When Trust Becomes a Casualty of War

By Kani Xulam, Guest Contributor. Originally published February 13, 2015 in Rudaw. Republished here with author’s permission.

American Sniper. Image via Facebook.

American Sniper. Image via Facebook.

President Obama says we’re in a “season of fear.” A leading Washington commentator writes a book that echoes his sentiment, National Insecurity. The Islamic State barbarians burn a Jordanian pilot alive—and before that, this past August, they also kidnapped and enslaved as many as 5000 Yezidi women and girls.

Perhaps this sordid slice of our turbulent reality is propelling Americans in record-setting numbers to Hollywood’s latest blockbuster, American Sniper, a biopic celebrating the life and exploits of Chris Kyle, the most lethal sharpshooter in the history of American military.

Because the film is about the war in Iraq and because five million Kurds are still attached to that forsaken land, I went to see it after reading the book of the same name.

As is often the case, the book is more nuanced than the film and both have vital lessons, and some insipid commentary too, for the Kurds and their friends.

In the book, Mr. Kyle acknowledges the Kurds and says Saddam Hussein jeered them as “inferior” and waged a “despicable ethnic-cleansing campaign” against them.

In the movie, regrettably, Kurds are left out.

In the book, Mr. Kyle says, “We found barrels of chemical material that was intended for use as biochemical weapons.”

Most talking heads in Washington, including top officials, still assert there were no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq.

They may be denying it, Mr. Kyle says, because “the writing on the barrels showed that the chemicals came from France and Germany, our supposed Western allies.”

Friends have to “protect” friends and the Kurds, well, they don’t even have an address, a state, from which to sue these “friends” of the United States at the International fora.

In other words, a lot more remains hidden from the Kurds, but that is another topic for another Kurd to flesh out.

What is not hidden in either the book or the film is the glorification of violence as a solution for the evil lurking in the dark recesses of our psyche.

You can’t help but wonder if Plato was right: “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

Chris Kyle doesn’t cite the Greek sage.  All his quotes and references come from movies or television, but he loves quoting a variation of, “Despite what your mama told you, violence does solve problems.”

In fact, it becomes the logo of his company, Craft International, when he retires from the Navy.

But what galls his critics is that neither he nor his fans take any responsibility for the birth of the monstrosity called the Islamic State in the heart of the Middle East.

Many feel acutely guilty because as Sophocles once keenly observed, “There is nothing more troubling than to discover an evil crime of which one is the culprit!”

I would have gladly joined them, wholeheartedly if need be, had I not been born a Kurd or oblivious to the danger that the likes of Saddam Hussein posed in the region.

Unlike many, I know that 250,000 Kurds were mercilessly tortured, murdered, and gassed as if they were cockroaches by the Butcher of Baghdad.

I also remember how Saddam triggered the death of one million souls when he invaded Iran not to mention Kuwait.

Numbers should not be the basis of wars, of course, but some 200,000 Arabs have been killed during America’s intervention in Iraq.

Lest we forget, the violence of revolutions is directly proportionate to the brutality of previous regimes and it is naïve to expect rose bushes flourishing in the midst of swamps.

Hafiz al-Assad, the father of current president of Syria, leveled the city of Hama in 1982, and his son is now reaping the whirlwind.

Seven years later, his soulmate Saddam Hussein did the same in Qala Diza and thought the Kurds will simply let bygones be bygones!

The Middle Eastern despots didn’t need lessons from Uncle Sam to turn the region into a black hole—the place was already a black hole— just not on the menu of our evening news!

Only hundred years ago, the Ottomans attempted to wipe out an entire race simply because they professed a different faith.

War is like an earthquake. No one escapes its ravages.

Chris Kyle, to his credit, called it a journey into a hell.

He managed to survive it, but at what cost?

He started drinking whiskey in beer size glasses, wrestled with his wife in his sleep and almost broke her arm, and noticed, to his consternation, that most of the homeless on the streets were veterans like himself.

He also never got tired of calling Arabs “savages” and described their land as a place that smelled like, “sewage and sweat and death.”

But when he wrote his best-selling book, American Sniper, he made sure all his proceeds went to benefit returning soldiers.

One of those soldiers was Eddie Ray Routh, another veteran of Iraq war. Unlike Mr. Kyle, he had come home a wreck.

Mr. Routh may have contributed to the destruction of Iraq, but Iraq had managed to consume his spirit and kill his trust in humanity.

He was desperate for help and Chris Kyle was approached for the task.

But in their first meeting, Mr. Routh shot Mr. Kyle pointblank and killed him with a single bullet as the latter had done when he had executed 160 Arabs.

Violence doesn’t, after all, solve all problems, but it is sometimes unavoidable when it comes to you by men whose aspirations include “slave girls.”

Yes, we Kurds have to fight these disciples of enforced ignorance, but we should never fool ourselves by calling the task a glorious one. A necessary one will do for this Kurd.

P.S. If you happen to come across a Peshmerga and can afford to buy a body armor, gift one to him. If a bakuri guerrilla crosses your path, do the same, buy her a helmet!

Kani Xulam during a protest in Washington, DC. Image via kurdistan.org

Kani Xulam during a protest in Washington, DC. Image via kurdistan.org

About the Author: Kani Xulam is founder of the American-Kurdish Information Network, an educational organization based in Washington, DC. He was featured in the 2010 Kevin McKiernan documentary “Good Kurds, Bad Kurds.”

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