How Is Bradley Cooper Getting Away with Pretending That 'American Sniper' Is Apolitical?
This week, Hollywood actor Bradley Cooper said that he hoped Americans would not use his latest film, about the now-deceased Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, to discuss politics. Then he helped the Department of Defense do just that.
In a video interview he gave to a US Navy public relations organ, Cooper on Thursday spoke about the Clint Eastwood-directed “American Sniper” and repeated talking points often employed by hawkish politicians seeking to justify military adventurism.
“The reason y’all are doing what you’re doing is allowing us to live the way we live. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without your service,” he said, speaking directly to servicemembers.
“I hope that if you do get a chance to see this movie that you’ll relate to it, you’ll think there’s some truth,” he added. “We owe our freedom and liberty to you so thank you.”
A link to the interview was posted on Twitter Friday morning by the Pentagon’s official account.
Numerous anti-war veterans groups, however, have pointed out that their members’ experiences contrast sharply with platitudes about the US military defending “freedom and liberty” in its overseas interventions and invasions–a fact laid bare, for example, by the lack of a Vietnamese military occupation of the United States after American forces retreated from Southeast Asia in 1975, and the autocratic tendencies of the government in Saigon, before South Vietnam fell. Aaron Hughes, an organizer for Iraq Veterans Against the War, told NPR in 2012 that many ex-servicemembers who fought alongside Kyle in Iraq decided to publicly discard their medals because they were “told we can build democracies and fight for freedom, but occupations are never about freedom and democracy.” One of his fellow Iraq veterans and IVAW organizers, Camilo Mejia, said troops “swore to protect the Constitution and to fight for freedom and democracy, but that’s not what we’re doing in Iraq.”
Peace activists who had previously served in Iraq and Afghanistan were participating in demonstrations that have become something of an American tradition. Ken Barger, a member of Veterans for Peace said, for example, that his service in Vietnam led him to realize the war there “had nothing to do with Freedom and Democracy, and that we were killing people and destroying the homeland of people defending themselves from invaders… just like we would do.”
In spite of his comments to the US Navy on Thursday, Cooper had told The Daily Beast the day before that his latest film “is not a political discussion about war.”
“My hope is that if someone is having a political conversation about whether we should or should not have been in Iraq, whether the war is worth fighting, whether we won, whether we didn’t, why are we still there, all those [issues], that really–I hope–is not one that they would use this movie as a tool for,” he told reporter Asawin Suebsaeng.
Cooper had been asked about the reaction to the film in light of discussions about racist comments Kyle made in his book (also called American Sniper), a work on which Eastwood based his film.
Kyle wrote that he “couldn’t give a flying fuck about the Iraqis,” that he would shoot “anyone from about sixteen to sixty-five and [if] they’re male,” and that he “hated the damn savages.”
“I don’t shoot people with Korans,” Kyle also stated. “I’d like to, but I don’t.”
Often, the Pentagon will not only enthusiastically discuss Hollywood productions that positively portray the US military–they will actively assist in their making.
In 2013, the Defense Department Director of Entertainment Media told one Sentinel reporter that Pentagon officials “see whether there’s any potential to improve military recruiting and retention programs, and/or whether it’s something that could make the public more aware of military issues” when deciding whether to support projects.
Recently-made movies which have fit this criteria include “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Act of Valor.”
On Friday, The Sentinel filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Defense in an effort to find out the extent to which the Pentagon assisted “American Sniper” filmmakers.