The American Sniper Controversy

Ken AshfordIraq, Popular Culture, War on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

bradley-cooperI don’t expect “historical” movies to be documentaries.  I have no problem with some artistic license for dramatic purposes.

I saw “American Sniper” recently, not knowing that it was based on the real life events of Chris Kyle, known as “The Legend” for his abilities during the Iraq War.  It was clear from the end of the film (which cut to actual footage of Chris Kyle’s funeral, instead of Bradley Cooper) that he was a real guy.

I didn’t mind that the film, directed by Clint Eastwood, was very pro-war.  I didn’t mind that Chris Kyle (in the movie as well as in real life) basically held contempt for anything Iraqi. including innocent civilians.

And I didn’t mind that Kyle went to Iraq as a result of 9/11, thereby cementing the false link between Iraq, on the one hand, and al Qaeda/9-11 on the other hand.  Some people are going to think that no matter what.  The politics of the movie were wrong and stupid, but I have to open myself up to the reality that many people, including quite possible the actual Chris Kyle and Clint Eastwood, are wrong and stupid about the Iraqi War.  It wouldn’t be the first time.

And in Clint Eastwood, at least acknowledged that there was other views of the war.  He had some soldiers (including Kyle’s younger brother) question the reason for the war itself.  It was a tip of the hat.

So on the whole, I didn’t mind that movie neglected to expose the lies of the Iraq War.

My biggest gripe, however, is that the movie made much of the fact that the Iraqis had put a $20,000 bounty on Kyle’s head.  Didn’t happen that way.  They put a $20K bounty on every American sniper’s head.

And the movies climax, where — spoiler alert — Cooper-as-Kyle takes out “Mustafa”, the number one Iraqi sniper with a single shot from over a mile away?  That’s BS, too.  Kyle’s biography only mentions Mustafa once, in a single paragraph, in passing.  Kyle never took him out, period.

That was taking it too far.  That’s kind of like making MLK march across the Pettus Bridge in Selma and take out Sheriff Clark with laser beam eyes.

Love him or hate him, Kyle was an excellent marksman.  If you have to make shit up to show how good he was, then maybe we shouldn’t be making movies about him.

But other than that, I will take the movie on its face.  I like what it says about the struggle that soldiers and their families go through, and I like how it addresses the mental health aspect of returning soldiers.

Read more fact-vs-Hollywood fiction re: American Sniper here.