The film American Sniper has sent the US public into raptures over the “heroic life” of its autobiographical subject Chris Kyle – who has been described as America’s “greatest warrior” soldier.
Last week, the movie premiered in cinemas to rave reviews, earning its director Clint Eastwood a box office smash-hit. Multiple Oscar awards are nominated.
Critics have quibbled about this or that aspect of the cinematography and storyline. But the prevailing impression is that Kyle – a US Marine marksman – was a tragic hero, a guy who honorably served his country during the American war in Iraq.
The film has even been described by some as an “anti-war” movie because it delves into the mental trauma of veterans and the suffering they endure after conflict.
Lost in the discussion is the central issue, which is the criminal nature of American militarism and its destructive impact on millions of innocent people. American Sniper may express certain misgivings about US foreign wars, owing to the psychological consequences on its military personnel.
But in indulging “heroes” like Chris Kyle, the insidious effect is to glorify American war-making. This reinforces American narcissism about its “exceptionalism” as a nation that is intrinsically good, superior and which has the prerogative to wage wars wherever it deems necessary for its “national interests” regardless of international law or morality.
Over one million Iraqis were killed during American military occupation of that country from 2003-2011. The fraudulent pretext for that war – Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction – has been amply documented and is irrefutable. That makes US involvement in Iraq an epic crime, a war of aggression, or, to put it plainly, a state-sponsored terrorist cataclysm.
American government leaders and Pentagon commanders, including incumbent President Barack Obama, should be prosecuted for war crimes based on legal standards established at the Nuremberg Trials for the Nazi Reich.
Astoundingly, the power of American propaganda and brainwashing, facilitated by its corporate media, erases any awareness or discussion of this central issue.
Instead, American angst is consumed in sympathy for “our noble veterans” and their trauma suffered “in the line of duty.”
America’s war machine killing own society
Where are the calls for justice over America’s state-sponsored criminality and genocide of the Iraqi people? Where is there even a semblance of remorse or reparation? American politicians continue to swan around the world, sanctimoniously lecturing others as if they were the epitome of virtue.
Legal justice may be absent, but nevertheless there is a very real form of justice for America’s systematic iniquity.
The American war machine may appear to trundle on untrammeled by international law, illegally occupying countries, assassinating with aerial drones on a weekly basis, and subverting foreign nations by covert proxy terrorism, as in Syria and Ukraine.
But, unequivocally, this war machine is killing its own society, financially, psychologically and morally.
Chris Kyle is eulogized as “America’s deadliest sniper” having killed singlehandedly over 200 people during his four tours of duty in Iraq. It doesn’t matter if most of his victims were “terrorists” or if he was serving in good faith to protect the lives of other American soldiers.
The fact is that Kyle was a cog in a criminal war machine that was engaged in destroying a whole nation. For Americans to celebrate him as a “warrior hero” is indicative of the moral corruption that US society has descended into. It shows how much that violence has become endemic in the American psyche.
Kyle was shot dead at a Texas shooting-range in 2013. His alleged killer, Eddie Ray Routh, was also a veteran, said to be suffering from post-traumatic syndrome. Kyle, who declared his own post-conflict trauma after he was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 2009, was working as a counselor for other mentally disturbed US vets.
It says something about American social pathology that victims of conflict trauma are treated with “therapy” by letting them fire off assault rifles at shooting-ranges.
Every day, some 20 US military veterans commit suicide, most of them wracked by mental breakdown. That’s over 7,000 deaths every year.
Tens of thousands of other veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan and other overseas American killing fields are reckoned to be silent victims of post-conflict trauma, committing acts of violence and crimes against other citizens, or degenerating into self-destructive lives of alcohol and other drug abuse.
Similar numbers of American families are ruined by dysfunctional veterans who can’t readjust into normal society.
The economic cost of US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan alone is put at $6 trillion – or a third of America’s crippling national debt pile.
But a proper accounting reveals a much greater toll when the full social damage of these wars is assimilated. Medical bills, unemployment, crime, personal breakdown, unproductive members of society are just the tip of the iceberg.
In real, but intangible magnitude, American society is sitting on a massive “dirty” time-bomb from its criminal war-mongering. This is the “justice” for US wars of apparent impunity.
The violence and destruction that American leaders have unleashed – are unleashing – on countries around the world are coming back to haunt and corrode American society to its core. Killing millions of people remotely in far off villages and deserts is exacting a righteous revenge on American society.
The story of Chris Kyle is not just a story about an ill-fated American sniper. It is a metaphor for America as a whole. Part of this destruction, and what makes it so profoundly terminal, is that the American public is largely oblivious to its own collapse.
When mass murder of humans is hailed by popcorn-munching morons as heroic, it is a sure sign that America is doomed. Fatally.
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism.