American Sniper is currently one of the most
popular movies in the country. It’s about the life of Chris Kyle, the sniper with the
most confirmed kills in American military history. It focuses on his life, his failures,
his successes, and the trauma that he experienced as a soldier. But viewers of the movie may
be surprised at the way that it talks about the Iraq War in general. From the very beginning
of Kyle’s military career, it’s about a response to terrorism. He joins the military after
we see the bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. And we see his and
his wife Taya’s stunned reaction to 9/11. But then bam. Shortly after that… “I just got the call, boys. It’s on!” Kyle’s at war in Iraq. There’s no intervening time spent on George W. Bush, weapons of mass destruction
(WMD), or Saddam Hussein. The implication that the viewer gets is that the invasion
of Iraq was a logical response to 9/11. Of course, that’s not actually what happened.
We know that after 9/11, the US invaded Afghanistan, were Al Qaeda actually was. The decision to
invade Iraq came as a result of a preexisting political project that members of the Bush administration
had and was sold on the pretense of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. “The main reason
we went into Iraq at the time was we thought he had weapons of mass destruction. It turns
out he didn’t, but he had the capacity to make weapons of — but I also talked about
the human suffering in Iraq. And I also talked the need to advance a freedom agenda.” In
the movie’s narrative, there’s no intervening time between the American invasion and Kyle
fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq. “He’s trained by bin Laden. He’s loyal to bin Laden. His name
is Zarqawi. Now this asshole is right now the crown price of Al Qaeda in Iraq.” That
leaves viewers with the impression that the Iraq War was against Al Qaeda at the outset
and that America had invaded Iraq because it had become a hotbed of Al Qaeda operations.
The reverse is true. Al Qaeda in Iraq grew out of the American invasion. It was weak
and wasn’t even Al Qaeda in Iraq when the invasion happened. Its leader, Abu Musab
al-Zarqawi, correctly assessed that the US invasion would allow him to build up his group.
Eastwood wanted to make a movie about one guy. He didn’t set out to make a movie about
the Iraq War. The problem is, though he himself is anti-war, he ended up letting the film
get wrapped up in Kyle’s perspective. “You want these motherfuckers to come to San Diego
or New York? We’re protecting more than just this dirt.” While it’s easy to go sit at a
movie, especially one that tries hard not to shove politics in your face, and appreciate
it as simply a movie about heroism, this movie isn’t just that. It’s a movie that’s going
to leave viewers with a false perception of what happened.