So If You’re So Good, How Come You Lost?

American Sniper (minus) 2 ** stars 

As we get towards Academy Awards night, a series of essays on the themes from the films nominated for Oscar for Best Film.  Today, American Sniper.

 The least thing they could do is admit they lost.

The problem with the film American Sniper is that claims to be the truth.  It claims to be the story of a brave, American hero who goes over to Iraq and kills one-hundred-and-sixty people for a great cause.  It claims that those people deserved to die because they some how threatened the United States.

This is vile propaganda.
Here are some of the truths of our time:

– America lost in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam.

– America’s presence in Afghanistan did not help capture Osama Bin Laden.

– Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with Osama Bin Laden’s 9/11 attack.

– Tens-of-thousands of brave people like Chris Kyle (the ostensible hero of American Sniper) went to these countries and were killed or maimed for nothing.

– Hundreds-of-thousands of people in these countries died for nothing.

These truths should make people very angry. Instead they are expropriated by a bunch of scoundrels and wrapped in flag-shrouded propaganda like American Sniper.

There is a very brief image at the end of the film.  A wheel-chaired veteran wags a small U.S. flag at a parade.   We are supposed to feel pride. Instead this reviewer felt rage.   I was in Iraq.  I met soldiers like him.  I made Iraqi friends whose country has been devastated by the Americans.   I saw the blown-up children whose parents offered me cups of tea in the hospital.  They have all been betrayed.

It is for these people that I give American Sniper a minus two rating.

However, let us examine a key question that the mainstream media (and American Sniper) refuses to discuss:  why does one of the best-equipped, well-resourced militaries in the world keep getting its ass handed to it by a bunch of ill-trained, informal soldiers?

Part of the reason for the U.S. military failure, is that the U.S. military, as presently constructed, is not designed to win wars.  The U.S. military real function is to make someone, somewhere a lot of money.

Do you remember in Catch-22 when Milo Minderbinder takes over the American bombing squadron during the Second World War and for commercial reasons contracts the Germans to bomb his own airbase?   Today, the U.S. military has similar real-life operations.  In Afghanistan, for example, their sub-contractors often pay the Taliban (the people the U.S. is ostensibly fighting against) to protect the aid convoys to the U.S. military bases.

So in 2015, the U.S. military is a testament to the power of military lobbyists and commercial interests. It is not that they want the Americans to lose, rather they want the war to continue for as long as possible, so they can get lots of money.

Part of the reason for the U.S. military failure is also how American overseas military bases are structured.  It is all pretty-much Fort Geronimo Iraq, with Americans inside and a howling bunch of natives outside. Any transport between these bases is in large convoys, like wagon trains lurching across the frontier.

In command of these bases are usually a bunch of beefy white guys who go around shouting macho phrases to each other and quoting slave-owning bigots like Washington and Jefferson with reverential tones.

Below them is a military made up of decent people who are often there because their jobs in the United States have been shipped overseas to China or the Third World.   There are lots of black soldiers with vague ‘What-am-I-doing-here?’ expressions on their faces.  And groups of intelligent Latinos who seem glad not to be cleaning the toilets or serving tacos to the beefy white guys.  Those jobs are often given to ‘immigrants’ from Bangladesh or the Philippines who are brought in by the commercial contractors.   In other words, it all looks very much like a normal day in the United States.

[BTW – In 2015, a blind man could go through a similar overseas British military base and just by the accents know who (and which rank) they are talking to.]

Another reason for the U.S. military’s failure is its racism towards what it regards as the natives howling outside their bases.

Inside the Fort Geronimos few people speak the language of the ‘natives’.   There is no indigenous food (it is often American chains like KFC or McDonald’s).   There are few cultural references.  In Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s excellent “Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone”, he writes of Americans cowering on the floor in fear as the Iraqis fire guns in the air to celebrate the success of their national soccer team.  The Americans simply had no idea that the Iraqi team was in an important soccer tournament, let alone how much it meant symbolically to the people.

I have also been to the smaller front-line operating bases in Kosovo and Iraq.  The American soldiers are a very decent bunch.  Inside their mini-Americas, they lift weights and watch Fox Television.  However, they often do not know the names of the streets around them and regard anyone who does not know what the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament is as less than a full human being.

The problem with racism is that it is stupid.  As Sun Tzu wrote two-thousand-five-hundred years ago – “To beat your enemy, you have to know him.”

This is the problem with the characters in American Sniper.  During the film not one of the Americans ever speaks a word of Arabic.  All Iraqis are portrayed as “savages” who are either inherently treacherous, greedy or stupid.

In the final climatic scene – made, as is often the case, to be picked up by a spin-off video game – the “heroes” are shooting Iraqis in a sand storm.  A cloud of dust gradually covers the screen and it is difficult to see who is who.  American Sniper is the same: a cloud of nonsense that covers the truth of a real-life nightmare.

Grading System/UK Bookie Odds

 2015 Oscars:

 Grand Hotel Budapest (2015) = 3.5 stars   33/1   

The Imitation Game (2015) = 2 stars   40/1

Birdman (2015) = 2 stars   11/8

American Sniper (2015) = -2 stars   50/1 

Selma (2015)   100/1

The Theory of Everything (2015)   100/1

Boyhood (2015)   4/7

Whiplash (2015)   100/1


2014 Oscars:

12 Years a Slave (2014)  = 5 stars

Dallas Buyer’s Club (2014) = 4 stars

Galaxy (2014) = 3.5 stars

American Hustle (2014) = 2 stars

Wolf of Wall Street (2014) = 1 star





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