First things first, let me be clear before I delve into any discussion: Every single male on my father’s side of my family has served in the army. My dad was a tank commander back in the day, my grandfather volunteered for World War Two, and my cousins that have reached the age requirement are either enrolled or were enrolled in the Army. Second, this isn’t post Vietnam. Everyone appreciates the dedication and sacrifices that those in the military make to serve their country, including the sacrifices their families make. However, the schism we see now comes from the government and other entities that dictate the strategies, missions, and rhetoric of the military.
For those who have not watched the movie yet, one tweet sums it up:
#AmericanSniper – Bradley Cooper kills many Iraqis whom he deems “savages.” Feels kinda bad about it but not really. Also misses his wife.
— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) January 18, 2015
The main issue with the movie is the propaganda-like portrayal of Iraqis – men, women, and children seen through the very old lens of non-whites as ‘savages’. This falls among the many other movies that may or may not have intentionally portrayed the Iraqi people as savages, ‘jihadis’, and terrorists. The racism and discriminatory ideas against Iraq are similar to what we’ve seen of Russia and the Soviet Union during and after the Cold War, and perhaps less blatantly racist as the propaganda against Germans, the Axis Powers, and the Japanese during World War Two.
In some sense, America has been doing this for quite awhile. But anyone who actually spends time reading up on the Iraq War can tell you about the misguided insurgency, strategies, and overall handling of America’s infiltration of Iraq.
#AmericanSniper portrays Iraqi women & children as soulless monsters who Chris Kyle is forced to kill to protect invading US soldiers. — Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) January 18, 2015
Another issue is the frequent argument of Iraq having nothing to offer (other than oil, of course) in regards to history and culture. Iraq is the modern home for Mesopotamia (you know, one of the oldest civilizations that had artifacts and rough ruins of a city), has a rich history on the Silk Road, and held the capital of the Abbasid Empire and later Islamic empires.
Many schools and history books give little credit to the Middle East and especially the Abbasid Empire for the Italian Renaissance, survival of almost all Greek and Roman literature, philosophy, and art, as well as scientific breakthroughs in math, medicine, and the sciences. Like hospitals, sanitization, and regulation of corrupt businesses?
Guess who either discovered these or established regulations to protect citizens: the Abbasid Empire. It’s not just the basic historical facts of Iraq that are ignored; it’s their entire history and their contributions to the world.
#KillAllMuslims eh? Alright guess we’ll just take back all these things that we brought to this world then. pic.twitter.com/HUDS148Fmr
— McBaŋɠ (@TheMcBang) January 8, 2015
As with any story though, there are those who present different views.
#AmericanSniper wasn’t entirely uncritical. It called into question the humanity of Iraqis and whether they deserve to be alive. — Dan Cohen (@dancohen3000) January 18, 2015
Americans love God, military, patriotism, Clint Eastwood, Chris Kyle & made #AmericanSniper an extreme success. The Left Can’t. Stand. It.
— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) January 18, 2015
These tweets quickly escalated from basic ignorance into #KillAllMuslims, a trending hashtag…
#AmericanSniper ..a film inspiring hatred against arabs. .فيلم يؤجج العنصرية ضد العرب pic.twitter.com/Z9AZNSNfMy — Rania El Khatib (@rania_elkhatib) January 19, 2015
…against which people in the Twittersphere stood up and spoke up:
When people say #KillAllMuslims they’re referring to a very specific idea of what a Muslim is. A racist image perpetuated by Charlie Hebdo.
— Glen Coco (@MrPooni) January 8, 2015
If Muslims tweeted #KillAllChristians it’d be called terrorism but ppl tweeting #KillAllMuslims is freedom of speech. — Momen Mubasher (@momen_mubasher) January 10, 2015
I wonder how big the overlap is between people who love #AmericanSniper and people on the #KillAllMuslims hashtag
— Aamer Rahman (@aamer_rahman) January 19, 2015
The same people who tweeted #AllLivesMatter are the same people who tweeted #KillAllMuslims who also preached about peace. — leappad ultra (@melaninbarbie) January 12, 2015
Some may argue that movies are for entertainment purposes only, but like most types of entertainment, it can have significant impacts on the psyche and opinion of the general public. In the case of “American Sniper”, we see the bolstering of racist ideologies. “American Sniper” serves to affirm the belief that POC are innately worthless, their histories and present subject to erasure, their people subject to ridicule and scorn by an ignorant, white audience.
I just hope it’s the last of movies that do so. But I know I’m just being unrealistic.