On 2/3/15 we re-blogged Jack Kerwick’s The Hero-Worship of Chris Kyle: Why We Must Separate Myth from Truth with a comment that I clearly identified as “nit picking” based on nothing but a choice of words. This post takes care of that and is, IMHO, 100% on the money.
Nationally syndicated talk radio host and Fox News contributor Mike Gallagher has recently lambasted me for besmirching Chris Kyle, “the American Sniper,” and, thus, throwing in with the likes of Michael Moore.
It’s time to separate truths from untruths.
(1) Michael Moore implied that Kyle, being a sniper, was a coward. Contrary to Gallagher, I never said or so much as slightly suggested anything of the kind. I even conceded Kyle’s heroism in defending the backs of his fellow soldiers during his four tours of duty in Iraq.
(2) I have not even called Kyle a “liar.” Rather, I noted that all of the available evidence compels rational people—people not blinded by ideology and the hero-worship to which it gives rise—to conclude that Kyle did in fact lie about at least a few things while promoting himself upon his return to civilian life.
Now, Kyle may or may not have been a liar, i.e. one who lies habitually. Contra Gallagher, just because a person who has donned military fatigues or is a combat veteran doesn’t mean that he is beyond succumbing to vice. Still, it is possible that these are the only occasions on which Kyle’s ever been dishonest. The point, however, is that he did lie on the occasions in question.
(3) But even if I did refer to Kyle as a liar (or anything else), so what? Gallagher’s reaction—and that’s all that it is, a quite sincere, though deeply confused, hyper-emotional reaction—is just another form of the old ad hominem attack: “You didn’t actually say that, did you?! Only an icky low-life would say that!” Shocked, shocked! Intimidate into silence. End conversation.
(4) I wrote an exhaustive essay, drawing from a wide range of disparate sources—local publications in Minnesota, where Jesse Ventura’s defamation case against Chris Kyle and, later, his estate, transpired, and Dallas, where Kyle claimed to have gunned down two carjackers; New Yorker magazine, which did an extensive, and especially sympathetic, expose on Kyle and his fellow soldiers; and even National Review On-Line, a mainstream “conservative” publication from which Gallagher himself reads often on the air—to make the case that Kyle was less than honest about his post-war exploits.
I sent this essay to Gallagher. It was a waste, however, for he continued speaking as if he hadn’t read a word of it.
There are four claims that Gallagher continues to repeat:
I was “inaccurate,” he says, because I said that all ten jurors who composed the jury presiding over Ventura’s defamation suit against Kyle found in favor of Ventura. But the jury was actually “split,” for two jurors “believed” Kyle’s version of events.
There are three problems with Gallagher’s assertion here. The first, and biggest, is that I never said that all ten jurors agreed. Never. Quite simply, and truthfully, I wrote this: “The jury awarded him [Ventura] 1.8 million dollars in damages: $500,000 dollars for ‘defamation’ and the remainder for ‘unjust enrichment’ (Kyle, it was determined, monetarily benefitted from defaming Ventura).”
The truth hurts sometimes, I know, but guess what? This is exactly what happened.
It’s also revealing that Gallagher would refer to an eight-to-two decision as being “split.” I noted that if 80 percent of the American electorate agreed on any decision, no honest person would say that it was “split.” On the contrary, the “issue” wouldn’t be regarded as an issue at all. The topic would be heralded as the one topic—perhaps the only topic—that’s succeeded in unifying Americans.
Thirdly, Gallagher states that the 20 percent of the jury that didn’t decide in Ventura’s favor believed Kyle. Wrong: all this shows is that they weren’t convinced—but not necessarily unconvinced—that Kyle acted with “actual malice,” i.e. that he actually knew that he lied and/or acted in reckless disregard of the falsity of his claims.
Gallagher brings up O.J. Simpson’s acquittal to reinforce his contention that juries get it wrong. But if he wants to be consistent—and this is a big if here—then he should compare apples to apples. The Kyle/Ventura trial was a civil trial. Here, “preponderance of evidence” is the standard of proof. In a criminal court of the sort that acquitted Simpson, the standard of proof—“beyond a reasonable doubt”—is significantly higher. Guess what? When the families of Simpson’s victims sued him in civil court, the jury found him guilty. Did the jury get that one wrong too, Mike?
Gallagher insists that he essentially confirmed Kyle’s account of the carjacking gone-bad when he spoke to DMagazine’s Mike Mooney, who assured him that Kyle may very well have been telling the truth.
Had Gallagher cared to read the essay that I sent him, he would know that I checked Mooney’s account (yes, Mike, as hard as it is to believe, some of us do research these things before we comment on them). Mooney admitted that he could not verify Kyle’s story. Still, he accepted it. I also noted in my piece that Nicholas Schmidle of the New Yorker quoted the authorities from all three of the counties covering that area where this incident was alleged to have occurred. They unequivocally denied that anything of the sort happened. Moreover, Schmidle quoted a former special operations commander who assured him that it was “bullshit.”
Gallagher continues to peddle the line that the Kyle/Ventura situation is a case of “he said, he said.”
This is simply and utterly false (Guarantee you that had the jury found in favor of Chris Kyle, he most certainly would not be saying any such thing).
Although Gallagher initially, and wrongly, said that it was the word of a bunch of Navy SEALS versus that of Ventura, even he has now retracted that (though without apology). The truth is that not only is Ventura a former SEAL himself (something that Mike scarcely mentions—why not thank him for his service, Mike, instead of casting aspersions at this veteran?); his witnesses, including the owner of the bar in which the fight was supposed to have occurred, were SEALS (Since several of them served during the Vietnam War era, Mike, by disregarding their testimony on Ventura’s behalf, are you essentially no different from those who spat on our troops when they returned from Vietnam?)
The fact is that the jury—or, if it will please Gallagher, at least 80 percent of it—found Ventura’s witnesses credible and Kyle’s witnesses incredible.
Gallagher said that I accused Kyle of lying about being the most “prolific” sniper in American history.
Wrong. For starters, I couldn’t have possibly accused of him of this, for Kyle never claimed to be the most prolific sniper; he claimed to have been the most lethal sniper. It’s strange that though this claim is the subtitle of Kyle’s book, Gallagher doesn’t repeat it.
But even so, I never accused him of lying about that. I objected to his bragging about that. That he bragged about his kills and sought to build his reputation on this feature of his life alone suffices to show that he was a braggart. This arrogance is an ugly character trait (Imagine George Washington, General George Washington, promoting himself as the bad ass that chased the British from North America!).
Humility, however, is a cardinal Christian virtue.
Gallagher expresses incredulity that anyone, let alone someone, like me, who’s on the right, would so much as think, let alone speak, aloud any criticism of Chris Kyle. What’s the end game?
There are several reasons for why I’ve said what I have.
First, it is the truth.
Second, at no time is truth more needed than when lies are being spun to vindicate a policy that has resulted in astronomical loss in blood and treasure. And make no mistakes about it: it ultimately isn’t Chris Kyle the man who Gallagher and his ilk care a lick about; rather, Kyle is a politically-useful symbol by which to vindicate the unmitigated disaster that is the Iraq War and, perhaps even more importantly, the foreign policy vision—the global crusade for Democracy, and ever larger government—underlying it.
Those of who value the lives of flesh-and-blood soldiers; the untold numbers of innocent Iraqis (and others) whose lives have been destroyed; the resources of American taxpayers; American liberties; and a truly limited, federal government have an interested invested in seeing to it that the overwhelming majority of Americans who turned against the Iraq War do not forget why they did so.
Third, Kyle, or at least the Kyle of the extremely popular Eastwood film, could very well influence untold numbers of impressionable young boys. He is now a “role-model.” One needn’t be an opponent of the Iraq War in order to see why this is bad.
(1) Kyle, as I already mentioned and as is obvious to all with eyes to see, has bragged about his exploits. This is arrogance.
(2) He’s bragged about things with respect to which he’s lied. This reveals both arrogance and dishonesty.
(3) It isn’t just that he lied about killing carjackers and armed rioters and knocking out Jesse Ventura. Even if he was telling the truth about such things, these are not the stuff of which an education in liberty is made.
Think about it: I have no problems with Kyle shooting and killing men who tried to carjack him. I do have a problem with local police deciding, on a whim, or on the sole basis of a suspect’s word, who can and cannot kill with impunity. I have an even bigger problem with agents of the national government (the Department of Defense) deciding who local authorities can and can’t arrest.
I have no problem with Kyle shooting armed rioters in an American city. I do have a problem with government authorities commissioning by stealth, i.e. “off the books,” former soldiers to do this.
If Ventura initiated force against Kyle, I’d have no problem if Kyle dropped him. I do have a problem with a man, especially one who is supposed to have fought for “our freedoms”—including our freedom of speech—assaulting a person with whom he disagreed.
I do have a problem with a man assaulting a person with whom he disagreed over an issue about which the entire country disagreed. Even if Ventura did make the ugly comments that Kyle said he did, it would have still been fundamentally immoral—to say nothing of criminal—for Kyle to have punched out Ventura just because of this.
I do have a problem with a man assaulting another man who is 23 years his senior and who did not physically threaten him.
In short, the events that Kyle relays are worse if they really happened.
(4) There is one final consideration why I want to undermine the hero worship of Kyle.
Kyle supposedly had, and presumably still has, huge bounties on his head. Very dangerous people—exactly those who the Gallaghers of the world insist are already here, in the USA—have wanted Kyle dead. If this is true, then it was utterly reckless—not gutsy, but reckless—for him to flash his face to the world and promote himself as America’s “most lethal sniper.” In doing so, he endangered his whole family: his wife, his children, etc.
Those who now continue to promote him act recklessly as well, for though Kyle is gone, his family remains.
Courage should be emulated. As the father of a five year-old, I for one do not want my son growing up to emulate recklessness.
It ultimately isn’t Chris Kyle who was the target of my criticisms. It is the hero-worshipping of Kyle, exemplified by the Mike Gallaghers of the world, who I took to task.
The Betrayed: On Warriors, Cowboys and Other Misfits. Although woven around the experiences and adventures of one man, this is also the story of the people who lived during the period of time in American history that an entire generation was betrayed It is the story of the dramatically changing times in which this personal odyssey took place. It is the story of the betrayal of an entire generation of Americans and particularly the 40% (of the military aged males) of that generation that fought the Vietnam war.