused on a group of soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or the difficulties with being reacquainted with civilian life, or the inadequacies of the Veterans Administration. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) wrote letters to director Clint Eastwood and star Bradley Cooper, censuring the depiction of Muslims and Arabs in the newly-released movie. “A majority of the violent threats we have seen over the past few days are (a) result of how Arab and Muslims are depicted in American Sniper,” the ADC said. “Your visibility, influence, and connection to the film would be a tremendous force in drawing attention to and lessening the serious dangers facing the respective communities,” read the letters, addressing the two Hollywood stars.

The movie is about Chris Kyle, a remorseless sniper who said his job was “fun” and wished he could return to Iraq to fight even more, and who made millions of dollars and gained worldwide fame writing about his exploits. Released earlier this month, the movie, which was nominated for six Academy Awards including best picture, tells the story of an American soldier called Chris Kyle deployed in Iraq. This doesn’t explain why Eastwood chose to base his film on a soldier who viewed the war as both just and enjoyable, and it doesn’t excuse him rendering the Iraqi characters of the film into mere props, either helpless civilians or evil terrorists. Nor does it justify Eastwood’s use of 9/11 imagery in the film to imply that invading Iraq was revenge for terrorist attacks, which is a bastardization of history that has been used by war proponents.

If Eastwood does consider himself a war critic, it appears he threw out his own principles in order to make a film that wouldn’t ask its viewers any challenging questions about the war. When Schick was in Iraq in 2004, the Humvee he was riding in hit a tank mine. “It blew right underneath me and then blew me through the top of the Humvee,” he recalls. “Their guesstimation is 30 feet, and [I] stuck the landing on my head.” Schick lost part of his hand, part of his arm and part of his leg.

But he says his most debilitating issues were post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. “Physical pain lets you know you’re alive; mental pain will test your will to stay that way,” he says. The guy that I got to know, through all the source material that I read and watched, and home videos—hours and hours—I never saw anything like that…. Fox News has done lengthy segments defending the film and decrying its critics; Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh have all become champions of Chris Kyle’s reputation. Perhaps there’s a reason this Iraq war film has become politically polarizing in a way a long series of other Iraq dramas—The Hurt Locker, Green Zone, In the Valley of Elah, The Tiger and the Snow—haven’t. It was also condemned by critics for its callous tone: He calls Iraqis “savages” and says he “loved killing bad guys” to protect Marines. “Chris Kyle’s story is an uneasy story,” says Nicholas Schmidle, staff writer for The New Yorker.

The film hit wide release just weeks after terrorist attacks in Paris and resurgent Islamophobia, and just months after state violence was coming under heavy scrutiny in the United States following a string of police shootings of unarmed men. He says Kyle wasn’t the only soldier to be crass when talking about the enemy. “He did dehumanize the enemy,” Schmidle says. “That is something, however, that is part of training.

It gives people who want to see their country—represented by the government—as a powerful force for good against legions of swarthy, foreign masses of bad a reason to feel proud again. That’s part of preparing young men and women to go to war.” Another reason for the backlash against American Sniper is the fantastical stories Kyle told about himself after he left the Navy. On the radio Opie & Anthony Show, he claimed to have punched former Minnesota governor (and Navy veteran) Jesse Ventura at a bar after Ventura supposedly made disparaging remarks about soldiers. Twenty-seven percent of veterans are disabled compared to about 14 percent of the general population; six percent of households receiving food stamp benefits have a veteran in them.

Kyle manufactured tall tales of shooting down carjackers in Texas and looters in Katrina, none of which was held against him, despite the fact that armed vigilantism is illegal. Although the Imperial Japanese army killed millions of people in unprovoked warfare, it is simply more politically safe today to portray their soldiers in a humanistic light than to show the Muslim insurgents conservative America views as the greatest threat to their way of life.

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