Last weekend, our colleague Marc McDonald over at Beggars Can Be Choosers wrote, “American Sniper”: Chris Kyle Was a Perfect Poster Boy for Bush’s War of Lies. He did an excellent job of putting Kyle into the context of Bush’s illegal and immoral war. But I was very taken with one line from Kyle’s autobiography. Apparently, he wrote, “I couldn’t give a flying fuck about the Iraqis.” That wasn’t the first time I’d read that quote. But this time it hit me in a different way.
Kyle was a sniper. He had enormous power and discretion in who he targeted. Add to this that at one point, another sniper was threatening Kyle’s record for number of kills, and suddenly Kyle found that a whole lot more “bad guys” were appearing in front of his scope. Coming from an objective sniper with no inclinations other than to do his job to the best of his abilities, this would raise troubling questions. But coming from a sniper who apparently hated all Iraqis and who thought they were “damn savages,” you end up with a very bad situation — one where there really is no doubt that many innocent Iraqis were murdered by Kyle. And his absolute certainty that everyone he shot was a “bad guy,” makes it all the more suspect.
It would seem that in Chris Kyle’s Christian fanaticism, any Iraqi that he killed was a bad guy. He starts his book by discussing his first sniper kill of a woman with a grenade, “My shots saved several Americans, whose lives were clearly worth more than that woman’s twisted soul.” The irony is rich. The woman is fighting against an invading force. Regardless of what I think about what the woman did or stood for, Kyle was clueless. He was a member of an invading force and her actions were absolutely no more twisted than his own.
The most base form of tribalism in our society is religion. And this is what most bothers me about the almost total lack of a theological basis among Christian conservative faiths. All they really offer to their followers is the idea that we are “good” and they are “bad.” And the reason for the distinction is nothing more than that we are “us.” So we get comments from Kyle like, “I don’t shoot people with Korans. I’d like to, but I don’t.” It’s just a book. Why would you want to kill every person who has that book? Because having that book indicates that they are one of those people.
I would think that the US military would filter for people like Chris Kyle. Clearly, he went to Iraq with a different agenda than the military’s stated agenda. After all, we were supposedly there to liberate the Iraqi people from the oppression of Saddam Hussein. Iraq is 99% Muslim. Imagine a country invading America to free us from the tyranny of Barack Obama. America is an 80% Christian nation. Would it make sense to have snipers who wanted to shoot everyone they saw with a Bible? It would only make sense if the “freedom mission” was just a lie. It would only make sense if it wasn’t a war for the American people, but against them.
So Marc McDonald is right — in more than one way. America allows these kinds of Christian nationalists in the military — people who believe that Christianity is The Truth™ and that our wars should be in the service of spreading their religion. In addition to this being immoral, in the long-term, it will destroy our country.