American Monster: Chris Kyle, the American Sniper
When one delves into the subject of perpetrators of extreme violence, it is very rare for experts and writers to discuss legalized killers, much less study them; instead, they take aim at politically neutral cases, that being non-legalized killers, and consequently the literature in this regard has been based on an incomplete spectrum.
If researchers were able to bypass political undertones and the complexities involved with determining which legalized killers to include and which to discard in their analyses, they would quickly be able to establish that one of the most remorseless and prolific US serial killers of all time is neither named John Wayne Gacy nor Gary Ridgway but Christopher Scott Kyle, the American Sniper.
Chris Kyle, who has been branded an “American Hero ,” never expressed any regrets for his many victims but stated that he wished he could have murdered more. Even Ted Bundy, who murdered dozens of women and occasionally indulged in necrophilia and decapitations, expressed that he deeply regretted his actions and reckoned that society deserved to be protected from him.
Chris Kyle was a United States Navy SEAL sniper and served several tours in the Iraq War. After his discharge from the U.S. Navy, he went on to publish his bestselling autobiography American Sniper in 2012 . In his book, he claimed to be the most prolific sniper of all time, and it is generally agreed upon that he has killed more than 160 and possibly over 300 people, mostly Iraqis. After the publication of his book, he told the Sunday People that “There are no kills that I regret. None at all. The public is very soft. I either killed them, or they killed other Americans .”
In this article, we integrate the case into a broader framework that encompasses a discussion of the legal justification for the war. As we shall see, the Iraq War had been planned years in advance and violated international law. Killings committed during an illegal invasion are obviously illegal and this puts Chris Kyle‘s justification into a whole different perspective; that is, if the USA had never invaded Iraq, none of his colleagues would have ever been in any alleged danger.
From his own words, we will see that Kyle was able to kill like clockwork, without remorse, and even claimed to have continued to murder people when he returned from service. To gain a better comprehension of such behavior, his actions are analyzed from the perspective of psychiatry. This article furthermore analyses the possible root causes of why Kyle gained pervasive popularity and support despite information pertaining to his murders being in plain sight. It is argued that successfully implemented war propaganda and a disorder, known as hybristophilia, account for the observed behavior.
International Law and the Iraq War
In March 2003, just before the Iraq War commenced, a group of 31 Canadian professors of international law declared in an open letter that an attack on Iraq “would be a fundamental breach of international law and would seriously threaten the integrity of the international legal order that has been in place since the end of the Second World War .”
They furthermore condemned the scheduled war “in the strongest terms” and underlined that an invasion would have imperialist and colonial overtones: “Illegal action by the US and its allies would simply return us to an international order based on imperial ambition and coercive force .”
The group was backed by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in Geneva who expressed “deep dismay that a small number of states are poised to launch an outright illegal invasion of Iraq, which amounts to a war of aggression .”
Under international law, a state is only allowed to use force against a sovereign nation if it has attacked first. Before any actions are undertaken, the consent of the United Nations Security Council is a necessity. The US never got the Security Council‘s approval for the Iraq War.
In 2002, well before the initiation of the war, a group of 317 law teachers from 87 law schools located in the US declared in an open statement that a war against Iraq would not only be a breach of international law, but also violate the American constitution; they, in the strongest terms, protested “the Bush administration‘s illegal plan to conduct a war against Iraq,” and argued that “President Bush maintains that Iraq‘s ‘decade of defiance‘ of United Nations resolutions justifies a war against Iraq. But the President ignores the fact that a US war, unleashed without the approval of the UN Security Council, against a country that has not attacked the United States, would itself be an unlawful act, in defiance of America‘s treaty obligations, and a violation of US and international law .”
Importantly, they also stated that “The dangerous path America is treading will only lead to more suffering by Americans, as well as by others. The international rule of law is not a soft luxury to be discarded whenever leaders find it convenient or popular to resort to savage violence. The international rule of law is a bulwark against the horrors of warfare that we Americans have so recently felt firsthand .”
They also made the essential historical reference which is that “every nation that has ever committed aggression against another claimed to be ‘defending‘ itself. The United States helped establish the United Nations precisely in order to impose the rule of law on such claims, to make it unlawful for nations to strike against others unless they were themselves under armed attack. The United States is not under armed attack by Iraq .”
In 2004, Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary-General, spoke about the U.S. led invasion of Iraq: “I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter. From our point of view and the UN Charter point of view, it was illegal .”
Kofi Annan‘s statement was echoed in a 2005 paper published in the British Journal of Criminology, professors Kramer and Michalowski, concluded that the “invasion and occupation of Iraq by the United States and its allies is a violation of international law, and as such constitutes a state crime .”
Even UN‘s former chief weapons inspector Hans Blix has stated that “all in all, we carried out about 700 inspections at different 500 sites and, in no case, did we find any weapons of mass destruction,” and “I am of the firm view that it was an illegal war .”
Former chief prosecutor of Nazi war crimes at the Nuremberg tribunal, Benjamin Ferencz, has declared that the Iraq War was illegal, and it constituted the “supreme international crime ,” which was defined under the Nuremberg trials as a war of aggression without any justification. He has also stated, “Crimes against humanity, destruction beyond the needs of military necessity, rape of civilians, plunder – that always happens in wartime. So my answer personally, after working for 60 years on this problem and [as someone] who hates to see all these young people get killed no matter what their nationality, is that you‘ve got to stop using warfare as a means of settling your disputes .”
In a different interview, he briefly described the proceedings that led to the war:
“The United Nations charter has a provision which was agreed to by the United States, formulated by the United States, in fact, after World War II. It says that from now on, no nation can use armed force without the permission of the U.N. Security Council. They can use force in connection with self-defense, but a country can‘t use force in anticipation of self-defense. Regarding Iraq, the last Security Council resolution essentially said, ‘Look, send the weapons inspectors out to Iraq, have them come back and tell us what they’ve found – then we‘ll figure out what we‘re going to do.’ The U.S. was impatient, and decided to invade Iraq – which was all prearranged of course. So, the United States went to war, in violation of the charter [11, 12].”
Even a political inquiry into the Iraq War has affirmed that it was illegal; the Dutch inquiry concluded, among others, that the “military action had no sound mandate in international law .” Philippe Sands QC, a professor of international law at University College London, who gave evidence to the inquiry, later told the media that: “There has been no other independent assessment on the legality of the war in Iraq and the findings of this inquiry are unambiguous .”
The British inquiry into the war, which became known as the Chilcot Inquiry, concluded that Iraq did not pose an imminent threat, military action was unnecessary, and it was also concluded that the UK government had undermined the authority of the United Nations Security Council .
Extensive evidence of systematic deception, fraud, manipulation, and criminality by the Bush administration was also put forth in the book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, by former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi. Bugliosi highlighted that Bush had warned in a speech on October 7, 2002, that Iraq was an imminent threat to the US, capable of striking them at any time with weapons of mass destruction. However, Bush had, less than a week before the speech, received the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) in which it was concluded by 16 US intelligence agencies that Iraq would only pose a threat if the US attacked it first, i.e. self-defense. When the Bush administration put out a declassified version of the NIE just before Congress were to vote on whether or not it authorized an invasion, the conclusion that Iraq was not an imminent threat was completely deleted from the document. Bugliosi also pointed his finger to the so-called Manning Memo that detailed how Bush had told Tony Blair about three possible ways for the US to provoke Saddam Hussein into a war. Bush elaborated on one of these provocations and stated that they could fly “U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, [falsely] painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach” of UN resolutions and that would justify war . If Bush honestly believed that Iraq was an imminent threat, the thought of provoking the country would never have entered his mind—the last person you want to provoke is the one you are deadly afraid of.
General Wesley Clark, a retired four-star general who was the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO during the Kosovo War, revealed in 2007 that the Iraq War as well as several others had been planned years in advance. General Clark said: “About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the generals called me in. He said, ‘Sir, you‘ve got to come in and talk to me a second.’ … He says, ‘We‘ve made the decision we‘re going to war with Iraq.’ This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, ‘We‘re going to war with Iraq? Why?’ He said, ‘I don‘t know.’ He said, ‘I guess they don‘t know what else to do.’ So I said, ‘Well, did they find some information connecting Saddam to al-Qaeda?’ He said, ‘No, no.’ He says, ‘There‘s nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq.’ …. So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, ‘Are we still going to war with Iraq?’ And he said, ‘Oh, it‘s worse than that.’ He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, ‘I just got this down from upstairs’ — meaning the Secretary of Defense‘s office — ‘today.’ And he said, ‘This is a memo that describes how we‘re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran .’”
The illegality of the Iraq War has been thoroughly well documented, perhaps better than any other illegal war in history, but as it often is with state crimes: those who planned it and those who implemented the violence will rarely be held accountable.
Death Toll of the Iraq War
In addition to the killings carried out by Chris Kyle, the Iraqi people suffered greatly from the U.S. led war of aggression. Independent studies, such as those published in the Lancet, a top medical journal, have shown that hundreds of thousands of people died as a result of the war (first study covered the first 17 months of the war and found that 100,000 people had died due to the war. A follow up study from 2006 showed that the death toll had increased to 654,965) .
Subsequent to the publication of the 2006 study, “the war-declaring governments could not simply let these explosive figures go unchallenged ,” and Bush and British prime-minister Blair immediately dismissed them as not credible, but in March 2007, BBC revealed that the British government‘s own scientists had confirmed the robustness and accuracy of the study. “The study design is robust and employs methods that are regarded as close to best practice in this area ,” said chief scientific adviser of the Ministry of Defense, Sir Roy Anderson. Several scientists employed by the UK‘s Department for International Development even stated that “the Lancet study actually underestimated the mortality rates because of the methods it applied .”
Numerous other experts have confirmed that the reports are scientifically sound and provide the best data on the number of deaths. Shortly after the publication of the 2006 study, a large group of leading experts in medical epidemiology, population health, and biostatistics issued a statement which affirmed that the study was “valid and correct,” and “we can be confident that the excess deaths were above 390,000 and may in fact be as high as 940,000. The vast majority (92 per cent) of the excess deaths were due to direct violence. The cross-sectional household cluster sample survey method used is a standard, robust, well-established method for gathering health data .”
The independent Just Foreign Policy estimates that the current total death toll is approximately 1.5 million based upon extrapolation of the data from the Lancet studies .
In 2007 and 2008, the independent polling agency “Opinion Research Business” published two studies on the Iraq War mortality, and they ultimately estimated “that the death toll between March 2003 and August 2007 is likely to have been of the order of 1,033,000 .”
The Nobel Prize winning Physicians for Social Responsibility echoed these findings in 2015 when they released their detailed study in which they conservatively estimated that one million people had died due to the war. In their report, they furthermore scolded the often-cited Iraq Body Count Project (IBC) for grossly misrepresenting data and underestimating the actual death toll. . An investigative report had furthermore exposed IBC as being “deeply embedded in the Western foreign policy establishment. IBC‘s key advisers and researchers have received direct and indirect funding from US government propaganda agencies and Pentagon contractors. It is no surprise, then, that IBC-affiliated scholars promote narratives of conflict that serve violent US client-regimes and promote NATO counter-insurgency doctrines .” Moreover, the investigative report concluded that “IBC has not only systematically underrepresented the Iraqi death toll, it has done so on the basis of demonstrably fraudulent attacks on standard scientific procedures. IBC affiliated scholars are actively applying sophisticated techniques of statistical manipulation to whitewash US complicity in violence… .”
Professor Gideon Polya, an expert in thanatology (the scientific study of the cause of death) and author of Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950, has estimated that the absolute Iraqi death toll of the war is in excess of 2.7 million. This figure encompasses 1.5 million who died as a result of violence and 1.2 million who died due to war-induced deprivation. The latter includes under-5 infant deaths of 0.6 million .
People ordered to kill by their governments or superiors, in particular soldiers, are not exempt from punishment by conveniently shifting the responsibility to their superiors if a moral choice was available. Such is explicitly declared by Nuremberg Principle IV, which states that “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him .” Chris Kyle ignored the Nuremberg Principles and the illegality of the war, and he asserted that his victims would have killed his colleagues if he had not acted first .
His arguments would, in all probability, have fallen short if he had been prosecuted in the International Criminal Court in Hague for war crimes. His charges may have included systematic extermination of Iraqis, i.e. crimes against humanity.
Judging from his own words, he enjoyed killing the Iraqi people as well as others. In his memoir, he described killing as “fun .” He also stated that “I never once fought for the Iraqis. I could give a flying fuck about them ,” and “on the front of my arm, I had a crusader cross inked in. I wanted everyone to know I was a Christian. I had it put in in red, for blood. I hated the damn savages I‘d been fighting. I always will ,” and remarked, “they‘ve taken so much from me .”
Later in the book, he reiterated his standpoint on the Iraqis: “Savage, despicable evil. That‘s what we were fighting in Iraq. That‘s why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy ‘savages.’ There really was no other way to describe what we encountered there .”
Regarding how many people he had killed, he stated: “People ask me all the time, ‘How many people have you killed?’ My standard response is, ‘Does the answer make me less, or more, of a man?’ The number is not important to me. I only wish I had killed more .” Kyle admitted, however, that “we were slaughtering the enemy … our kill total becoming astronomical…;” he also said: “It got to the point where I had so many kills that I stepped back to let the other guys have a few … Everyone I shot was evil. I had good cause on every shot. They all deserved to die .”
It is important to remember that Kyle murdered dozens of people in an illegal war, and he invariably pulled the trigger within seconds of an Iraqi coming into view of his rifle scope, hardly amounting to a fair and impartial trial. Furthermore, possible survivors and relatives have not been tracked down by the media and others, although a challenging task it would have been important in order to balance his account of events.
Despite the fact that Kyle had plenty of opportunity and incentive to embellish, omit, and distort the facts related to his killings, one gets the impression that sensory gratification frequently motivated him to kill, rather than alleged protection of fellow soldiers. In one of these incidents, Kyle, lying on a roof top, claimed to have observed a group of 16 armed men trying to pass a body of water, they had used beach balls to keep themselves afloat. He then allegedly shot the beach balls one by one and watched in enjoyment as the men kept fighting for their lives, several of them drowned. In his book, he uttered that “hell—it was a lot of fun .”
After many completed operations, he would smoke Cuban cigars with other military men.
Glorifying in Murder
The literature on non-legalized killers has shown that serial killers find it hard to stop killing. Apparently, the power associated with taking lives can result in a pathological addiction. Chris Kyle was no exception by his own admission. He has reportedly claimed that, upon his return from service, he teamed up with a friend and shot and murdered over 30 alleged looters after the ravages of Hurricane Katrina .
He also told Michael Mooney, a writer for D Magazine, that in 2009, he had murdered two alleged would-be carjackers, but Kyle was allegedly “released by police without questioning due to the intercession of the Department of Defense .” Mooney would later be unable to verify the story indicating it was a concoction, yet he would say this about Kyle: He was incredible and “he was a hero. He was the most celebrated war hero of our time,” and “people will tell stories about Chris Kyle by for generations to come. Tales of his feats in battle, and of his antics and noble deeds, will probably swell .”
Many mainstream media outlets have promulgated the indefensible notion that Kyle was a noble man and a hero. For example, a CNN article about Kyle glorifies his actions and remarks that “he touched and inspired so many people .”
Having been branded an American hero, Hollywood, a couple of years after the publication of the autobiography, decided to release a film adaptation, titled after the book, American Sniper, directed by Clint Eastwood.
In a response to the movie‘s one-sided nature, Professor Chris Hedges stated that “American Sniper, like the big-budget feature films pumped out in Germany during the Nazi era to exalt deformed values of militarism, racial self-glorification and state violence, is a piece of propaganda, a tawdry commercial for the crimes of empire .”
Chris Kyle profited immensely from the movie and book, and he was the subject of numerous interviews on major news stations and on radio shows. He clearly relished getting national attention and being in the presence of actors and directors, including Clint Eastwood.
Fame and enjoyment would, nevertheless, soon come to an end. In a twist of irony, he was himself killed on a shooting range by an American who was reportedly suffering from war-induced post-traumatic-stress syndrome. His funeral procession stretched from Midlothian, Texas, to Austin. Thousands stood jammed together praising and praying for him as his coffin was escorted by dozens of buses, bikers, policemen, and others. People flocked to his funeral and thousands watched the memorial at the Cowboys Stadium. The minister said during the memorial: “Chris would tell us if he was with us in person today, that we must love others and continue to do good .”
Clearly a large group had adopted a distorted view of Chris Kyle and his killings. Undoubtedly, many were persuaded by propaganda, which can be defined as misleading information presented as objective to influence and further an agenda, e.g. gain support for the Iraq War, construct an illusion about snipers being humanitarians, et cetera. However, while many may have adopted an uncritical fascination due to the highly subjective Clint Eastwood movie as well as propaganda from other sources, it is, nevertheless, evident that many had read his book and were apparently not appalled as indicated by a quick check on Amazon.com, which shows that Kyle‘s book has amassed over 15,000 reviews of which 89% are four- or five-star reviews. Across all formats, his book has sold millions of copies and made Kyle one of the most successful serial killers of all time in terms of profiting from his killings. It is perhaps revealing that a perusal of the negative reviews on Amazon.com indicates that many faults the book for poor writing rather than the immorality of murdering over 100 people in an illegal war.
One interpretation, other than successfully implemented war propaganda as a source of the manifest attraction to Chris Kyle, is that a large group became affected with a subset of a recently documented disorder, called hybristophilia. The attraction to serial killers and other violent predators is a well-documented phenomenon. Ted Bundy, one of the most savage and notorious women killers of the 1970s, married Carole Ann Boone and fathered a child while being behind bars. Richard Ramirez, a serial killer who indulged in pedophilia, rape, sadism, satanic rituals, and murder, received hundreds of fan-letters while on trial, and on death row he became married to Doreen Lioy.
Hybristophilia, which has not been researched well nor thoroughly defined via empirical studies, is a psychiatric disorder that addresses this obsession with people who have committed atrocities, such as rape, murder, and cannibalism. The affected will be infatuated and/or obsessed with the killer . It has been proposed, thus far, that at least two subgroups exist, namely passive and aggressive hybristophiles, while those who suffer from the aggressive form will be propelled to assist with murders, the passive ones will instead be primarily physically and mentally attracted to those who commit vile acts .
At this point, it has been assumed that hybristophilia, for the most part, affects women; however, the Chris Kyle case indicates otherwise. Some researchers have theorized that perpetrators of extremely brutal crimes may convey an ultra-masculine image, and this image is ultimately what drives the hybristophiliac on an unconscious level. However, these theories remain untested empirically, and the causes remain unknown .
The pathological admiration and attraction to Chris Kyle are best exemplified by Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, who declared February 2 to be Chris Kyle Day in Texas, and by the pictures of thousands of people who mourned at his funeral procession, perhaps indicating a collective mental state of hybristophilia.
It has been argued that the central component of the disorder is the obsession or unhealthy attraction, while a secondary symptom may be rationalization of antisocial acts, which is the apparent tendency of the hybristophiliac to excuse the acts of the criminal whom they are infatuated with. Such rationalizations are evident in statements from journalists and people at his funeral procession who frequently referred to Kyle‘s acts as noble deeds or somehow else glorified them, entirely ignoring the moral and legal dilemmas.
An online search on YouTube and Google for “Chris Kyle Tribute” reveals dozens of tribute videos, songs, and other material dedicated to Kyle; very similar in content to what can easily be found glorifying non-legalized killers, especially school shooters and serial killers. For example, a Google search for “Ted Bundy Tribute” shows numerous videos dedicated to him, painting an image consistent with hybristophilia; one viewer commented, “R.I.P Teddy Bundy, you will be missed on this planet buddy,” while another stated, “One of the all-time greatest persons ever;” and one even proclaimed that “I understand the love for Ted…however I love Jeff Dahmer. If you loved Ted more power to you. We have the right to love whomsoever we want!! .” In view of the immense bloodthirst of Ted Bundy, these comments appear delusional but entirely consistent with hybristophilia. If we pay heed to Chris Kyle‘s tribute videos, their content and related comments are highly suggestive of hybristophilia. Dr. Chris Cowley, a forensic psychologist, has documented that “in the most pronounced form, the illness has an attention-seeking pathology a little like Munchausen‘s syndrome,” and the affected may attempt to “become semi-famous by association .” A surprisingly high number of the comments to his tribute videos revolve around an alleged association with Kyle. Here is just a very short segment of the comments to one of his tribute videos, notice the attention seeking quality to some of them: “A HERO and a patriot. God. Country. Family. Honored to know him, and call him a friend. Humble, courageous, kind. Immortal warrior. Legend. Amazing man. Period,” “He sits next to the gates of heaven where he stands guard forever. God bless Chris and his family,” “LOL 57 people didn’t like this.. they are from Iraq,” “I read his book just a couple months ago and that was the first ive heard of him. I honor this man, in my mind he was a true hero to this country. Its not about his kills thats just a number …. This man really is my hero, i look up to him and i wish i knew of him before his death so i can shake his hand and say thank you,” “Whoever hit dislike you don’t deserve to be an American!,” “The guys he killed were dirtbags,” “I cry so much, what a beautiful man-soul. Rip,” and “I spent time with this guy he was a true hero .”
These comments are consistent with the characteristics of hybristophilia outlined earlier in this article. It needs, also, to be stated that comments questioning the morality and legality of his killings were generally countered with hostile replies, indicating that information conflicting their current belief about Kyle produced cognitive dissonance as a psychological coping mechanism.
The major characteristics of hybristophilia are met by the observed behavior of many of Kyle‘s adherents, although, we cannot know with certainty without an extensive empirical analysis. At this point, it appears to be a valid hypothesis.
Chris Kyle‘s legacy encompasses numerous immoral acts including outright deception. It has been shown that he deceived his readers about the numbers of awards he had received for military deeds. Mooney was unable to verify the carjacker story, and other researchers have been unable to document the factual basis for his claim regarding the sniper killings after Hurricane Katrina. Considering Kyle‘s moral track record it is reasonable to assume that both stories were lies. However, without a thorough investigation by objective experts, his assertions cannot be dismissed completely.
Furthermore, on radio and television, he alleged that he had punched out former governor Jesse Ventura at a bar in 2006. Ventura promptly sued Kyle for defamation. Despite Kyle dying during the trial, Ventura continued the law suit, and a jury awarded him over $1.8 million. In 2006, the judgment was overturned. While preparing for a new trial, he reached an agreement with the opposing side. Due to the agreement, he was unable to comment on how much money he had received but remarked that “the settlement is confidential, but I can smile .” Ventura has denounced Chris Kyle an “American Liar .”
Reflections upon the Psychology of Chris Kyle
If we loosely utilize the Psychopathy Checklist Revised, which was created by Robert D. Hare as a diagnostic tool, as a guide to assess the psychological dynamics of Chris Kyle, it remains clear that he was most likely a psychopath, possibly scoring a high total rating (maximum = 40) .
As we shall see, the major constituents of psychopathy correlate very well with his statements and documented behavior.
Unlike most cases with non-legalized serial killers who often are ashamed of their deeds, Kyle glorified in them and often vividly described them to interested bystanders and openly admitted his love for murder and violence. Indeed, the Chris Kyle case represents a near unique glimpse into the mind of a serial killer since many captured killers ostensibly embellish, withhold, manipulate, and distort their case for obvious reasons, e.g. getting out of prison, legal issues, embarrassment, manipulating public perception, et cetera. Few killers have openly admitted their love for killing and lack of remorse. One such exception though is the spree killer Charles Starkweather, who was questioned if he would change anything if he had the ability. He answered: “No, not really” and added, “I know I‘m a monster .” During the same interview, he admitted, “If I could go back into time, I would kill as many more people as I could because I hate people. I know they are gonna kill me in the electric chair. I don‘t really care because I‘m gonna be famous for all time .”
Among others, psychopaths are characterized by shallow emotions, diminished or non-existent conscience, and they lack empathy or are able to switch it off at will. Kyle repeatedly stated in interviews that he had no remorse and only regretted he had not murdered more people, clearly evidencing limited capacity for empathy and remorse, e.g. he rhetorically asked himself: “Did it bother you killing so many people in Iraq? I tell them, ‘No.’ And I mean it .”
Regarding the depth of his emotions and empathy, the following quote from Kyle is also relevant: “The first time you shoot someone, you get a little nervous. You think, can I really shoot this guy? Is it really okay? But after you kill your enemy, you see it‘s okay. You say, Great. You do it again. And again. …. I loved what I did. I still do. If circumstances were different I‘d be back in a heartbeat. I‘m not lying or exaggerating to say it was fun .” The statement is clear evidence of limited capacity for sympathy and empathy, emotional poverty.
Based upon the above statement and others mentioned in the article, he conceived of the world as consisting of good and bad people, but he only killed bad ones. This simplification by Kyle comes as no surprise as a key trait in psychopathy is the ability to rationalize and justify actions regardless of how atrocious they may have been; they fail to take responsibility. In his book, he even proclaimed that “I have a strong sense of justice ,” a statement which again underlines that he rationalized his murders by simply categorizing his victims as evil, and in his own mind, he most likely regarded himself as a savior and hero.
Rationalizations and moral shortcuts are common to most prolific murderers, including Herbert Mullin, who claimed that he killed people in order to prevent a massive earthquake from happening in California, and therefore, he was not really evil .
His reaction to shooting and killing a human being is reflective of a state of low anxiety, which also is commonly found among psychopaths who often exhibit a fearless mental state in situations where it would be expected that the individual would be gripped with fear and anxiety .
Chris Kyle also appears to have indulged in compulsive narcissistic deception. Judging by his statements, he apparently had a persistent need to elevate his self-worth: he lied about the number of military rewards he had received, probably about his murderous achievements, and about his fight with Jesse Ventura, all in all indicating grandiosity and a compulsive need for self-entitlement, suggesting a core of narcissism in his personality.
Pathological narcissism is a fundamental component of psychopathy; the condition is, among others, characterized by self-centeredness, status-seeking, distrust, arrogance, and a sense of entitlement.
It has long been observed that narcissists want to be the center of attention, and they often have a deep desire to get known, even nationwide. The publication of his murderous deeds may very well have been motivated by a narcissistic desire to attain nationwide appreciation and recognition for his perceived heroism.
While the majority of Kyle‘s kills were relatively fast, some of his acts suggest that he took pleasure in sadistic behavior. Sadists, of course, take great pleasure in causing and observing physical and/or psychological pain and anguish in others. Specifically, the previously mentioned beach ball incident, where he admittedly experienced great exhilaration from causing the drowning of multiple men, indicates that his psyche translated their pain into a greatly positive experience, perhaps even sexually.
Regarding his own psyche, Kyle had surprisingly little to say in his book, except that he briefly described that his psyche had built up defenses, and that is why he would “laugh at gruesome things like heads being blown apart, and worse .”
Importantly, he admitted in the book that killing and murder were already on his mind as he was growing up as he had “wondered, how would I feel about killing someone? Now I know. It‘s no big deal .” Numerous cases attest to the notion that the roots of repetitive killers can be traced to their upbringing as many serial killers have admitted to torturing animals in their childhood or have fantasized about killing people.
Although operating within the framework of US government approved violence, Chris Kyle appears similar in many respects to non-legalized serial killers.
Unlike imprisoned killers, Kyle had no qualms about asserting his love for killing Iraqis – presumably due to a combination of factors that includes government approval, backing by military institutions, and encomiums celebrating his work as wonders of the first order. The multilayered saga of Chris Kyle represents a dangerous example of how institutions can shape and mold the underlying morality of a large group, and effectively make them celebrate acts and personalities that under normal conditions would cause an outrage. Undoubtedly, the military industrial complex had a vested interest in promoting the demonstrably false narrative surrounding Chris Kyle, to further their agenda.
About the writer: Søren Korsgaard, author of America’s Jack the Ripper: The Crimes and Psychology of the Zodiac Killer, is the editor of www.crimeandpower.com and webmaster of www.paulcraigroberts.org. Support Søren’s work by donating Bitcoin: 19Z22vsdaKJX4gy8GDy6J8QU1ZZ9EvSoEo
- “Ex-Navy sniper, another military vet killed at Texas gun range” https://edition.cnn.com/2013/02/03/justice/texas-sniper-killed/index.html
- American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History (William Morrow and Company 2012). Chris Kyle with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice.
- “The REAL American Sniper: ‘There are no kills that I regret. None at all’” https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/real-american-sniper-there-no-5036121
- “Canadian law professors declare US-led war illegal” https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2003/03/lawy-m22.html
- “Iraq – ICJ Deplores Moves To-ward a War of Aggression on Iraq” https://web.archive.org/web/20051015040809/http://www.icj.org:80/news.php3?id_article=2770&lang=en
- “Law Professors For the Rule of Law” https://web.archive.org/web/20040214101825/http:/www.the-rule-of-law.com:80/index.html
- “Iraq war was illegal and breached UN charter, says Annan” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/sep/16/iraq.iraq
- “War, Aggression, and State Crime: A Criminological Analysis of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq.” Ronald C. Kramer. Western Michigan University. Raymond J. Michalowski. Northern Arizona University. Revised for the British Journal of Criminology, October 2004.
- “Iraq inquiry: Former UN inspector Blix says war illegal” www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-10770239
- “Bush and Saddam Should Both Stand Trial, Says Nuremberg Prosecutor” https://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/167/35806.html
- “Nuremberg set a valid precedent for trials of war-crime suspects in Iraq‘s destruction” https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2009/05/26/commentary/nuremberg-set-a-valid-precedent-for-trials-of-war-crime-suspects-in-iraqs-destruction/
- “Could Bush Be Prosecuted for War Crimes?” https://www.alternet.org/story/38604/could_bush_be_prosecuted_for_war_crimes
- “Iraq war was illegal, Dutch panel rules” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/jan/12/iraq-war-illegal-dutch-tribunal
- “Chilcot report: key points from the Iraq inquiry” https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jul/06/iraq-inquiry-key-points-from-the-chilcot-report
Also see: The Iraq Inquiry: www.iraqinquiry.org.uk
Also see: “Chilcot report: Findings at a glance” www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-36721645
- “The prosecution of George W. Bush for murder” Vincent Bugliosi (New York: Vanguard Press, 2008.)
- “General Wesley Clark: Wars Were Planned – Seven Countries In Five Years” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RC1Mepk_Sw
- “Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: a cross-sectional cluster sample survey.” Burnham, Gilbert et al. The Lancet, Volume 368, Issue 9545, 1421 – 1428.
Also see: “Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey.” Roberts, Les et al. The Lancet, Volume 364, Issue 9448, 1857– 1864.
- Washington, D.C. Physicians for Social Responsibility: Body count: casualty figures after 10 years of the “War on Terror”: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan
- “The Iraq deaths study was valid and correct” https://www.theage.com.au/news/opinion/the-iraq-deaths-study-was-valid-and-correct/2006/10/20/1160851135985.html?page=fullpage
- “Death Counter Explanation Page” http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/deathcount/explanation
- “January 2008 – Update on Iraqi Casualty Data” https://web.archive.org/web/20110220142121/http://www.opinion.co.uk/Newsroom_details.aspx?NewsId=120
- “How the Pentagon is hiding the dead. The secret campaign to under-count the ‘war on terror’ death toll in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Latin America” https://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/how-the-pentagon-is-hiding-the-dead-862a7b45ce57
- “An Iraqi Holocaust: 2.7 Million Iraqi Dead From Violence Or War-imposed Deprivation” http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article41378.htm
- “Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nürnberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal” legal.un.org/ilc/texts/instruments/english/draft_articles/7_1_1950.pdf
- “In the Crosshairs: Chris Kyle, a decorated sniper, tried to help a troubled veteran. The result was tragic” https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/06/03/in-the-crosshairs
- “Chris Kyle and ‘American Sniper’” https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/kyle-file/
- “’Legend’ of American sniper Chris Kyle looms over murder trial” https://edition.cnn.com/2015/02/09/us/chris-kyle-american-sniper/index.html
Also see: “The Legend of Chris Kyle: The deadliest sniper in U.S. history performed near miracles on the battle-field. Then he had to come home” https://www.dmagazine.com/publications/d-magazine/2013/april/the-legend-of-chris-kyle-01/?single=1
- “Killing Ragheads for Jesus” https://www.truthdig.com/articles/killing-ragheads-for-jesus/
- “Chris Kyle’s Memorial at Cowboys Stadium (FULL)” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmWZ7Fafhso
- “Passion Victim: A brief look at hybristophilia” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-excess/201310/passion-victim
- “Hybristophilia: When a Woman Is Sexually Attracted to Horrifying, Psychopathic Criminals” https://www.vagabomb.com/Hybristophilia/
- “3 Experts Explain Why Some People Are Attracted to Serial Killers” https://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/tv/a17804534/sexual-attraction-to-serial-killers
- “Tribute to Ted Bundy” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhZG6trFdsE
- Cowley, Chris. “Face to Face with Evil: Conversations with Ian Brady” (2011 Metro Publishing), p. 116 & 118.
- “A Tribute to Chris Kyle ‘Devil of Ramadi’” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLvSuAznnks
- “Ventura settles defamation suit but won’t say for how much” www.startribune.com/jesse-ventura-to-discuss-settlement-of-defamation-law-suit-at-monday-afternoon-news-conference/461863413/
- “Jesse Ventura Slams ‘American Liar’ Chris Kyle After Settling Lawsuit”
- “Hare Psychopathy Checklist” www.minddisorders.com/Flu-Inv/Hare -Psychopathy-Checklist.html
- Korsgaard, Søren. “America‘s Jack the Ripper: The Crimes and Psychology of the Zodiac Killer” (2017), p. 273.
- “He Thought His Murders Could Stop Earthquakes: The Crimes of Herbert Mullin” https://didyouknowfacts.com/thought-murders-stop-earthquakes-crimes-herbert-mullin/
- “Inside the mind of a PSYCHOPATH: Researchers find they do feel fear – but don’t recognise danger” www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3767545/Inside-mind-PSYCHOPATH-Researchers-feel-fear -don-t-recognise-danger.html
- Alv A. Dahl, Aud Dalsegg, ”Chamør og Tyran” (Munksgaard 2002).