Diana Moukalled/One soldier’s boot in Damascus, another in Hollywood


One soldier’s boot in Damascus, another in Hollywood
Wednesday, 13 May 2015
Diana Moukalled/Al Arabiya

Let us compare two scenes. The first is from Hollywood blockbuster “American Sniper,” which was based on real-life soldier Chris Kyle. The scene is of Kyle aiming his rifle at an Iraqi child and his mother in Baghdad because they were carrying explosives. Kyle pulls the trigger, in a scene that shows the mother and child as innately evil, and that killing them was necessary to protect the American homeland.

The second scene is divided in two, with an actor kneeling and kissing the boots of a Syrian soldier, and an anchorwoman kneeling and kissing the boots of another Syrian soldier live on air. This scene is supposed to convey that kissing soldiers’ boots has a patriotic symbolism toward an army that in broad daylight kills its citizens under the guise of deterring enemies and protecting the country from a huge conspiracy.

The commonalities between the American and Syrian cases are blind infatuation with the army, and the belief that soldiers have a sacred mission, are invincible, and have the right to eliminate whomever they choose.

Hollywood invests to deliver an attractive image of the American military, and to present murder as a virtue. There is a malicious American aspect with regard to marketing and promoting the patriotism of the power of arms, as footage of soldiers in movies, ads and songs are conveyed as an attractive force.

I have written many articles and studies on the role of the American defense industry in supporting Hollywood movies, and how this role falls within the context of a relation from which both producers and the Pentagon benefit. Movie-makers who agree to the Pentagon’s amendments to the script and storyline are guaranteed access to millions of dollars’ worth of equipment, soldiers and shooting locations.
From hero to zero

This relation guarantees that American soldiers are portrayed as heroes. “American Sniper,” which was released earlier this year, was a huge success at the box office. It epitomized Hollywood showing off American soldiers’ character, glorifying the most lethal sniper in the U.S. army’s history. Kyle bragged in his diary about killing more than 250 people.

Controversial American Republican politician Sarah Palin said critics of the movie were not worthy of polishing Kyle’s boots. Reactions to this movie showed huge divisions regarding the army. “American Sniper” glorifies the military and state violence. This is what drew sharp criticism from liberals and leftists.

During World War II, more than 12 percent of Americans were involved in the army, but this rate has decreased to half, so an embellished image of the American soldier has become essential. The American right is passionate about the army, and there is heated debate about this blind patriotism and justification of violence.

In the Arab case, the footage of the anchorwoman and the actor kissing military boots is the peak of clichés and vulgarity. It only made us laugh in mockery, as it is difficult for this scene to impress even those who have similar convictions to the anchorwoman and actor.

Hollywood invests to deliver an attractive image of the American military, and to present murder as a virtue. For Arabs, however, it is enough for someone to just kiss a military boot to allege a fragile patriotism.