On Not Seeing American Sniper

American Sniper Movie

I have chosen not to see Clint Eastwood's new "blockbuster" film, American Sniper, for several reasons: I don't wish to add to the sales figures which continue to make it the #1 movie at the box office for 3 weeks running; I rarely spend $6-12 for a first-run movie, waiting until it comes to my local neighborhood theater for $2 senior rate; but, more importantly, what this movie symbolizes to my Iraqi friends.

When I traveled back to Iraq for the first time since going to Baghdad in December of 2002 as part of a Peace Team, the people I met in Najaf, Karbala, and Babil (Babylon) in November of 2012 were happy to greet an unarmed American - and they told us so. Unarmed, coming not to conquer nor correct but rather to connect and communicate face-to-face. Not looking through the scope of a rifle for potential targets but rather mingling with the masses in the souk, at the Shrines to their revered ancestors and leaders, and at the universities and grade schools. Looking there, instead of finding "insurgents" I found inquisitive people eager to engage me as a potential friend and partner. 

Yes, I must admit I also encountered some bitterness and disgust at what some had felt was directly linked to the American invasion and the long military "occupation" which followed. Some of my Iraqi friends think many of the corrupt and ineffectual politicians now running their nation were put in place or funded by - or at least took advantage of the chaos created by - the American military intervention. Many of my Iraqi friends, while having no love lost for the departure of Saddam Hussein, see the present conflict arising between Sunni and Shi'a Muslims as being a result of a divide-and-conquer strategy by America and it's principal ally, Israel. 

So a U.S. movie which doesn't bother to take the time to explain WHY a patriotic Iraqi might become an "insurgent" to fight against a foreign invader trying to put in place a government in his/her own nation - but instead has as its flawed "hero" someone whose autobiography calls all Iraqis "savages" ... Well it isn't hard to connect the dots to see how American Sniper will not help us work for the needed reconciliation between Iraqis and Americans. 

Ironically, all the controversy surrounding this movie might serve as a good reminder to Americans that all too often wants to "move on" to the next event-of-the-day (or week or month) that those on the receiving end of the American Empire don't have the luxury of moving on when infrastructure and relationships remain tattered and broken for most of our Iraqi friends.