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Sunday, January 25, 2015

American Sniper... A Matter Of Perspectives

Wikipedia documents the following with regards to the Iraq war:

''
The invasion of Iraq was strongly opposed by some long-standing U.S. allies, including the governments of France, Germany, and New Zealand. Their leaders argued that there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that invading the country was not justified in the context of UNMOVIC's (The United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission) 12 February 2003 report. On 15 February 2003, a month before the invasion, there were worldwide protests against the Iraq War, including a rally of three million people in Rome, which is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest ever anti-war rally. According to the French academic Dominique ReyniĆ©, between 3 January and 12 April 2003, 36 million people across the globe took part in almost 3,000 protests against the Iraq war.''

To this day we have no evidence of the existence of WMDs in that country. We also have no evidence of a connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. The fact that the whole premise of this war has been discredited has not stopped its architects from continuing to tout their rationale for it. People like former Vice President Dick Cheney are publicly unrepentant about their support for this action which in the view of many has led to the destabilization of the whole region, and the proliferation of terrorist threats like those posed by ISIS. 

The movie 'American Sniper' purports to document the personal and professional dilemma of a soldier whose job it is to protect his fellow service members. Whether it is intended to or not, this Hollywood drama feeds the narrative of the "war hero". It exploits the emotional sensibilities of an uncritical public, while ignoring the deeper moral issues in the historical reality. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives were broken and lost in an action that remains difficult if not impossible to justify on any sound moral basis.  

The fundamental question that we must face is one that is being ignored in our hunger for the 'hero' in whose dilemma we can live out our existential insecurities. In the face of his insistence that he can justify every shot he took, we must ask the unanswered question: What should a people do when their homeland is unjustifiably invaded and occupied by a foreign force? America celebrates no British heroes in the War of Independence. Is the moral blithe in our culture so great that we can ignore the suffering we inflict on others through what was essentially an act that violated the norms of International Law?

I refuse to celebrate this 'sniper' as some kind of hero, not because I do not sympathize with his dilemma; but because I cannot find it in me to vilify his victims. I went with my wife to see the movie "Selma". That to me is a story worthy of celebration. In the end we cannot ignore the fact that Dr. Martin Luther King, a peace loving patriot, was murdered by an American sniper.

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