Ross Caputi, a former marine who participated in the US’s second siege of Fallujah, writes that the reason the American Sniper book and film have been so successful is that they “tell us exactly what we want to hear”: that US America is “benevolent” and “righteous”. That, he says, is why the book and film are so popular. Their popularity, he says, speaks volumes about US society, and signals more danger ahead for the rest of the world.
The killings for which Chris Kyle is idolized, Caputi notes, were perpetrated during his participation in the second US siege of Fallujah, which Caputi, from firsthand knowledge, calls an “atrocity”.
Specifically of the siege, Caputi notes:
- “All military aged males were forced to stay within the city limits of Fallujah” [while women and children were warned to flee through the desert on foot]
- “…an estimated 50,000 civilians were trapped in [Fallujah] during this month long siege without water” [since the US had cut off water and electricity to the city]
- “…almost no effort was taken to make a distinction between civilian men and combatants. In fact, in many instances civilians and combatants were deliberately conflated.”
- “The US did not treat military action [against Fallujah] as a last resort. The peace negotiations with the leadership in Fallujah were canceled by the US.”
- “[The US] killed between 4,000 to 6,000 civilians, displaced 200,000, and may have created an epidemic of birth defects and cancers“
- “[The siege was] conducted with indiscriminate tactics and weapons, like the use of reconnaissance-by-fire, white phosphorous, and the bombing of residential neighborhoods. The main hospital was also treated as a military target.”
In modest conformity with international law originally flowing from the Nuremberg tribunal, he says that neither he or Kyle should receive any “praise or recognition” for their actions against Iraq.
Further, he notes that Clint Eastwood, director of the American Sniper movie, made many changes to Kyle’s accounts of what happened. For one, Kyle, in his autobiography, recounts shooting a woman who was taking the legal action of throwing a grenade at invading forces. Eastwood changes this so that the woman gives the grenade to her child to throw at the invaders. “Did Clint Eastwood think that this is a more representative portrayal of the Iraqi resistance?” Caputi asks. “It’s not.” (Caputi gives Eastwood the benefit of our lack of knowledge of his thought process; he could have asked if Eastwood did this to try to dehumanize Iraqi mothers or Iraqis in general, or whip up US American xenophobic hatred of foreigners, a not-so-difficult feat which Eastwood accomplished with flying colors. See The Guardian’s “American Sniper: Anti-Muslim Threats Skyrocket in Wake of Film’s Release“; many who see the film “emerge from theatres desperate to communicate a kind of murderous desire.”)
The US invasion of Iraq, Caputi concludes, was “the imposition of a political and economic project against the will of the majority of Iraqis. … We had no right to invade a sovereign nation, occupy it against the will of the majority of its citizens, and patrol their streets.”
Caputi “holds an MA in Linguistics and … is working on an MA in English Studies at Fitchburg State University.”