The Pseudo-Courage of Chris Kyle

Email Print

Recently by William Norman Grigg: The
Shadow of Claude Dallas

That kind
of courage, which is conspicuous in danger and enterprise, if devoid
of justice, is absolutely undeserving of the name of valor. It should
rather be considered as a brutal fierceness outraging every principle
of humanity.

~ Cicero,
, Book I Chapter XIX

As a sniper
with the Navy SEALs in Iraq, Chris
was shot twice and wounded on several other occasions.
He is credited with 160 confirmed kills. He received several commendations.
Of his fierceness there is no reasonable doubt. Whether his exploits
display courage is an entirely separate question.

Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military
, the ghost-written memoir for which Kyle claims
primary authorship, offers convincing testimony that Kyle not only
failed to display genuine courage in Iraq, but was incapable of
recognizing it when it was exhibited by desperate patriots seeking
to evict the armed foreigners who had invaded and occupied their

The insurgents
who fought the American invasion (and the few "allied"
troops representing governments that had been bribed or brow-beaten
into collaborating in that crime) were sub-human "savages"
and "cowards," according to Kyle.

despicable evil," writes Kyle. "That's what we were fighting
in Iraq…. People ask me all the time, ‘How many people have you
killed?'… The number is not important to me. I only wish I had
killed more. Not for bragging rights, but because I believe the
world is a better place without savages out there taking American

None of the
American military personnel whose lives were wasted in Iraq had
to die there, because none of them had any legitimate reason to
be there. From Kyle's perspective, however, only incorrigibly
"evil" people would object once their country had been
designated the target of one of Washington's frequent outbursts
of murderous humanitarianism.

The insensate
savagery of the Iraqi population was supposedly illustrated by the
first kill Kyle recorded as a sniper, while covering a Marine advance
near Nasiriyah in March, 2003.

"I looked
through the scope," Kyle recalls. "The only people who
were moving were [a] woman and maybe a child or two nearby. I watched
the troops pull up. Ten young, proud Marines in uniform got out
of their vehicles and gathered for a foot patrol. As the Americans
organized, the woman took something from beneath her clothes, and
yanked at it. She'd set a grenade."

Kyle shot the
woman twice.

"It was
my duty to shoot, and I don't regret it," Kyle attests. "The
woman was already dead. I was just making sure she didn't take any
Marines with her. It was clear that not only did she want to kill
them, but she didn't care about anybody else nearby who would have
been blown up by the grenade or killed in the firefight. Children
on the street, people in the houses, maybe her child…."

Of course,
if the Marines hadn't invaded that woman's neighborhood, she wouldn't
have been driven to take such desperate action — but Kyle either
cannot or will not understand the motives of an Iraqi patriot.

"She was
… blinded by evil," Kyle writes of the woman he murdered from
a safe distance. "She just wanted Americans dead, no matter
what. My shots saved several Americans, whose lives were clearly
worth more than that woman's twisted soul."

Were Kyle just
a touch more literate, he might recognize the term untermenschen,
a German expression that encapsulates his view of the Iraqis who
took up arms to repel foreign invaders. From his perspective, they
were incurably inferior to their "liberators" and possessed
of an inexplicable hatred toward their natural betters.

For some reason
many Iraqis resented the armed emissaries of the distant government
that had installed Saddam in power, built up his arsenal and apparatus
of domestic repression, and then conferred upon the inhabitants
of that nation the unmatched blessing of several decades of wars,
embargoes, airstrikes, disease, and the early, avoidable deaths
of hundreds of thousands of children.

"The people
we were fighting in Iraq, after Saddam's army fled or was defeated,
were fanatics," Kyle insists. "They hated us because we
weren't Muslim. They wanted to kill us, even though we'd just booted
out their dictator, because we practiced a different religion than
they did."

most of them probably wanted to kill Kyle and his comrades because
they had invaded and occupied their country. They were prepared
to use lethal force to protect their homes against armed intruders
who had no right to be there. Ironically, Kyle's book offers
evidence that he understands that principle; he simply doesn't believe
that it applies to Iraqis.

In one incident
described by Kyle, he and several other U.S. personnel raid an Iraqi
home, in the basement of which they discover a mass grave containing
the bodies of several soldiers and Marines. For several panic-stricken
moments, Kyle is understandably terrified by the thought that he
might find the lifeless body of his younger brother, a Marine who
had also been deployed to Iraq.

With obvious
and vehement disgust, Kyle cites the "murdered young men whose
bodies we had pulled out" of that basement grave as evidence
of the bestial nature of the enemy. He exhibits no interest at all
in the fact that tens of millions of Iraqis have seen friends and
family meet violent, avoidable deaths as a result of the wars and
sanctions imposed on their country by Washington.

apparently, aren't entitled to experience grief and rage — much
less the right to defend their homes and families against aggressive

After returning
from his first combat tour in Iraq, Kyle recalls, he was rudely
roused from slumber one morning when the burglar alarm went off.
Although this was a malfunction rather than a real emergency, Kyle's
reaction was revealing.

"I grabbed
my pistol and went to confront the criminal," he recalls. "No
son of a bitch was breaking into my house and living to tell about

Why was it
"evil" for Iraqis to feel exactly the same way about the
foreign sons of bitches who broke into their country and wrecked
the place?

Later in the
book, describing a stalking exercise during his training to become
a sniper, Kyle recounts how he "heard the distinct rattle of
a snake nearby."

"A rattler
had taken a particular liking to the piece of real estate I had
to cross," Kyle recalls. "Willing it away didn't work….
I crept slowly to the side, altering my course. Some enemies aren't
worth fighting."

Exactly: The
only enemies worth "fighting," apparently, are those who
aren't capable of hurting you when you trespass on their

The Gadsen
Flag — featuring a coiled rattlesnake and the directive "Don't
Tread On Me" — was, and remains, the best symbolic expression
of authentic American patriotism. Genuine American patriots can
understand why patriots of other countries would feel similar attachments,
and be similarly inclined to repel foreign invaders. This is why
they will never support any war that puts other Americans in the
position of killing foreign patriots who are defending their own

A rattlesnake
defending its territory earns Kyle's respect; an Iraqi patriot fighting
on his home soil with his back to his home and the face to his enemy,
however, is "blinded by evil" and not truly human.

may have been cowards, but they could certainly kill people,"
observes Kyle of the guerrillas. "The insurgents didn't worry
about ROEs [Rules of Engagement] or court-martials [sic]. If they
had the advantage, they would kill any Westerner they could find,
whether they were soldiers or not."

If that charge
(made on page 87 of Kyle's book) is accurate, it night reflect the
fact that the Iraqi resistance (as well as the tactics of foreign
guerrillas who joined the fight) was playing according to ground
rules established by the U.S. early in the war.

On page 79,
Kyle describes the Rules of Engagement that his unit followed when
they were deployed to Shatt al-Arab, a river on the Iraq-Iran border:
"Our ROEs when the war kicked off were pretty simple: If
you see anyone from about sixteen to sixty-five and they're male,
shoot u2018em. Kill every male you see. That wasn't the official
language, but that was the idea." (Emphasis in the original.)

Those orders
were of a piece with the studied indifference to civilian casualties
that characterized the "Shock and Awe" bombing campaign
that began the war. In preparing that onslaught General Tommy Franks
and his military planners were guided by a computer program that
referred to civilian casualties as "bugsplat." Franks
had no compunction about ordering bombing missions that would result
in what the computer projections described as "heavy bugsplat."
After all, aren't the lives of American military personnel "clearly
worth more" — to use Kyle's phrase – than those of the
Iraqi civilians, who were mere insects to be annihilated?

In one of her
occasional contributions to Kyle's book, his wife Taya rebukes people
who criticize the bloodshed wrought in Iraq by her husband and his
colleagues: "As far as I can see it, anyone who has a problem
with what guys do over there is incapable of empathy." The
trait she describes isn't empathy; it's a variation on the kind
of pre-emptive self-pity described by Hannah Arendt in her study
in Jerusalem

Referring to
those who killed on behalf of the Third Reich, Arendt observed:

stuck in the minds of these men who had become murderers was simply
the notion of being involved in something historic, grandiose, unique
(‘a great task that occurs once in two thousand years'), which must
therefore be difficult to bear. This was important, because the
murderers were not sadists or killers by nature; on the contrary,
a systematic effort was made to weed out all those who derived physical
pleasure from what they did…."

This was true
even of those who belonged to the SS: Even those in the Reich's
killer elite were not able to suppress their conscience entirely.
Thus the "trick used by Himmler — who apparently was rather
strongly afflicted by these instinctive reactions himself — was
very simple and probably very effective; it consisted in turning
these instincts around, as it were, in directing them toward the
self. So that instead of saying: ‘What horrible things I did to
people!,' the murderers would be able to say: ‘What horrible things
I had to watch in the pursuance of my duties, how heavily the task
weighed upon my shoulders!'”

Kyle's memoir
is remarkable chiefly for the complete absence of the kind of moral
anguish Arendt describes among the SS. Kyle eagerly participated
in a patently illegal and entirely unnecessary war of aggression
against a country that never attacked, harmed, or threatened the
United States. He killed scores of people, terrorized thousands
more. As Kyle tells the story, he reveled in the experience, and
regrets only that he wasn't able to slaughter more of the "savages"
who surrounded him.

During Kyle's
last deployment to Iraq, his unit — Charlie Company of SEAL Team
3 — assigned themselves the nickname "The Punishers,"
appropriating as their insignia the Death's Head logo used by the
psychotic comic book character of the same name.

group of police officers in Milwaukee
had exactly the same idea.
also adopted the "Punisher" logo
, which they displayed
on their police vehicles and wore on knitted caps as they prowled
the street in search of asses to kick.

The most memorable
exhibition of what they regarded as valor came in October 2004,
when a thugscrum of "Punishers" beset a male dancer named
Frank Jude, who was nearly beaten to death because he was suspected
of stealing a badge.

After throwing
Jude to the ground, the Punishers severely beat, kicked, and choked
him — then put a knife to his throat and jammed a pen into one of
his ears. The victim survived the assault, but was left with permanent
brain damage. The officers later claimed that this amount of violence
was necessary to "subdue" Jude — who was never charged
in connection with the incident. The jury in the criminal trial
accepted that claim and acquitted the officers — who were later
found guilty of criminal civil rights violations.

During his
service in Iraq, Kyle occasionally functioned as a law enforcement
officer of sorts. He was involved in dozens of raids against the
homes of suspected "insurgents," many of whom were arrested
on the basis of uncorroborated accusations by anonymous informants.

He allows that
many of the people dragged off in shackles were entirely innocent,
but maintains that he wasn’t ever troubled by that fact; he was
just doing his “duty.”

Shortly before
the war began, Kyle was part of a SEAL unit tasked to enforce UNsanctions
against Iraq by intercepting tankers leaving the country with unlicensed
oil deliveries. On one occasion, he boarded a tanker commanded by
a commercial sea captain who "had some fight in him, and even
though he was unarmed, he wasn't ready to surrender."

"He made
a run at me," Kyle continues. "Pretty stupid. First of
all, I'm not only bigger than him, but I was wearing full body armor.
Not to mention the fact that I had a submachine gun in my hand.
I took the muzzle of my gun and struck the idiot in the chest. He
went right down."

If Kyle had
been a warrior, rather than a bully, he would have admired the authentic
courage displayed by the smaller, unarmed man who fought to protect
the ship and cargo entrusted to him.

would he act if the roles were reversed — if he were the over-matched
man trying to defend private property from a group of state-licensed
pirates claiming "authority" from a UN mandate? We'll
never know the answer to that question, because Kyle's "courage"
is of the sort that only manifests itself in the service of power,
and in the company of those enjoying a prohibitive advantage over
their victims.

Kyle's "service"
continues, even though he's retired from the military. He is president
of Craft International,
a Homeland Security contractor involved
in training domestic law enforcement agencies
. It's quite likely
that Kyle's outfit will soak up a considerable portion of the
roughly $1.5 billion dollars the Obama administration seeks to hire
military veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan to work as police, emergency
personnel, and park rangers

with permission from Pro

8, 2012

Norman Grigg [send him mail]
publishes the Pro
blog and hosts the Pro
Libertate radio program

Best of William Norman Grigg

Email Print