Follow the Soapbox
by Cindy Sheehan

With full disclosure, I have not seen director Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper and furthermore, I have zero plans to do so. I have also never had bamboo shoots jammed into my fingernails, but I have a feeling that procedure would also be painful and vile.

The film is based on the sniper’s book of the same name. The sniper’s name was Chris Kyle and as most of us know, he was ironically murdered by a young vet suffering from PTSD on a gun range—something about those who “live by the sword” and such.

Besides Kyle’s apparent glee and pride in murdering people in his role in the illegal, unwarranted, inhumane, and bullshit war in Iraq, the only other thing I need to know about him is that he called the Iraqi people “savages.”

Even some members of the US “antiwar” movement seem to care more about the lives of The Troops™ than the innocents put in harm’s way by the policies of the US War Machine. The context of Kyle calling Iraqis “savages” is sadly already well established in the US, but is over-the-top thrilling to Reich-wing war lovers.

Of course, the term “savages” has been used throughout US history to kill, imprison, intern, nuking, or displace millions of people and Kyle lines up behind other war criminals that also delighted in murder. Centuries of dehumanizing the “other” has been deeply ingrained in all of us and it does takes a shoehorn, or murder of ones oldest son (for example), to pry us out of that stinking thinking.

Basically, those are my feelings about the film and the response for awards, accolades and defense of the war criminal Kyle. Along with another glorification of the War State (Zero Dark Thirty) winning best film title at the Oscars last year and Hollywood’s long history of working with the Pentagon (or War Department) to make decades of Warnography, I was reminded about an episode in my own history.

Soon after I camped out in Crawford in the summer of 2005 and became the latest cause célébre of the faux-gressive set, a film producer named Jill (I cannot remember her last name—lots of people gone under that bridge) approached me saying that she wanted to do a feature film about my story. Soon after, she lined up noted director Mimi Leder to direct the film and noted actress Susan Sarandon to star in the movie playing moi. Obviously, I thought this film was a done deal.

I had meetings with them, but by 2007, the film was dead in the water with really no explanation. I remember they kept asking me to sign over my rights to my memoir Peace Mom, and I would patiently explain to them that I did not own the rights that Simon and Schuster did. One day I got an email from an attorney saying that since I wouldn’t co-operate, the project was over. Interesting, that was after I left the Democratic Party and resigned as the face of the antiwar movement. Even though Jill and company kept dangling the promise of a film over my head for a couple of years, I got no compensation for that stall tactic.

Then shortly after the collapse of the first film, I was approached by Jeremy Kleiner and Dede Gardner of Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B so they could option the rights to my story. Again, we had many meetings at their office, interviewed screenwriters, and I signed the uncompensated options, but after more delays I was told, “movies with an antiwar theme just don’t make any money.”

I don’t know in either case if the rights were optioned to prevent a movie about my story with an antiwar theme being made, but I do believe that it’s a sad commentary on our war-saturated and blood-soaked society that Warnography and glamorizing psychopaths and psychopathic behavior not only do big box office and win awards, but also define the very culture that spews it up.



Jodda Mitchell
01/16/2015 2:51pm

Wow, Cindy, I didn't know about the disappearing movie deals. that REALLY sucks, as I wouldn't have let anything stop me from seeing a movie based on your story, and like you, there is not enough money in the world to get me to sit through this film about a psychopathic piece of shit.

Robert Gomez
01/16/2015 7:00pm

It's very unfortunate for all of us that Peace movies just doesn't sell at the box office. War movies on the other hand,which seem to rake in the bucks and the Oscar nominations ,must be careful to show war as through a "heroes" eyes. Much consideration is given to the depiction of ordinary soldiers doing extraordinary things in the face of extreme danger.

Frank Fazekas
01/16/2015 7:11pm

“movies with an antiwar theme just don’t make any money.” Right. Because:

Apocalypse Now
Born on the Fourth of July
Casualties of War
Dr. Strangelove
and Platoon

to name but a few, were all critical and/or box office dogs. I gotta think it's the environment since B43 took office that is keeping major theatrical release anti-war movies from being made. This is precisely why now more than ever we need some people with the major stones to make that movie.

Mila Lewis
01/17/2015 5:14pm

You'll notice that almost all the films you listed were about the Vietnam War. Plus they were filmed long after that war was over and Vietnam was no longer relevant to US foreign policy and/or public opinion.

The USA has been involved in many, many wars since Vietnam. Perhaps, one day, when public opinion no longer matters, we'll get a movie which tells the truth about the illegal invasion of Iraq or the complete botch-up of US interventions in Afghanistan and Libya and Kosovo etc.

Til then, the propaganda machine will ensure that Hollywood tows the line and follows government foreign policy. No "blockbuster" movie will be made which deigns to criticise wars in which the USA is currently engaged and documentaries, like The Tillman Story, will be screened at Sundace Film Festival, and despite critical acclaim, will wither on the vine because no high profile distributor will dare to touch it.

01/17/2015 10:08am

Antiwar films will only gather viewers in the so-called "axis of evil" nations, whichever they are at the moment. I wonder if Dr Strangelove could have been made today?

That was a rhetorical question. Of course it couldn't.

David Quinly
01/18/2015 12:58pm

Cindy, well said, as always.
Poor Kyle, a useful tool of the criminal profiteers. Like military flyovers at so many sporting events, faux patriotism and stupidity reign as one.
One day your story will be told and it will be important. It may come too late for these current crimes but will hopefully help overcome the push for future crimes against humanity.
The Tillman Story was excellent as was Body of War, in which you appeared. Taxi to the Darkside did get major awards and was seen by many. The question remains, how do we prosecute the "evildoers" exposed by these efforts? How do we expose the propaganda for what it is and overcome the apathy that seems so unyielding?

Carol Holland
01/19/2015 10:56am

What I got from the Pat Tillman story was that the Mormon soldier who acted dumb was sent to assassinated him. I wish the movie made it clearer, because I don't think everyone got it.

01/18/2015 5:46pm

Cindy your story makes me hate all the fakeass liberals in Hollywood. A good film should make money regardless of its subject matter. Seems like your biopic would have covered a war - between you and the government and there have been other successful films of individuals who take on huge corporate/government entities such as Silkwood, Network, The Hospital, etc.

01/19/2015 9:17am

I remember meeting you and standing with you in Hawaii against America's senseless killings, senseless wars. I continue to speak against sacrificing America's sons and daughters for corporate profit. Of course I do no t support films with violence, disregard for human life, human rights.

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