I watched American Sniper on the plane a few months ago, and actually wrote this a while ago, but oh well.
Initially (actually I still think it is), I thought it was a brilliant movie – from the perspective of a real soldier, and not in an overromanticised way of war or something like that. Although its about the American war in Iraq, there wasn’t really any politics involved in the movie. It was just a guy doing his job – which involved killing his “enemies” – and then not being able to everyday life at home, transforming the “Legend” of the battlefield into a PTSD war-veteran/victim at home.
But then that got me thinking about something else.
In the movie, I didn’t really think too much of how the Iraqi’s were called “savages” the whole time (apparently Chris Kyle – the soldier who this is about – did this in the book as well). This is seriously dehumanising.
I think that Western culture thinks that its ok to refer to Iraqi’s like that. But saying this kind of stuff about any other ethnic/religous/whatever group will get you in some serious shit. Not too long ago, footballer Nikolas Anelka made the “quenelle” gesture to celebrate a goal. The resulting media uproar ended up in Anelka’s club losing a sponsor, and the player eventually quit/was sacked.
So if it is totally not ok for a person to raise his arm (or whatever the “quenelle”) in Europe, why is it fine to repeatedly refer to a whole country as “savages”? I mean, we obviously care so much about Jews. But don’t Muslims have feelings too?
9/11 was a horrific tragedy, and I can understand American’s hatred for Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. However, terrorists like him are clearly not representative of the arab population. Furthermore, I don’t ever recall ever hearing an explanation for the terrorist attack.
I guess its easy to label Bin Laden and co. as “savages” – sadistic psychopaths who seek nothing but American blood. But Bin Laden was a war-hero in the battle between Afghanistan and the Soviets in the 1980’s. In fact, his efforts to drive out the Soviets made him an ally of the Americans – yes, that’s right – the Americans once supported Bin Laden in his military endeavours.
So his CV as a businessman (he inherited his father’s empire) and leader of men makes me think that he was not some derranged psycho, but rather one who was corrupted by decades of oppression in his country. Like the kid who has been bullied for so long, that when he does snap, he reacts in spectacular fashion, and the earlier misdeamenours of his bullies are conveniently ignored (I just realised this sounds a bit like Lisbeth Salander, I guess I can’t help it since I read that trilogy pretty recently).
By no means am I saying that it was right for him to murder so many innocent people. But how much do we actually know about Western occupation in Middle-Eastern countries in the last few decades? How many wars have been fought there? How many new conflicts have Western influences caused in the Middle East? According to the media I usually read, its apparently zero. Somehow, I doubt that.
So whilst I thought that American Sniper was an outstanding movie about the rigours of being a soldier, I also realised my ignorance (and probably that of most of the movie’s intended audience) at the actual events occuring in the Middle East. The West has come to see this part of the world as a “problem zone”, inhabited by “savages”. We are allowed to do things there (like torture, murdering civilians and so on) that we would not do elsewhere since when you are in a “savage’s” country, you have to fight evil with evil, right?
We need to make an effort to understand the other side of the Western-Middle East conflicts. (Have you ever read a media article about the conflict written by someone from the Middle East? (Remember what they say about history being written by the winners).
At the moment, we are just used to watching the news, hearing about wars in Middle Easten countries, and not batting an eyelid because that civilians dying in Bagdhdad is just so normal to us. On the other hand, Cecil the Lion, is the biggest tragedy of the year (Disclaimer: I am not saying that poaching is ok, and think that dentist should be jailed). Those people in the Middle East are just like us. Human. It’s time that we think of them as such.