What of Those Sniped Down by ‘America’s Most Lethal Sniper’?

cdp1It was a day much like any other day in the life of former U.S. Marine Navy SEAL Veteran and best-selling author, 38 year old Chris Kyle, when he and a companion were out shooting guns recreationally at the Rough Creek Lodge gun range, located one hour Southwest of Fort Worth, Texas. He, along with a fellow Marine Navy SEAL who accompanied him, 35 year old David Littlefield, were known locally for their mentorship roles as in FITCO Cares, a foundation set up for the purpose of providing much-needed assistance and mental care to other former marine veterans who, upon returning from service, suffered with post-traumatic stress disorder. One of the veterans mentored through the program, 25 year old Eddie Ray Routh, having only recently been released from a hospital psychiatric ward (*), appeared unexpectedly at the gun range on February 2 and, wielding a semi-automatic handgun, opened fire on the two unsuspecting men, killing Kyle and severely wounding Littlefield. [1] In a hail of bullets and gunfire, the life of the man hailed as “America’s most lethal sniper” came to an abrupt and dramatic end. In the wake of Chris Kyle’s death, every sector of the U.S. media, from Fox ‘News’ to the New York Times, unanimously proclaimed him a hero and elevated his death to the status of martyrdom. The media, in effect, presents the public with a false dilemma, a kind of attitude which says “you’re with us [celebrating Kyle as a patriotic hero] or against us [with the terrorists]”. But lost in this is the hypocrisy of it all. Why exactly do American media become outraged and indignant when lives like Kyle’s are cut short, yet they didn’t bat an eye when hundreds of Iraqi lives were ended by none of the great American sniper himself? According to Kyle, he killed with absolute impunity a total of 255 Iraqi people throughout his 4-5 combat tours to Iraq. Of his claimed 255 kills, 160 have been confirmed by the United States Pentagon.[2] In nearly every other circumstance, would he not be classified as a mass murderer?

There were unquestionably many remarkable events in the famous Marine’s life, such as when he was awarded a total of five Bronze Star medals and 2 Silver Star medals for his ‘acts of bravery’. As previously mentioned, he formed a foundation, FITCO Cares, for the specific purpose of providing mentorship to returning veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder upon arriving home after a decade of service. Kyle knew something of the mental trauma caused by the War himself, and of the difficulties faced when one must try and adjust back to living the life of a civilian after so many years on the battlefield. He once told of the feelings of intense cynicism he felt and the suspicions he had of all his surroundings, saying that something as simple as the wind blowing a piece of trash across the street would awaken haunting memories in his mind of explosives being detonated. FITCO Cares, however, wasn’t the only organization he played a role in. He, along with a group of former Marine Navy SEALS, cofounded the Craft International ‘security’ company, an organization whose stated purpose was to teach their acquired military training techniques to police officers as well as paying corporate and private individuals. [3] The values Craft International promoted and represented can best be summarized by their official motto: “Despite what you’re momma told you, violence does solve problems.” In the end, however, neither of the organizations he helped found would prove to be his biggest claim to fame. In January 2012, nearly three years after his honorable discharge, Kyle’s autobiographical book, American Sniper: the autobiography of the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, was published and would go on to become a national best-seller.

His autobiography reads not so much as a witness’s insightful recollection of history as it does a dynamic “hero vs. villain” fantasy novel. The book’s author, who clearly possessed a uniquely clever imagination, presents himself as a John Wayne-esque Cowboy sworn to protect good Christian virtue and civilization (re: white civilization) from the savage beastly ways of the Indians. Only in this version, the virtuous Cowboy is a Marine Navy SEAL sniper and the Indians are the ‘terrorist’ Arabs and Muslims. It’s important to note that in both instances, the invaders are not those portrayed as the savage ‘others’. However, he didn’t always see the world in such a tribalistic way. At the very least, he had some fear of political ramifications as a result of carrying out these murders. In his own words, “The first time killing someone, you’re not even sure you can do it… You think you can, but you never know until you actually are put in that position and you do it… And then, you’re worried when you get home, are the politicians going to hang you out to dry and put you on trial for murder?” (**) But however much hesitation there may have been in the beginning, there was no trace of it after he shot down his first victim. His very first execution-by-sniper, he recalled, was of a mother who in one arm held her infant child and a grenade in the other. As disturbing and shocking the image of a depraved woman simultaneously carrying her baby and an explosive may be, it is one that should be taken with a grain of salt. If the rest of the claims in his book are anything to go by, Kyle was particularly prone to exaggeration. (^) Regardless, her life was clearly of very little value to him. Upon reflection, he emphasized that “my shots saved several Americans, whose lives were clearly worth more than that woman’s twisted soul.” [4] He was most proud of the fact that Iraqi insurgents had placed a rather large bounty on his head amounting to a sum of $80,000. (^^) [5]

In response to questions that emerged regarding his numerous executions, he was in no shortage of justifications for why murdering these people was a righteous cause. First, there was the matter of protecting his men as opposed to theirs. “I had to do it to protect the marines,” he said, in reference to his first killing. “You want to lose your own guys or would you rather take one of them out?” As time went on, he became even more firmly convinced that the lives of Iraqi people were expendable. “I’m not over there looking at these people as people… wondering if he has a family. I’m just trying to keep my guys safe. Every time I kill someone, he can’t plant an IED. You don’t think twice about it.” [6] And think twice about it he never did. When asked by TIME magazine if he regretted any of the hundreds of murders he’d committed, his cold response was, “No, not at all.” “Every person I killed,” he assured, “I strongly believe that they were bad.” If that still weren’t enough to prove once and for all the necessity of imperialistic wars and the need to impose nationalistic views on those dwelling in occupied territories, there’s always the age-old colonial justification of paternalism to fall back on. Kyle tapped into the traditionalist argument that European colonialists used to convince themselves of the righteousness of invading the North American continent and its inhabitants, the insistence that the nonwhite persons of the world were mentally and morally their inferiors and should be forcefully educated in the ways of Christianity. “For the most part,” he declared, “the [American] public is very soft, you live in a dream world. You have no idea of what goes on the other side of the world, the harsh realities of what these people are doing to themselves and then to our guys. There are certain things that need to be done to take care of them.” Like the European colonialists before him, he claimed his devout Christianity played a significant role in the success of his mission (i.e. murderous endeavors). Once, when he struck a man down from an incredible distance of 2,100 yards, he said he could feel the hand of God guiding the bullet to the man’s body. [7] Because of this certitude, he reasoned that God’s good graces would be upon him. “When I do face God there is going to be lots of things I will have to account for, but killing any of those people isn’t one of them.” [8]

What is most unnerving about the glorious media coverage being given to Chris Kyle in the wake of his death by gunfire isn’t the fact that he’s been unanimously declared a hero. His death is in fact a tragedy, in that death, especially death by murder, is always a tragedy. But the way in which the lives of Iraqis in addition to all citizens of Middle Eastern origin have seemingly been reduced to mere numbers and statistics, without any voice being given to the everyday struggles and difficulties that they face on a regular basis, is truly a tragedy in its own right. Those who have been targeted and killed as “enemy combatants” were declared to be so based on some of the flimsiest criteria. In many circumstances, it seems that an “enemy combatant” is basically any male, perhaps as young as 12 years old, who is perceived to be of Arab or Middle Eastern origin. Nor is there ever a word spoken about why so many young men become militants in the first place. It should go without saying that they believe their cause to be every bit as just and righteous as do warriors for the United States. The notable exception, however, is that in this case the U.S. are the invaders, the Iraqis the invaded. (*^) During the initial decade of the 2nd millennium, the nation of Iraq and its people found themselves in the undesirable role of U.S. scapegoat number one. As Native Americans and African Americans know all too well, to be seen as “Other” in the eyes of the American colonial empire amounts to being seen as something less than human, as lacking the same emotional and mental capacity as the white nation. Because this colonial structure sees their culture as something foreign or different than its own, it designates them as something which must be controlled, subjugated, ‘civilized’ or eradicated. Because of this, many Americans, who never batted an eye as “America’s most lethal sniper’s” kill list skyrocketed, were nevertheless stunned upon hearing that the life of their hero had been cut short by, of all things, a bullet from the barrel of a gun. Or as the coauthor of Kyle’s autobiography put it, “After all that Chris has been through, that this is how he meets his end, because there are so many ways he have been killed.” [9]

Noted Sources and Citations:
1. Fernandez, Manny and Jones, Kathryn. (2013, Feb. 7). Suspect in Texas Veterans’ Killing Was Hospitalized. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/08/us/eddie-ray-routh-accused-of-killing-chris-kyle-american-sniper-had-troubled-past.html. ; Schabner, Dean. (2013, Feb. 5). ‘American Sniper’ Killing Suspect’s Sister ‘Terrified’ in 911 Call. http://abcnews.go.com/US/chris-kyle-killing-suspects-sister-terrified-911-call/story?id=18414891.
2. Duke, Alan. (2013, Feb. 5). Chris Kyle, America’s Deadliest Sniper, Offered No Regrets. CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/03/us/texas-sniper-killed-kyle-profile/index.html. ; BBC News. (2013, Feb. 4). Chris Kyle Murder: war veteran Eddie Routh charged. http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-21320750.
3. Leigh, Rob. (2013, Feb. 3). ‘America’s Most Lethal Sniper’ dead: best-selling author and ex-Navy SEAL shot at gun range. Mirror. http://www.mirror.uk/news/world-news/chris-kyle-ex-us-navy-seal-1572416.
4. Smolarek, Walter. (2013, Feb. 8). Gun Control? Start With the Navy SEALS. Liberation News. http://www.pslweb.org/liberationnews/news/gun-control-start-with-seals.html.
5. http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-21320750. ; http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/03/us/texas-sniper-killed-kyle-profile/index.html.
6. http://www.mirror.uk/news/world-news/chris-kyle-ex-us-navy-seal-1572416.
7. http://www.pslweb.org/liberationnews/news/gun-control-start-with-seals.html
8. http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-21320750.
9. Quote was made by Scott McEwen who coauthored Kyle’s autobiography.

Other Notes:
 * Only days earlier, Routh’s parents pleaded with the hospital ward not to release their son from the mental ward, citing evidence he was mentally unstable.
 ** The answer to that question was a resounding “no!”
 ^ The most obvious confirmation that he was taken with flights of fantasy is the infamous tale he told about former U.S. Marine Navy SEAL and Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura. According to Kyle, Jesse Ventura was at an event after one of Kyle’s comrades saying that he “hates America” and that the Navy SEALS “deserve to lose a few [lives].” Because of this, Kyle walked right up to Ventura and punched him right in the face, a scene which apparently must have had very few witnesses as he is the only person who ever told that story. Needless to say, Ventura denied every single one of these allegations and sued for Kyle for slandering his name. In a later interview with Fox’s Bill O’ Reilly, Kyle said of the occurrence, “[Ventura] was complaining about the War, that we shouldn’t be there. Complaining about Bush, that, you know, Bush was a war criminal. How we were killing innocent men, women and children overseas.” (The latter statement was not what he claimed Ventura had said earlier, nor is there anything factually untrue about the statement made to O’ Reilly, if that is indeed what Ventura said.)
 ^^ Military Intelligence circles actually place the bounty at $20,000.
 *^ The line commonly touted as justifiable means for invading Iraq because of Saddam Hussein gassing his own people is completely false, because at the very same time he was doing this, the U.S. kept silent about it and seemingly had his back. Because Saddam had Iran in Iraq’s crosshairs, the U.S. followed the motto “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

4 thoughts

  1. Actually the late mr. Kyle was a Navy seal, not a “Marine navy seal”. The Navy and Marines are two separate branches of the US military and both have distinct and separate special operations units – Seals are Navy special operations while the Marines special operations forces are a recently created unit known under the acronym Marsoc.

    Semantics aside, I do agree with your sentiments here and I won’t be watching this movie, just like I didn’t watch the Hollywood/pentagon fiction Lone Survivor, a movie based on a shoddy fictionalized account of one of the worst screw-ups in the history of the Navy seals that was actually penned by a ghost writer (see the book Victory Point: Operations Red Wings and Whalers by Ed Darack for a more factual account of the events and aftermath of the “lone survivor” operation.)

    In regards to American Sniper, maybe director Eastwood thinks that by presenting what appears to be a psychologically nuanced and morally conflicted version of the late Mr. Kyle, a version that seems at odds with the sad reality of the real Mr. Kyle, that he is somehow making an ambiguous statement about war, a sort of quasi antiwar statement, that war is hell but perhaps a necessary hell that strong men rise up to, but he is wrong. Because based upon what I’ve read of the svript and the previews this is indeed a pro-war militarist film.

    In fact, any movie that depicts soldiers heroically following orders from above can be counted as pro-war propaganda. Even if war itself is portrayed in a negative light if the soldier protagonist is favorably depicted as overcoming all of the horrors of war to fufill their official duty and mission as a soldier then it is still pro-war. A genuine antiwar movie depicts not only the horrors of war but the vileness of once free men and women lowering themselves to the level of sub-human psychopaths to carry out the imperial ambitions of those in high places. A good example of such a movie would be the classic antiwar film All’s quite on the western front.

    In any case it is increasingly clear that Hollywood and the pentagon are in bed together.

    1. Thanks for the correction, and to be honest I had no idea there was even a movie being released (if it isn’t out already) about this man’s life – or more accurately a fictionalized version of his life that paints him as some sort of tragic hero. But like you said, it is becoming increasingly clear Hollywood and the Pentagon are joined at the hip. From this new movie, to Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, Black Hawk Down and now the Interview, imperialist wars have no better means of recruitment than through the use of Hollywood film. Oh and before I forget, I’ve just learned recently Chris Kyle once supposedly boasted of having shot dead so-called “looters” in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Anyone who is well-read on the subject of Katrina knows that the term “looter” was applied to just about anyone authorities felt like they could shoot and get away with. Check out this interesting commentary from The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/06/real-american-sniper-hate-filled-killer-why-patriots-calling-hero-chris-kyle

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