THE SANTA CLARA
January 29, 2014
Last Sunday, filmmaker Michael Moore faced massive backlash when he tweeted that his uncle was killed by a sniper during World War Two. He then mentioned that he was taught snipers were cowards that would shoot you in the back.
His comments, made in response to the film “American Sniper,” which covers the life and military exploits of Chris Kyle, the most lethal and prolific sniper in American history, were absolutely out of line.
To call American soldiers, some of the bravest men and women in our history, cowards is as foolish as it is offensive.
Anyone who has seen “American Sniper,” or read the book on which the movie was based recognize this.
However, Moore did have cause to tweet his lack of support for the movie.
There are countless instances throughout history when snipers have been used to dispense barbarous carnage from afar. The pervasive glorification of snipers on the big screen openly tarnishes the legacy of those have been victimized by a shot fired from hundreds of yards away.
A Lesson From Sarajevo
Often called “the Jerusalem of Europe” for its profoundly rich cultural and religious diversity, the stunningly picturesque city of Sarajevo is situated in a cross-shaped valley in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was also the only major city in all of Europe to feature synagogues, mosques and both Catholic and Orthodox churches proudly erected mere feet from each other for most of the 20th century. Despite such religious variety and its unique geographical setting, in the early 1990s, the region knew anything but peace.
Between 1992 and 1995, the breakup of the nation of Yugoslavia saw the Bosnian Serbs, the Serbian Orthodox group predominantly from Srpska (in the nation’s southernmost region), take up arms against the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Soon they began the systematic ethnic cleansing of their Muslim counterparts in the region, in what became the worst instance of genocide in the Western world since World War II.
Snipers lined the mountains surrounding Sarajevo and fired into the cross-shaped valley, slaughtering thousands of men, women and children. Estimates of the casualties vary, but in September of 2010, the head of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Delegation to the U.N., Dr. Haris Silajdzic, said that,“200,000 people were killed, 12,000 of them children, up to 50,000 women were raped and 2.2 million were forced to flee their homes.”
Among the victims was Tahir Zalihic, a young civil engineer and the father of my close family friends, who was killed by a sniper as he was supervising repairs after his street was bombed by the Serbs.
It is highly unlikely that the man who killed him — if one can truly call a coward who shoots innocent civilians from a distance a “man” — ever faced justice.
Perhaps the most obvious trend in popular culture is Hollywood’s blatant use of cinema as a propaganda machine.
We’ve seen movie producers given access to classified military documents as they made a film about the killing of Osama bin Laden that all but celebrated acts of torture.
We’ve seen a white actor play a Latino man who heroically rescued six hostages during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. We also saw the inflation of America’s limited role in their rescue and the discrediting of the major role played by the brave men and women of the Canadian embassy during the crisis.
Now (and this is where the spoilers begin), we have seen Clint Eastwood fabricate stories of an innocent child being graphically executed with a power drill in front of his American-sympathizing family. We saw frequent parallels between the hunting of animals and the killing of human beings and a strong implication that the Iraq War was a response to the terrorist attacks on 9-11.
We watched an Iraqi mother forcing her totally-nonexistent-in-real-life child to run with a grenade at an American tank while omitting the countless bar fights Chris Kyle got in, all the times he was arrested for his unchecked aggression and the flirtatious texts he sent to an ex-girlfriend.
The men and women of our military wholeheartedly deserve our support and respect. Such a reality is not debatable. They risk their lives so that we do not have to fear being shot as we run from our bombed-out home to fetch water, as thousands did in Sarajevo.
Thanks to “American Sniper,” we are reminded of such courage. We now know that Chris Kyle continuously put his life on the line to save his fellow soldiers. But, we should also know that because of the actions of snipers, countless innocent people, such as Tahir Zalihic, will not get to watch their children grow and live happy, peaceful lives.
Michael Moore was wrong to tweet that all snipers were cowards, but he would have been correct to ask, “Where is the big budget Hollywood flick about Tahir Zalihic?”
Thomas Curran-Levett is a junior political science major and the Opinion editor for The Santa Clara.