By Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal
February 2, 2015
The movie ‘American Sniper’ based on Chris Kyle’s best seller has become an instant box-office success and a lightning rod for controversy (e.g. Moore, Maher, McCain, Hedges, Ventura). The Governor of Texas Greg Abbott has declared February2 2015 as 'Chris Kyle Day. Whether intended or not, it has also provoked an ominous backlash against the Muslim citizens of this country. As loyal and law-abiding member s of society Muslims are puzzled and hurt as to why some of their fellow Americans would turn against them.
The events evolving at the time of 9/11 and the disinformation that followed provide the backdrop for the intensified negative portrayal of Islam and Muslims in this country. The perpetrators of 9/11 were clearly identified as Muslims who in fact claimed justification for their heinous act in Islam. Despite repeated condemnation of the attacks as being antithetical to the values of Islam, both by Muslims in the US and globally, the mainstream media failed to give it the coverage it deserved. President Bush’s use of the expression that he was going to lead a ‘crusade’ against the ‘evil-doers’ and that in this struggle of ‘good versus evil’ ‘you are either for or against us’, set the stage for the Muslims being the enemy in the ‘war on terror’. So began the conquest of Afghanistan the ‘Muslim ‘country that provided the base for the assault on the US.
If that were not difficult enough for Muslims to deal with living under a cloud of suspicion of ‘divided loyalties’, President Bush, manipulated by Dick Cheney and his neo-con cronies, left the war in Afghanistan like a ‘hanging chad’ for a totally misdirected ‘showdown with Saddam’. The decision to invade and devastate Iraq was not only morally repugnant, caused inestimable harm to Iraqi society and demanded tremendous sacrifices of our military, but it also solidified the deception in the minds of many American citizens that war on Iraq was a payback for the attack by Al Qaeda. The fact that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 or Al- Qaeda was deliberately obfuscated when addressing the public at large, a view currently reinforced by Ventura. That Isis is now wreaking mayhem in Iraq and Syria as a direct consequence of our unwarranted invasion of a sovereign country, is a fact hard to contemplate, leave alone accept.
As the war in Iraq proved to be anything but the ‘cakewalk’ promised by the neo-cons, and American soldiers were being brought back in increasing numbers in body bags, with indescribably grotesque injuries, many with PTSD, and an alarming number committing suicide, many Americans saw the totally misguided war as one between the forces of the ‘Christian good’ and the’ Muslim evil’. The depiction of Islam as the ubiquitous enemy after 9/11 led to the evolution of a mindset that motivated Chris Kyle and thousands of other recruits to ‘serve’ their country against’ heathen savages’. Mr. Kyle was a perfectionist in his work and did what he was expected to do as an unquestioning member of the armed forces. He was the quintessential ‘killing machine’. From the perspective of those who saw him defending the ‘freedoms’ of the US in an entirely trumped up war he was a military hero. Like many returning veterans he too succumbed to PTSD and in attempting to deal with it he ultimately and ironically surrendered his life to one similarly afflicted.
Whether one sees Mr. Kyle as a hero or a villain, the real malefactors in this now endless ‘war on terror’, are those who started this debacle in the first place. These are Mr. Cheney and his gung ho henchmen. On their hands is the blood of countless innocent Iraqi civilians, thousands of US military personnel who gave up their lives and the many more veterans who have come home with gut-wrenching mutilations. One just has to watch the heart-wrenching commercials for the ‘Wounded Warrior Project’ to feel their agony.
That Muslims suffer a backlash is certainly not because of Mr. Kyle (even though he believed Muslims to be savages), or of Mr. Eastwood (who could at least have added a disclaimer if he believed otherwise; it is quite obvious from his movie fantasies in, ’The Good the Bad the Ugly’, ‘Dirty Harry’, and ‘In the Line of Fire’ he knows who the ‘bad guys’ are and how to deal with them! ), or because of so-called ‘wingnuts’ whose views are entirely programmed by the compliant uncritical subservient media. The backlash is almost entirely due to the Islamophobic propaganda that portrays Muslims as a fifth column, the overwhelming catalyst for which has been the so-called ‘global war on terror’ initiated, perpetuated and still promoted by Cheney and his neo-cons. If and ever the International Criminal Tribunal for crimes against humanity is called upon to intervene, only then will justice see the light of day for all those Americans wantonly killed or maimed in combat, all those innocent Iraqis subjected to wholesale depredation, and the Muslims in America who are askance , why pick on us?
Abdul Cader Asmal MD PhD, Islamic Council of New England