A Book Review
American Sniper is the autobiography of Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. history. Kyle details his military career during his time in the American Navy as a SEAL. During his service, Kyle progressed through the ranks, graduating as a BUD, then a SEAL, navigator, sniper and then Chief Petty Officer. Kyle would end his career with two Silver Stars and five Bronze Medals, all for valour. Meanwhile, he became a father.
I risked my life for my buddies, to protect my friends and fellow countrymen. I went to war for my country, not Iraq.
The Navy credits Kyle with more kills as a sniper than any other American service member, past or present. 160 – all fully justified. Every confirmed kill had documentation, supporting evidence, and a witness, and after each kill a report was made detailing reason, distance, number of shots and the gun used, amongst other information. But his autobiography is much more than a recount of war with Iraq. American Sniper explores the effects that war has on relationships. Kyle had a young family during his years of service, and war created strain between himself and his wife, Taya – whose own words are included at various points through-out the book.
It’s not the people you saved that you remember. It’s the ones you couldn’t save.
There has been much criticism of Kyle’s writing style, in places it is poorly written and a tad repetitious, but that is beside the point. This is an autobiography of a sniper, not a journalist. Any literary mistakes did not make this book hard to read, that was only achieved by his account of war. American Sniper is a story of patriotism. Kyle, with his fellow SEALs, does all he can for his country. The greatest priorities in his life are God, Country, and Family – ‘in that order’. Kyle writes emotionally when talking about the death of two fellow SEALs, two close friends, two ‘brothers’.
After the first kill, the others come easy. I don’t have to psych myself up, or do anything special mentally – I look through the scope, get my target in the crosshairs, and kill my enemy before he kills one of my people.
Some reviews have described American Sniper as a rant against Iraqis, with some language used by Kyle being inhumane and perhaps even racist. Kyle repeatedly calls Iraqi insurgents ‘the Savages’, and there are times when you feel his words to be more appropriate in describing Call of Duty (a video game) instead of real life. But as Jason Hall, the screenwriter and producer of American Sniper, the new film adaptation of Kyle’s autobiography, has said, “These soldiers have to find hate for the enemy or they can’t do the killing that they do. And Chris did more killing than anybody over there, so he had to create that hate to get through it.” Whilst, at times, Kyle’s writing is full of aggression and hate, it largely provokes thought and emotion in the reader. It provides a true insight into the life of servicemen, and the difficulties that are created in their family relationships as a result.
If you can’t make sense of things, you start to look for some other way to deal with them. You laugh because you have to have some emotion; you have to express yourself somehow.
American Sniper, Chris Kyle’s autobiography was first published in 2012, and became a New York Bestseller. A year later, in 2013, Kyle was shot and killed at a shooting range in Texas, along with a friend. The man accused of his murder, a fellow veteran of Iraq suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and is currently being tried. No more apparent is the effect of war.