American Sniper, a recent film directed by the one and only Clint Eastwood, was based on a book of the same name, written by Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. I have already written about how the film differed from the movie, so I decided to read the book. What I discovered was a story about war and faith, and what it really means to be a soldier.
I had heard that the film kind of glossed over Chris Kyle's Christian faith, and the book only mentions it every so often. Kyle does take time to mention that he has it, and does apply it to his work. This is important to realize as the cover says that this man was the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. Kyle has had 160 confirmed kills out of a possible 255, but as the book shows, Kyle isn't necessarily proud of this fact.
There are a lot who would read this book based on Kyle's killing record and not call him a true believer in the gospel of Christ. Kyle writes that killing is not his only vice as he admits to drunkenness, pornography, as well as constant bad language. On the surface, there might not be a lot to like about Chris Kyle, but he doesn't lack any honesty.
American Sniper is the story of how Chris Kyle became a Navy SEAL, and how he was trained to be a sniper in Iraq. The story is told very matter-of-factly with extremely short and objective descriptions of Kyle's service in places like Fallujah, Ramadi, and Sadr. It is also told from a first-person POV, and Kyle talks about how even though his time in the service was filled with death and fighting, he still somewhat enjoyed it. As far as his killing goes, Kyle believes that it is part of his job, and he took no pleasure in it. He also doesn't seem to be haunted by his killings, and claims to have a clear conscience.
Sadly, this is the man's life story, as Kyle was killed on February 2, 2013. The ending of the book shows him leaving the service, and I believe that there is a lot to be learned from the odd morality of American Sniper. While I can't say that I was rooting for Kyle as a "hero", I can't say that he is really a villain either.
There are times where I definitely disagreed with Kyle's opinions. Kyle seems to have no problem referring to the Iraqis as "savages" and their actions as "evil". It could easily be argued that the United States should probably not have entered into Iraq to establish democracy, and this fighting and killing could have been prevented. The problem is that war justifies its means with an end that it can't maintain.
The truth is that we live in a world where war is essentially a business. It might not be one where we get money from, and we have lost money to it. I'm talking about how we have armed forces, a Department of Defense, and other institutions that are created to fight. Because of this, we have essentially created killing machines, and Kyle is just a part of that. Kyle doesn't seem to have any problem with the toughness of it, and even defends the notion of hazing.
Personally, I believe that everyone should read this book just like everyone needs to see the film Saving Private Ryan. There is a truth in war that we don't like to think about, but every time we declare it, we are sending people out to die. Those that don't die can't help but come back with some terrible experiences, and often don't get the treatment that they deserve. Perhaps one day we will look back at how we conduct war like how we used to do slavery. The problem is: I'm cringing already.