Private: 2.9 Reading Response Number 6

Sam Teal

Text Title: American Sniper

Author: Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, Jim Felice

Text Type: Autobiography

Date Finished: 31st of August

“I look through the scope, get my target in the crosshairs, and kill my enemy, before he kills one of my people.”

American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History is the dramatic Autobiography of Navy Seal Chris Kyle who was active between 1999-2009, and has over 150 confirmed kills, coming from four tours of Iraq. The autobiography is narrated by Kyle who talks about his training, deployments, family, internal battles, his daily life and operations in war-torn Iraq. Kyle is an interesting character who is extremely patriotic and states his main priorities in order early in the book; “God, Country, Family”. These three values are prominent in the book but also how he views them when they oppose each other in some instances. Prior to reading the book I had watched American Sniper the movie that was “loosely based” on the book, so I had some idea about the content that the book would contain, but after reading the book I found that the book went much further into the hardships Kyle faced whereas the movie focused more on the action that he experienced.

I would recommend this text because I found myself always wanting to read more every time I put the book down. I do enjoy reading books, but I usually find it hard to pick one up and get into it straight away; it was quite the opposite with this book as I was already excited for it because of the movie, but after the first chapter I was hooked. The book is a gritty, hard-hitting, and an eye-opener to what the war in Iraq was like for those involved. The type of person that I would recommend this text to at school would be Year 11 – 13s as they are older and would understand the messages and themes that the text is conveying. Although this book would be suitable for everyone, I feel that stereotypically boys would find it more interesting than girls due to the themes of war, guns, and fighting.

The text taught me that without people like Chris Kyle, the world would be a much more dangerous place. From the stories he tells in the book, without him and other military personnel posted in the Middle East, the radical ideologies that were spread throughout Iraq had the possibility of affecting the world in a much more dramatic way than it did; the reason that it didn’t was because of the courageous efforts by different countries militaries. When describing who was fighting in Iraq, Kyle termed them as “Savage, despicable evil. That’s what we were fighting in Iraq.” From what the reader learns in the book, added to what we know from media sources you start to get a picture of how important the military is when trying to contain these radical insurgents. After reading the book some might say that Kyle is far from a hero and should be condemned for his actions in Iraq; these people will use his own words against him especially when he is talking about his kills, “But in that back room or whatever it is when God confronts me with my sins, I do not believe any of the kills I had during the war will be among them. Everyone I shot was evil. I had good cause on every shot. They all deserved to die.” I disagree with these people as without his overwatch from the top of buildings, there would be a hell of a lot more innocent people dead than his 150 confirmed kills. To sum up, my respect for people in the military has increased since reading this book as without their fearless acts I don’t know how safe I would feel.

Although I can not relate to Chris Kyle on a personal level as I have no military experience, I am not as patriotic as him, I am not religious, and nor am I a father. I do share similar viewpoints as him though; one of these is that people who don’t respect what the military is doing overseas is morally wrong. Like Kyle, I have a huge amount of respect for the various armed forces personnel serving overseas as personally, I don’t think that I would be able to go through the amount of training and activities that they do physically, but also mentally. To be deployed in a war zone must take a ton of mental strength which I think a slim percentage of the population actually posses. This is why I find it hard when people in the media slate any military that is fighting for the greater good, as I highly doubt that the newscaster could do they what the troops are going through. Kyle has the same viewpoint as me, as in an outtake from Taya’s snippet in chapter 5 Kyle expresses his anger when he sees someone on the television dissing the troops, “You know what? If that’s what they think, fuck them. I’m out here ready to give my life and they’re doing bullshit.” Although I don’t feel the same level of anger as Kyle, we share the same general viewpoint; this and other ways of thinking that are the same as Kyle is how I can connect to the book on a personal level with the text.      

American Sniper sparks a discussion politically and socially about the military and what goes on in these Middles Eastern conflicts. I felt that American Sniper was a thought provoking book that gave the general public an insight into raw accounts of what went down in Iraq during 2003 – 2011, but after reading reviews and discussions on the book I have found that people hlabelledeled Kyle the complete opposite of a hero, and have called the book racist and that it glorifies the war. Most of these critics have come from the left and hold pacifistic beliefs that completely and utterly disagree with Kyle’s. This then sparks a political conversation around the book as the late John McCain who was a Republican senator defended the book by saying “Regrettable that critics of US foreign policy would denigrate the memory of a noble American warrior,” whereas people of the public who hold more pacifistic beliefs find it hard to support Kyle when in the book he says things like “I only wish I had killed more” and “I loved what I did…it was fun. I had the time of my life.” My personal viewpoint on Kyle’s legacy was that he was a hero and protected his country with every inch of his body; his patriotism is inspiring and his work ethic in trying to protect his fellow servicemen is admirable. One line in the book really shows how much of a hero Kyle was when deployed, “My regrets are about the people I couldn’t save – Marines, soldiers, my buddies. I still feel their loss. I still ache for my failure to protect them.” Politically in New Zealand, there is an issue regarding the military as naive politicians and sectors of the public feel entitled to know where our special forces are operating. I completely oppose this as this is a security risk to them.    

To conclude, after reading American Sniper I feel like I learned a lot more about the conditions and challenges that faced troops in the Iraq War. I found that with every page I read, I became more and more engrossed in Kyle’s world; my interest in the book caused me to do further research on the Iraq War as I wanted to find out more so I understood the book better. Although American Sniper taught me a lot it is also important to realise that is one man’s perspective and that it doesn’t accurately represent all of the soldier’s experiences in Iraq.

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