By Chris Kyle, with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice
Morrow, $26.99, 400 pp.
As he writes in his No. 1 best-selling American Sniper:
The number is not important to me. I only wish I had killed more. Not for bragging rights, but because I believe the world is a better place without savages out there taking American lives. Everyone I shot in Iraq was trying to harm Americans or Iraqis loyal to the new government. I had a job to do as a SEAL. I killed the enemy — an enemy I saw day in and day out plotting to kill my fellow Americans. I’m haunted by the enemy’s successes. (emphasis mine) They were few, but even a single American life is one too many lost.
Chris Kyle’s autobiography, subtitled The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, may not be the best war memoir ever written, but it might be the most unapologetic since George S. Patton’s War as I Knew It.
For better or for worse, American Sniper has hit the bestseller list, not merely because of Kyle’s frank account of combat and his love for his job or because of his remarkable achievements. No, the book and its author have gained a considerable amount of notoriety because Kyle reports he punched out Jesse Ventura (identified only as “Scruff” in the book, but confirmed in media interviews) at the funeral wake for one of his fellow SEALs when Scruff told the SEALs they “deserved” to lose a few guys.
Kyle opens his book in a similar fashion to the most famous sniper biography of all, Marine Sniper, Charles Henderson’s telling of the story of Vietnam War sniper Carlos Hathcock — with a story about the need to shoot a female combatant.
In Kyle’s case, the woman approached a Marine patrol surrounded by children with a grenade hidden in her clothes. Kyle was still in training as a sniper and was merely spelling his chief on the long gun when the decision had to be made.