Monday, February 4, 2013

War is Hell

Chris Kyle was murdered Saturday night in Texas.

He lived in a little town not far from where I used to live, and I have some friends who knew him. They're upset.

Which is understandable, but every death is sad to someone.

Or is it?


Kyle was the author of a best-selling autobiography called "American Sniper," which details his career as a sharpshooter in the military. He claims 225 kills, and it's said that 160 of those are confirmed, although actual Pentagon statistics have not been made available yet to the general public.

Saturday, Kyle and a friend were said to be attempting to assist another veteran said to have PTSD. Their therapy was to go to a shooting range in Glen Rose, Texas. Something happened, and the troubled vet turned a weapon on Kyle and the other man, Chad Littlefield, killing both.

So much for Wayne LaPierre's theory that all it takes to stop a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun.


The gun argument is raging in America, although the gunnies right now desperately want the flames to die down. Their best hope is to let as much time elapse from the Dec. 14 horrors of Sandy Hook Elementary School as possible.

Good luck with all that. Newtown was just the latest mass killing in this country. This chart from Mother Jones shows the sickening, bloody trend.

Guns and violence and killing and blood are revered in this country. We are saturated with these images. Our most popular shows are about murder and crime. The sugar that makes it all go down so easily? The bad guys almost always get caught by the time the hour is up.

What bullshit. If we were so good at fighting crime, why is there so much of it?


That noted liberal rag, the Wall Street Journal, put together an interactive series of charts looking at American murders from 2000-10. The numbers exclude stats from Florida, a generally murder-friendly place, because the state doesn't conform to FBI methodology. It's pretty safe to assume Florida's exclusion only serves to enhance any positive conclusions from the research.

NB: The three lowest murder-totals in the sample span are in 2000, 2009 and 2010 -- years in which the White House was occupied by a Democrat. That's probably just a coincidence, right?

The CDC says there were more than 16,000 murders in 2011, of which more than 11,000 were by shootings. Interestingly, compared to the WSJ data, those breakdowns are statistically consistent: 111,289 of the 165,068 murders between 00-10 were gun killings.

Then there's this: 24/7WallStreet's list of the most and least "peaceful" states based on violence and its costs to communities. Seven of the top 10 are in the blood-red-state South; Missouri, Arizona and Nevada fill out the list.

Not every top 10 murder state is on the "least peaceful" list. New Mexico, Illinois, Maryland and Alabama round out that dubious bunch. Chicago and Baltimore are known as killing fields. So the blue states aren't without problems.

Having said that, the "most peaceful states (with the exception of Utah and North Dakota) are all blue: Maine is first, followed by Vermont, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Utah, North Dakota, Washington, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Iowa. Yes, Iowa has gone blue in three of the last four general elections.


I have several relatives in law enforcement. Two of them have been deeply immersed in the field, one has lived a particularly dangerous life because of his work.

I've never heard them anxious to tell me about what they've seen or done. I'm confident if pressed, they'd tell me, and I'm confident they would reveal that the job has brought them in close contact with the worst of the worst, and that blood has been spilled.

Their work has done more to improve the lives of Americans than they've ever gotten credit for. Both military veterans have helped keep our streets safe and sent criminals to jail. They're true American heroes and I am honored to share lineage.

Many others in my family have served in the military and as firefighters. All have served with honor and done what needed to be done to save lives, protect their units and co-workers, and defend the nation.


Could they have? I'm certain of it. I've even floated the idea to some of them. It was not embraced, but not rejected.

Fact of the matter is, they didn't do the things they did to draw attention to themselves. They did it because they felt it needed to be done, that the work was important. They sure didn't do it for money. They did it because they had the balls to do it, and they weren't afraid.

And no one's beating down their doors to hear their stories, even though they are no less important than those of anyone else who served our society in some capacity.


So Chris Kyle is now seen as a fallen hero. I'm appreciative of his service. But, he's no more a hero than anyone else who has taken on a dangerous job on the streets of Fallujah, Iraq, or Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Indeed, while his skill as a marksman is unquestioned, I don't think he's particularly special. This excerpt is from the New York Times, which cites a passage in Kyle's book:

He was deployed in Iraq during the worst years of the insurgency, perched in or on top of bombed-out apartment buildings with his .300 Winchester Magnum. His job was to provide “overwatch,” preventing enemy fighters from ambushing Marine units. 
He did not think the job would be difficult, he wrote in his book, “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.”
But two weeks into his time in Iraq, he found himself staring through his scope into the face of an unconventional enemy. A woman with a child standing close by had pulled a grenade from beneath her clothes as several Marines approached. He hesitated, he wrote, then shot.
“It was my duty to shoot, and I don’t regret it,” he wrote. “My shots saved several Americans, whose lives were clearly worth more than that woman’s twisted soul.”
That last passage troubles me, a lot.

Not incidentally, our entire reason for being in Iraq was phony. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, and its citizens, while repressed, had done almost nothing to beseech the great liberators of America to ride to their rescue. They weren't clamoring for the overthrow of Saddam or the institution of Western democracy.

So imagine a nation where life already somewhat sucks, but at least had some semblance of modern living. It wasn't like Afghanistan, where most of the population lacked modern conveniences. Into this rough landscape comes a third war... after the devastation of a 10-year failed war with Iran and the failure of the foray into Kuwait that generated "Desert Storm." Only this time, the invaders are going to completely subvert the existing political powers. They're going to occupy and shoot up the country for nearly a decade. They're sometimes going to go house-to-house and roust out suspects -- some of whom may be troublemakers, some of whom are identified as troublemakers by political and religious rivals who sell them out to eliminate competition for the nation's own coming new world order.

In a country known for its religious conflicts, scores were settled. Best of all, they were settled by an outside force that no one wanted to be associated with, but everyone could blame.

Sunni and Shi'a don't like each other much, but they pretty much agreed on one thing: they didn't like Americans.

Americans were the enemy. Whatever problems they had were theirs to solve; American intervention was unwelcome. We weren't greeted as liberators.

Against that backdrop, isn't it perfectly reasonable to see the enemy as not just a rival political or religious faction -- but also, the Americans?

Yes. Yes. It is reasonable. If an enemy force invaded the U.S., overthrew the government and started taking people from their homes... would we sit idly by?

I don't think so. Instead, we'd fight back. Perhaps a woman would conceal a grenade and approach an invading threat with the intention to strike back against her nation's oppressors. She'd clearly be right to do so.

And perhaps a sniper would cut her in two.

But that wouldn't make her a twisted soul. It would make her a patriot. The same kind of patriot Chris Kyle anointed himself as.


Chris Kyle was an assassin, a hitman, a professional murderer. It's what the U.S. military paid him to do, and what thousands of readers ate up when they made his book a bestseller.

He lived by the gun, and he died by the gun. If he'd known that by refusing to embrace the American murder and gun culture, he'd still be alive today -- do you think he'd have done it? I bet his twisted soul thinks very differently today about the life it has left behind. And the lives of a wife and two kids.

Was it worth it?

Until we stop killing one another, we're just animals. Not patriots. Not heroes. Animals. 


The man who killed Kyle and his friend apparently had his soul twisted by the horrors of war. Some in this country believe that mental health issues are more essential to address than the easy availability of killing weapons. This case will provide a forum for that debate. Will we take mercy on the accused, or look for another reason to kill?

You already know the answer, don't you?