By Ahmed Tharwat
A day before the fourth anniversary of the 25 January Revolution, a 32- year -old mother, activist and poet Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh carried a wreath of flowers and went to Tahrir Square to commemorate the victims who lost their lives over the last four years. She did not know that this would be her last walk to the ‘Liberty Square’. An Egyptian sniper gunned down Al-Sabbagh and left her to bleed to death in the street. The tragic image of her friend holding her fragile body, while blood covered her beautiful face was too much to bear for millions of Egyptians.
In the last four years of the revolution, hundreds of activists were killed or lost their eyes by Egyptian ‘snipers’, who are always in denial and always anonymous. ‘Snipers’ in Egypt don’t make movies or write memoirs. However, in America, snipers are celebrated and their violence is glorified.
I didn’t watch the “American Sniper” movie, and I don’t thinks it is on a lot of Arab-Americans to do lists. It is a movie about the Navy Seal Chris Kyle, credited with the most kills (250, 160 confirmed) in the US military history, broke box office records upon its release and is reportedly headed toward gross earnings of $300m – a movie directed by Clint Eastwood, the ‘Dirty Harry’ cowboy. The movie nominated for six Oscars, including best picture, was released incidentally at the same time as another movie, “Selma”, telling the story of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, which did not receive as much attention or Oscar nominations.
American Sniper was made based on Chris Kyle’s memoir, which sold millions, describing his experience was like, and revealing the psychopathic mind of a troubled individual. Kyle, who ironically was gunned down himself by another veteran marine suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mentioned in the memoir that his first kill was an Iraqi woman, who walked into the street with a grenade in her hand as the marines attacked her village.
Chris Kyle killed her with a single shot, then explained how he felt about it.
“I hated the damn savages I’d been fighting, … Savage, despicable, evil — that’s what we were fighting in Iraq. That’s why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy savages. There was really no other way to describe what we encountered there,” Kyle confessed.
In the movie Kyle’s behaviour is driven mostly by his self righteous virtues, without any context, like the illegal Iraq war that by all conservative estimates, left 1 million Iraqis dead, 4.5 million as refugees.
The fact that those savages were fighting foreign occupiers never was mentioned. Chris Kyle regarded this woman as a terrorist, which does not really differ much from our foreign policy, where President Obama is launching the biggest state murdering camping in American history, as Noam Chomsky describes it, “the drone campaign, which officially is aimed at murdering people who are suspected of maybe someday planning to harm us”. Obama’s kill-list is the equivalent of the fatwa that was issued by Iranian grand Ayatollah against Salman Rushdie, but was never carried out.
New York Times described the film as profound, and New Yorker thought it has a great cinematic techniques.
Not all critics were pleased with how Eastwood, the film’s director, chose to portray Kyle. Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore, described snipers as coward, not heroes, killing people while hiding behind walls.
“American Sniper kind of reminds me of the movie that’s showing in the third act of Inglorious Basterds,” tweeted actor Seth Rogen.
There has been lots of online debate, where variety commentators have criticised it for its dramatization of the glorification of killing Arabs and Muslims, as well as the movie’s blatant failure to challenge Kyle’s view of Muslim resistant fighters as “savages” and “evil”.
Here, again, is Chris Kyle, the warrior hero in the eyes of millions of Americans: “I hate the damn savages [referring to the Iraqis] and I’ve been fighting and I always will… I love killing bad guys. Even with the pain I loved what I was doing. Maybe war isn’t really fun, but I certainly was enjoying it.”
“I couldn’t give a flying fuck about the Iraqis.”
CJ Werleman of Salon magazine, takes on the movie, writing: “ From the very outset, American Sniper is unashamedly set up as pro-US, pro-war-on-terror propaganda.”
And describe one of the scenes where “[a]t the family dinner table, Kyle’s father lectures the then 10-year-old Kyle: ‘There are only three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs’,” and that the sheep-dogs are there to protect against evil.
The inference is clear and intentional: the sheepdog is the righteous American sniper whose mission is to protect his men against the evil Iraqi wolves.
Ahmed Tharwat is host and producer of the Arab American TV show Belahdan, freelance writer and public speaker. He blogs at www.ahmediatv.com