What does the posthumous veneration of Chris Kyle say about America?
In May 2013, Steven Spielberg announced that his next film would be an adaptation of Chris Kyle’s American Sniper: the Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper In U.S. Military History. Bradley Cooper will star as “the Devil of Ramadi,” the Navy SEAL whose 160 confirmed kills are his claim to fame. That America’s most beloved filmmaker is going to give Kyle the same reverent treatment he gave Oskar Schindler and Abraham Lincoln, starring People magazine’s “Sexiest Man of 2011,” says a lot about the place that Kyle occupies in the popular imagination. However, a long-form biographical piece by Nicholas Schmidle in the June 2013 New Yorker, as well as Kyle’s own memoir, paints a disturbing picture about Spielberg’s latest subject. If Kyle is to be celebrated as an American hero, it speaks volumes about America and what our values have become in the decade+ since the Global War on Terror began.
Following the attacks of September 11th, 2001, the US began the War on Terror: a war sold to the public ostensibly against a brand of totalitarian religious extremists; “Islamofascists” who had no regard for the sanctity of life, basic human decency, or democratic institutions. Then-Vice President Dick Cheney declared that in order to fight this new war, the US “would have to work the dark side.” “I’m not a fan of politics,” Kyle explains in American Sniper, “I like war.” For someone who loved to kill, Kyle was in the right place at the right time. Continue reading