I finally got around reading American Sniper, the autobiography of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (1974-2013). I haven’t seen the movie but planning to. The Navy SEALs are one of the US elite special operation units. They have a reputation of being silent professionals, who do not talk about their work but since the Osama Bin Laden kill by SEAL Team Six it seems that there’s a SEAL movie coming out every other month. There’s now a bunch of books and movies on the SEALS and if I can recommend one, go for the blue ray version of Act of Valor.
According to the author’s notes, the events that happened in the book are true but recounted from memory. So they are not 100% accurate and a simple Google research will lead you to an army of fact-checkers going through every inconsistencies. First I will address the book and since there’s a lot of controversy surrounding Chris Kyle, I will add my two cents. Chris Kyle was trained as a Navy Seal to be one of the most elite soldiers in the world. He definitely wasn’t trained to sign a save the seals petition.
Chris Kyle is known for being the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history with 160 “confirmed’” kills. I put the word ”confirmed” in quotation because it’s an actual thing. With every kill you need to have at least a witness and it also comes with a bunch of paper work. The witness is usually the spotter since snipers tend to work in teams. It’s a very bureaucratic process and the Hollywood movies skips that part. It’s one of the few things I learned in the book. The other thing that the Rambo movies seem to skip is the Rules of Engagement (ROE). The ROE are pretty strict and defines the line between a legitimate war kill and murder but it’s definitely more complex than that. You simply can’t just shoot a potential enemy just because he looks suspicious or hostile. I know you can’t do that but the ROE are flawed since the enemy doesn’t abide by them. Since the enemy knows that the US army has ROE they strategically use it to their advantage in their battle. For example, a “known” enemy can be walking down the street with lethal intention but the ROE prevents you for shooting because you will be charged with murder. So you have to get the enemy to clearly wave his AK-47 before you can take a shot. I’m not an expert on the subject and again it gets more complex. A lot of it is case by case and when you include a cocktail of ethics and rules in a war zone things can get murky. This is a good book if you want to learn more about the life of a sniper, the different military branches and on how they operate. There’s a lot of stuff on the SEALs too. Another Hollywood misconception is that snipers rarely shoot at the head. They always go for the stomach since it’s harder to miss.
Chris Kyle bleeds the red, white, and blue. He’s a bull-rider from Texas. You get the picture. He even has an order of priorities: country first, then god, then family. I’m not too sure about the order of the last two, but country is definitely first. I can see how the passage like the one below can make people uncomfortable. Chris Kyle also has over simplistic views of the war.
“But I didn’t risk my life to bring democracy to Iraq. I risked my life for my buddies, to protect my friends and fellow countrymen. I went to war for my country, not Iraq. My country sent me there so that bullshit wouldn’t make its way back to our shores. I never once fought for the Iraqis, I could give a flying fuck about them.”
Like most debates in America, it seems that you only two sides to pick from. You are a democrat or a republican, pro-gun or anti-gun, green or anti-green, pro-war or anti-war, you are for free enterprise principles or a socialist, and in this case Chris Kyle is the definition of a modern day hero or a modern day monster. I bet most people made up their mind about the guy before they even read the book or saw the movie. And I’m also pretty sure that their political belief definitely influence theirs view on that guy. Again, a simple Internet search will lead to a lot of stuff. The Internet is littered with garbage. It’s becoming really hard to separate the truth from false. Folks who like him will find a lot of websites praising him and folks who hate him will find tons of websites trashing the guy.
I know that Michael Moore got on his case and called him a coward because he’s a sniper. For Mr. Moore, it’s personal since he lost a family member to a sniper. On a side note, when does the coward label stop? The samurais refused to adopt rifle because they thought it was a coward way of killing. When the bow and arrow was discovered, was that a coward way of killing? Now we have drones doing the killing, is that coward too? If you have superior technology, you take it or you get left behind.
Like I mentioned at the beginning, Chris Kyle was trained as a Navy Seal to be one of the most dangerous soldier in the world. He puts his skills to work and did his job very well, earning numerous accomplishments. If you judge him on that, he gets 5-stars. He saved a lot of lives. Because of him a lot of kids have a dad to grow up to. I have friends who went to Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s impossible for me to trash a veteran for his work, especially a dead veteran that left a widow with two kids. Even though I might have a different point of view regarding a particular war, I have respect for our military personal. They are one of the reason why I have the privilege to say what I want (My grand-father is a WWII vet). Chris Kyle the civilian is a different story. He did a lot of stupid stuff that could have landed him in jail (to many bar fights, drinking and driving, etc…) He got away with a lot and sometime didn’t live up to the standards we expect from our soldiers. There’s also the issue of the outlandish tales and now-debunked stories that’s hurting his reputation. A lot of Chris Kyle’s stories do not add up and you can google them too.
The issue here is on how we treat our veteran when they come back from war. They are trained for war but not train to come back in ”normal” society. A lot of them suffers from PTSD. Our soldiers are heroes when they join and go to war but we lack to provide the help they need when they come back. It’s funny there’s always money for war but the government is broke when it times to help our veterans. More help should be provided to families suffering. Unfortunately Mr. Kyle died in a tragic accident while helping a veteran suffering from PTSD.
Also, I know a lot of people don’t like this guy, but if you are at war, you would be happy to have him on your team.