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Posts Tagged ‘CLINT EASTWOOD’

THE MOST DANGEROUS THERAPY

In History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 26, 2018 at 12:10 am

Chris Kyle was an American patriot—serving four tours of duty in Iraq. 

And he was a killer: From 1999 to 2009 he recorded more than 160 confirmed kills as a sniper—the most in U.S. military history. Iraqis came to refer to him as “The Devil” and put a $20,000 bounty on his life.

Chris Kyle January 2012.jpg

Chris Kyle

He was an expert on firearms: After leaving combat duty, he became the chief instructor for training the Naval Special Warfare Sniper and Counter-Sniper team. And he authored the Naval Special Warfare Sniper Doctrine, the first Navy SEAL sniper manual.

He was a successful writer—author of the 2012 bestselling American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.

In 2013, he wrote the equally bestselling American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms.

He created a nonprofit company, FITCO Cares, to provide at-home fitness equipment for emotionally and physically wounded veterans.

In 2014, his autobiography, American Sniper, became a major film produced and directed by Clint Eastwood. The movie portrays his work as a SEAL marksman in Iraq and his struggles to be a good husband and father during his tours of duty.

And Kyle was a mentor to veterans suffering from PTSD—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It was this last activity—and, more importantly, his approach to therapy—that cost him his life.

On February 2, 2015, Kyle and his friend, Chad Littlefield, died in a hail of 13 bullets fired by a semi-automatic pistol.

The murderer: Eddie Ray Routh, an Iraqi war veteran reportedly suffering from PTSD, while the three visited a shooting range in Glen Rose, Texas.

Routh, of Lancaster, Texas, a former corporal in the Marines, had been deployed to Iraq in 2007 and Haiti in 2010.

His motive:  “I shot them because they wouldn’t talk to me. I was just riding in the back seat of the truck and nobody would talk to me. They were just taking me to the range so I shot them. I feel bad about it, but they wouldn’t talk to me. I am sure they have forgiven me.”

Eddie Ray Routh

On February 25, 2015, a jury convicted Routh of double murder and sentenced him to life in prison without parole.

Kyle’s believed that shooting could prove therapeutic for those suffering from mental illness. And it was that belief that ultimately killed him.

According to Travis Cox, the director of FITCO Cares: “What I know is Chris and a gentleman—great guy, I knew him well, Chad Littlefield—took a veteran out shooting who was struggling with PTSD to try to assist him, try to help him, try to, you know, give him a helping hand, and he turned the gun on both of them, killing them.” 

Chris Kyle was a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association (NRA), whose stance on firearms is best described as: “The more guns, the better.”

The NRA:

  • Opposes background checks for firearms owners.
  • Opposes any waiting period for the purchase of a firearm. 
  • Opposes banning the ownership of military-style, “high-capacity” firearms.
  • Opposes any limits on how many firearms a person may own.
  • Supports legislation to allow virtually anyone to carry a handgun—openly or concealed—even in bars and churches.
  • Has successfully pushed “stand-your-ground” laws in more than half the states. These allow the use of deadly force in self-defense, without any obligation to try to retreat first.
  • Has steadfastly defended the right to own Teflon-coated ”cop killer” bullets,” whose only purpose is to penetrate bullet-resistant vests worn by law enforcement officers.

Chris Kyle was undoubtedly one of the foremost experts on firearms in the United States. Few knew better than he did the rules for safe gun-handling.

And yet he broke perhaps the most basic commonsense rule of all: Never trust an unstable person with a loaded firearm. 

And it was the breaking of that rule that killed him.

Even worse, he knew that Routh was unstable. During the drive to the shooting range, he texted Littlefield: ‘This dude is straight-up nuts.”

Kyle, who was 38, was survived by his wife, Taya, and their two children.

Kyle was undoubtedly sincere in wanting to help his fellow veterans who suffered from PTSD.

But he could have offered them different—and far safer—forms of help, such as:

  • Urging veterans such as Routh to get psychiatric counseling.
  • Suggesting that they find purpose in a charity such as Habitat for Humanity, which is devoted to building affordable housing for the poor.
  • Helping them find mental healthcare through the Veterans Administration.

Instead, he chose “gun therapy” as his preferred method of treatment. 

Kyle was an expert on using firearms in self-defense. But that knowledge proved useless when he allowed his empathy to overrule his common sense. 

Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA, has repeatedly asserted: “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.”

But the death of Chris Kyle raises a question that the NRA has yet to answer: If a certified weapons expert can’t protect himself against a psychopathic gunman, how can the rest of us?

WHAT “AMERICAN SNIPER” DOESN’T TELL: PART THREE (END)

In Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 30, 2015 at 12:15 am

Naturally the common people don’t want war, neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany.  That is understood.
But, after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along….

All you have to do is tell them that they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to greater danger.  It works the same way in any country.
–Rcichsmarshall Hermann Goering

Much of the moral basis for American leadership was destroyed by the dark parallels between Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939 and George W. Bush’s invasion of  Iraq in 2003.

Among these:

ADOLF HITLER

Adolf Hitler (third from left) with his generals

In 1970, Albert Speer, Adolf Hitler’s former architect and then Minister of Aramaments, published his bestselling postwar memoirs, Inside the Third Reich.  In a striking passage, he revealed how the Fuehrer really felt about German soldiers who were suffering and dying in a war he had provoked.

One evening during the middle of the war, Speer was traveling with Hitler on the Fuehrer’s private train.  Late at night, they enjoyed a lavish dinner in the elegant rosewood-paneled dining car.

As they ate, Hitler’s train slowed down and passed a freight train halted on a side track.

From their open cattle car, recalled Speer, wounded German soldiers from the Russian Front–starved, their uniforms in rags–stared across the few yards to their Fuehrer’s dining-car window.

Albert Speer

Hitler recoiled at seeing these injured men intently watching him–and he sharply ordered an adjutant to lower the window shades.

Hitler had served as a frontline soldier in World War 1 and had won the Iron Cross for bravery as a dispatch runner.

As Fuehrer, he often boasted of his affinity with the average German soldier.  He claimed that “my whole life has been one long struggle for Germany.”

Yet throughout the six years of World War II, he refused to visit German cities ravaged by British and American bombs.

Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, despaired at this.

Joseph Goebbels

Winston Churchill, prime minister of Great Britain, often visited cities hit by German bombers, and Goebbels knew these visits greatly boosted British morale.

Goebbels urged Hitler to make similar visits to bombed-out German cities, but the Fuehrer refused.

Albert Speer believed that Hitler couldn’t bear to see the carnage wrought by his decision to provoke a needless war.

George W. Bush “looking” for WMDs in the White House

GEORGE W. BUSH

Similarly, Bush showed his contempt for the soldiers suffering and dying in his own unprovoked war.

On March 24, 2004, at a White House Correspondents dinner, he joked publicly about the absence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs).

To Bush, the non-existent WMDs were nothing more than the butt of a joke that night. While an overhead projector displayed photos of a puzzled-looking Bush searching around the Oval Office, Bush recited a comedy routine.

“Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere,” Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners in the Oval Office.

“Nope-–no weapons over there!  Maybe they’re under here,” he said, as a photo showed him looking under a desk.

In a scene that could have occurred under the Roman emperor Nero, an assembly of wealthy, pampered men and women–-the elite of America’s media and political classes–-laughed heartily during Bush’s performance.

Only later did the criticism come, from Democrats and Iraqi war veterans–especially those veterans who had suffered grievous wounds to protect America from WMDs.

Click here: Bush laughs at no WMD in Iraq – YouTube

In his Presidential memoirs, Decision Points, Bush failed to mention his joking about the “missing WMDs” at the correspondents dinner.

In writing about discovering insights into the human character, the ancient historian, Plutarch, said it best:

And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men.

Sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever.

* * * * *

So add it all up:

  • Two all-powerful leaders.
  • Two nations lied into unprovoked wars.
  • Adolf Hitler’s war costs the lives of 4.5 million German soldiers.
  • George W. Bush’s war costs the lives of 4,486 Americans.
  • Germany’s war results in the deaths of millions of Europeans and Russians.
  • America’s war results in the deaths of an estimated 655,000 Iraqis, according to a 2006 study in the Lancet medical journal.
  • Hitler is literally driven underground by his enemies and commits suicide to avoid capture, trial and certain execution for war crimes.
  • Bush retires from office with a lavish pension and full Secret Service protection.  He writes his memoirs and is paid $7 million for the first 1.5 million copies.
  • Hitler is branded as a symbol of demonic evil.
  • Bush becomes a target of ridicule for comics.

Who says history is irrelevant?  Or that it doesn’t repeat itself?

WHAT “AMERICAN SNIPER” DIDN’T TELL: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 29, 2015 at 12:01 am

In late April, 1975, Vietnam veterans stared in horror at their TVs as the army of North Vietnam swept toward Saigon.

The “peace with honor” that former President Richard M. Nixon had claimed to fashion had lasted no more than two years.

American news media captured the appalling sight of United States military and Intelligence personnel being frantically airlifted by helicopter from the roof of the American embassy.

The eight-year war had cost $600 billion and the lives of more than 58,000 U.S. servicemen.  Suddenly, before the eyes of American TV viewers, the longest and most divisive war in United States history was ending in shame.

And now, it’s deja vu all over again.

From 2003 to 2013, the war in Iraq cost the United States $1.7 trillion and the lives of 4,488 servicemen.

America completed its military withdrawal from Iraq in December, 2011.  And now, less than two years later, Iraq seems about to self-destruct in religious civil war.

But there is more to the United States’ tortured intervention in Iraq than most Americans know.

There is a dark historical parallel to the events leading up to the Iraq war.  A parallel that has its roots in Nazi Germany.

Among the similarities between these two conflicts, fought 64 years apart:

ADOLF HITLER

When Germany’s Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, decided to invade Poland in 1939, he refused to consider any efforts to avert a conflict: “I want war.  I am the one who will wage war.”

Despite frantic efforts by the French and British governments to resolve the crisis that Hitler had deliberately provoked, he refused all offers of compromise.

“I am only afraid,” Hitler told his generals at a military conference on August 22, 1939, “that some Schweinehund [pig dog] will make a proposal for mediation.”

GEORGE W. BUSH

Similarly, Bush made it clear to his closest aides that he sought a pretext for invading Iraq.

On the evening after the September 11 attacks, Bush held a private meeting with Richard Clarke, the counter-terrorism advisor to the National Security Council.

“I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything,” said Bush. “See if Saddam did this. See if he’s linked in any way.”

Clarke was stunned: “But, Mr. President, Al Qaeda did this.”

“I know, I know,” said Bush. “But see if Saddam was involved. I want to know.”

On September 12, 2001, Bush attended a meeting of the National Security Council.

“Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just Al Qaeda?” demanded Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense.

Vice President Dick Cheney agreed enthusiastically.

Secretary of State Colin Powell then pointed out there was absolutely no evidence that Iraq had had anything to do with 9/11 or Al Qaeda. And he added: “The American people want us to do something about Al-Qaeda”-–not Iraq.

On September 22, 2001, Bush received a classified President’s Daily Brief intelligence report, which stated that there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11.

The report added that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda.

Yet on November 21, 2001, only 10 weeks after 9/11, Bush told Rumsfeld: It’s time to turn to Iraq.

ADOLF HITLER

Adolf Hitler knew that Poland’s government could never accept his demands for the Polish city of Danzig.

GEORGE W. BUSH

So, too, did George W. Bush make a demand he knew could never be accepted.  On the eve of launching war on Iraq, Bush issued a humiliating ultimatum to Saddam Hussein:

“Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing.”

ADOLF HITLER

Hitler never regretted his decision to invade Poland.  Only hours before committing suicide in his Berlin bunker on April 30, 1945, he asserted in his “final political testatment”: “It is untrue that I or anyone else in Germany wanted war in 1939.”

GEORGE W. BUSH

Similarly, Bush never regretted his decision to invade Iraq, which occurred on March 19, 2003.  In his 2010 memoirs, Decision Points, he wrote:

“For all the difficulties that followed, America is safer without a homicidal dictator pursuing WMD and supporting terror at the heart of the Middle East.”

And in an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer on November 8, 2010, Bush again sought to justify his decision to go to war:

LAUER: Was there ever any consideration of apologizing to the American people?

BUSH: I mean, apologizing would basically say the decision was a wrong decision, and I don’t believe it was a wrong decision.

ADOLF HITLER

On September 1, 1939, Adolf Hitler announced his attack on Poland before Germany’s rubber-stamp parliament, the Reichstag.

Hitler–a decorated World War I veteran–said: “I am from now on just the first soldier of the German Reich. I have once more put on that coat that was the most sacred and dear to me.”

GEORGE W. BUSH

On May 1, 2003, Bush–who hid out the Vietnam war in the Texas Air National Guard-–donned a flight suit and landed a Navy jet aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.

A banner titled “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” was displayed on the aircraft carrier as Bush announced–wrongly–that the war was over.

The effect–and intent–was to portray Bush as the triumphant warrior-chieftan he never was.

WHAT “AMERICAN SNIPER” DOESN’T TELL: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 28, 2015 at 12:02 am

Clint Eastwood’s latest movie, American Sniper, has become the most controversial film being considered for Best Picture at the upcoming Academy Awards ceremonies.

The Oscars telecast is scheduled for February 22.

The film depicts the life of Chris Kyle, who became the deadliest sniper in American history with 160 confirmed kills.

As a Navy SEAL who served four tours of duty in Iraq, he became known as “The Legend” to his fellow soldiers–and as “The Devil” to Iraqi insurgents.

A $20,000 bounty was placed on his head.

The criticism is coming from the Left, and has triggered outrage from the Right. Much of this criticism focuses on the movie’s failure to reveal what led the United States to invade Iraq on March 19, 2003.

A crucial scene in the movie occurs shortly after Kyle (Bradley Cooper) has completed his SEAL training.

He and his wife (Sienna Miller) are watching the collapse of the World Trade Center on TV. Then, suddenly, the film cuts to Iraq, where Kyle is now serving as a sniper.

Critics have charged that this implies a connection between the two events.

In fact, that was precisely what the administration of President George W. Bush wanted Americans to believe: That Saddam Hussein had worked hand-in-hand with Osama bin Laden to plan and execute the catastrophe of September 11, 2001.

So where did this all start? There is actually a dark historical parallel to the events leading up to the Iraq war.

A parallel that has its roots in Nazi Germany.

ADOLF HITLER

When Germany’s Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, wanted to invade Poland in 1939, he mounted a sustained propaganda campaign to “justify” his ambitions.

Adolf Hitler

German “newspapers”-–produced by Joseph Goebbels, the club-footed Minister of Propaganda–-carried fictitious stories of how brutal Poles were beating and even murdering their helpless German citizens.

In theaters, German audiences saw phony newsreels showing Poles attacking and raping German women living in Poland.

For a time, Hitler not only deceived the Germans but the world.

Just before German tanks and troops invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, members of Hitler’s dreaded SS secret police rounded up prisoners from German concentration camps.

The inmates were dressed in Polish Army uniforms and driven to a German radio station at Gleiwitz, on the German/Polish border.  There they were shot by SS men.

Then Polish-speaking SS men “seized” the station and broadcast to Germany that a Polish invasion of Germany was now under way.

Hitler, addressing Germany’s rubber-stamp parliament, the Reichstag, dramatically asserted: “This night for the first time Polish regular soldiers fired on our territory. Since 5.45 a.m. we have been returning the fire, and from now on bombs will be met by bombs.”

Leaders of Britain and France were taken in by this ruse. They had pledged to go to war if Hitler attacked Poland.  But they didn’t want to take on Germany if Poland had been the aggressor.

By the time the truth became known, Poland was securely in German hands.

On August 22, 1939, Hitler had outlined his strategy to a group of high-ranking military officers:

“I shall give a propagandist reason for starting the war.  Never mind whether it is plausible or not. The victor will not be asked, later on, whether he told the truth or not. In starting and waging a war, it is not Right that matters, but Victory.”

GEORGE W. BUSH

American President George W. Bush followed a similar strategy while he prepared to invade Iraq: He ordered the topmost members of his administration to convince the American people of the war’s necessity.

Among those members: National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice; Vice President Dick Cheney; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Condaleeza Rice, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld

Among their arguments-–all eventually revealed as lies-–were:

  • Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, had worked hand-in-glove with Osama Bin Laden to plan 9/11.
  • Saddam was harboring and supporting Al Qaeda throughout Iraq.
  • Saddam, with help from Al Qaeda, was scheming to build a nuclear bomb.
  • Iraq possessed huge quantities of chemical/biological weapons, in violation of UN resolutions.
  • Saddam was preparing to use those weapons against the United States.
  • American Intelligence agencies had determined the precise locations where those weapons were stored.
  • The war would be self-financing via the oil revenues that would come from Iraq.
  • Invading American forces would be welcomed as liberators.

ADOLF HITLER

Hitler intended Poland to be only his first conquest on what became known as “the Eastern Front.”  Conquering Poland would place his powerful Wehrmacht on the border of the country that was his ultimate target: The Soviet Union.

GEORGE W. BUSH

Similarly, Vice President Dick Cheney–the “power-behind-the-throne” of the Bush Presidency–had his own ambitions for conquering Iraq.

According to former Bush speechwriter David Frum: Cheney longed for war in Iraq to gain reliable control of that nation’s vital oil resources.

A successful occupation of Iraq would also allow the United States to threaten such bordering Islamic nations as Syria, Iran and even Saudi Arabia.

TRUTHS ABOUT “AMERICAN SNIPER” AND THE MILITARY

In Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 27, 2015 at 1:50 am

Clint Eastwood’s latest movie, American Sniper, has become the most controversial film now being considered for Best Picture at the upcoming Oscars.

The Academy Awards telecast is scheduled for February 22.

Clint Eastwood

The criticism is coming from the Left, and this has triggered outrage on the Right. Some of this criticism is correct and fair, but some of it isn’t.

CHARGE:  The film implies that the Iraq was was in response to 9/11.

There’s a scene where Kyle (Bradley Cooper) and his wife, Taya (Sienna Miller) are watching TV as the World Tradd Center crashes.  Then the scene cuts to him serving in Iraq.

FACT:  The movie is a biography of Kyle, who became the deadliest sniper in American history, not a documentary on the Iraq war.  And, in fact, Kyle did his service in Iraq.

Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle in American Sniper

CHARGE:  The movie depicts a terrorist sniper who becomes Kyle’s nemesis.

Named “Mustafa,” he is portrayed as a Syrian Olympics champion marksman.  In a furious mano-a-mano duel with Kyle, he almost nails the SEAL sniper. But in the climax of the movie, he meets his end with a well-placed bullet from Kyle’s rifle.

FACT:  Mustafa is mentioned in a single–and short–paragraph in Kyle’s autobiography.  Writes Kyle: “I never saw him, but the other snipers later killed an Iraqi sniper we thought was him.”

So the climatic duel never happened. But Eastwood clearly thought he needed the duel to make a dramatic and satisfying finish for his movie.  This is what’s known as “dramatic license” in moviemaking.

CHARGE: The movie portrays Chris Kyle as tormented by his rising casualty rate among Iraqis.

During his fourth tour of duty in Iraq, as depicted in the film, he agonizes over his possible need to shoot a child who’s about to pick up a rocket launcher. “Don’t pick it up,” he mutters, and when the child drops it and runs off, Kyle is visibly relieved.

FACT:   Throughout his autobiography–on which the film is based–he refers to Iraqis as “savages.”  He brags of telling a military investigator: “I don’t shoot people with Korans.  I’d like to, but I don’t.”

And having been credited with 160 confirmed kills, he writes: “I only wish I had killed more….I believe the world is a better place without savages out there taking American lives.”

CHARGE:  Chris Kyle was a hate-filled killer, but the movie turns him into a hero.  

FACT:  It’s entirely natural for soldiers to hate their enemies.  They know that they–or their comrades–can be blown away at any moment.  So they fear and hate those intent on their destruction.

The toughening-up process starts in boot camp, where the restraints of individuality and pacifism are shattered.  The purpose of boot camp is to turn “boys” into “fighting men,” and this must be done in a matter of weeks.  So the process is shockingly brutal.

Soldiers who aren’t toughened up in boot camp are by the battlefield.  As General George S. Patton famously warned: “When you put your hand into a bunch of goo, that a moment before was your best friend’s face, you’ll know what to do.”

General George S. Patton

During the Indian wars, soldiers called Indians “Red niggers.”  In World War II–“the Good War”–America’s servicemen fought “Japs” and “Krauts.”  During the Vietnam war, Vietnamese became “gooks” and “dinks.”

Today our servicemen and women refer (unofficially) to their Islamic enemies as “ragheads” and “sand niggers.”

CHARGE:  “In Kyle’s version of the Iraq war, the parties consisted of Americans, who were good by virtue of being Americans, and fanatic Muslims, whose ‘savage, despicable evil’ led them to want to kill Americans simply because they are Christian.”  –Laura Miller, in Salon

FACT:  British military historian B.H. Liddell Hart noted in his introduction to the memoirs of World War II German General Heinz Guderian, the creator of the Blitzkreig theory:

Heinz Guderian

“[Guderian] did not question the cause which he and his troops were serving, or the duty of fighting for their country.  It was sufficient for him that she was at war and thus in danger, however it had come about.

“As a dutiful soldier, he had to assume that his country’s cause was just, and that she was defending herself against would-be conquerors.”

What proved true for Guderian proved equally true for Kyle–and for soldiers in armies throughout the world.

Moreover, every great war movie tells its story from a given viewpoint–such as American, German, Russian or British. Audiences are invited to identify with the leading character.

In All Quiet on the Western Front, the narrator is a young, idealistic German soldier who becomes disallusioned with the horrors of war.  When he dies at the end of the movie, we feel saddened by his loss, even though he served in the ranks of America’s adversaries.

Similarly, when we learn, at the end of American Sniper, that Chris Kyle was killed while trying to help a fellow veteran, we feel a similar loss.

In the end, a historical or biographical movie can tell only so much.  Its audience must then decide its meaning–and whether to learn more about the subjec through their own researches.

A TRAGIC END TO AN AMERICAN HERO

In History, Military, Social commentary on January 6, 2015 at 12:21 am

Chris Kyle was an American patriot–serving four tours of duty in Iraq.

Chris Kyle

He was a killer: From 1999 to 2009 he recorded more than 160 confirmed kills as a sniper–the most in U.S. military history.  Iraqis came to refer to him as “The Devil” and put a $20,000 bounty on his life.

He was an expert on firearms:  After leaving combat duty, he became the chief instructor for training the Naval Special Warfare Sniper and Counter-Sniper team.  And he authored the Naval Special Warfare Sniper Doctrine, the first Navy SEAL sniper manual.

He was a successful writer–author of the 2012 bestselling American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.

In 2013, he wrote the equally bestselling American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms.

He created a nonprofit company, FITCO Cares, to provide at-home fitness equipment for emotionally and physically wounded veterans.

In 2014, his autobiography, American Sniper, became a major film produced and directed by Clint Eastwood.  The movie portrays his work as a SEAL marksman in Iraq and his struggles to be a good husband and father during his tour of duty.

And Kyle was a mentor to veterans suffering from PTSD–Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It was this last activity–and, more importantly, his approach to therapy–that cost him his life.

On February 2, an Iraq War veteran reportedly suffering from PTSD turned a semi-automatic pistol on Chris Kyle and Kyle’s friend, Chad Littlefield, while the three visited a shooting range in Glen Rose, Texas.

The accused murderer is Eddie Ray Routh, of Lancaster, Texas.  Routh, a corporal in the Marines, was deployed to Iraq in 2007 and Haiti in 2010.

Eddie Ray Routh

Police later found the murder weapon at his home.

Routh is being held on one charge of capital murder and two charges of murder.

It was apparently Kyle’s belief that shooting could prove therapeutic for those suffering from mental illness.

Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant said that Routh’s mother “may have reached out to Mr. Kyle to try to help her son.

“We kind of have an idea that maybe that’s why they were at the range for some type of therapy that Mr. Kyle assists people with. And I don’t know if it’s called shooting therapy, I don’t have any idea.”

According to Travis Cox, the director of FITCO Cares: “What I know is Chris and a gentleman–great guy, I knew him well, Chad Littlefield–took a veteran out shooting who was struggling with PTSD to try to assist him, try to help him, try to, you know, give him a helping hand, and he turned the gun on both of them, killing them.”

The National Rifle Association has taken a stance on firearms that can only be described as: “The more guns, the better.”

The NRA:

  • Opposes any background checks for firearms owners.
  • Opposes any waiting period for the purchase of a firearm. 
  • Opposes laws banning the ownership of military-style, “high-capacity” firearms.
  • Opposes any limits on how many firearms a person may own.
  • Pushes legislation to allow virtually anyone to carry a handgun–openly or concealed, even in bars and churches.
  • Is responsible for the “stand-your-ground” laws now in effect in more than half the states.  These allow for the use of deadly force in self-defense, without any obligation to try to retreat first.
  • Has steadfastly defended the right to own Teflon-coated ”cop killer” bullets,” whose only purpose is to penetrate bullet-resistant vests worn by law enforcement officers.
  • Has repeatedly asserted that if more Americans knew the joys of firearm ownership they would just as fervently resist any attempt at controlling the spread of firearms.

Chris Kyle was undoubtedly one of the foremost experts on firearms in the United States. Few knew better than he did the rules for safe gun-handling.

And yet he broke perhaps the most basic commonsense rule of all: Never trust an unstable person with a loaded firearm.

And it was the breaking of that rule that killed him.

Kyle, who was 38, is survived by his wife, Taya, and their two children.

Certainly only praise can be lavished on Kyle for his generous efforts to help his fellow veterans suffering from PTSD.

But, equally certainly, there were other–and far safer–forms of help that he could have offered–such as:

  • Urging Routh to get psychiatric counseling.
  • Suggesting that he find purpose in a charity such as Habitat for Humanity, which is devoted to building  affordable housing for the poor.
  • Helping him find mental healthcare through the Veterans Administration.

Instead, he chose “gun therapy” as his preferred method of treatment.

Kyle almost certainly knew he was dealing with a mentally unstable person.

Yet he chose to place himself in close proximity to such a man.  And to take him to a shooting range where the discharge of firearms is expected.

Kyle was an expert on using firearms in self-defense.  But that knowledge proved useless when he allowed his empathy to overrule his common sense.

And this, in turn, raises yet another question for the NRA to answer: If a certified weapons expert can’t protect himself against a psychopathic gunman, how can the rest of us?

THE KKK COMES TO CPAC

In History, Politics, Social commentary on March 29, 2013 at 12:02 am

The Ku Klux Klan is rightfully despised by the overwhelming majority of Americans.

So it’s illuminating that its ideology found vigorous support at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C. in mid-March, 2013.

Ku Klux Klan

K. Carl Smith, a black discussion leader, was a member of the Frederick Douglas Republicans.  He was speaking about the role of race in the Republican Party when he was suddenly interrupted.

Scott Terry, a 30-year-old attendee from North Carolina, claimed that “young, white Southern males like myself” were being disenfranchised by Republicans.

Terry blamed the growth of diversity in the party and its outreach to black conservatives.

Smith then told how abolitionist leader Frederick Douglas wrote a letter to his former slaveowner forgiving him for having held him in bondage.

“For giving him shelter and food?” asked Terry, a member of the White Students Union at Towson University in Maryland.

Several members of the audience gasped and others laughed.

Terry later told the liberal blog, Think Progress, that he would “be fine” with an America where blacks were subservient to whites.

African-Americans, he said, should vote in Africa. He claimed the Tea Party agrees with him.

And, no doubt, many of its members privately do.

Terry claimed to be a descendent of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy during the American Civil War (1861-1865).

As a result, he didn’t totally disagree with slavery: “I can’t make one broad statement that categorically it was evil all the time because that’s not true.”

Another attendee, White Student Union “founder and commander” Matthew Heimbach, called civil rights activist Martin Luther King “a Marxist.”

Later, he said of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which investigates extremist, racist groups: “You look at the SPLC, as fake as they are, they talk about how patriot groups are increasing in the Obama era.  With a black face in charge of the White House, of the federal government, we know it’s foreign. We know something isn’t right.”

According to the Atlantic Wire, 23 members of the White Student Union attended CPAC.

Racism is no stranger to high-ranking memers of the Republican party–and its right-wing allies.

In 2012, Inge Marler, a Tea Party leader in northern Arkansas, kicked off a rally with a joke implying that black Americans were all on welfare:

“A black kid asks his mom, ‘Mama, what’s a democracy?’

“‘Well, son, that be when white folks work every day so us po’ folks can get all our benefits.’

“‘But mama, don’t the white folk get mad about that?’

“‘They sho do, son. They sho do. And that’s called racism.’”

The joke was followed by laughter and clapping from the Tea Party audience.

Only after Marler’s remarks came to the attention of the media did the Tea Party oust her from her position.

Since November 6, Republicans have been vigorously debating about why their candidate, Mitt Romney, lost the 2012 Presidential election.

Generally, their “findings” have boiled down to: We didn’t get our message out clearly enough.

On the contrary: There was no mistaking the message that Republicans were sending.  Targeting a wide range of groups, this boiled down to: “America is for us–not you”:

  • Republicans enraged and alienated Latinos by their constant anti-immigrant rhetoric–such as their nominee Mitt Romney’s comment that illegal aliens should “self-deport.”
  • Republicans enraged and alienated blacks by their constant hate-filled and often racist attacks on President Barack Obama.  Clint Eastwood’s empty chair “comedy” act at the Republican convention pleased his right-wing audience.  But it outraged a great many others–especially blacks.
  • Republicans enraged and alienated voters generally and minorities in particular by their blatant efforts to suppress the voting rights of their fellow citizens–especially those of non-whites.  Republicans falsely claimed widespread voter fraud in areas where there was no evidence of it.  When voter fraud was found, the culprit was a get-out-the-vote consulting firm hired by Republicans.
  • Republicans allowed their party to be represented by Donald Trump, the infamous oligarch.  When he  repeatedly claimed that Obama wasn’t an American citizen, Romney refused to dump him as the hate-filled racist he was.
  • Republicans refused to distance themselves from their “de facto” leader, right-wing pundit Rush Limbaugh.  Romney refused to condemn Limbaugh for calling Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” after she told Congress that insurance companies should cover contraceptives.
  • Republicans angered and alienated women by constantly talking about: Gutting Planned Parenthood; outlawing abortion; “legitimate rape” and banning birth control.
  • Republicans alienated gays by their blatantly anti-gay sentiments and steadfast opposition to same-sex marriage.

Ultimately, Republicans came to depend for their success on a voting group that’s constantly shrinking–-aging white males. Having alienated blacks, gays, women, Latinos and youths, the Republicans found themselves with no other sources of support.

CPAC’s website claimed the event would showcase “America’s Future: The Next Generation of Conservatives.  New Challenges, Timeless Principles.”

For many of the attending delegates, one of those “timeless principles” turned out to be old-fashioned racism.

WINNERS AND LOSERS: PART THREE (END)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on January 31, 2013 at 12:00 am

On January 25–four days after President Barack Obama was inaugurated President for the second time–political columnist Mark Shields assessed the electoral dangers facing the Republican party.

“The Republicans want to blame Mitt Romney. That’s fine. But Mitt Romney is more popular than the Republican Party. I mean, he got 47%. The Republicans are dead in the water right now.

“So you know they’re going through a difficult period. And they have got to try and figure out.

“They can’t talk to Latinos, the fastest growing group in the country. They’re basically not conversational with younger voters. They are–Asians have left them in droves.

“You know, they have just–they’re an aging white party, and in a country that is not–is less white each year.”

After Ronald Reagan defeated President Jimmy Carter in 1980 and defeated the Democrats’ nominee, Walter Mondale, in 1984, Democrats went through a similar time of torment.

“And Democrats said, geez, Ronald Reagan is good on television,” said Shields.  “If we can get somebody as good on TV as he is–instead of that moment of introspection and saying people found the other side…our opponents, to be more relevant, more real and more plausible to our lives and their lives than they found us.

“And that’s–it’s a terrible thing to live with rejection, but a losing party has to say, what is it? And what you can’t do is blame the voters. And I have heard echoes of that on the other side. The voters, that’s the 47% of takers, you know.  No wonder we can’t win if they are all just parasites and worse.”

Mitt Romney–and other Republican candidates–lost bigtime on November 6 for a wide range of reasons:

1.  He was not simply an opportunist; he was widely recognized as one.   He was despised by those on the Right as well as those on the Left, and for the same reason: He would take any position on any issue–even if this meant contradicting his previous position on it.

2.  He was not only rich, he made it clear that this was the only group he truly cared about. His public comments shouted this:

  • “I have friends who are owners of NASCAR Teams.”
  • “Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs.”
  • “Corporations are people, my friend.”
  • “Forty-seven percent are dependent upon government.”

Yet it is possible to be wealthy and trusted by those who aren’t–like Robert F. Kennedy, who identified with the poor and oppressed.

3.  Republicans enraged and alienated Latinos by their constant anti-immigrant rhetoric.

4.  Republicans enraged and alienated blacks by their constant hateful, racist attacks on President Obama. Clint Eastwood’s  empty chair ”comedy” act  at the Republican convention pleased his fascistic audience.  But it outraged many non-fascists–especially blacks.

5.  Republicans angered and alienated women–by constantly talking about

  • gutting Planned Parenthood
  • outlawing abortion
  • “legitimate rape”
  • “pregnancy-in-rape-is-God’s-plan-for-you”
  • banning birth control.

6.  Republicans enraged and alienated voters generally and minorities in particular by their blatant efforts to suppress the voting rights of their fellow citizens.

Republicans falsely claimed widespread voter fraud in areas where there was absolutely no evidence for it–such as Pennsylvania. And when voter fraud was discovered, the culprit was a get-out-the-vote consulting firm hired by Republicans.

7.  Republicans allowed their party to be represented by slimeballs like Donald Trump and Rush Limbaugh.

When Trump claimed he could prove that Obama wasn’t an American citizen, Romney refused to distance himself from him, let alone say, “I don’t want support from a hateful idiot.”

And he similarly refused to condemn Rush Limbaugh for calling Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute.” The reason: She had testified before Congress on the need to have insurance companies cover contraceptives.

Romney didn’t dare condemn Limbaugh. He was too scared of losing Limbaugh’s endorsement–and thus the support of his aptly-named “dittohead” audience.

8.  Republicans ultimately depended for their success on a voting group that’s constantly shrinking–aging white males. Having alienated blacks, gays, women, Latinos and youths, the Republicans found themselves with no other sources of support.

9.  Republicans–and especially Romney–put out so many blatant lies that they came home to hurt them:

  • Romney initially opposed the President’s bailout of General Motors.  But when that resurrected the American auto industry, Romney changed his tune and said he had always been for the bailout.
  • During his second campaign debate with the President, Romney charged that he had not called the September 11, 2012 assault on the American consulate in Libya a “terrorist attack.”  But Candy Crowley, the moderator, immediately pointed out that Obama had called it an “act of terror” just two days later.
  • Summing up Romney’s attitude toward the truth:  ”We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” said Neil Newhouse, a Romney pollster.

In the end, Americans came to know the truth, and the truth made them free–of Romney and the Republican agenda.

Only when Republicans accept that millions of Americans permanently reject much of their agenda will they be able to hope for a return to power.

WINNERS AND LOSERS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on January 30, 2013 at 12:00 am

Abortion has clearly become a deadly election issue for Republicans.

If you doubt it, look at the results of the November 6 elections.

So I was surprised to read, on January 24, a news story about Republicans’ continuing effort to deny women the right to control their reproductive organs.

This centered on a New Mexico anti-abortion bill that would force rape victims to carry to term the fetus of their rapist, on the “legal” grounds that this was “evidence” of a crime.

Click here: New Mexico Bill Would Criminalize Abortions After Rape As ‘Tampering With Evidence’

I decided to send my longtime friend Dave–who’s not exactly President Obama’s biggest supporter–a link to that news story.

I didn’t offer any commentary, other than in the subject-line of the email: “AND YOU WONDER WHY OBAMA GOT RE-ELECTED?”

It didn’t take Dave long to reply.

“No, we don’t wonder why Obama got re-elected.  It’s because of the free-loading, lazy entitlement crazed society that worships their moronic scuz-bag messiah who brings and offers them FREE ‘shit’ if they vote for him ‘again.’

“Most of which are ALL the welfare reciprients, low income minorities in crime ridden ghettos and the great Mexican migration that he’s pardoned with the multiple offers of selling out the American people by awarding FREE visas, FREE education, FREE Social Security benefits (even though they’ve never worked a day in their lives) and FREEDOM from being asked, stopped or questioned by authorities.

“The democraps sold this country out long ago for nothing more than their greed to stay in office.”

As much as I love Dave as a friend, his reply leaves out–for Republicans–some highly unpalatable truths.

  • The Republican party talks a great game of “getting government off the backs of the people.”  But many of its members lust to ban abortion and even birth control.
  • Women voters were outraged by Republican candidates’ stupid comments about “legitimate rape” and how even a rape-caused pregnancy was “something that God intended to happen.”
  • After a party takes a bath at election time, it’s commonplace for its members to put the blame elsewhere than on themselves.
  • As a result, Republicans are now blaming their nominee, Mitt Romney.  Or (as always) Barack Obama.  Or “the stupid voters.”
  • Some Republicans (like Rick Santorum) argue that the party wasn’t “conservative enough” in its choice of nominees and thus deserved to lose.
  • Other Republicans (a minority) argue that the party was too right-wing and alienated all those who were not.
  • Echoing the Romney line that Obama “bought” the election with “free stuff” for voters ignores an ugly truth about the Romney Presidential campaign: The people who supported him expected to get rewards of their own.  Rewards such as lower corporate taxes, weakened environmental protections and the legal right to discriminate in the salaries they paid to female employees.
  • But by right-wing standards, “corporate welfare” is OK;  only when welfare goes to needy individuals is it evil.  The “Prescription Drug Benefit” of the Bush administration was a classic gift of corporate welfare to the pharmaceutical industry.
  • And, actually, it’s normal for voters to expect something in return for their votes.  The only question is: Is that politician going to do something for those who already hold great wealth and poweror those who have very little?

Consider the following from Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince:

.…One attains [the position of a prince] by help of popular favor or by the favor of the aristocracy [i.e., wealthy interests]. 

For in every city these two opposite parties…[arise] from the desire of the populace to avoid the oppression of the great, and the desire of the great to command and oppress the people….

Besides which, it is impossible to satisfy the nobility by fair dealing and without inflicting injury upon others, whereas it is very easy to satisfy the mass of the people in this way.

For the aim of the people is more honest than that of the nobility, the latter desiring to oppress, and the former merely to avoid oppression….

One, however, who becomes prince by favor of the populace must maintain its friendship, which he will find easy, the people asking nothing but not to be oppressed.

Of course, it’s natural for the losing party to look for scapegoats.  As political columnist Mark Shields said on the PBS Newshour on January 25:

“As far as the Republicans are concerned, they are simply going through the terrible stages that every defeated party does.

“And one side says we lost because we didn’t stick enough to our principles. And the other side we lost because we were too dogmatic and didn’t reach out to the undecided.

“And so the first inclination is always to blame your own candidate. You blame Al Gore if you are a Democrat in 2000, or John Kerry in 2004. You blame John McCain.

“The Republicans want to blame Mitt Romney. That’s fine. But Mitt Romney is more popular than the Republican Party. I mean, he got 47 percent. The Republicans are dead in the water right now.”

WINNERS AND LOSERS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History on January 29, 2013 at 12:00 am

On January 24, the online Huffington Post carried the following story:

Click here: New Mexico Bill Would Criminalize Abortions After Rape As ‘Tampering With Evidence’

Its opening paragraph outlined:

A Republican member of the New Mexico House of Representatives introduced a bill on January 23 to legally force rape victims to carry their pregnancies to term to use the fetus as evidence for a sexual assault trial.

If enacted, the bill–introduced by state Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R)–would charge a rape victim who obtained an abortion with a third-degree felony for “tampering with evidence.”

Third-degree felonies in New Mexico carry a sentence of up to three years in prison.

Apparently Republicans have learned nothing from their electoral defeats in the November 6 elections.

Their nominee for United States Senator from Missouri blew his electoral hopes sky-high with just two words: “Legitimate rape.”

On August 19, 2012, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) justified his opposition to abortion by claiming that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant.

“From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare.  If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

“But let’s assume maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

“Don’t worry, Wonder Woman. You can’t get pregnant if it’s legitimaterape.”

Earlier, on August 8, he had said during a radio interview: “As far as I’m concerned, the morning-after pill is a form of abortion, and I think we just shouldn’t have abortion in this country.”

On November 6, “Mr. Legitimate Rape” lost to Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill.

Nine days later, on August 28, the official Republican platform demanded a total ban on abortions when the party assembled to nominate Mitt Romney as its Presidential candidate in Tampa.

Specifically, the platform:

  • Stated that “the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.”
  • Called for the passage of a Human Life Amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade and thus ban all abortions.
  • Supported “the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.”
  • Opposed using public revenues to promote or perform abortion.
  • Opposed funding organizations that perform or advocate abortions.
  • Stated that the party will not fund or subsidize health care that includes abortion coverage.

On October 18, Rep. Joe Walsh, (R-IL) running for the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinoi against Democrat Tammy Duckworth, said that abortions should not be allowed even when the mother’s life is at risk because of advances in medicine.

“This is an issue that opponents of life throw out there to make us look unreasonable,” Walsh told reporters about the “saving-the-life-of-the-mother” exception.

“There’s no such exception as life of the mother.  And as far as health of the mother, same thing. With advances in science and technology,” he said that it’s almost impossible for a woman to need an abortion to save her life.

“Health of the mother has become a tool for abortions anytime under any reason.”

Walsh had been sued by his ex-wife, Laura, who claimed he owed more than $100,000 in overdue child support and interest.

On November 6, Tammy Duckworth defeated Walsh 55%-45%.

Yet another Republican to embrace the fetus fanatics cause was Richard Mourdock, the Indiana state treasurer who pined to be that state’s U.S. Senator.

On October 23, he declared: “The only exception I have to have an abortion is in the case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God.

“I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Mr. “Rape Is God’s Plan for You” Mourdock was defeated at the polls on November 6.

So you would think Republicans might have learned that “smaller government is better” and thus stop trying to overturn or undercut the right of a woman to control her own reproductive organs.

But they haven’t.

On January 25, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) addressed the anti-abortion protest March for Life in Washington, D.C.

He promised to “help make abortion a relic of the past” a national priority.  “Let that be one of our most fundamental goals this year,” he said.

With abortion having become so deadly an election issue for Republicans, I decided to send a link to the above story about the New Mexico anti-abortion bill to my conservative friend, Dave.

I didn’t offer any commentary, other than in the subject-line of the email: “AND YOU WONDER WHY OBAMA GOT RE-ELECTED?”

It didn’t take him long to reply.

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