We see naked ugly nationalism in many defenses of Kyle. Defenders appear to have but one operating principle: If Kyle was an American military man and the people he killed were not, then he was a hero. Full stop. No other facts are relevant. It matters not that Kyle was a cog in an imperial military machine that waged a war of aggression on behalf of the ruling elite’s geopolitical and economic interests, that he did his killing on foreign soil, and that no Iraqi had come to the United States seeking to harm him or other Americans. (Contrary to what Kyle defenders seem to believe, not one Iraqi was among the 19 hijackers on 9/11, although had that been otherwise, the murder of millions of other Iraqis and the displacement of millions more would not have been justified.) All that apparently matters to many Kyle fans is that this man was born in America, joined the American military, and faithfully obeyed orders to kill people he called savages.

That is what nationalism does to a human being.

The ugliness of nationalism is often perceptible even by those who harbor it and commit terrible acts as a result. So they rationalize. They don’t openly cheer the killing of Iraqis because they are Iraqis (or Arabs or Muslims); rather they plead self-defense: if we don’t kill them, they will kill us. Kyle and his comrades were defending America and Americans’ freedom, his defenders say.