Battleland

American Cipher: 1 in 2.5 Million

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Erath County Sheriff’s Office / AP

Eddie Ray Routh, charged in the murder of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle and another vet.

You probably only learned over the weekend about only one of the more than 2.5 million U.S. military veterans who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq since 9/11. That would be Eddie Ray Routh, 25, a onetime Marine who allegedly shot and killed Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle and a second military veteran at a gun range south of Fort Worth on Saturday.

We need to be careful not to overlearn anything from this tragedy just yet. Routh allegedly killed Kyle, 38, and Chad Littlefield, 35, as Kyle was trying to ease Routh back into the civilian world.

Kyle’s killing makes for a compelling tale, which no doubt explains why it was the lead story on the Sunday evening newscasts of ABC and NBC, the two broadcast networks not carrying Super Bowl XLVII.

All the pieces fell neatly into place: Routh is unemployed, perhaps afflicted with PTSD, and his scraggly beard made for an arresting mug shot. His famous and handsome victim, Chris Kyle, wrote American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, which made the New York Times best-seller list last year. He was married, a father of two and spent a lot of time trying to help fellow veterans find their way back into American society.

“People look at Kyle’s death as tragic because he survived so much at war,” said Brock McNabb, who served as an Army mental-health worker in Iraq, “only to be killed in the middle of a philanthropic act in the middle of the country he loved so much.”

In an interview with TIME last year, Kyle said he was “not trying to glory myself.” Killing people at long range was his military mission. “The first time, you’re not even sure you can do it,” he said. “But I’m not over there looking at these people as people. I’m not wondering if he has a family. I’m just trying to keep my guys safe.” He had deployed four times to Iraq, where he was awarded a pair of Silver Stars for valor.

In his book, Kyle claimed to have killed more than 150 insurgents in Iraq. Pentagon officials said at the time of the book’s release that there is no formal census kept of sniper kills. But, like fellow Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette, who wrote of the killing of Osama bin Laden, Kyle seemed ready to write of things that in previous wars had been kept secret. Military modesty, it seems, has become as much a relic as an M-1 carbine.

The killings raise a host of questions: Is the alleged killer a sociopath, simply eager to kill? To kill somebody famous? Did PTSD or some other malady drive him to shoot his two fellow veterans once they found themselves on a shooting range? Could he be a closet Islamist seeking revenge for the insurgents Kyle killed?

Routh has said nothing to suggest a motive. “I don’t know that we’ll ever know,” Captain Jason Upshaw of the Erath County sheriff’s office said. “He’s the only one that knows that.” Routh is the only surviving witness to the killings.

Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant said Routh “may have been suffering from some type of mental illness from being in the military himself.” The Pentagon said Routh had been a corporal in the Marines from 2006 to 2010 and deployed to Iraq in 2007–08 and Haiti in 2010.

“This simply further highlights the dangers of an inadequate treatment system that continues to cost service members, both active and retired, their lives,” says Rob Kumpf, who served with the Army in Afghanistan and Iraq and has had his own battles with mental-health issues since returning to the U.S.

Post-9/11 veterans are already grumbling that the media is rushing to blame the murders on Routh’s military service or PTSD or both. If the past weekend were average, there were more than 50 murders by firearms across the country. Most of them were not carried out by veterans or vets suffering from PTSD.

“We don’t actually know the alleged murderer’s mental state or background,” cautions Brandon Friedman, who served as a rifle platoon leader and executive officer with the 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan and Iraq. “And second, it’s important to remember that combat PTSD is complex. Those who struggle with PTSD are far more likely to harm themselves than others. Likewise, having PTSD does not signify a propensity to commit murder. There is no empirical correlation, other than what Hollywood portrays.”

His reference to Hollywood fits. The same rush to judgment happened following the Vietnam War, when crimes committed by a relatively few veterans of that conflict were used to tar an entire generation. Movies like Coming Home, The Deer Hunter and Taxi Driver drilled into the public’s mind that many troops who served in Southeast Asia in the late 1960s and early 1970s were mentally deranged, if not downright dangerous.

For millions of Americans of draft age who dodged serving in Vietnam, the films served as after-the-fact justification for their inactions and morphed from celluloid to certitude.

The nation tarnished an entire generation that carried out the orders they’d been given. It’d be a crime of the first order to do so again.

56 comments
maddox45
maddox45

The movie portrayed Chris Kyle disrespecting the Marine Corps-most Marines would have at least smacked him in the mouth.

Chris Kyle lied & had to pay Jesse Ventura $1.8Mil.

bradleyshort3
bradleyshort3

Wtf the title or even the first damn paragraph make any since. If any cristisim or negative feedback needs to be given it should be directed at the sorry excuse for a president we have. No matter what the cause or who supposably murdered this hero he was none the less than a hero. Yes I'm sure many men need to be recognized but this man had every right to have our so called commander and chief attend his burial. I think it's an absolute disgrace to acknowledge a drug overdosed singer and not a war hero. Then let's not mention the praise for the gay rights he believes in. I really tried to like this man we have for a leader but I think my 10 year old could do a better job than him. Hell I think my beagle hound could do better hell Sarah palin could do better. Get the hell out of this country Obama and don't worry about being missed because nobody likes you. Oh yea you friendly loving EMO leader that's right the most friendliest prez we've ever had to the cause. Get the hell out and don't let the WHITE house door hit you in the ass!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

maddox45
maddox45

You could have been the President except:

Lack of education

Lack of efficiency in the English language

Lack of effort

Etc

DavidHeide
DavidHeide

"Dodged serving in Vietnam"?  Draft resisters ACTIONS to that unjust and corrupt war were, by far, more moral than the blind unthinking obedience required to participate in it.

maddox45
maddox45

You just keep getting more stupid

DavidHeide
DavidHeide

on behalf of those who are (lol) ever so grateful for having the privilege to continue to speak English, thank you (not).   

and by the way, the likelihood that some brainwashed-to-be-bloodthirsty corporate automaton'll keep me from tyranny couldn't get much closer to zero.  


I'm a big fan of reality, you see, and even though I was in NYC when the towers went down, in Beijing when their missiles flew over Taiwan, in Jerusalem when the intafada was raging, the only effect I can see all the subsequent backroom-by-proxy violence has is to  make scumbags wealthier and poor, honest folk more and more miserable.

Marxist? give me a break.  He's just another scumbag, like the last few great manipulators before him.   


DavidHeide
DavidHeide

I wouldn't have loved to have learned both.  reading Nietzsche and Dostoevsky in their native tongues would have kept me entranced for years.

DavidHeide
DavidHeide

ummm... i don't particularly like bread.  what's your point?  that it's better to mistreat others rather than being mistreated?  sorry, but it sounds like six of one or half a dozen of the other.  how many times must non-christians have to remind a christian country of its professed values?

BettyGibbs8
BettyGibbs8

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DontRush
DontRush

A father who made money recounting the cool efficiency with which he killed 150 people, while ignoring the consequences to their families--killed by a fellow soldier, a soldier who seems unable to comprehend the consequences of murder.  A fascinating and disquieting story.

wildturnip
wildturnip

Why was Kyle considered a hero? He murdered by his count 150+ humans. He called them "insurgents". What's that supposed to mean. They were folks fighting against the invasion of their country. He was proud he did not consider their personal stories. We continue to sip the Kool-Aid that "while we might have been a little mistaken in going into Iraq our boys and girls are heroes." Nope. They were on a mission to kill. By the way, democracy can be neither imposed nor defended from the barrel of a gun.

maddox45
maddox45

You keep sounding more stupid. USA was the most stupid Country, except Italy.You will help us become #1next year.

DennisR.Martinez
DennisR.Martinez

It is very noble that he wanted to help fellow veterans. I just wonder what kind of preparation or training he had to deal with them. I sincerely doubt that a trained psychologist or counselor would recommend a gun range for a patient suffering from PTSD.

DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

I have nothing personal against any of the people involved, but one does have to wonder what the hell they were thinking by taking someone who was (by many accounts) mentally traumatized by the effects of war to a GUN RANGE.

My biggest complaint after the rate of fire of modern firearms is the human nature involved in the way people interact with them.  People may THINK they feel empathy or understand someone else, and I applaud the efforts of those who give of themselves to help others.  But the sad fact is, when dealing with someone with mental issues, you can not know their state of mind.  The complacency most gun owners show toward their firearms is often demonstrated in their posts.  "Guns are just like any tool."  Well, I imagine people smash their thumbs with hammers a hell of a lot mroe than they cut them off on band saws because they use a hammer all the time, become complacent with it and become lazy.  Another smashed thumb.

Guns do a hell of a lot more damage than that.

People - whether gun owners or not - tend to become complacent with things they are familiar with, and that's when accidents happen.  But in the sad case of Mr.Routh and Mr. Kyle, the familiarity seems to have led to tragedy.  No one expects someone smacked by a hammer to pick one up and start hitting other people with it.  It's just a tool, after all.  They view it as such.  But to the person with the smacked thumb, it's a reminder of the pain, anguish, terror and fifty other god-awful emotions one experienced because of it.  They lash out.  A person lashing out with a hammer isn't likely to kill anyone unless they get too close.  A person lashing out with a gun can kill people hundreds or thousands of yards away.

Complacency in dealing with the tool, and failing to understand the mindset of someone who is reminded of their suffering in connection with that tool, conspired to create a situation in which tragically poor judgement was used in trying to help someone traumatized in combat to "get back on the horse" (At least I ASSUME that was the idea there.  I can't imagine any other excuse for taking someone with combat-induced shell-shock out to a GUN RANGE!).  It was just a tool to them.  But to Mr. Routh, it had become a much different, more horrible thing.

This is how humans react, and how humans fail to understand each other.  The firearm is only secondary to this situation even if in a very tragic way.  Each party was being "responsible" in their lights.  It's just that sometimes, each person sees a different light.  One could say that hopefully, for others in the future, the highly ill-advised nature of taking someone who has been so traumatized by combat that they require some kind of intervention to a gun range will be far more clear.  And one could also say that, hopefully, people will begin to see the difference in how tools should always, always, always be handled.

Sadly, given that fact the root cause of this terrible episode was, in fact, human nature itself, and no amount of tragedy will ever change THAT, the lessons this sad event may have taught will eventually be lost on those who most  needed to learn them.

grousefeather
grousefeather

One question that looms large as a result of this event is whether veterans with PTSD should be allowed to possess guns.  

superlogi
superlogi

I didn't mind that so many of the people of my generation dodged the draft and/or became expatriates of countries without extradition treaties that would bring them back to this country and tarred as cowards and traitors, people who decided it was better for other people to fight and die for their country, rather than be exposed to those possibilities themselves.  My only problem with them was that after all that fighting and dying ended, they were allowed to come back and breed. 

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