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Producing War Heroes: American, of Course

By BARBARA NIMRI AZIZ | CounterPunch | January 27, 2015

There must be something wrong with a nation when it has to constantly invent its heroes. As if to neutralize in the American mind any unfavorable ramifications of the US government’s summary of the CIA torture report and the growing number of suicides among its veterans, we have another war story for national consumption. This time it’s the film “American Sniper” by Clint Eastwood, one of our most acclaimed directors. His “Sniper” is yet another reminder of how noble and fierce American soldiers are, also how “we won”.

Some critics of the film have weighed in on the racist, hate-filled language used by the hero, Chris Kyle: a killer who “saves lives”. Others reveal falsifications in the film treatment of Kyle’s autobiography and raise questions about his private life.

Unfortunately, for most Americans those criticisms really don’t matter. What attracts our public, and there are tens of millions of them, women as well as men, adults as well as children, is that this is a heroic story. And sniper Chris Kyle somehow represents worthy American ideals—patriotism, saving American lives, technical skill.

What most upsets me is that this highly popular film “American Sniper” is not at all unusual in its subject and theme. By chance I found myself on the History Channel last week, viewing another ‘sniper film’— “Sniper: Inside the Crosshairs”. This film, viewed almost 800, 000 times on YouTube, is a documentary. No apologies whatsoever here; soldiers interviewed speak with great pride in the skill with which they kill. The segment I viewed focuses on the high tech nature of sniper training and weaponry. (This “Sniper” is one of dozens available for people seeking such ‘history lessons’.)

These are the latest in a flood of war films and books, among them the award- winning “Hurt Locker”, that entertain, enhance the glamour of war, present a justified and ugly enemy target and leave viewers with the clear idea that ‘America won’. (At best, Iraqis– women and children only please–are presented as people who need US protection.)

Americans are fed a steady diet of war in a multitude of forms. Amazon.com’s algorithmic calculations based on my innocent web searches, sent me an unsolicited list of books. Most are autobiographies by American veterans-turned-literary-celebrities; two were biographies of US soldiers by journalists. If I wanted to learn about Iraq, Amazon advises, I could read these heroic accounts of the patriotism and the conscience of American veterans.

Thirty years ago, a decade after the end of the Viet Nam war, I found myself in an American university seminar where war was under discussion. When a student declared that (some foreign power) “was upset because we won the war”, no one corrected him, neither fellow students nor the presiding professor. I suspect that today, a survey of college-age Americans would likely reveal how they too believe the US won that war; the same may prove true in regards to America’s memory of Iraq.

Apart from historical accuracy, these films are simply damned entertaining. Clint Eastwood is a brilliant director. And you can bet his “American Sniper” is top priority for Carl, our promising military recruit.

Barbara Nimri Aziz is a New York based anthropologist and journalist. Find her work at www.RadioTahrir.org. She was a longtime producer at Pacifica-WBAI Radio in NY.

January 29, 2015 - Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | ,

3 Comments »

  1. Reblogged this on TheFlippinTruth.

    Like

    Comment by joekano76 | January 29, 2015 | Reply

  2. American Sniper does nothing to help create a peaceful world, avoids the really hard truths, and provides only negative consequences for those who watch it.

    Like

    Comment by Jerry "Peacemaker" | January 30, 2015 | Reply

  3. I’m surprised the Pentagon hasn’t come up with a special medal to award these snipers like they do for the cowardly drone operators who sit comfortably while they drop bombs from thousands of miles away that kill innocent people.

    Perhaps a piece of dull tin hammered out in the shape of an evil eye surrounded by a yellow circle hung from a camouflaged colored ribbon. A slogan on the medal that says, “Scope and Cross Hairs Expert Murderer Award” would be fitting as well.

    Like

    Comment by PokeTheTruth | January 30, 2015 | Reply


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