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During 2003, the United States invaded Iraq as a means to destroy their weapons of mass destruction along with dismantling the government led by Saddam Hussein. America’s involvement in the war instilled a false sense of patriotism to Americans, distorting the truth about the details that were reported in the media. Stories that explore this time in history such as Chris Kyle’s memoir, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, recounts his experiences as the deadliest sniper in military history and how his journey haunted him well after he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy. In the 2014 film, American Sniper, the backdrop of the Iraq War blurs the U.S. Army’s intentions as insurgency makes pursuing liberation difficult and is lost in the fight between good and evil, as seen in books and journal articles of the events that left innocent people killed or mentally scarred from their experiences. Therefore, the truth surrounding the details of America’s involvement in Iraq was heavily distorted by the media in regards to the liberation effort by U.S. soldiers that triggered their chance of experiencing PTSD after the war reached an end.
Firstly, the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq brought on the debate of whether they were invaders or liberators. During Kyle’s time in combat, he was depicted breaking into houses and interrogating innocent civilians in his effort to find the al-Qaeda’s second-in-command to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, known as “The Butcher”. America’s effort to take down the enemy put the common Iraqi civilians in danger and resulted in the deaths of innocent people in the killing of one person to save the lives of the general community. While war films showcase a biased view of Americans as patriotic heroes, filmmakers and audiences often forget the real casualties that are made in exchange for the freedom of every American. The idea of a liberator is marked as a person of mystery, as seen in an artist’s rendering of a soldier. Similarly to the soldiers seen in reality, this man’s face is covered in brown paint as if he exists but remains hidden from view. The American soldiers believed that their image epitomized the masculine, fearless perception adopted by the public, but works such as this painting uncovers the mask that aims to separate their actions from their identity.
From the Iraq War alone, statistics estimate that around 56,000 soldiers and 3,500 civilians were killed during the war. Their ideology proves that the war was only to gain global power through the means of imperialism by planning their tactics, with the passage of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution in 2002 that allowed President George Bush to utilize the U.S. military to minimize Saddam Hussein’s power in the Iraq government. Bush defends his need for military forces on Iraq soil, despite the risks presented for American soldiers that enter combat from his legislation. However, American Sniper ignores the consequences that came from bringing American soldiers into the conflict and instead paints Kyle as a soldier that killed innocent civilians for the love of his country. Despite the horrors seen during the events of the war, the film cast a positive light on the Navy SEALs when they were invited to eat dinner just moments before breaking into that same home. This short scene depicts the Iraqis accepting the invasion of their country as a means of liberation, which they grew to acknowledge after their hatred for Americans was abandoned in comparison to experiencing repression by their own country. This film continues to hold the notion that the Americans were hailed as heroic icons in his effort to emancipate the citizens from the corrupt Iraq government by romanticizing Chris Kyle’s actions when most people were against the Iraq War. The war was viewed as inhumane and a mistake that was contradicted by the reassurance from the federal government that their call-to-action was in response to the threat of the possible existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a claim that was shown to be unfounded later in the future. Due to the high death toll that created more instability and strain between the U.S. and Iraq, the conflict established a narrative that boiled down the Iraq War as a battle between the good and bad forces.
As a result of the high number of casualties, soldiers that served in the Iraq War left combat traumatized from their experiences. The film starts off by presenting Kyle’s first two victims: a woman and a child. After he shoots them, he feels remorse for his actions and his PTSD begins to form. His trauma turns into a bigger issue when he starts distancing himself from his wife and children, In a study conducted from veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan that visited the Veterans Affairs Office, the statistics showed that 21.8% were diagnosed with PTSD from 2002 to 2008. Kyle’s sense of responsibility for his fellow troops stands as an issue that most soldiers face while serving in combat, leading them to quit and return to their families back in their homeland. Civilian life can present itself as difficult in adjustment due to the images they have seen, and the deterioration of their mental health can affect their family life, chances of employment, and overall contact with the outside world. However, the frequent visitation to the VA office contributes to a healthier mind, and a means closer to a normal and happy life. Kyle’s road to recovery does not last long, however, as he ends up shot dead by another war veteran suffering from PTSD. The untreated mind of the soldier showed that not all soldiers are successful in transitioning from a war zone to urban civilization.
Consequently, Bush’s lack of a plan after the invasion of Iraq affected the longevity of life for the soldiers as the war was prolonged in favor of pursuing his goals. His poor decisions served as a precedent for misuse of information, post-war planning, and other issues that the American army was aware of for Iraq. He had no means of building Iraq back together after the momentum of the war, leaving soldiers exposed to witness the horrors of death and destruction for a longer period of time. Therefore, the lack of liberation reinforced the PTSD that followed a majority of soldiers and civilians throughout the rest of their lives. In American Sniper, the film gave a glimpse of the Iraq War in a distorted reality where liberation becomes unattainable in a fight that is narrowed down between good and evil, affecting their ability to function in society due to their trauma. From taking a look at the responses that witnessed the war from home, the film reveals cracks in the historical accuracy as the decision to focus on one soldier’s life leads to the omission of important details. This oversight establishes a false version of the war that depicts 9/11 as the main catalyst for America’s occupation of Iraq and wastes an opportunity to discuss the hostile environment that worsened in part to America’s role in stripping the Iraqi people’s freedom.
In conclusion, the story of the Iraq War is reduced down to showcase the good and bad guys, despite the complexities of the causes that kept the war going for years. The military’s inability to fill the role as the liberator cost thousands of Iraqi lives along with the sanity of countless men. Finally, the result of the war did not produce a winner but instead created a version of America that American soldiers were trying to resist, leaving their virtuous intentions forgotten in the midst of dealing with the colonizing Iraq and whitewashing the events that transpired from the bloodshed.
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