Shakespeare, Heroism and ‘Heroism’

“Either our history shall, with full mouth, Speak freely of our acts; or else our grave, Like Turkish mute, shall have a tongueless mouth, Not worshipp’d with a waxen epitaph.”“Either our history shall, with full mouth,
Speak freely of our acts; or else our grave,
Like Turkish mute, shall have a tongueless mouth,
Not worshipp’d with a waxen epitaph.”

King Henry V, act 1, sc. 2

For the following notes, there is no need of a muse of fire to ascend the brightest heaven of invention. Nor of a kingdom for a stage, princes to act, and monarchs to behold the swelling scene. For it is a scene that, at best, it would be well if it were forgotten.

The facts speak by themselves and refer to a book and a movie called “American Sniper.” I certainly did not (nor intend to) see the movie and, most adamantly, will not read the book. But there is enough information around to learn of the sickness concentrated in the “American Sniper” episode or phenomenon.  And, more importantly, to realize the depth of ignominy presented as the acme of nobility by the most extraordinary propaganda machine ever seen in this world, namely Hollywood. Propaganda further supported by the insane dominion of the information by the regime media, with its absolute hegemony over the collective brain.

I used the word ‘phenomenon’, not for the worthlessness (to be kind) of both book and movie, but for the messages it intends to convey and the examples it intends to inspire. For Hollywood exports into billions of brains worldwide the global standards for understanding reality, including thought, behavior and values.

I learned of this ‘thing of darkness’ on reading an article by Cindy Sheenan, mother of Casey Sheenan, a US soldier killed a few days after he was dispatched to Iraq. And who, when compared to his ‘sniper’ counterpart, can certainly be called a hero. I think it best to quote her article in its entirety,


I only wish I had killed more.” –Navy Seal and “American Sniper”, Chris Kyle (author of book and featured protagonist in the movie by the same name)

“I can’t kill anyone.” –US working-class soldier Casey Sheehan, before his short deployment to Iraq.

… This is something that I don’t want to revisit—I never want to relive the worst experience of my life. However, with the 11th anniversary of my son’s death in Iraq on April 4, 2004 approaching, and the new “blockbuster” infecting movie screens around the world, I really must get this off of my chest.

Most citizens of this nation are without a doubt addicted to wars and war “heroes” without stopping, for more than a few cursory seconds, to count the costs or evaluate the propaganda. I despair that a movie like American Sniper grossed over 105 million at the box office over the weekend where we are supposed to be commemorating the birth of a man of peace, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Everything in American Sniper is taken for fact when the author and movie-focus Chris Kyle already had been proven to be a blowhard and a liar…

As is the US addicted to its wars, it is also addicted to lying about them and I know this because I have my own case about Casey for proof.

We got the news about Casey about 14 hours or so after the vehicle he was in had been ambushed in Iraq. After I went down on the floor screaming for I don’t know how long, the three emissaries of death couldn’t really tell us much except that he was Killed In Action (KIA)—I still can’t see a KIA brand car without my heart sinking.

Since Casey’s murder, I have found out so much about the US military I had no idea about, but when a group of troops (Battalion? Unit? Army? Murder?) get deployed to combat, some stay back for “Funeral Duty.”

Two such persons came to Casey’s funeral and regaled us with stories about what a wonderful mechanic he was and how he had “volunteered” to go on the mission that killed him. Even though neither story rang true to me, I absorbed them like a dry sponge (as I was from all the tears I shed), wanting to hang on to some news of my son because he had only been there in Iraq a few days before he was killed. We didn’t even know he was stationed at Camp War Eagle right in the heart of Baghdad.

Casey had joined the Army in the year 2000 for college benefits and with the promise from his lying recruiter that he could be a Chaplain’s Assistant. I knew from our many conversations that Casey hated being a Humvee (large militarized jeep) mechanic, but that was the only military job available when he got to boot camp.

Also, the very final time he was home (oh, how I wish I knew for sure it was the final time, I would have carried out my half-joking threat to run him with my car just enough to disable him) at Christmas of 2003 He told everyone he was just going to “do his job” and come home safely because, as a Christian and a gentleman, he could “never kill anyone.” All of this didn’t jibe at all with Casey “volunteering.”

By drips and drabs, the truth came out. Much has been written with the Imperial spin about April 4, 2004 in Baghdad—about how the First Cavalry (Casey’s unit, or whatever) was attacked by the residents of Sadr City. But from non-embedded journalists we have found out that the 1st Cavalry went out to provoke a response, to show the residents who was “in charge now.” April 4th was also right after the mercenaries of Blackwater had provoked the residents of Fallujah into an uprising that resulted in the highly publicized deaths of several mercenaries.

Four years after Casey died, I received an email from one of his buddies, who was right next to him on that fateful evening.

The veteran started his email with, “Sheehan was a great guy, but he was a lousy mechanic.” Which made me smile, because it rang true, but then he delivered the coup de grace:

“I don’t know why you keep telling everyone it was Bush’s fault, it was Sgt. (name withheld by me)’s fault. He made your son go on that mission and in fact told him to ‘get your goddamn ass on that truck’ after Sheehan had said, ‘no, I am not going, I am only a mechanic.’”

Even though I sobbed when I read that, I knew it was true. Casey knew he could never kill anyone and to me he is far more of a hero for not wanting to kill, than is Chris Kyle for his self-proclaimed “more than 250” murders of what he called “savages.”

How much courage does it really take for a sniper to be given co-ordinates from a spotter and then firing from hundreds of yards away? To me that is the definition of cowardice, even forgetting about the lies that got both Casey and Kyle to Iraq, and the ones who made billions in profits, while Casey died thousands of miles away from his loving home – and while a veteran would ironically end up murdering Kyle back here in the States.

I will always be proud of my son who is a grand hero to me for refusing orders in the heat of battle, and ashamed by a cold-blooded killer like Kyle, and a nation that lifts him up as the standard of heroism.

I find it supremely ironic and sad that NOT being a killer is frowned upon here, while being a happy killer makes one a best-selling author and garners all kinds of award nominations and ticket sales for those who wish to exploit this nation’s bloodlust.

This truly makes me wonder if there is any hope to end the evil of US empire, or are we doomed to “wash, rinse, and repeat” these stories of infamy and tragedy over and over again until the USA collapses from the weight of all the carnage.”  signed, Cindy Sheenan

For our international readers, a US Navy Seal is promoted as the most prestigious and most fanatically macho post in the army. In the instance, the ‘hero’ Chris Kyle is also now dead. We should say, “...After life’s fitful fever he sleeps well”. And add that by an unpredictable, unthinkable but somehow befitting turn of events, he was killed by another marine, with whom he had gone shooting (in the US), and who shot him in the head to steal his truck.

The Pentagon proclaimed Kyle as “the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history”, with 160 confirmed kills and probably 255, in Iraq.

He was awarded several commendations and received two Silver Star Medals, five Bronze Star Medals, one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals. His fellow soldiers called him the “Legend”, when he went to train other snipers in Fallujah.

I now transcribe quotes from the movie printed by those who had the stomach to watch it.

It opens with a father and his young 8-year old son hunting a deer. The boy shoots the animal, drops his rifle and runs to see his kill.

“Get back here,” his father yells. “You don’t ever leave your rifle in the dirt.”
“Yes, sir,” the boy answers.
“That was a helluva shot, son,” the father says. “You got a gift. You gonna make a fine hunter some day.”

Note that in the twisted ideology of the people in question (and there are many others), killing a creature that did not nor could not do any harm to them, is irrelevant. And the rifle is more important than the deer.

The next scene is an assembly of white Christians, who listen to a sermon about God’s plan for American Christians. From the sermon, it seems that Kyle is called upon by God to use his “gift” to kill evildoers. There follows a family dinner scene, in which the father, in strong Texan accent says, “There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs. Some people prefer to believe evil doesn’t exist in the world. And if it ever darkened their doorstep they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep.

And then you got predators. They use violence to prey on people,” the father goes on. “They’re the wolves. Then there are those blessed with the gift of aggression and an overpowering need to protect the flock. They are a rare breed who live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog. We’re not raising any sheep in this family.”

“I will whip your ass if you turn into a wolf,” he says to his two sons. “We protect our own. If someone tries to fight you, tries to bully your little brother, you have my permission to finish it.”

Many international readers refuse to believe that minds can be molded into such a belief system – which, in my view, is worse than the Nazi’s. Not because the Nazis were better, but at least they did not bring Jesus into it.

George W. Bush openly declared that God told him to invade Iraq. But there are actually millions of neo-conservative, neo-Christians who get their news from the most warped among the warped TV Channels (Fox News). They despise thought as being “a thing for gays and sissies”. They drink beer and watch football. The formula, obviously, must work because many get into Congress, which they now control, as well as the media and the military. They are totally blind to self-adulation and for them there are good and bad people, the good being of course themselves and other Americans like them.

That this ‘culture’ is a wide phenomenon is proven by the movie’s extraordinary commercial success. It is the sacralization of wholesale slaughter. And nowhere in the movie, someone asks why the people of Iraq are fighting back against their invaders.

As a retired Air Force officer observed, the extreme right-wing Christian chauvinism, or Dominionism, calls for the creation of a theocratic “Christian” America and is endemic among so-called ‘elite’ units like the SEALs and the Army Special Forces.

Here is a quick summary of the rest of the movie.

Prompted by a Fox News report on the retaliatory bombing of a US Embassy by terrorists in Africa, the ‘hero’ joins the SEALs.

In the boot camp, recruits are subjected to punishing ordeals to make them become ‘real men’. The idea is to completely destroy their individuality. They are unquestionably obedient to authority, much like the so-much and justly deprecated SS. They paint a circle on the back of a recruit and use it as a target for darts to enter his skin.

There must be love in every movie. Except that romance, other than controlled rape, is, again, a thing for effeminate sissies. 30,000 cases of rape are reported in the Army every year. There have been instances when the authority in charge of prosecuting the rape was the rapist himself. Almost none is charged – recently, the matter even came up for a Congress investigation.

Kyle meets his wife in a bar. She tells him that Navy SEALs are “arrogant, self-centered pricks who think you can lie and cheat and do whatever the fuck you want. I’d never date a SEAL.”

“Why would you say I’m self-centered?” Kyle asks. “I’d lay down my life for my country.”
“Because it’s the greatest country on earth and I’d do everything I can to protect it,” he answers.

She drinks too much and vomits. He is gallant and helps her home. They fall in love. Taya is later shown watching television. She yells to Chris in the next room.

“Oh, my God, Chris,” she says.
“What’s wrong?” he asks.
“No!” she yells.

Then we hear the television announcer: “You see the first plane coming in at what looks like the east side…”

The evildoers have asked for it. Kyle will go to Iraq to extract vengeance. He will fight in a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, a country that Anglo-Zionist columnist Thomas Friedman once said we attacked “because we could.” Reality does not matter. Muslims are Muslims. And Muslims are evildoers or, as Kyle calls them, “savages.” They must be eradicated. Kyle and his SEALs comrades rejoice when called to Iraq.

Then we switch to Fallujah. Kyle is told that Fallujah is the “new Wild West”, a probably inadvertent analogy to the genocide inflicted on Native Americans.

Kyle’s first kill is a boy who is handed an anti-tank grenade by a young woman in a black chador. The woman, who expresses no emotion over the boy’s death, picks up the grenade after the boy is shot and moves toward U.S. Marines on patrol. Kyle kills her too.

In the book, the reader learns that brothers and sisters in Iraq don’t love their sons or their brothers. Iraqi women breed to make little suicide bombers. Children are miniature Osama bin Ladens. Not one of the Muslim evildoers can be trusted—man, woman or child. They are beasts. They are shown in the film identifying U.S. positions to insurgents on their cellphones, hiding weapons under trapdoors in their floors, planting improvised explosive devices in roads or strapping explosives onto themselves in order to be suicide bombers. They are devoid of any human quality.

“There was a kid who barely had any hair on his balls,” Kyle gingerly says after shooting the child and his mother.

He goes on a second tour in Iraq. At home, his wife Taya complains through tears and expletives that her husband has to leave. Before he leaves, Kyle says, “They’re savages. Babe, they’re fuckin’ savages.”

He and his worthy colleagues spray-paint the white skull of a character from Marvel Comics on their vehicles, body armor, weapons and helmets. The motto they paint in a circle around the skull reads: “Despite what your momma told you … violence does solve problems.”

“And we spray-painted it on every building and walls we could,” Kyle wrote in the book, “American Sniper.” “We wanted people to know, we’re here and we want to fuck with you. …You see us? We’re the people kicking your ass. Fear us because we will kill you, motherfuckers.”

“Savage, despicable evil,” Kyle wrote of those he killed. “That’s what we were fighting in Iraq. That’s why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy ‘savages.’… I only wish I had killed more.”

Further on he writes: “I loved killing bad guys. … I loved what I did. I still do … it was fun. I had the time of my life being a SEAL.”

According to him Iraqis “hated us because we weren’t Muslims.”  “I never once fought for the Iraqis,” he wrote of our Iraqi allies. “I could give a flying fuck about them.”

He killed an Iraqi teenager he claimed was an insurgent. Unmoved, he watched as the boy’s mother found his body, tore her clothes and wept.

After acquiring the “Legend” nickname, he got a tattoo of a Crusader cross on his arm. “I wanted everyone to know I was a Christian. I had it put in red, for blood. I hated the damn savages I’d been fighting,” he wrote. “I always will.”

Following a day of sniping, after killing perhaps as many as six people, he would go back to his barracks to spend his time smoking Cuban Romeo y Julieta No. 3 cigars and “playing video games, watching porn and working out.”

When on leave, omitted in the movie, he was frequently arrested for drunken bar fights. His memoir glorifies white, “Christian” supremacy and war. He blasts anyone questioning the military’s elite, the professional killers.

And if it were not enough, Kyle filled his book with a big lie that got him into court before he died. Jessie Ventura has been a unique character who was a SEAL himself, a professional wrestler, and then succeeded in becoming the first independent Governor of Minnesota. He was in Vietnam and came to loathe American foreign policy.

In his book, Kyle allegedly “decked” Jessie Ventura in a bar in California – punishing him for reportedly having said that “a few more SEALS were to be killed.” Ventura, who never met or spoke with Kyle, and denied to ever have said anything of the sort, brought him to Court. In the meantime, Kyle met his end and Kyle’s estate, now filled with the millions coming from book and movie, was deemed liable for defamation. But again, the macho persona knows no limits.

All in all, movie, book and ideology are but leprosy of the brain, cancer of the mind and pornography of the soul. It is waterboarding the masses with septic sludge.

If the “American sniper” mentality only affected a few poor souls like the character in question, it would not even be worth a comment. But it is the mode of thought of millions, and from this point of view, Kyle would deserve more pity than criticism. For he is the perfect product of the culture that formed him, including creating non-existing realities (i.e. lying).

I quote from a speech by Karl Rove, right hand to George W. Bush,

“We’re an empire now and, when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Reading through the fog of words, it means, we can lie but we don’t really lie, because, by the fact that it is we who tell a lie, it becomes true.

Symptoms of this mode of thought are not new. In the 1970s, philosopher Alan Watts wrote,

“…(this attitude)…is destructive and deadly in those young and unrealized homosexuals who affect machismo (ultramasculinity), and who constitute the hard core of our military-industrial-police-mafia combine. If they would go and fuck each other (and I use that word in its most positive and appreciative sense), the world would be vastly improved. They make it with women only to brag about it, but are actually far happier in barracks than in boudoirs. This is, perhaps, the real meaning of the slogan, “Make love, not war.” We may be destroying ourselves through the repression of homosexuality.”

And more recently, writer Linh Dinh, in one of his “Postcards from the end of America” wrote,

“… a society that traffics in practically nothing but lies or distracting nonsense is also one that’s drowning in serial and habitual evilness. Meaning is not just calling everything by its proper name, but grasping their relationship and having a sense of proportion, but these have all been banished from our public discourses. Bushed and Baracked, we seethe, scream, take our medication then joyfully jerk, with pomposity and authority, the voting lever.”

For, indeed, so willingly does the world support those who display glitter, against those who command reverence. And it does not matter if the glitter comes from money or murder or both, as in this case.

In contrast, Shakespeare’s evil characters have a certain geniality of their own and, above all, they recognize their own evil. For example, the brutal and despicable Aaron, before being executed, shows at least consistency,

“If one good deed in all my life I did,
I do repent it from my very soul.

But with the Kyles of this world, and his cohorts, and those who made of him an example of ‘heroism’, I can only say, “I am bereft of words”. For only a poet, perhaps, could lead us to feel the intensity of the insanity and of its past and predictable future consequences, confounding the world in a chaos of folly.

In the play. Henry V has decided to invade France

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