I was gripped emotionally by the Bradley Cooper's way of inhabiting the character of "American sniper" Chris Kyle. That's what Hollywood does. Then I remembered a young sniper friend of mine who, when asked what he did, said, "We shoot people and blow shit up." And when I asked him what he thought about the policies behind all the shooting, he simply answered, "that's for the big people above us to decide."
War is about concentrating on the target, you see, killing bad guys and protecting your own. In his own book, Kyle lacks the charisma of Bradley Cooper, and matter-of-factly says things like "If you see anyone from about sixteen to sixty-five and they're male, shoot 'em. Kill every male you see." And: "You do it until there's no one left to kill." And, finally, "I'm not lying or exaggerating to say it was fun."
The now-deceased sniper simply didn't see that by his own analysis, we had been at war with a whole people, a whole country (assuming women and children under sixteen could be spared and left standing by the sharpshooters.)
If everyone's the enemy, why were we there, and why still there? That's for the big people to decide. But the big people, in their private reflections, often think little differently than Kyle. There was Obama's top adviser, Bruce Riedel, for example, who told the president we needed to keep killing them until they stop killing us. (In Woodward's “Obama's Wars”)
Apparently Americans are supposed to be consoled by a sharpshooter with 160 confirmed kills in a lost cause.
There's a sadness about this story that becomes almost unmanageable in the final minutes of the film. While the movie was being edited in 2013, Kyle and another soldier named Chad Littlefield were gunned down, from behind, at a shooting range by Eddie Ray Routh, a damaged vet that Kyle was seeking to help.
The jury recently took two quick hours to determine that the double killing was a legally rational act, resulting in life imprisonment instead of mental health treatment. Routh told police that enemies who were half-pig, half-human surrounded him. Kyle himself, on the drive to the gun range, texted his friend Littlefield that, "This dude (Routh) is straight-up nuts."
The prosecution introduced "expert" testimony denying that Routh did not have post-traumatic stress syndrome or even suffer from paranoid delusions.
It's painful but necessary to understand that Kyle died not at the hands of Iraqi "savages" but by a fellow veteran whose behavior was considered by the authorities to be sane. That is frightening in itself, but consider this too: by 2012 there were more deaths by suicide among American soldiers than the total number killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Our soldiers are killing themselves or each other. That's how it is ending. If it's not crazy to kill Chris Kyle on a gun range, what's the chance that anyone in power will ever judge that the war itself is the source of a spreading insanity?