by Celeste Zappala
Mother of Sgt. Sherwood Baker, KIA 4/26/04
Read the op-ed about “American Sniper” by Cindy Sheehan in the Jan. 29 Local:
Thank you for acknowledging the efforts my family and I made to end the war in Iraq and to honor the memory of my son, Pennsylvania National Guardsman Sgt. Sherwood Baker who was killed in 2004 while searching for the weapons of mass destruction in Baghdad.
The controversy surrounding the movie “American Sniper” evokes emotional responses in many of us whose lives were forever changed by the war in Iraq. By all accounts, the movie is well acted and exciting. The fact that an attractive actor portrays the complex story of American soldier sniper Chris Kyle as a heroic character, not necessarily based on Kyle’s own autobiography, has resulted in an extremely popular movie.
However, here is the story that is not complex – the war in Iraq should never have happened. Its motivation and justification were fabricated by George Bush and his advisers. They desired the invasion of Iraq and found a way to achieve their dreams by manipulating the deep injury American’s felt following the 9/11 attack.
Let the truth not be blown away by the waving flags of those who now champion “American Sniper” as some sort of definitive narrative about Iraq. There never were any weapons of mass destruction to be found. Saddam Hussein was not part of the al-Qaeda 9/11 plot.
The movie seems to help some Americans to take a comforting and positive view of the war. A manly character is created who can ease the dismay so many have felt about the failure to win a substantial victory. For many, there can finally be a positive response to a war that most people admit was a disaster. Having an attractive hero on screen makes the whole catastrophic mistake easier to accept and perhaps even offers a palatable revision.
Most of the veterans who have spoken to me about killing in Iraq told of their remorse, sadness or anger. Some try to distance themselves from the events of Iraq. I have never met any who were there who tried to glorify their experience.
Most of the soldiers sent to Iraq in the name of the American people did what was asked of them. They followed their oaths and tried to protect each other, and they returned with their honor, deployment after deployment. It was the American government that broke trust with them by sending them ill prepared into a war that should never have begun.
Chris Kyle was but one of the soldiers who served. Let us not forget that more than a million soldiers passed through that hellish theater of war and among them were many stories of courage, compassion and kindness. There were also 4,887 Americans killed outright, 32,223 have reported injuries and untold numbers carry wounds unseen that will affect them for the rest of their lives.
Thousands of children are left without a parent. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were left dead and mutilated and three million displaced. The nation of Iraq lost the war, and the Americans did not win either.
Some have said “American Sniper” is just a movie, just a bit of entertainment, that it’s not about politics. War, however, is the most consequential political act a government can take. A terrible political act was done in our the name, and I, for one, find no glory, romance or entertainment in the story – it will always be to me a story of the deepest heartache, and a story of lives unlived. I honor the losses, but not the war.