The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper
in U.S. Military History
Chris Kyle with Scott McEwen
and Jim DeFelice
January 3, 2012 / ISBN: 9780062082350
Non-Fiction/Autobiography / Military / Government / History
by Elise Cooper
American Sniper, currently on the NY Times Bestseller
list, is an action packed book that reads like a political thriller.
Former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in his autobiography allows Americans
into his fighting world. Along with co -writers, Scott McEwen and
Jim DeFelice, Kyle take the reader on a journey from being raised
in Texas to becoming the most lethal sniper in American military
His story starts off in his native Texas, where he learned to proficiently
shoot while on hunting trips with his father. After touching on
how he became a part of SEAL Team Three, Kyle jumps to combat during
the Iraqi war. The author, as with other recent books about the
SEALS, depicts them as highly competitive, true patriots, who believe
being a SEAL is more important than anything in the world, including
family. Unlike other SEAL books, Kyle's wife, Taya, offers her observations
on the difficulties imposed on spouses of those called to duty.
These passages do not distract from the narrative and actually enrich
His story is at times funny, scary, sad, and intense. Perhaps this
is because he sees Vince Flynn as one of his writer role models
and "loves to read Vince Flynn with ol' Mitch Rapp. Vince gets
it right. The enemy are savages and should not be humanized. I was
trying to make that evil go away. I stand by my quote in the book,
I believe the world is a better place without savages out
there taking American lives
I don't worry about what other
people think of me.'"
He commented that a distinction has to be made between the terrorist
Jihadists and all Muslims. While in Iraq, Kyle met an Iraqi interpreter
who is now an American citizen and is "a devout Muslim who
served with us." We fought side by side against the enemy.
I would trust him with my life."
There is something for everyone in the book: technical details including
why a certain gun is preferred in a certain situation, types of
guns used, plenty of combat action, and a discussion on relationships
with fellow SEALS as well as his wife and children. Taya commented
that she "sometimes questioned how he could constantly put
his life on the line, knowing that he was leaving his wife and children
behind. At times I felt hurt and anger that he willingly wanted
to do it. Especially since the children became very sad when he
left. Our son was especially protective of the relationship he had
Kyle sees himself, not as a "killer," but as a "Guardian
Angel for our troops on the ground. I never took shots I should
not have. The enemy rules by fear. They will cut a person's head
off in a family so the rest of the family will bow down to them.
They dragged our captured guys by their hair down the street. Little
kids got their teeth knocked out and eyes burned out. This is savagery."
During the interview he was asked to reconcile his views of the
enemy, being evil and not fighting for a cause, and SEALs having
been waterboarded in a training exercise, as mentioned in the book.
He directly commented that he "found it funny that you can't
do it to the terrorists but it can be done to our own guys. Most
of our military has been waterboarded."
If you are a member of "Code Pink" you will definitely
not like his opinions on his adversaries, the Iraqi fighters. Throughout
the book he makes the point that the Iraqi terrorists were cowardly
fanatics, "one part terrorists, another part criminal gangs,"
who hated Americans because they believed in a different religion.
When asked about this he directly commented, "The Iraqi troops
are definitely not on par with the US troops. I was very upset with
how lazy they were and two faced. It is hard to train someone who
does not want to be trained. They have no pride in country, just
pride in their tribe. As far as the insurgents they used drugs like
heroin to make themselves better warriors. They would not realize
they were injured or fatally shot. I am glad our guys are out of
Iraq. We went in there and won the fight and now it is up to them."
Kyle is unapologetic in his assertions. He goes into great detail
and leaves nothing to the reader's imagination about the battles
fought in Fallujah, Ramadi, and Sadr City. After reading these portions
of the book a conclusion can be made that his sniper successes are
due in part to his fatalistic attitude toward death, his keen observation
skills, and his willingness to be daring. He directly described
a sniper's skills, " One of the biggest skills is observation.
Taking a shot is just one small piece of being a sniper. Our main
objective is to be the eyes and ears, like an early warning system
that reports all the details. You observe by learning what is normal
in that situation. If you are sitting there watching and the enemy
does not know you are there they will act out of character. We are
trained in guerilla warfare."
In American Sniper there is a very touching scene where
he describes how his wife Taya had to react to his nightmares. Does
he have any regrets about all the killings? He responded, "I
definitely have my nightmares but not for the people I killed but
for the people I could not save: my brothers who died next to me,
on top of me, or in my arms. When one of those guys was brought
out on a stretcher I felt like a failure for not giving them the
protection they required." His wife Taya felt that it is important
to allow him to take the lead as she has seen that at times his
experiences are too painful to pry into.
There are a lot of insightful passages. For example, in reading
about the rules of engagement it appears that the US soldiers are
guilty until proven innocent. In the book he was upset that he constantly
had to worry about his own back since if you "make an unjustified
shot you could be charged with murder
if I shoot him, I won't
be able to justify it for the lawyers. I'll fry
kill had documentation, supporting evidence, and a witness
way I figure it, if you send us to do a job, let us do it
some fat-ass congressman sitting in a leather chair smoking a cigar
back in DC in an air-conditioned office, telling me when and where
I can and cannot shoot someone
Do you want us to conquer our
enemy? Annihilate them? Or are we heading over to serve them tea
He noted that he highly resents the politicians who interfere and
lawyers who draw up the rules, both tying the soldiers' hands. He
thinks that rules are needed but the theater commanders that know
the overall picture should draw up the rules, not those that have
never been in combat. "They should not be telling me when I
should feel threatened and when I am allowed to shoot back."
The book does have a happy ending in that after almost eleven years
of service; defending the country he so dearly loves, he retired
to be a loving husband and father. Today Kyle is the President of
Craft International, a leader in sniper and security training for
law enforcement and the US military. American Sniper is a compelling
book with amazing stories about contemporary warfare from a true
American hero, Chris Kyle.