American Sniper

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American Sniper (ISBN 978-0-06-237657-2, Harper, 2014) proclaims itself as the autobiography of the most lethal sniper in U.S. history. From the outset, I am not a war buff, but am interested in why and how someone becomes “the most lethal sniper.”

By page four, after killing a woman, author Chris Kyle is stating, “I can stand before God with a clear conscience about doing my job. But I truly, deeply hated the evil that woman possessed. I hate it to this day.”

Kyle gives an insight into the latent aggression evident in the SEALS, with extreme hazing and his admission of being in several bar fights. “SEALS are pretty notorious for getting into bar scrapes, and I was no exception. I’ve been arrested more than once through the years, though as a general rule the charges were never filed or quickly dismissed.” He continues with “…I think a lot of it is owed to pent up aggression. We’re trained to go out and kill people. And then at the same time, we’re also being taught to think of ourselves as invincible bad-asses. That’s a pretty potent combination.”

The different types of boats used by the Navy SEALS will be of interest to those of a maritime bent, and how they are used to take down other sea-going vessels, which may be carrying missiles or even nerve gas from North Korea.

Likewise, the reader is introduced to the various weapons used by the SEALS and how they were developed since the Vietnam War.

His ambition came down to fighting. “I wanted to do what I’d been trained for. American tax payers had invested considerable dollars in my education as a SEAL. I wanted to defend my country, do my duty and do my job. I wanted, more than anything, to experience the thrill of battle.”

Interspersed with Kyle’s description of his war are some pages with the feelings of his wife, who naturally was very worried when her husband was in war zones, in the Middle East.

The descriptions of his physical experiences are very good, bringing the reader into the fray and sitting alongside the desert dune buggies, with many types of machine guns mounted on them.

Much of the action described takes place during the Iraq war with George Dubbya the tour director. Kyle says, “The purpose of war, as Patton put it, is to make the other dumb bastard die. But we also want to fight.”

For B. 360 you get a primer into the logistics of war, and how to deploy people who need the aggression and the ‘excitement’ of the fight. Kyle compares himself to an athlete who wants to go out and compete. But he adds in the “patriotism” that he and his buddies supposedly possess.

I found this book rather depressing. If we must have wars, and it seems that the human psyche needs it, then with all the modern technology isn’t there a better way to wage this war than sending in aggressive human beings and tell them that they are heroes. As I said – I am not a war buff!