by Bob Ingram
Ed. Note: When the movie “American Sniper,” starring Bradley Cooper, was number one at the box office, we ran an opinion piece by a woman whose son had been killed in Iraq. Our website received 12 letters about it, all denouncing the article. Some were clearly from wackos with language about the grieving mother so ugly and sick that we had to take them down. Here is another piece about the same movie (which just came out on digital Blu-Ray in late May) by a local writer:
In the movie “American Sniper” he is known simply as Mustafa, an Iraqi sniper who is killing American troops with 1,000-yard headshots. He is a former Olympic rifleman. He wakes in the night to leave his wife and children and go on his deadly rounds.
Suppose there was somehow a viable movie industry in the shambles that is Iraq. Suppose a movie was made there called “Iraqi Sniper.” What would it be like?
Mustafa is taken into the desert by his father at an early age with his first rifle, and after target practice in which his father remarks on Mustafa’s evident prowess, he tells his son, “Only take up the sword when the wolves threaten the sheep you guard. And then strike hard and deep.”
We see Mustafa’s progress as a marksman as he matures. At university, he captains the rifle team and is selected for the Iraqi Olympic team, where he is shown at the top of the stand with a gold medal around his neck as the strains of the Iraqi national anthem are heard. His father is shown weeping with pride.
Mustafa has married his high school sweetheart, and they have two children, a boy and a girl, bright, happy children even in the shadow of the Saddam Hussein regime. He works as a consultant for the Iraqi military, testing and critiquing long-distance rifles. They are a thriving middle class family.
The family is shown watching the horror of 9-11. Mustafa and his wife exchange looks of foreshadowing.
Operation Desert Storm is shown in all its fury. Mustafa has been commissioned a captain and is leading a rifle company against the American invaders. His unit suffers massive casualties from the overwhelming firepower of the Americans. He survives but has seen the deadly game up close. He knows that fate is the captain of battle and that blood is the coin of that lethal realm.
At the close of hostilities, the army is disbanded, and Mustafa returns to his family and a landscape of rubble and dust. Life has been shattered, and there is a sense of anarchy and chaos in the land. Mustafa is wary. There are private armies and insurgent forces striking at the American occupiers. The sound of small arms fire is constant, and his children sleep in the bed with Mustafa and his wife. He is eking out a living in his father’s small bakery, waking at 3 a.m. to prepare the meager offerings that are usually gone by dawn.
One morning, as Mustafa and his parents are leaving the bakery, two American humvees are caught in a crossfire ambush, and wild machine gun fire from the trapped vehicles cuts down his parents before his eyes. Mustafa escapes.
He will strike deep and hard with a Soviet SVD sniper rifle. He tells his wife he must fight the invaders and avenge his parents and bring honor again to his country. She nods slowly, her eyes downcast.
His first kill is a teenage Marine, part of a recon platoon clearing the shell that once was an apartment house. The boy collapses like a rag doll, totally short-circuited. Mustafa nods grimly.
He becomes an avenging wraith, known only as Mustafa to both Iraqis and GIs, leaving the shabby comforts of wife and children to roam the rubble, a shadowy long-range executioner. His kills mount. And mount.
The insurgents tell Mustafa of an American sniper known as The Legend, who is killing Iraqis at an alarming rate. He has killed a woman and a child, but it is understood that they were warriors. It is learned that the Legend has been sent to Ramadi to kill an insurgent sheik there. Mustafa will seek out The Legend and kill him.
A bearded insurgent hands Mustafa binoculars and nods. “He is there. It is The Legend.” The shot is a mile. Mustafa becomes one with the rifle. His breathing is suspended, there is stillness, the shot is between heartbeats, a familiar surprise.
The Legend falls. Mustafa nods grimly.
Bob Ingram, who lived in this area for 20 years but now lives at the Jersey shore, is the author of “Sun Songs: Wildwood Stories,” and he has been part of the Chestnut Hill Book Festival. Ingram, a writer/journalist/editor for 45 years, has written for virtually every major newspaper and magazine in Philadelphia and South Jersey. “Sun Songs” can be purchased through amazon.com, list price $10.95.