For the majority of us who have never gone to Iraq and most likely will never step there, Hollywood movies are always a godsend in mentally visualizing the ‘War in Iraq.’ After the towers went down in the 9/11 attacks, the then President George Bush, terribly shattered and rattled, declared an all-out war. It is during this emotive period that Bush singled out Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as members of the ‘Axis of Evil.’ Being a member meant that the country was either supporting terrorism or hiding its adherents from America’s long arm of the law.
Now thirteen years later, Hollywood is again attempting to present the narrative of its gallant and legendary sniper who went into Iraq to get the bad guys. The fuckers who killed their people! You see, American lives are more precious than those of the Middle East. Of course that’s how the movies have made us to believe. And in spite of the film Green Zone starring Matt Damon absolving Saddam Hussein of possessing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) program, America still went ahead and toppled his government before hanging him on 30th December, 2006. No wonder Noam Chomsky, the celebrated linguist and activist said in one of his speeches that:
‘If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.’
American Sniper is a film that stars Bradley Cooper and is directed by another Hollywood heavyweight, Clint Eastwood. Based on the life Chris Kylie, a decorated sniper during the Iraq invasion, the film, like the rest of war films produced by America, gives the distorted notion of: Them-Against-Us, We-Are-Right-They-Are-Wrong, or still, They-Deserve-To-Die-We-Deserve-To-Live. Iraqi lives are simply collateral damage. Incidental lives in the war against terror. Battle for Haditha, a drama-cum-film considered to be the first exposé of the atrocities committed by US States Marines graphically depicted the senseless carnage against unarmed Iraqi citizens; children included.
American Sniper actually starts on such a rather bizarre note: the killing of a woman and possibly her child. The child is about to commit a suicide bombing on the instruction of his mother. However, the director of the film does not give us a moment to listen to the mother and child on reasons why they intend to kill the Americans on patrol.
I believe that Hollywood is deliberately refusing to offer us an impartial story of what actually happened in Iraq. Instead, it is obsessed with excessive worship of its war heroes as seen with the 2008 movie, Hurt Locker. The Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit in the movie are the ultimate saviours.
Scenes abound where US Marines unexpectedly disrupt Iraqi lives in their determined search for terrorists. All this under the watch of the ‘legend’ sniper, Chris Kylie, on the roof top of a dilapidated building. They violently raid houses (it is called a door-to-door campaign), rough up fathers, mothers, the male children, and in most cases, arrest them for interrogation and incarceration.
That’s how Abu Ghraib scandal was born; its abuses and tortures that would later scandalize America to the bone! The incident extends to the torture and murder of the innocent Afghan taxi driver by US forces revealed in the tell-all documentary Taxi to the Dark Side.
Kylie, a Navy Seal; a unit considered the most elite forces in the US, is committed to eliminate the bad guys who will do everything to mess his country as he rightly tells his wife Taya. Like all the Navy Seals in American war films, he has the holier-than-thou attitude, We-Are-Better-Than-The-Marines; something that has exasperated a few Iraq War Veterans. Writing in The Guardian, Alex Horton, an Iraq War Veteran, laments:
In one scene, Kyle sheds his gear to go help clear rooms with Marines he feels are not trained well enough for urban warfare. It’s a moment meant to underscore Kyle’s lifelong commitment to protect others, but the ultimate message is that anyone not in Special Forces is sloppy or uncommitted. “Let’s coach ’em up,” he says.
The only saving grace (my heart was nearly bursting in that scene) is when Kylie lowers his sniper rifle and spares the life of a little boy who initially wanted to fire a Rocket-Propelled-Grenade (RPG); the movie is like the rest of the Hollywood war films. It fails to offer a balanced story of the war on terror and its unnecessary toll on innocent Iraqi and Afghan lives.
Instead, it only portrays American soldiers including Kylie who have gone home and now suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). The devastation of PTSD eventually overwhelms a veteran and he kills Kylie whom we are told intended to help him.
PHOTO: American Sniper Movie