“American Sniper” spawns death threats against Arabs and Muslims

Following the release of the film American Sniper in theaters across the US, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has warned of a “significant rise in violent hate rhetoric targeting the Arab and Muslim-American communities.”

The ADC believes the threats “are directly linked to the negative media coverage and hateful propaganda launched against the Arab and Muslim communities following the attacks on the Charlie Hedbo offices in France” earlier this month. But the civil rights organization notes that racist threats have intensified in the wake of American Sniper, with moviegoers taking to social media to express their desire to murder Arabs and Muslims after leaving the theater.

Having both watched the movie and read the book on which it is based, I am not the least bit surprised by the incitement it has spawned. American Sniper is brilliant propaganda that valorizes American military aggression while delivering Hollywood’s most racist depiction of Arabs in recent memory, effectively legitimizing America’s ongoing bombing campaigns across the Middle East.

Unrepentant mass killer

American Sniper, directed by Clint Eastwood, is based on the autobiography of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, reputedly the deadliest sniper in American history.

Replete with hatred, bigotry and unrepentant bloodlust, Kyle’s book boasts of killing 160 Iraqi “savages” during his four deployments in Iraq following the illegal US invasion and occupation in 2003.

“Savage, despicable evil. That’s what we were fighting in Iraq,” Kyle writes in his book.

“I only wish I had killed more,” he writes, adding, “I loved what I did … It was fun. I had the time of my life.”

“They hated us because we weren’t Muslim. They wanted to kill us, even though we just booted out their dictator, because we practiced a different religion than they did,” adds Kyle, who goes on to confess, “I don’t shoot people with Korans – I’d like to, but I don’t.” In Kyle’s mind, all Iraqis who resisted the invading US soldiers were irrationally violent religious fanatics.

In stark contrast, Hollywood sanitizes Kyle, humanizing him as a complex, likable and anguished hero.

Hateful

Following the movie’s debut in select theaters on Christmas Day, author and journalist Max Blumenthal and I were deluged with death and rape threats for tweeting our disgust with Hollywood’s glorification of a mass killer and exposing the racism and lies espoused by Kyle. Although Kyle’s most ardent supporters claim to hate ISIS and al-Qaeda, they often call on these terrorist groups to behead critics of US military aggression.

The movie has since broken box office records, grossing $105 million during its nationwide opening and garnered accolades from across the political spectrum (Vice President Joe Biden said he wept at the Washington, DC premier). In addition, the movie scored six Academy Award nominations.

Frustrated by the glorification and whitewash of a racist mass killer, I posted passages from Kyle’s book on Twitter, highlighting his hateful and homicidal statements and drew attention to the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim threats the movie was inspiring, all of which I compiled into a Storify that went viral.

The reaction to the movie has since snowballed into a partisan bickering match, with celebrities chiming in.

Actor Seth Rogen compared American Sniper to Stolz der Nation (Nation’s Pride), a fictitious Nazi propaganda film about a glorified Nazi sniper that appears at the end of the Quentin Tarantino movie Inglorious Basterds (the Nazi sniper is shown mowing down American and British soldiers with great efficiency and apparent moral superiority). Documentary maker Michael Moore also stirred controversy when he tweeted that snipers “aren’t heroes,” though he later clarified he was not referring to American Sniper, which he liked. Nevertheless, a who’s who of rightwing celebrities, pundits, politicians and worshippers of US military aggression have whipped up an ultra-nationalist frenzy, firing back against the movie’s critics.

Meanwhile, growing criticism of American Sniper appears to be damaging its chances of winning at the Oscars, with Academy members expressing concern that the film glorifies a “sociopath.”

Racist atrocity porn

While the canonization of Kyle on the big screen is appalling, the movie’s whitewash of the US destruction of Iraq and its racist portrayal of Arabs has proven to be far more dangerous.

The US destruction of Iraq left an estimated one million Iraqis dead, 4.5 million displaced, five million orphaned, some two million widowed and birth defects and cancer rates significantly worse than those seen in the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Japan at the end of the Second World War. The US war on Iraq also fueled the rise of ISIS. This immeasurable suffering is completely erased from the narrative presented in American Sniper.

In the opening scene of the film a conflicted Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper) is perched on a rooftop with an Iraqi mother and child in the crosshairs of his sniper scope. He watches the mother give the child a grenade to throw at a US marine convoy. He reluctantly seeks permission to shoot.

Suddenly the screen cuts to Kyle as a child hunting with his father in Texas. Another scene shows him at church. Next he’s at the dinner table.

“There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs,” says Kyle’s father. “Now, some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world … those are the sheep. And then you got predators who use violence to prey on the weak. They’re the wolves. And then there are those who have been blessed with the gift of aggression, and the overpowering need to protect the flock. These men are the rare breed that live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog.”

For the rest of the movie Kyle is the sheepdog, the protector, the hero. And Iraqis are the evil wolves he must put down to protect the lives of his fellow “sheepdogs.”

Next we see Kyle as an adult. We watch him fall in love, get married and join the SEALs. Then the Twin Towers fall and he is deployed to Iraq, a narrative that leaves the poorly informed with the impression that Iraq was involved in the 11 September 2001 attacks, the very lie that the Iraq war was predicated on. This false narrative is reaffirmed when al-Qaeda appears in Iraq on Kyle’s first tour in 2003, a revisionist history that conflates indigenous armed resistance to a foreign occupier with a terrorist group that attacked the United States. In a country where 43 percent of Americans still believe that Iraq was connected to the 11 September 2001 attacks, perpetuating this falsehood, even if unintentional, is reckless.

Eventually, we return to the scene in the movie’s opening. Kyle shoots the child to save the Marine convoy. The mother runs towards the felled child, collects the grenade and prepares to launch it in the direction of the soldiers. Kyle shoots the woman dead at mid-launch. The grenade explodes before it reaches the soldiers.

“There was a kid who barely had any hair on his balls, his mother gives him a grenade and sends him out there to kill Marines,” says an agonized Kyle. “That was evil like I’d never seen before.”

This black and white, good versus evil theme continues throughout the movie’s entirety. US soldiers are humanized. They have names and families, fiancées and children. And they return home with deep physical and psychological wounds, whereas the local Arab population, including the women and children, are depicted as terrorists. The only time Arab women and children are innocent victims is when they are being brutalized by scary Arab men, but even they are nameless figures.

Marlow Stern at The Daily Beast provides a cogent summary of the movie’s depiction of Arab characters:

The “savages” consist of [Abu Musab] al-Zarqawi, who’s introduced via the infamous clip of him decapitating [American radio-tower repairman] Nick Berg; his No. 2, “The Butcher,” who brutally executes an informant’s young son by drilling his head with a power tool, and stores people’s heads on shelves; and Mustafa, a Syrian Olympic sharpshooter who videotapes his kills and hawks bootlegs of them on the street. Mustafa is, like all classic villains, dressed in black, doesn’t utter in a word, and is single-minded in his pursuit of Kyle – he has a poster of Kyle’s bounty, $180,000, on his wall, and spends his spare time spinning an armor-piercing bullet on a table.

In the end, it wasn’t Iraqi “savages” that killed Kyle. A fellow soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder shot Kyle dead at a Texas gun range in 2013, a fact the film glosses over before cutting to footage from Kyle’s real-life funeral. Some may have even left the theater with the impression that Kyle was killed in Iraq.

Where are the moderates?

As the threats against Arab and Muslim Americans and critics of American Sniper escalate in their ferocity, one is left wondering: where are the American moderates? Why haven’t the movie’s director, producers and actors condemned the violent extremism their film is inciting?

(Jim DeFelice, one of the co-authors of the book American Sniper, condemned the threats of violence unleashed after I implored him to in a debate on Uprising Radio.)

Under the threatening circumstances, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee is encouraging Arab, Muslim, South Asian and Sikh-American communities to be on alert and report any hate crimes to the authorities.

“If you are placed in physical danger because of your ethnicity, religion or national origin: Call the police (dial 911 in most communities), and/or click here to contact your local FBI office. It is the FBI’s job to investigate hate-motivated crimes and specific threats of violence. You can also report a hate crime to the FBI online using this form,” says the ADC advisory.

“If you feel you have been a victim of a hate crime, of if any individual or place of worship needs any assistance with any of the above, including dealing with law enforcement, please contact the ADC Pro-Bono Legal Department at 202-244-2990 or legal AT adc DOT org.”

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Comments

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Wen i see the reactions here about the muslims then i know that some people realy dont know anything about muslims it has nothing to do with muslims,wen you say terrorist ok or extremist ok ,most people are sheeps and just folow the lying media and think all wat i see on the media is treu ,Helllo sleeping sheeps this is a wake up call its all a lie ,and wen i see some reviews here then i know there is a long way to go for some people sad sad

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Hollywood is a money making tool that also incites hatred under the guise of entertainment. It has been for a long time. As long as it continues to produce prejudiced indoctrination such as “American sniper” that glorifies violence against different races and cultures, then bored, confused and frustrated acquiescent young men and women will continue to be prompted toward violent extremism. Don’t support it.

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I have not seen the movie so my comments speak only to the article. As a Vietnam combat vet I would support a sniper shooting anyone of any age if they were involved in any manner of aggression against me or my brothers in the field. No exceptions. I wouldn't call for permission. I'd shoot instantly.

I don't like the endless wars we are fighting. I never have. It is time to come home and let this culture sort out how it wants to exist. We should not ignore (do a Pol Pot) their actions if they turn to genocide, but it is their country. Here at home, simply judge people on their own actions. Survivalist militants, radical violent religious fanatics, etc. who break the law and threaten our way of life should be dealt with quickly.

A movie is a movie is a movie. Suspension of disbelief. Character study. Deal with it. The next one could be about the Prophet himself.

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One may hope that Hollywood doe not attempt to make a movie of the Prophet. not only would it be considered blasphemous just to portray the Prophet in any way (idolatry, for a start) but given Hollywood's cracks at portraying the other Prophet (Jesus) it would inevitably screw up the whole thing and make it into a travesty of white Christian stereoptyping which would be as offensive to Muslims as the idolatry itself.

So let us hope that this never comes to pass.

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I understand you'd want to protect your comrades, but are people attacking armed soldiers of a foreign army invading their country really commuting "aggression"? Isn't it really "self-defense"?

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It's not like the transmission of opinions/ideologies, rationalization of atrocity, cultural-religious stereotyping and then dehumanizing of that stereotype, or glorification of sociopathc militarism under the guise of self-righteousness in a medium capable of influencing perspective and capitalizing on fear and patriotism has *any* political context....

...claimed Stalin, and Mao, and Hitler, and Roosevelt, and Pinochet and....etc. etc.

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76% of serial killers are American!!!! Are you a serial killer, Hope not. Muslims make up 29% of the world population, out of that 1% are jihadists this is not ALL!!! Heart broken by the level of hatred for other humans :( regardless of anyones religion or race. How simple minded to racial profile Arabs which make up 22 countries into one lumped sum, one people with many different religions, creeds, languages, cultures. Ignorance is Sad and that is all it shows is the ignorance.

We Live In The United States Of America the immortal clause states "ALL MEN are Created Equally" this is in the Declaration of Independence which was written by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson took this from the Koran

http://www.thedailybeast.com/a...

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Rania, your words capture the moral and spiritual depravity of a sociopathic mass murderer and the pathology of a culture that would glorify him. Hollywood has a history of acting as the propaganda tool of the military-intelligence-financial cabal --http://www.globalresearch.ca/l....
I agree with Peter--"don't support it"--boycott their movies, protest their awards ceremonies, bombard social media with messages that counter their racism, violence and divisiveness with messages of support for those they unjustly demonize and with messages of peace and unity.

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“There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs,” says Kyle’s father. “Now, some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world … those are the sheep. And then you got predators who use violence to prey on the weak. They’re the wolves. And then there are those who have been blessed with the gift of aggression, and the overpowering need to protect the flock. These men are the rare breed that live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog.”

To this insipid gem I would add: the sheepdogs, typically unbeknownst even to themselves, work for the wolves. Sheepdogs protect sheep so that farmers can fleece them.

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They believe there's a connection? That's not a fact. You can place dots all over a sheet of paper and connect them as you wish...it doesn't mean a thing.

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Thank you for your brilliant article, Rania. You expressed so eloquently how I feel about this disgusting film and book. I consider myself an American moderate and I condemn this violent extremism and attempt to incite racial and religious bigotry. My sincere apologies to all Arabs and Muslims who are affected by the ignorance and lack of humanity of my fellow countrymen. There is so much ignorance in America, and it's shameful that the media and military manipulate them so effectively.

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EASTWOOD continues to deliver POST AMERICA demoralizations
disguised as 'gripping, heartfelt' americana.

EASTWOOD continues to STEP ON some 5 decades of 'overlooked'
anniversaries for the now 21st century avant garde KOREAN WAR.

STEER CLEAR this franchise slum 'EYE--CON'---job!

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Consider: During the first eight weeks of “Operation Barbarossa”—Nazi Germany’s invasion of Soviet Russia in June 1941—Einsatzgruppen death squads systematically shot all male Jews between the ages of 16 and 60. The occupiers called this “keeping order”, because they deemed male Jews responsible for the violent resistance they encountered during their advance into Russia—i.e. the Germans were eliminating potential “insurgents.”

During the second assault on Fallujah in February 2004, US commanders likewise ordered their forces to systematically shoot every male between the ages of 15 and 65—this constituted the “rules of engagement” Chris Kyle described in his book.

Prior to the assault US forces surrounded Fallujah, allowing no male occupants to leave who weren’t obviously children. The Americans blasphemously named the assault “Operation Al-Fajr”—“the Dawn”—after the 89th Surah of the Qur’an. They murdered 5,000-6,000 civilians in Fallujah.

What’s really despicable is that the Nazis come off more "merciful" to Russian Jews than the Americans were to Fallujah’s Arab inhabitants. We hanged the Germans who did what Chris Kyle did, and we hanged their superiors for ordering them to do it.

Ironically, Chris Kyle was murdered by a “savage” from his own tribe, and he never saw it coming. What goes around comes around.

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It is really sad. So much ignorance and lack of knowledge causing such a senseless hatred. Why hating Muslims? I don't get it man. Was Muhammad Ali a terrorist or Kareem Abdul Jabbar or Dr Oz.

Rania Khalek

Rania Khalek's picture

Rania Khalek is an independent journalist reporting on the underclass and marginalized.