18:31 – Bon boulot – Dominique, quinquagénaire, a applaudi « un tireur d’élite » quand elle l’a vu « perché sur un toit »: « on est contents qu’ils soient là pour protéger le bas peuple pendant la manif ». « Les gens ont une mauvaise opinion de la police en général, mais ils bossent dans des conditions difficiles, et quand il s’agit de sauver des êtres humains, ils font bien leur boulot », renchérit Joël, 64 ans, qui tenait « absolument » à les applaudir. Annick, elle, souligne « leur dévouement et ce qu’ils ont perdu comme vies aussi, et leurs blessés ». « Pour une fois qu’on les remercie… » Le Nouvel obs
Malgré la violence la plus crue, les explosions sanglantes et, littéralement, la boucherie humaine qui y est montrée, The Hurt locker est l’un des plus efficaces films de recrutement pour l’Armée américaine que j’ai jamais vu. Tara McKelvey (American prospect)
Mon oncle a été tué par un sniper pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale. On nous apprenait que les snipers étaient des lâches. Qu’ils vous tiraient dans le dos. Les snipers ne sont pas des héros. Et les envahisseurs sont pires. Michael Moore
Je viens de voir American sniper. C’est un film puissant, le pendant de Coming Home (film sur la vie d’un prisonnier politique chinois après sa libération, ndlr). Bradley Cooper est sensationnel. Bravo Clint Eastwood. Jane Fonda
Quelle fin tragiquement ironique pour ce tireur d’élite qui a survécu à quatre déploiements en Irak. J’étais contre l’intervention américaine là-bas mais c’est une toile de fond intéressante pour y situer une histoire. J’ai déjà réalisé des films ayant la guerre comme sujet, mais pas comme celui-là, sur un conflit aussi controversé et montré ici sous un autre jour. À travers le regard de ce tireur d’élite, engagé volontaire, patriote invétéré rongé par le regret de n’avoir pu sauver plusieurs de ses frères d’armes, et dont le retour à la vie civile n’a pas été facile. Quand on tue autant de gens, même si on est entraîné pour et qu’on finit par être insensibilisé, ça doit forcément laisser des séquelles. Ça n’a pas été un film facile à faire, sans doute l’un des plus ardus de ma carrière. Le scénario était très complexe, avec plein de ramifications… Clint Eastwood
Les Irakiens, Chris Kyle ne les aime pas. Doux euphémisme. À ses yeux, ce sont tous «des sauvages» qui n’hésitent pas à envoyer des femmes et des enfants faire le sale boulot. Ses deux premières victimes furent une mère et son fils, justement. La première s’avançait vers un check point de marines, bardée d’une ceinture d’explosifs. Elle venait de confier une grenade à son rejeton. Chris Kyle dut abattre les deux, contraint et forcé, après avoir reçu le feu vert de ses supérieurs. Ce furent ses deux tirs les plus difficiles. «Après, confie-t-il, tuer des gens n’est pas très compliqué», surtout quand, selon lui, «ils incarnent le Mal», puisqu’ils veulent abattre des soldats américains. Le politiquement correct n’est pas le style de Kyle. Il avoue «aimer la guerre» et regrette seulement de «ne pas avoir abattu plus de salopards». En quatre séjours en Irak, il a bâti sa légende sur des tirs mémorables. À Sadr City (Bagdad) en 2008, juché sur un toit, Chris aperçoit un homme armé d’un RPG (lance-roquettes). À près de deux kilomètres de distance, le sniper fait mouche et atteint une notoriété quasi instantanée parmi ses pairs. «Dieu a soufflé sur cette balle et l’a touché», sourit le Texan, qui revendique fièrement sa culture chrétienne. Sur le haut du bras gauche, en dessous de l’épaule, à côté du trident des Seals, il a fait tatouer une énorme croix de templier rouge vif, qu’il dévoile volontiers. Élevé dans l’amour de Dieu, de la patrie et de la famille, Kyle assume: «Là-bas, je voulais que tout le monde sache que je suis chrétien, et que je suis un féroce guerrier de Dieu.» La foi chevillée au corps, il pense qu’il devra «peut-être patienter un peu plus longtemps que les autres en salle d’attente au purgatoire», mais garde la conscience tranquille. Ses «exploits», il a fini par les relater dans un livre*, qui caracole depuis trois mois en tête des ventes: 419 000 exemplaires déjà vendus. Devenu une légende vivante au sein de l’armée, Chris Kyle passe pour avoir sauvé des centaines de vies, armé de son seul fusil à lunette. L’usure nerveuse finit cependant par le rattraper lors de son quatrième déploiement en Irak. Il cède alors aux pressions de sa femme Taya, qui ne supporte plus ses absences prolongées. Un ultime coup de chance lors d’une fusillade dans Sadr City, dont il réchappe miraculeusement, lui font réaliser qu’il n’est «tout compte fait pas invincible», malgré ce fidèle «ange gardien» qui a longtemps veillé sur lui. Dans la foulée, il quitte l’armée pour «se consacrer enfin à sa famille». Mais il n’en a pas fini avec une notoriété grandissante. De retour au pays, des inconnus viennent le remercier pour leur avoir «sauvé la peau» tel jour à Faloudja. D’autres anonymes paient discrètement la facture lorsqu’il dîne au restaurant avec Taya. De partout, les sollicitations affluent. La Navy et la Garde nationale du Texas n’ont pas renoncé à le convaincre de rempiler. Les édiles locaux font des pieds et des mains pour qu’il s’engage en politique. Mais Chris Kyle n’a guère plus d’estime pour les hommes politiques que pour les insurgés irakiens. «Républicains comme démocrates, ce sont tous des escrocs», affirme-t-il sur un ton péremptoire. À défaut de carrière publique, c’est le monde du cinéma qui le courtise. Un scénario circule depuis quelque temps à Hollywood. Mais Kyle a posé ses conditions: il mettra son veto à tout acteur qui lui déplairait pour incarner son rôle. «Je ne veux pas d’un acteur comme Matt Damon et tous ces types qui ont exprimé leur opposition à la guerre en Irak», confesse ce grand nostalgique, qui préfère nettement Chuck Norris ou… Ronald Reagan. Le Figaro (09.04.12)
The very term “sniper” seems to stir passionate reactions on the left. The criticism misses the fundamental value that snipers add to the battlefield. Snipers engage individual threats. Rarely, if ever, do their actions cause collateral damage. Snipers may be the most humane of weapons in the military arsenal. The job also takes a huge emotional toll on the man behind the scope. The intimate connection between the shooter and the target can be hard to overcome for even the most emotionally mature warrior. The value of a sniper in warfare is beyond calculation. I witnessed the exceptional performance of SEAL, Army and Marine snipers on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. They struck psychological fear in our enemies and protected countless lives. Chris Kyle and the sniper teams I led made a habit of infiltrating dangerous areas of enemy-controlled ground, established shooting positions and coordinated security for large conventional-unit movement. More than half the time, the snipers didn’t need to shoot; over-watch and guidance to the ground troops was enough. But when called upon, snipers like Chris Kyle engaged enemy combatants and “cleared the path” for exposed troops to move effectively and safely in their arduous ground missions. These small sniper teams pulled the trigger at their own risk. If their position was discovered, they had little backup or support. Rorke Denver
The ideal thing would be if I knew the number of lives I saved, because that’s something I’d love to be known for. But you can’t calculate that. Chris Kyle
At this point I’d never killed anyone, so it definitely made me pause. But also the fact that it’s not a man — it was difficult. So we tried to radio the Marines to let them handle it. I didn’t want to have to be the one who had to take the woman’s life. We couldn’t raise them on the radio, so I ended up having to take the shot. Chris Kyle (about his very first kill in Iraq — a woman trying to blow up advancing Marines with a hidden grenade)
I don’t remember Michael Moore or any other Hollywood grandees objecting much to the 2001 war film Enemy at the Gates, which was supposedly loosely based on the controversial (and perhaps less than verifiable) career of the deadly sniper Vasily Zaitsev. That movie portrayed the expert Zaitsev as a hero in trying to cut down Wehrmacht officers and soldiers on behalf of the Soviet cause. It reminded audiences not just that Zaitsev’s sniping could save his fellow Russians, but that it was also a very dangerous business for the shooter: As the hunter, Zaitsev often very quickly became the hunted. Nor did Moore et al. object to the positive portrayal of the sniper Private Daniel Jackson (Barry Pepper) in Saving Private Ryan. Jackson, from his hidden perches, kills lots of unsuspecting Germans with his telescopic sniper rifle, saving members of hero John Miller’s company—until he himself is blown up by German tank fire. In Captain Phillips Navy SEAL snipers are portrayed as “marksmen” who nonetheless stealthily blow apart Somali pirates, and thereby save Phillips’s life. Hollywood and film critics were also quite enthusiastic about that movie, apparently including the final rescue of Phillips by skilled “snipers” (i.e., the targeted pirates never knew that they were being targeted and never knew what hit them). What has more likely caused some controversy over American Sniper is not the sniper profession per se of Chris Kyle (since snipers were not de facto deemed suspect in prior films), but three other considerations: a) American Sniper often portrays the Islamist insurgents as savage, and Kyle as complex, but nevertheless both patriotic and heroic in protecting other Americans from them; b) the movie does not serve as a blanket damnation of the Iraq war, at least as is otherwise typical for the Hollywood Iraq film genre; in this regard, unlike many recent Hollywood film titles with the proper noun American in them (e.g., American Hustle, American Gangster, American Psycho, American History X, American Beauty, etc.), the film quite unusually does not dwell on American pathologies; and c) perhaps most important, the film is very successful, and has resonated with the public at the precise time when other recent movies more welcomed by the establishment, such as Selma, have so far not. Victor Davis Hanson
Attention: une propagande peut en cacher une autre!
A l’heure où des policiers et des tireurs d’élite sur les toits parisiens se voient pour une fois …
Non hués mais salués par la population …
Comment ne pas voir pour ce qu’elle est …
Au tireur d’élite le plus décoré de toute l’histoire militaire des États-Unis …
A savoir de la pure propagande ?
January 19, 2015
Michael Moore called him a “coward.” Peter Mass of Glenn Greenwald’s the Intercept slammed him for calling Iraqis “savages.” Former Daily Beast reporter Max Blumenthal described him as a “mass murderer” — a sentiment later echoed on a defaced billboard that’s advertising the most popular movie in America.
The American Left is frothing at the mouth over Clint Eastwood’s portrayal of decorated Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in American Sniper.
Murdered by a mentally ill veteran he was counseling in February 2013, Kyle is no longer here to defend himself. But a C-SPAN video from April 2012 does a pretty good job of putting the lie to the Left’s portrait of a remorseless sociopathic killer.
The most lethal sniper in American history, Kyle is credited with 160 confirmed kills during his four tours of duty in Iraq. But while his detractors would claim Kyle obsessed over that number as a badge of honor, the real American sniper’s focus for his work lay elsewhere. “The ideal thing would be if I knew the number of lives I saved, because that’s something I’d love to be known for,” he said. “But you can’t calculate that.”
Kyle also described his very first kill in Iraq — a woman trying to blow up advancing Marines with a hidden grenade. And while liberals have made much of Kyle’s written admission that he “enjoyed” taking lives, that was not at all the sentiment he expressed during the interview.
“At this point I’d never killed anyone, so it definitely made me pause,” he said. “But also the fact that it’s not a man — it was difficult. So we tried to radio the Marines to let them handle it. I didn’t want to have to be the one who had to take the woman’s life. We couldn’t raise them on the radio, so I ended up having to take the shot.”
Jan 15, 2015
The best films about the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have been movies that are as concerned about the home front as they are about the field of battle. The latest is Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, a film based on the life of Chris Kyle, the “deadliest sniper in U.S. history.” Kyle’s real life played out like a movie in its own right. For more on the real Kyle, check out Michael Mooney’s 2013 D Magazine feature here. For the purposes of this piece, though, I’m just going to reflect on the semi-fictional Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper in Eastwood’s new movie.
With American Sniper, Eastwood has used Kyle’s life to take a broader look at what it means to be a soldier. Kyle offers a readymade hero. A down-and-out guy from Texas who, after 9/11, decides to leave the bar and get serious about his life. He joins the Navy and eventual becomes a Navy SEAL. Even though he ends up in the most elite fighting force, importantly, the arc of Kyle’s military career is typical: he is not coming from much and has nothing to lose by signing up. He is driven by a sincere pride of country matched with a strong drive and sense of purpose provided by the military. It also turns out he is a good shot. And he discovers other hidden talents — a razor-sharp focus, fidelity to his fellow soldiers, and fearlessness — that make him uniquely lethal in the field of battle.
Before he’s sent off to war, Kyle meets his future wife, Taya (Sienna Miller), and their relationship helps frame Eastwood’s interest in exploring what it is like to be both a highly trained killer and a husband and (eventually) father. In the field of battle, Kyle is unstoppable. In a number of high-energy action sequences, American Sniper can feel like a well-made, if somewhat rudimentary action flick, replete with some cheesy G.I. Joe-style dialogue. Kyle kills bad guys just at the right time; he leads platoons of grunts into buildings and roots out the bad guys; we watch him get in and out of jams and melodramatic showdowns. Kyle kills to save lives — that much Eastwood wants to make extremely clear with these high-tension shoot-out scenes. Eastwood has to make sure we understand that Kyle’s killing is an act of saving because what makes American Sniper really click is the way it begins to register the weight of just what it means to kill, even when the killing seems to be entirely justified.
As we follow Kyle through successive tours, we begin to see the cost of war on his life, family, and psyche. He is distant to friends and family; he and his wife begin to fight. Cooper does a great job of slowly receding into himself. His speaking turns to grunts, and his posture and demeanor reflect an unspoken, unbearable weight of life at home. Kyle keeps returning for more tours, and he justifies it by saying he can’t stand being at home when he knows his fellow soldiers are in the field of battle. He is good at what he does, and he wants to do it and help his buds. But it also becomes obvious that he suffers from something many soldiers have described about their experience returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The mundane everyday no longer seems like living when compared to the intense life-and-death reality of the field of battle.
This disconnect is brought together in most dramatic fashion in a scene when Kyle is on a satellite phone with his wife while perched in his sniper’s nest in Iraq. As they chat, a young Iraqi boy is dragged into a square by fighters and executed in front of his family. In the mayhem that ensues, Kyle drops his phone, and his wife stands on a suburban street in Texas listening to the hell of the firefight unfold through her cellphone. The scene is so emotionally wrought, so melodramatic, it almost feels garish and overdone. But at the same time, isn’t this how most of us have experienced these wars, with this paradoxical mix of intimacy and disconnect supplied by modern-day media?
This disconnect seems to be at the heart of what Eastwood is trying to work out in American Sniper. How can someone trained to excel in the field of combat adjust to life after combat? It is an ancient concern of war literature, going all the way back to Homer. Here, Eastwood approaches it through the lens of a society that continually honors and praises its troops, dragging them out to sporting events and sticking bumper stickers on cars, and yet, a society that, at the same time, has never been more insulated to the intimacies and costs of war.
In the end, as we know from everything that has been written about Kyle’s life, there is a gross irony in that he is eventually killed by a fellow veteran. In the movie, Eastwood doesn’t gloss over this tragic twist. Just when it looks like Kyle may be able to come to grips with life after war by mentoring fellow vets, he is killed by someone who can’t overcome his own psychological turmoil. It’s what makes the film’s closing moments, the actual footage of Kyle’s monumental funeral at Cowboys Stadium, both moving and difficult. Yes, we support our troops. We honor our fallen. Our soldiers have done heroic, important work. But as we watch Kyle honored on the Cowboys blue star on the 50-yard line, Eastwood reminds us that we still don’t seem to grasp the real solemnity and human cost of all of it.
Not sure which movie the author saw, but his writing contains enough factual errors (relative to the movie) to make me lose interest in whatever it is he’s trying to express. In the movie, Chris Kyle enlisted after seeing the 1998 attacks on US embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi on TV. He had been in the service for three years by the time 9/11 happened.
Likewise, in the movie when Kyle drops his satellite phone during a firefight, his wife was listening in from a sidewalk in front of a medical facility she had just exited. There was no « suburban street » in that scene and it’s unclear if she was in Texas, California or elsewhere.
These might seem like minor points, but when the author cannot be counted on to get the minor points right it diminishes the strength of his entire message.
Snipers, Correct and Incorrect
Victor Davis Hanson
January 21, 2015
Were a confused Michael Moore and others faulting American Sniper on the argument that Chris Kyle was a sniper per se, or that he was an American sniper?
I don’t remember Michael Moore or any other Hollywood grandees objecting much to the 2001 war film Enemy at the Gates, which was supposedly loosely based on the controversial (and perhaps less than verifiable) career of the deadly sniper Vasily Zaitsev. That movie portrayed the expert Zaitsev as a hero in trying to cut down Wehrmacht officers and soldiers on behalf of the Soviet cause. It reminded audiences not just that Zaitsev’s sniping could save his fellow Russians, but that it was also a very dangerous business for the shooter: As the hunter, Zaitsev often very quickly became the hunted.
Nor did Moore et al. object to the positive portrayal of the sniper Private Daniel Jackson (Barry Pepper) in Saving Private Ryan. Jackson, from his hidden perches, kills lots of unsuspecting Germans with his telescopic sniper rifle, saving members of hero John Miller’s company—until he himself is blown up by German tank fire.
In Captain Phillips Navy SEAL snipers are portrayed as “marksmen” who nonetheless stealthily blow apart Somali pirates, and thereby save Phillips’s life. Hollywood and film critics were also quite enthusiastic about that movie, apparently including the final rescue of Phillips by skilled “snipers” (i.e., the targeted pirates never knew that they were being targeted and never knew what hit them).
What has more likely caused some controversy over American Sniper is not the sniper profession per se of Chris Kyle (since snipers were not de facto deemed suspect in prior films), but three other considerations:
a) American Sniper often portrays the Islamist insurgents as savage, and Kyle as complex, but nevertheless both patriotic and heroic in protecting other Americans from them;
b) the movie does not serve as a blanket damnation of the Iraq war, at least as is otherwise typical for the Hollywood Iraq film genre; in this regard, unlike many recent Hollywood film titles with the proper noun American in them (e.g., American Hustle, American Gangster, American Psycho, American History X, American Beauty, etc.), the film quite unusually does not dwell on American pathologies; and
c) perhaps most important, the film is very successful, and has resonated with the public at the precise time when other recent movies more welcomed by the establishment, such as Selma, have so far not.
21 janvier 2015
Le film American sniper de Clint Eastwood remporte un grand succès aux Etats-Unis. Mais il suscite aussi les critiques de certains qui l’assimilent à une œuvre de propagande pour l’armée.
Succès économique et source de polémique. Pas besoin de faire l’unanimité pour amasser des millions de dollars au box-office. Pour American sniper, le nouveau film de Clint Eastwood, c’est même l’inverse. Son énorme succès en salles depuis sa sortie outre-Atlantique -105 millions de dollars soit 90 millions d’euros en un week-end, ce qui en fait l’œuvre la plus rentable du célèbre acteur-réalisateur- s’accompagne de débats houleux qui divisent l’Amérique.
160 victimes au cours de sa carrière. La pomme de discorde ? Le traitement cinématographique privilégié par Clint Eastwood de l’histoire de Chris Kyle, tireur d’élite au sein des forces spéciales, les Navy Seals. Ce sniper, aujourd’hui décédé, est connu sous deux surnoms qui résument bien le personnage : Chris Kyle est « la légende » pour ses frères d’armes et « le diable » pour ses ennemis. Bien que ce titre soit difficilement vérifiable, ce soldat américain est en effet connu pour être le sniper le plus meurtrier de l’histoire militaire du pays. Le Pentagone lui « crédite » 160 morts, tandis que lui en revendique 255 dans son autobiographie dont le scénario s’inspire.
Un « féroce soldat de Dieu ». Chris Kyle est incarné par Bradley Cooper dans American sniper. Au long du film, le spectateur est confronté à la violence des scènes de guerre, mais aussi au difficile retour à la vie civile et familiale de ces soldats, souvent sujets au stress post-traumatique. Héroïsé par certains, largement médiatisé, Chris Kyle s’est fait connaître par ses sorties violentes. Au Figaro, il expliquait en avril 2012 que les Irakiens étaient des « sauvages, qui n’hésitent pas à envoyer des femmes et des enfants faire le sale boulot ». Il se considérait également comme « un féroce soldat de Dieu », content de savoir que chaque personne qu’il tuait « ne risquait pas de planter une bombe artisanale sous une route au passage d’un convoi américain ».
Hollywood divisé. Ajoutez à ces déclarations fracassantes un tatouage en forme de croix de templier rouge vif et un accent texan prononcé. Il n’en faut pas plus pour diviser les Etats-Unis autour du film qui campe le personnage. D’un côté, de nombreux médias et personnalités ont critiqué une œuvre qui esthétise la mort et joue le rôle de propagande de l’armée américaine. Parmi eux, le réalisateur de Bowling for Columbine Michael Moore, grand opposant à la guerre en Irak et au libre port d’armes aux Etats-Unis. « Mon oncle a été tué par un sniper pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale. On nous apprenait que les snipers étaient des lâches. Qu’ils vous tiraient dans le dos. Les snipers ne sont pas des héros. Et les envahisseurs sont pires », martèle-t-il.
Avant Michael Moore, Jane Fonda avait été la première personnalité du cinéma américain à réagir, positivement elle, au film. « Je viens de voir American sniper. C’est un film puissant, le pendant de Coming Home (film sur la vie d’un prisonnier politique chinois après sa libération, ndlr). Bradley Cooper est sensationnel. Bravo Clint Eastwood. »
Campagne marketing ciblée. Comme le montre le Wall Street Journal (en anglais, édition abonnés), le film a été proportionnellement drainé moins de spectateurs dans les grandes aires urbaines des côtes est et ouest, majoritairement démocrates et libérales, comparé au franc succès qu’il a remporté dans le sud du pays et dans le Midwest, résolument républicains et conservateurs. Un phénomène logique, et même voulu par le studio de production, comme en atteste le témoignage d’un employé dans The Hollywood Reporter cité par le blog du Monde Bigbrowser : une campagne marketing, tournée vers un public conservateur via des publicités sur Fox News et dans des magazines militaires a permis de faire de ce succès un « phénomène culturel »
Un phénomène culturel, mais aussi politique, puisque l’ex-sénatrice de l’Alaska et figure de la droite radicale américaine Sarah Palin a elle aussi réagi contre les « gauchos d’Hollywood » qui « crachent sur les tombes des combattants de la liberté qui vous permettent de faire ce que vous faites ».
Clint Eastwood dépassé ? Pourtant, dans un débat lors d’une avant-première le 8 décembre dernier, Clint Eastwood affirmait ne pas vouloir faire l’allégorie de la guerre avec American Sniper, commel’explique Première. Il avait même réaffirmé son opposition à la guerre en Irak, en parlant de « l’arrogance de vouloir entrer en guerre sans même se poser la question de sa justification, ni des conséquences tragiques qu’elle aurait pour tant de monde ». Le ralisateur rappelait qu’il avait grandi pendant la Seconde Guerre Mondiale, dans l’espoir qu’elle « finirait toutes les guerres ». Bradley Cooper, l’acteur principal du film, a lui aussi affirmé qu' »American sniper n’était pas un film politique » dans le Guardian.
Une Amérique coupée en deux ? Médias et opinion publique voient en American Sniper la ligne de fracture entre une Amérique de l’intérieur, conservatrice et républicaine, et une Amérique des côtes, élitiste et démocrate. Une opposition manichéenne que refusent de légitimer de nombreux éditorialistes américains. « Une partie des spectateurs du film l’ont-ils regardé à travers un prisme xénophobe et belliqueux? Sûrement. Et ces gens sont haineux et simplets. Mais ceux qui font de ces gens une population cohérente et identifiée qu’ils regardent avec mépris sont tout aussi bêtes que ceux qu’ils critiquent », peut-on lire notamment sur Flavorwire.
American Sniper ne laisse décidément personne indifférent, puisque le cours de la justice lui-même pourrait être perturbé par la sortie de ce film. En effet, Chris Kyle avait été tué près de chez lui au Texas en février 2013, lors d’un gala en faveur des vétérans de l’armée touchés par le syndrome de stress post-traumatique (PTSD). L’accusé, lui-même victime de PTSD, doit être jugé le 11 février prochain dans un procès où il risque la peine de mort. Son avocat estime que le film pose problème puisqu’il « pourrait influencer le jury », explique BFMTV.
Pourquoi le film American Sniper fait polémique
En salle le 18 février en France, American Sniper défraie déjà la chronique aux Etats-Unis. Entre succès au box-office et critiques, le film ne laisse pas indifférent. Certains lui reprochent d’être un film de propagande de l’armée américaine.
Succès et polémique. American Sniper nourrit les passions. Nommé six fois aux Oscars, dominant le box-office, le film réalisé par Clint Eastwood a engrangé 105 millions de dollars dès son premier week-end d’exploitation.
Au-delà de ce succès incontestable, plusieurs voix s’élèvent aux États-Unis, notamment celles de réalisateurs, qui estiment qu’American Sniper est un film de propagande pour l’armée américaine. D’autant plus malvenu compte-tenu du bilan de l’intervention américaine en Irak.
Quel est le scénario ?
American Sniper s’inspire de la vie de Chris Kyle, le sniper le plus meurtrier de l’histoire militaire américaine -mort depuis-, incarné par Bradley Cooper. Un tireur d’élite qui a été envoyé à quatre reprises en Irak, et qui a revendiqué 255 ennemis tués. Le Pentagone, quant à lui, en décompte 160.
American Sniper retrace le quotidien de cet homme sur le champ de bataille, les atrocités dont il est témoin, mais aussi sa vie de famille, avec laquelle il n’arrive plus à vivre normalement une fois de retour au pays. Le film reprend directement le scénario du livre autobiographique de celui qui est surnommé al-Shaitan (« le diable ») par ses ennemis et « La Légende » par ses frères d’armes des forces spéciales américaines, les Navy SEAL.
Que lui reprochent notamment Michael Moore et Seth Rogen?
La glorification de l’armée américaine et des forces spéciales ainsi que de son rôle en Irak n’est pas du goût de tout le monde. Michael Moore, le réalisateur de Bowling for Columbine et militant contre le port d’armes, n’y est pas allé de main morte. « Mon oncle a été tué par un sniper pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale. On nous apprenait que les snipers étaient des lâches. Qu’ils vous tiraient dans le dos. Les snipers ne sont pas des héros. Et les envahisseurs sont pires », a-t-il lancé sur Twitter, remettant en cause directement l’intervention américaine en Irak.
Le réalisateur de The Interview, Seth Rogen, a de son côté estimé que American Sniper lui faisait penser « au film qui est montré dans la troisième partie d’Inglorious Basterds », réalisé par Quentin Tarentino.
Seth Rogen fait en fait référence à Nations Pride, un film -parodique- de propagande nazie imaginé par Quentin Tarentino dans Inglorious Basterds. Dans Nations Pride, un sniper nazi, perché en haut d’une tour, abat des centaines d’ennemis. Il devient alors le héros de toute la nation… Voir ci-dessous:
La réponse des « patriotes »
La réponse des défenseurs du film s’est faite notamment par le Daily Caller, rapporte le site Inquisitr.. Dans son éditorial, le journal estime qu' »Hollywood est majoritairement de gauche et a produit une série de films anti-guerre et anti-militaire qui ont été des flop au box-office. Dans ce monde, American Sniper est une anomalie. Il montre la vie de Kyle sans fard et sans jugement. Son succès est la preuve que les gens sont venus voir la vie de celui que la plupart considère comme un héros ».
Le site Metacritic.com, site référence de compilation de critiques de la presse américaine, attribue la note de 72 sur 100 à American Sniper, qui récolté 33 critiques « positives » et 12 « partagées ». 191 spectateurs ont également notés le film de Clint Eastwood, qui obtient une note de 7,1 sur 10, avec 142 critiques positives, 22 partagées et 27 négatives.
« American Sniper » accusé de propagande
22 janvier 2015
«American Sniper», le film de Clint Eastwood, relance le débat sur Chris Kyle, le sniper le plus meurtrier de l’armée américaine, et les tireurs d’élite. Certains spectateurs ont écrit de violentes insultes racistes sur les réseaux sociaux, mais les Républicains ont volé au secours du long-métrage.
Près de deux ans après la mort de Chris Kyle, la sortie du film «American Sniper» a déclenché une polémique aux Etats-Unis. Le sniper le plus meurtrier de l’histoire de l’armée américaine était-il un héros de guerre ou un «lâche»? Le film, selon de nombreux critiques, glorifie le rôle des snipers. Le réalisateur engagé Michael Moore a été un des premiers à dénoncer ces tireurs d’élite: «Les snipers ne sont pas des héros. Et les envahisseurs sont les pires», a-t-il écrit sur son compte Twitter, racontant que son oncle avait été tué par un sniper lors de la Seconde guerre mondiale.
Sur le site de microblogging, certains spectateurs ont vanté les mérites du film, mais du côté de la haine: « »American Sniper » me donne envie d’aller tirer sur des putains d’Arabes», écrit ainsi un certain @dezmondharmon. « »American Sniper m’a fait apprécier les soldats 100 fois plus et détester les musulmans 1 million de fois plus», complète #ItsReeceyYh. «Il est bon de voir un film où les Arabes sont représentés pour ce qu’ils sont vraiment –de la vermine pourrie qui veut nous détruire», assure de son côté @harshnewyorker. Ces commentaires ont été compilés par @LeslieK_nope:
Les Républicains défendent Chris Kyle et le film
L’acteur Seth Rogen a écrit sur Twitter qu’«American Sniper» lui «faisait un peu penser» au film de propagande tourné par les nazis et montré dans «Inglorious Basterds», de Quentin Tarantino.
Sarah Palin a rapidement pris la défense du film et de Chris Kyle, qu’elle connaissait personnellement: «Alors que vous caressez des trophées en plastique qui brille, que vous vous échangez en crachant sur la tombe des combattants de la liberté qui vous ont permis de le faire, sachez que le reste de l’Amérique considère que vous n’êtes pas dignes de cirer les bottes de combat de Chris Kyle», a écrit la candidate malheureuse républicaine à la vice-présidence sur Facebook. Newt Gingrich, l’ancien chef des Républicains à la Chambre des représentants, a pour sa part estimé que «Michael Moore devrait passer quelques semaines avec EI et Boko Haram, il apprécierait « American Sniper »».
La personnalité de Chris Kyle est depuis longtemps controversée. Il aurait tué plus de 255 personnes pendant ses dix années de service, et avait été surnommé «le diable de Ramadi» par les insurgés irakiens qu’il prenait pour cibles. Le directeur adjoint de la rédaction de Match l’avait rencontré en mai 2012, au Texas, où il avait fondé une société qui avait pour devise: «La violence résout les problèmes». «Quand je vois les massacres, les tortures et toutes les horreurs que nos ennemis ont commis, je n’ai aucun regret. J’ai fait ça pour mon peuple, pour défendre mes camarades et empêcher ces ordures de commettre davantage d’atrocités. Si j’avais pu en tuer davantage, je l’aurais fait.» «La guerre n’a rien d’amusant, pourtant il se trouve que je m’amusais», poursuivait-il.
Il était en 2012 en négociations afin que son livre «American Sniper» soit porté sur grand écran. Sur le choix de l’acteur qui l’interprétera, Chris Kyle avait rejeté en bloc Matt Damon: «Certainement pas. C’est moi qui décide, et ce n’est pas un opposant à la guerre qui jouera mon rôle.» Bradley Cooper a finalement été choisi –et figure parmi les nommés à l’Oscar du meilleur acteur. Le premier weekend de sa sortie en Amérique du Nord, «American Sniper» a rapporté plus de 90 millions de dollars.
Entre 1999 et 2009, Chris Kyle a été l’un des militaires les plus récompensés pour son service, recevant notamment deux Silver Stars et cinq Bronze Stars. Après avoir quitté le combat, il était devenu instructeur pour des équipes spéciales avant de quitter la Navy en 2009 et avait même écrit le manuel des snipers des Seals, le «Naval Special Warfare Sniper Doctrine». L’aide aux vétérans était l’un des piliers de la vie de Kyle, qui a notamment aidé à fonder l’association FITCO Cares Foundation. Il a été tué en février 2013 par Eddie Ray Rough, un frère d’armes victime du syndrome de stress post-traumatique qu’il tentait d’aider dans un stand de tir.
American Sniper dans le viseur de Michael Moore
VIDÉO – Le réalisateur de Bowling for Columbine, connu pour ses prises de position controversées, a critiqué le nouveau film de Clint Eastwood.
Après avoir milité contre le port des armes dans son documentaire Bowling for Columbine et contre la guerre en Irak, Michael Moore revient à la charge en fustigeant le film American Sniper de Clint Eastwood, avec Bradley Cooper.
Sur Twitter, le réalisateur âgé de 60 ans est revenu sur un épisode marquant qui a touché un membre de sa famille: son oncle a été tué par un sniper lors de la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Il explique pourquoi ces soldats «ne doivent pas être considérés comme des héros».
Quelques heures après l’envoi de ce message, Michael Moore a néanmoins tenu à clarifier ses propos.
D’autres personnalités américaines d’Hollywood ont exprimé leur admiration devant l’œuvre de Clint Eastwood, comme Jane Fonda:
Pour le réalisateur de The Interview, Seth Rogen, le film American Sniper lui rappelle un passage d’Inglourious Basterds de Quentin Tarantino, lorsqu’un sniper allemand (Daniel Brühl) tue héroïquement de nombreux ennemis, dans un film de propagande.
American Sniper est l’adaptation du livre de Chris Kyle, un tireur d’élite des Navy SEAL, intitulé American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History (William Morrow, 2012). Ayant servi pendant la guerre d’Irak, Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) est connu pour être le sniper le plus prolifique de l’histoire des États-Unis. Surnommé «La Légende», il aurait tué 160 personnes. Le film suit également son retour au pays et les conséquences de la guerre sur son moral et sa vie de famille.
Le long métrage de Clint Eastwood est un grand succès au box-office US. Il a déjà remporté plus de 90 millions de dollars de recettes ce week-end. Il a également été nommé aux Oscars 2015 dans six catégories dont celles du «meilleur film» et du «meilleur acteur» pour Bradley Cooper.
Chris Kyle, le roi des snipers américains abattu au Texas
Ex-membre des Navy Seal, ce tireur d’élite qui s’est illustré en Irak a été tué par un vétéran.
De notre correspondant à New York
Il s’attendait à connaître une fin violente, lors d’une embuscade en Irak, mais avait fini par croire en sa bonne étoile. Après onze ans de bons et loyaux services au sein des Navy Seals, les troupes d’élite de la marine américaine, Chris Kyle, le sniper le plus redoutable de l’armée américaine (255 «kills (ennemis tués)», dont 160 confirmés), avait raccroché son fusil de tireur d’élite, pour mieux se consacrer à sa famille.
Il a été abattu samedi près de chez lui au Texas par un de ses compatriotes, lors d’un gala de charité organisé à Glen Rose, près de Fort Worth, et consacré aux vétérans atteints de syndrome post-traumatique (ou PTSD, dans le jargon militaire). L’assassin, Eddie Ray Routh, était un de ces vétérans que Kyle se faisait un devoir d’assister lors de leur difficile retour à la vie civile, en organisant des week-ends de «réintégration» dans des ranchs du Texas ou de l’Oklahoma appartenant à d’anciens Seals. Agé de 25 ans, Routh serait retourné chez lui après avoir abattu Kyle et un de ses voisins, avant d’être arrêté par la police après une brève course-poursuite en voiture.
Prime sur sa tête, 80 000 dollars mort ou vif
Chris Kyle, 38 ans, avait reçu Le Figaro l’an passé (voir nos éditions du 10 avril 2012) à Dallas, pour la sortie de sa biographie en France. Il qualifiait les Irakiens de «sauvages, qui n’hésitent pas à envoyer des femmes et des enfants faire le sale boulot», une ceinture d’explosifs autour de la taille, et retroussait volontiers la manche de son bras gauche, recouvert de tatouages impressionnants. Un trident des Navy Seals y côtoyait une énorme croix de templier rouge vif, symbole de sa foi chevillée au corps. Élevé dans l’amour de Dieu, de la patrie et de la famille, Kyle, père de deux jeunes enfants, ne faisait pas mystère de ses motivations: «Là-bas, en Irak, je voulais que tout le monde sache que je suis chrétien, et un féroce guerrier de Dieu.» Il avait sa conscience pour lui car chaque insurgé qu’il éliminait «ne risquerait pas de planter une bombe improvisée sous une route au passage d’un convoi» américain.
Après ces exploits, Kyle avait hérité d’un surnom flatteur venant de l’insurrection sunnite, «al-shaitan Ramadi (le diable de Ramadi)», ainsi qu’une prime sur sa tête, 80.000 dollars mort ou vif. Pour ses camarades du «Navy Seals team 3», il était «The Legend (la légende)», depuis un tir à 1 800 m, en 2008 dans les bas-fonds de Saddam City (Bagdad), contre un Irakien sur le point de tirer une roquette contre un convoi de marines.
«Salle d’attente au Purgatoire»
Après avoir quitté le service actif en 2009, Kyle avait fondé Craft International, une firme spécialisée dans la formation des snipers. Son aura et son entregent lui avaient permis de transformer rapidement son entreprise en business lucratif.
Flairant le filon, les édiles républicains texans avaient bien tenté de le convaincre d’embrasser la carrière politique, mais lui n’affichait que mépris pour ceux qu’il qualifiait d’«escrocs», qu’ils soient républicains ou démocrates.
Chris Kyle avait confié au Figaro qu’une adaptation au cinéma était en cours de négociation avec des «majors» de Hollywood mais qu’il s’opposerait à ce qu’un «traître gauchiste» comme Matt Damon, coupable à ses yeux de s’opposer à la guerre en Irak en contestant lui aussi l’existence des armes de destruction massive (thème repris dans le film de Paul Greengrass, Green Zone en 2010), ne l’incarne à l’écran. Il avait finalement donné sa bénédiction au comédien Bradley Cooper et la société de production de ce dernier, 22nd & Indiana.
Relatant avec difficulté cette usure nerveuse qu’il avait ressentie lors de son quatrième et dernier tour d’opération en Mésopotamie en 2008, Chris Kyle reconnaissait avec un brin de mauvaise conscience qu’il devrait «peut-être patienter un peu plus longtemps que les autres en salle d’attente au Purgatoire».
Chris Kyle, sniper d’élite de l’armée américaine, s’enorgueillit d’avoir éliminé 255 « terrotistes » en Irak. Sans l’ombre d’un état d’âme.
De notre envoyé spécial à Dallas
La barbe rousse et drue, les yeux rieurs qui dépassent d’une casquette de baseball bien vissée sur la tête, Chris Kyle ressemble à tous ces jeunes Américains sportifs et débonnaires, auxquels on donnerait le bon Dieu sans confession. Les apparences sont trompeuses. À 37 ans, Kyle est en réalité un vrai «badass» : un dur à cuire, en argot américain. Un tueur, au sens propre, comme en attestent les fusils d’assaut alignés derrière lui, un véritable arsenal dans ce bureau du quatorzième étage d’un immeuble d’affaires, en plein centre-ville de Dallas. Et un héros «bigger than life», hors norme, dans une Amérique éreintée par dix ans de guerres lointaines et impopulaires.
En onze ans de service actif au sein des prestigieux Navy Seals, les commandos de marine à l’origine de la mort d’Oussama Ben Laden en mai 2011, et quatre déploiements en Irak de 2003 à 2009, ce tireur d’élite a abattu 255 «terroristes». La Navy, très sourcilleuse sur les critères de validation, ne lui en reconnaît «que» 160. Cet étourdissant «palmarès» lui confère une place de choix parmi les plus célèbres snipers de l’histoire, derrière le Finlandais Simo Häyhä, qui tua 542 soldats soviétiques durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Si bien que, lorsqu’il a quitté le service actif en 2009, le sergent Kyle n’a eu aucun mal à fonder une firme spécialisée dans la formation des snipers, Craft International, avec le soutien enthousiaste de ses anciens frères d’armes. Dans l’armée américaine, il jouit d’une immense réputation, ce qui lui a permis de transformer rapidement Craft International en un business très lucratif. Chez les Seals, une fraternité pourtant avare en tressage de lauriers, le surnom qui lui colle à la peau en dit long sur son aura: «The Legend». Mais celui dont il est le plus fier, c’est le sobriquet décerné par les insurgés irakiens eux-mêmes, au plus fort des combats dans le triangle sunnite en 2006: «al-shaitan Ramadi», le diable de Ramadi. «Celui-là, j’en suis fier, sourit Kyle en lissant sa barbe. Ça veut dire que je les ai vraiment décimés.» Au plus fort de la bataille, les services de renseignements lui apprennent que sa tête a été mise à prix: 20 000 dollars, mort ou vif. Vers la fin des combats, elle en vaut 80 000.
Les Irakiens, Chris Kyle ne les aime pas. Doux euphémisme. À ses yeux, ce sont tous «des sauvages» qui n’hésitent pas à envoyer des femmes et des enfants faire le sale boulot. Ses deux premières victimes furent une mère et son fils, justement.
La première s’avançait vers un check point de marines, bardée d’une ceinture d’explosifs. Elle venait de confier une grenade à son rejeton. Chris Kyle dut abattre les deux, contraint et forcé, après avoir reçu le feu vert de ses supérieurs. Ce furent ses deux tirs les plus difficiles. «Après, confie-t-il, tuer des gens n’est pas très compliqué», surtout quand, selon lui, «ils incarnent le Mal», puisqu’ils veulent abattre des soldats américains. Le politiquement correct n’est pas le style de Kyle. Il avoue «aimer la guerre» et regrette seulement de «ne pas avoir abattu plus de salopards». En quatre séjours en Irak, il a bâti sa légende sur des tirs mémorables. À Sadr City (Bagdad) en 2008, juché sur un toit, Chris aperçoit un homme armé d’un RPG (lance-roquettes). À près de deux kilomètres de distance, le sniper fait mouche et atteint une notoriété quasi instantanée parmi ses pairs. «Dieu a soufflé sur cette balle et l’a touché», sourit le Texan, qui revendique fièrement sa culture chrétienne.
Sur le haut du bras gauche, en dessous de l’épaule, à côté du trident des Seal, il a fait tatouer une énorme croix de templier rouge vif, qu’il dévoile volontiers. Élevé dans l’amour de Dieu, de la patrie et de la famille, Kyle assume: «Là-bas, je voulais que tout le monde sache que je suis chrétien, et que je suis un féroce guerrier de Dieu.» La foi chevillée au corps, il pense qu’il devra «peut-être patienter un peu plus longtemps que les autres en salle d’attente au purgatoire», mais garde la conscience tranquille.
Courtisé par le cinéma
Ses «exploits», il a fini par les relater dans un livre*, qui caracole depuis trois mois en tête des ventes: 419 000 exemplaires déjà vendus. Devenu une légende vivante au sein de l’armée, Chris Kyle passe pour avoir sauvé des centaines de vies, armé de son seul fusil à lunette. L’usure nerveuse finit cependant par le rattraper lors de son quatrième déploiement en Irak. Il cède alors aux pressions de sa femme Taya, qui ne supporte plus ses absences prolongées. Un ultime coup de chance lors d’une fusillade dans Sadr City, dont il réchappe miraculeusement, lui font réaliser qu’il n’est «tout compte fait pas invincible», malgré ce fidèle «ange gardien» qui a longtemps veillé sur lui. Dans la foulée, il quitte l’armée pour «se consacrer enfin à sa famille».
Mais il n’en a pas fini avec une notoriété grandissante. De retour au pays, des inconnus viennent le remercier pour leur avoir «sauvé la peau» tel jour à Faloudja. D’autres anonymes paient discrètement la facture lorsqu’il dîne au restaurant avec Taya. De partout, les sollicitations affluent. La Navy et la Garde nationale du Texas n’ont pas renoncé à le convaincre de rempiler. Les édiles locaux font des pieds et des mains pour qu’il s’engage en politique. Mais Chris Kyle n’a guère plus d’estime pour les hommes politiques que pour les insurgés irakiens. «Républicains comme démocrates, ce sont tous des escrocs», affirme-t-il sur un ton péremptoire.
À défaut de carrière publique, c’est le monde du cinéma qui le courtise. Un scénario circule depuis quelque temps à Hollywood. Mais Kyle a posé ses conditions: il mettra son veto à tout acteur qui lui déplairait pour incarner son rôle. «Je ne veux pas d’un acteur comme Matt Damon et tous ces types qui ont exprimé leur opposition à la guerre en Irak», confesse ce grand nostalgique, qui préfère nettement Chuck Norris ou… Ronald Reagan.
* «American Sniper», Éditions William Morrow (2011), traduction française sortie en mars aux éditions Nimrod.
Voir de plus:
The United States of ‘American Sniper’
Liberals’ criticism of my SEAL teammate Chris Kyle has had the ironic effect of honoring him.
Jan. 26, 2015
‘American Sniper,” the new movie about Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, has opened to staggering box-office success and garnered multiple Academy Award nominations. But not all the attention has been positive. The most vocal criticism came in the form of disparaging quotes and tweets from actor-director Seth Rogen and documentary-maker Michael Moore . Both have since attempted to qualify their ugly comments, but similarly nasty observations continue to emanate from the left.
The bulk of Chris Kyle’s remarkable exploits took place in the Al Anbar province of Iraq in the summer of 2006. He and I were teammates at SEAL Team Three. Chris had always been a large figure in the SEAL teams. He became a legend before our eyes in Ramadi.
My fellow special-operations brothers might be shocked, but I think the comments by Messrs. Rogen and Moore have had the ironic effect of honoring Chris Kyle’s memory. They inadvertently paid Chris a tribute that joins the Texas funeral procession and “American Sniper” book sales and box office in testifying to the power of his story. I’ll get to the punch line shortly, but first please let me lay the groundwork.
The very term “sniper” seems to stir passionate reactions on the left. The criticism misses the fundamental value that snipers add to the battlefield. Snipers engage individual threats. Rarely, if ever, do their actions cause collateral damage. Snipers may be the most humane of weapons in the military arsenal. The job also takes a huge emotional toll on the man behind the scope. The intimate connection between the shooter and the target can be hard to overcome for even the most emotionally mature warrior. The value of a sniper in warfare is beyond calculation.
I witnessed the exceptional performance of SEAL, Army and Marine snipers on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. They struck psychological fear in our enemies and protected countless lives. Chris Kyle and the sniper teams I led made a habit of infiltrating dangerous areas of enemy-controlled ground, established shooting positions and coordinated security for large conventional-unit movement.
More than half the time, the snipers didn’t need to shoot; over-watch and guidance to the ground troops was enough. But when called upon, snipers like Chris Kyle engaged enemy combatants and “cleared the path” for exposed troops to move effectively and safely in their arduous ground missions. These small sniper teams pulled the trigger at their own risk. If their position was discovered, they had little backup or support.
As Navy SEALs, we have the privilege of using the best hardware the military has to offer. We have access to, and train with, the latest elite weapons. We operate with the world’s finest aviators, from multiple services, who transport us to and from targets and protect us from above with devastating firepower. Advanced drone platforms are at our disposal and wreak havoc on our enemies. The full complement of American battlefield ingenuity and capacity is at our disposal. Our enemies the world over know this well. They have experienced this awesome power and respect it.
But every U.S. fighting force possesses a weapon that frightens our enemies today more than any of those above. The Taliban, al Qaeda, Islamic State, jihadists everywhere—all those who oppose us fear and hate this weapon, and are haunted by its power to stop their own twisted plans for the world.
What is this weapon? The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
It was written long ago by leaders of astonishing foresight and courage. It is what men like Chris Kyle fight and die for. It is what I immediately think of when someone burns a flag, shouts some hateful remark during a protest or criticizes the men and women who have volunteered for military service and willingly go into harm’s way.
When Seth Rogen and Michael Moore exercise this right, it is a tribute to those who serve. While I am revolted by their whiny, ill-informed opinions about Chris Kyle and “American Sniper,” I delight in the knowledge that the man they decry was a defender of their liberty to do so.
Mr. Denver, a commander in the U.S. Navy SEALs Reserves, is the author of “Damn Few: Making the Modern SEAL Warrior” (Hyperion, 2013).
January 23, 2015
As Americans, we are fortunate to have the right to speak our minds. Filmmaker Michael Moore did just that with his attack on the use of military snipers in warfare just before the release of the Oscar-nominated and devastating war/anti-war movie « American Sniper, » directed by Clint Eastwood.
Moore obviously has the same freedom of speech right that all Americans do. Some of what he has publicly stated in the past is opinion, some is fact and some is absolutely ludicrous. In an apparent reference to Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, credited with 160 enemy kills — the most in U.S. history — and the movie « American Sniper, » Moore commented on Twitter that his « uncle was killed by a sniper » and that he was « taught that all snipers were cowards. »
Moore explains snipers are ‘cowards’ tweet
To begin with, the reason Americans have the freedom of speech Moore was exercising is because brave men such as Kyle and other active-duty personnel and military veterans have fought to protect this precious right.
As far as the comment that « snipers are cowards, » that is beyond ludicrous and it is difficult to understand just how anybody could make such a comment.
Let’s look at some of the basic facts surrounding Kyle’s life as a Navy SEAL sniper. Kyle either trained for war or was deployed in war zones for more than 300 days a year during his service in the SEAL teams. SEAL wives basically raise their children alone. The divorce rate for SEALs is incredibly high. Many of the guys have been married multiple times. The children grow up not really knowing their dads because the dads go on frequent and often back-to-back deployments to war zones.
These guys seldom know when they are leaving or for how long. Their work involves going in harm’s way and fighting an enemy that is determined to do whatever it can to take away our way of life. After returning home from a deployment, these guys immediately go back to work preparing for the next deployment. Some are not so fortunate and are wounded or killed in the line of duty.
A sniper, who operates behind enemy lines, has one of the most demanding and dangerous duties in the Special Operations community. Snipers operating in Iraq, Afghanistan and a host of other countries often must crawl and make their way through treacherous urban or desert war-zone terrain for hours just to reach their position undetected, a position of over-watch, cover and concealment. Once they are on site, they sometimes stay in their position for days on end waiting for follow-on orders.
Why ‘American Sniper’ is a smash hit
Military snipers are not sociopaths, coldblooded killers. Snipers believe in their hearts that when they neutralize, or « take out, » a threat that they are saving the lives of their teammates, other military personnel or other innocent people. Their target hit lists typically include terrorists or people preparing to cause grave harm or death to the innocent.
As I cite in my book « The Modern Day Gunslinger, » Lt. Col. David Grossman uses the analogy of wolves, sheep and sheepdogs. Grossman, in his book « On Combat, » compares the average citizen as basically peaceful and nonthreatening — like sheep.
These are the majority of people and do not want to cause harm to others; they wish to live peacefully. The terrorist — the enemy, the « bad guy » — strikes terror and threatens to harm and kill the innocent, like the wolf who threatens the sheep. Fortunately, there are brave men and women who sacrifice much to protect those who wish to live day to day in peace. These protectors are the community sheepdogs.
Chris Kyle was a champion sheepdog. Every time Kyle pulled back on his trigger and fired a shot that neutralized a « wolf, » he was saving countless lives and protecting the sheep. Every wolf he put down was no longer capable of causing harm or death to the sheep, the innocents.
I ask, how can anybody consider a sniper, a Navy SEAL sniper, to be a coward? As much as I try to keep my mind open to all viewpoints — from the far left to the far right — I can only reach the conclusion that Michael Moore has no idea what he is talking about. His unfounded comments could not be further from the truth.
I am confident that if Moore had the courage to spend just one day in a war-zone « sniper hide, » waiting for the go signal to take out an enemy target his opinions on snipers and the military would change 180 degrees. I would go so far as to say if Moore would simply attend a one-day sniper-training course in the United States, his opinion would drastically change.
Yes, of course, he has the right to say whatever he wishes, but when a guy like Moore has the pulpit and the attention of the media, he should have a moral obligation to speak only on topics in which he has some basic knowledge of the facts.
Chris Kyle is an American war hero who has been credited and awarded for saving countless American and innocent lives. After what he did for our country, after all of his sacrifices, Kyle decided to get out of the Navy and assist those brothers in arms who returned from overseas with post-traumatic stress disorder. How incredibly sad and ironic that in February 2013, Kyle was killed and shot in the back, police say, by a former Marine suffering with PTSD whom he was trying to help and mentor.
Michael Moore, tell me: How was Chris Kyle a coward? How are snipers cowards?
When Kyle was killed, he left his loving and devoted wife, Taya, behind. She feels that « American Sniper » did a good job at portraying the struggles that Kyle endured as a Navy SEAL sniper as well as his roles as a husband and father. The movie illustrates the real-life story of heroism, patriotism and self-sacrifice of a remarkable American war hero.
Bradley Cooper, who portrayed Kyle, told NPR that the role was « nothing short of life-changing. It’s just not about me or Clint (Eastwood), or anybody else. … It’s a real human being. … So there’s a huge responsibility. But I saw it as an honor. … I felt like I lived with him for those six months in a very intimate way. … (H)e was the first voice I heard every morning and the last voice I heard going to bed. »
Kyle joins the elite ranks of other American sniper icons such as Carlos Hathcock, who was credited with 93 confirmed kills during the Vietnam War. Hathcock felt the same as Kyle did when it came to taking out threats. He simply understood that he was protecting his fellow Marines and other innocent people.
If there were not people like Kyle and Hathcock protecting our freedoms, Michael Moore, along with the rest of us, would live in a much more dangerous world. I remain deeply honored and humbled to be an American and to have been part of a community where heroes like Kyle have served.
The Legend of Chris Kyle
The deadliest sniper in U.S. history performed near miracles on the battlefield. Then he had to come home.
Michael J. Mooney
D Magazine April 2013
There’s a story about Chris Kyle: on a cold January morning in 2010, he pulled into a gas station somewhere along Highway 67, south of Dallas. He was driving his supercharged black Ford F350 outfitted with black rims and oversize knobby mudding tires. Kyle had replaced the Ford logo on the grill with a small chrome skull, similar to the Punisher emblem from the Marvel Comics series, and added a riot-ready aftermarket grill guard bearing the words ROAD ARMOR. He had just left the Navy and moved back to Texas.
Two guys approached him with pistols and demanded his money and the keys to his truck. With his hands in the air, he sized up which man seemed most confident with his gun.
Kyle knew what confidence with a gun looked like. He was the deadliest sniper in American history. He had at least 160 confirmed kills by the Pentagon’s count, but by his own count—and the accounts of his Navy SEAL teammates—the number was closer to twice that. In his four tours of duty in Iraq, Kyle earned two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars with Valor. He survived six IED attacks, three gunshot wounds, two helicopter crashes, and more surgeries than he could remember. He was known among his SEAL brethren as The Legend and to his enemies as al-Shaitan, “the devil.”
He told the robbers that he just needed to reach back into the truck to get the keys. He turned around and reached under his winter coat instead, into his waistband. With his right hand, he grabbed his Colt 1911. He fired two shots under his left armpit, hitting the first man twice in the chest. Then he turned slightly and fired two more times, hitting the second man twice in the chest. Both men fell dead.
Kyle leaned on his truck and waited for the police.
When they arrived, they detained him while they ran his driver’s license. But instead of his name, address, and date of birth, what came up was a phone number at the Department of Defense. At the other end of the line was someone who explained that the police were in the presence of one of the most skilled fighters in U.S. military history. When they reviewed the surveillance footage, the officers found the incident had happened just as Kyle had described it. They were very understanding, and they didn’t want to drag a just-home, highly decorated veteran into a messy legal situation.
Kyle wasn’t unnerved or bothered. Quite the opposite. He’d been feeling depressed since he left the service, struggling to adjust to civilian life. This was an exciting reminder of the action he missed.
That night, talking on the phone to his wife, Taya, who was in the process of moving with their kids from California, he was a good husband. He asked how her day was. The way some people tell it, he got caught up in their conversation, and only right before they hung up did he remember his big news of the day: “Oh, yeah, I shot two guys trying to steal my truck today.”
A brief description of the incident appeared in fellow SEAL Marcus Luttrell’s 2012 book Service: a Navy SEAL at War— but not Kyle’s own best-seller, American Sniper—and there are mentions of it in various forums deep in the corners of the internet. Before Kyle’s murder at the hands of a fellow veteran in February, I asked him about that story during an interview in his office last year, as part of what was supposed to be an extended, in-depth magazine story about his service and how hard he worked to adjust back to this world—to become the great husband and father and Christian he’d always wanted to be.
He didn’t want to get into specifics about the gas station shooting, but I left that day believing it had happened.
• • •
By the official count, Chris Kyle racked up 160 confirmed kills as a Navy sniper. He pegged the actual number as twice that.
The offices of Craft International, the defense contractor where Chris Kyle was president until his death, were immaculate. You needed one of the broad-chested security guards from downstairs as an escort just to get to that floor of the building. Sitting under thick glass in the lobby, there was an exceptionally rare, original English translation of Galileo’s Dialogue (circa 1661). A conference room held a safe full of gigantic guns—guns illegal to own without a Department of Defense contract.
At 38, Kyle was a large man, 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, and the muscles in his neck and shoulders and forearms made him seem even bigger, like a scruffy-bearded giant. When he greeted me with a direct look in the eye and a firm handshake, his huge bear paw enveloped my hand. That day he had on boots, jeans, a black t-shirt, and a baseball cap. It’s the same thing he wore most days he came to the office, or when he watched his daughter’s ballet recitals, or during television interviews with Conan O’Brien or Bill O’Reilly.
This was one of the rare chances when he’d have a few hours to talk. Over the next three days, he would be teaching a sniper course to the Dallas SWAT teams and he had three book signings, one at a hospital in Tyler (for a terminal cancer patient whose doctor reached out to him), one at Ray’s Sporting Goods in Dallas, and one at the VA in Fort Worth. He’d also have to fly down to Austin for a shooting event Craft was putting on for Speaker of the House John Boehner and several other congressmen.
“We are not doing this for free,” he said, anticipating a question. “We accept Republicans and Democrats alike, as long as the money is good.”
A few weeks later, he would have to cancel a weekend meeting because he was invited to hang out with George W. Bush. “Sorry,” he said, when asked if anyone else might be able to join. “Not even my wife’s allowed to come.”
He loved the Dallas Cowboys and the University of Texas Longhorns. He loved going to the Alamo, looking at historic artifacts. The license plate on his truck had a picture of the flag used during the Texas Revolution, with a cannon, a star, and the words COME AND TAKE IT. Being in the military forced him to move a lot, and neither of his children was born in Texas. But for each birth, he had family send a box of dirt from home—so the first ground his kids’ feet touched would be Texas soil.
He was outspoken on a lot of issues. He believed strongly in the Second Amendment, politely decrying the “incredible stupidity” of gun control laws anytime he was asked. He said he was hesitant to see the movie Zero Dark Thirty because he’d heard that it was a lot of propaganda for the Obama administration. Once, he posted to his tens of thousands of Facebook fans: “If you don’t like what I have to say or post, you forget one thing, I don’t give a shit what you think. LOL.”
chris-kyle-wife-tanya-wedding.jpg Chris Kyle and his wife Taya on their wedding day. Courtesy of Taya Kyle
He didn’t worry about sounding politically incorrect. The Craft International company slogan, emblazoned around the Punisher skull on the logo: “Despite what your momma told you, violence does solve problems.”
His views were nuanced, though. “If you hate the war, that’s fine,” he told me. “But you should still support the troops. They don’t get to pick where they’re deployed. They just gave the American people a blank check for anything up to and including the value of their lives, and the least everyone else can do is be thankful. Buy them dinner. Mow their yard. Bake them cookies.”
“The best way to describe Chris,” his wife, Taya, says, “is extremely multifaceted.”
He was a brutal warrior but a gentle father and husband. He was a patient instructor, and he was a persistent, sophomoric jokester. If he had access to your Facebook account, he might announce to all your friends and family that you’re gay and finally coming out of the closet. If he wanted to make you squirm, he might get hold of your phone and scroll through your photos threatening to see if you kept naked pictures of your girlfriend.
Kyle liked when people thought of him as a dumb hillbilly, but he had a remarkable ability to retain information, whether it was a mission briefing, the details of a business meeting, or his encyclopedic knowledge of his own hero, Vietnam-era Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock. While on the sniper rifle, Kyle had to do complicated math, accounting for wind speed, the spin of a bullet, and the curvature and rotation of the Earth—and he had to do it quickly, under the most intense pressure imaginable. Those were the moments when he thrived.
The most common question he was asked was easy to answer. He said he never regretted any of his kills, which weren’t all men.
“I regret the people I couldn’t kill before they got to my boys,” he said. That’s how he referred to the men and women he served with, across the branches: “my boys.”
He said he didn’t enjoy killing, but he did like protecting Americans and allies and civilians. He was the angel of death, sprawled flat atop a roof, his University of Texas Longhorns ball cap turned backward as he picked off enemy targets one by one before they could hurt his boys. He was the guardian, assigned to watch over open-air street markets and elections, the places that might make good marks for insurgent terrorists.
“You don’t think of the people you kill as people,” he said. “They’re just targets. You can’t think of them as people with families and jobs. They rule by putting terror in the hearts of innocent people. The things they would do—beheadings, dragging Americans through the streets alive, the things they would do to little boys and women just to keep them terrified and quiet—” He paused for a moment and slowed down. “That part is easy. I definitely don’t have any regrets about that.”
He said he didn’t feel like a hero. “I’m just a regular guy,” he said. “I just did a job. I was in some badass situations, but it wasn’t just me. My teammates made it possible.” He wasn’t the best sniper in the SEALs teams, he said. “I’m probably middle of the pack. I was just in the right spots at the right times.”
The way he saw it, the most difficult thing he ever did was getting out of the Navy.
“I left knowing the guy who replaced me,” he said. “If he dies, or if he messes up and other people die, that’s on me. You really feel like you’re letting down these guys you’ve gone through hell with.”
Kyle said he didn’t feel like a hero. “I’m just a regular guy,” he said.
The hardest part? “Missing my boys. Missing being around them in the action. That’s your whole life, every day for years. I hate to say it, but when you’re back and you’re just walking around a mall or something, you feel like a pussy.” It nagged at him. “You hear someone whining about something at a stoplight, and it’s like, ‘Man, three weeks ago I was getting shot at, and you’re complaining about—I don’t even care what.’ ”
There was also the struggle to readjust to his family life. “When I got out, I realized I barely knew my kids,” he said. “I barely knew my wife. In the three years before I got out, I spent a total of six months at home. It’s hard to go from God, Country, Family to God, Family, Country.”
But three years after he left the SEALs, he had a job he liked. He could do (mildly) badass things: shoot big guns, detonate an occasional string of explosives, be around a lot of other former special-operations types. His marriage was finally back in a good place. He had a book on the best-seller list. And he had the chance to help veterans through a number of charities.
“A lot of these guys just miss being around their boys, too,” he said. “They need guys who speak their speak. They don’t need to be treated like they’re special.”
He’d often take vets out to the gun range. Being around people who understood what they’d been through, being able to relax and shoot off some rounds, it was a little like group therapy.
With his family, and with training people, helping people, he had found a new purpose. Chris Kyle could do anything if he had a purpose. He’d been like that since he was a little boy.
• • •
He was the son of a church deacon and a Sunday school teacher. His father’s job at Southwestern Bell had the family moving a lot, so he was born in Odessa, but he told people he grew up “all over Texas.” About the same time he was learning to read, he learned to love guns. He liked to hunt with his father and brother. For his birthday parties, he wanted to have BB gun wars. He perched on the roof of his parents’ house waiting for his friends to dart across the yard. He wasn’t a great shot back then, but at least one friend is still walking around with one of Kyle’s BBs in his hand.
In high school in Midlothian, he played football and baseball. He showed cows through the FFA. He and his buddies cruised for girls in nearby Waxahachie. He also liked to fight. His father warned him never to start a fight. Kyle said he lived by that code “most of the time.” He found that if he was sticking up for his friends, or for kids who couldn’t defend themselves, he got to fight and he got to be the good guy at the same time. Once he felt like he was standing up for something right, he would never back down.
Bryan Rury was a close friend of Kyle’s in high school. Rury was much smaller than his friend, but it seemed they were always standing next to each other. “I think Chris liked looking like a giant,” Rury says.
One time, there was a new kid in school who was trying to make a name for himself by picking on Rury. Kyle came into class one day to find Rury quiet, upset. “He asked me what was wrong, and I wouldn’t tell him,” Rury says. “But he figured it out on his own pretty fast.”
Kyle went over to the new kid’s desk and, in his not-so-subtle, Chris Kyle way, told him he better leave his friend alone. Or else. The kid stood up from his desk, and they went at it. Kyle almost never started the fight, his friends say, but he always ended it. “As they were taking him off to the principal’s office, I just remember him flashing me that giant smile of his,” Rury says.
After high school, he went to Tarleton State for two years, mostly to postpone the responsibilities of adulthood. He spent more time drinking than studying, and soon he decided he’d rather be working on a ranch full-time. But he knew his future was in the military—in the Marines, he thought, until a Navy recruiter told him about all the cool things he could potentially do as a SEAL—and he figured he shouldn’t waste any more time.
Kyle breezed through the Navy’s basic training. He only made it through BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) training by way of sheer resolve. He told stories about lying there on the beach, his arms linked with his friends’, their heads hovering above the frigid rising tide. He knew if he got up and rang the bell—if he quit—he could get hot coffee and a doughnut. The uncontrollable shivering—they called it “jackhammering”—lasted for hours, but he never wanted to stop. He joked that he was just lazy, that if the bell had only been a little closer, maybe his entire life would have been different. But the truth is, nothing could have kept him from his dream.
“He had more willpower than anyone I’ve ever met,” Taya says. “If he cared about something, he just wouldn’t ever quit. You can’t fail at something if you just never quit.”
Taya met Kyle in a bar in San Diego, just after he finished BUD/S. When she asked what he did—she suspected from the muscles and the swagger that he was in the military—he told her he drove an ice cream truck. She figured he’d be arrogant but was surprised to find him idealistic instead. But she was still skeptical. Taya’s sister had divorced a guy who was trying to become a SEAL, and she’d specifically said she could never marry someone like that.
But Kyle turned out to be quite sensitive. He was able to read her better than anyone she’d known. Even when she thought she was keeping something hidden behind a good facade, he could always see through it. That kept them from needing to talk about their emotions or constantly reassess their relationship. They got married shortly before he shipped out to Iraq for the first time.
• • •
It takes years to earn enough trust to be a SEAL sniper. Even after sniper school, Kyle had to prove himself again and again in the field, in the pressure of battle. He served other missions before Afghanistan and Iraq, in places he couldn’t discuss because the operations were classified.
As he would eventually describe in American Sniper, his first kill on the sniper rifle came in late March 2003, in Nasiriya, Iraq. It wasn’t long after the initial invasion, and his platoon—“Charlie” of SEAL Team 3—had taken a building earlier that day so they could provide overwatch for a unit of Marines thundering down the road. He was holding a bolt-action .300 Winchester Magnum that belonged to his platoon chief. He saw a woman about 50 yards away. As the Marines got closer, the woman pulled a grenade. Hollywood might have you believe that snipers aim for the head—“one shot, one kill”—but effective snipers aim for the middle of the chest, for center mass.
Kyle pulled the trigger twice.
“The public is soft,” he used to say. “They have no idea.” Because of that softness, he had to have that story, and others, cleared by the Department of Defense before he could include them in his book.
He wanted outsiders to know exactly what kind of evil the troops have had to deal with. But he understood why the Pentagon wouldn’t want to give America’s enemies any new propaganda. He knew the public didn’t want to hear about the brutal realities of war.
Kyle served four tours of duty in Iraq, participating in every major campaign of the war. He was on the ground for the initial invasion in 2003. He was in Fallujah in 2004. He went back, to Ramadi in 2006, and then again, to Baghdad in 2008, where he was called in to secure the Green Zone by going into Sadr City.
Most of his platoon was in the Pacific theater before the 2004 deployment. Kyle was sent early to assist Marines clearing insurgents in Fallujah. Tales of his success in combat trickled back to his team. He was originally supposed to watch over the American forces perched at a safe distance, but he thought he could provide more protection if he was on the street, going house to house with his boys. During one firefight, it was reported that Kyle ran through a hail of bullets to pull a wounded Marine to safety. His teammates, hearing these stories, started sarcastically referring to him as The Legend.
Those stories of bravery in battle proliferated on his third deployment. A younger SEAL was with Kyle at the top of a building in Ramadi when they came under heavy fire. The younger SEAL, who is still active in the teams and can’t be named, dropped to the ground and hid behind an interior wall. When he finally looked up, he saw Kyle standing there, glued to his weapon, covering his field of fire, calling out enemy positions as he engaged.
Kyle said the combat was the worst on his last deployment, to Sadr City in 2008. The enemy was better armed than before. Now it seemed like every time there was an attack, there were rocket-propelled grenades and fights that went on for days. This was also the deployment that produced Kyle’s longest confirmed kill.
He was on the second floor of a house on the edge of a village. With the scope of his .338 Lapua, he started scanning out farther into the distance, to the edge of the next village, a mile away. He saw a figure on the roof of a one-story building. The figure didn’t seem to be doing much, and at the moment he didn’t appear to have a weapon. But later that day, as an Army convoy approached, Kyle checked again and saw the man holding what looked like an RPG. At that distance, Kyle could only estimate his calculations.
He pulled the trigger and watched through his scope as the Iraqi, 2,100 yards away, fell off the roof. It was the world’s eighth-longest confirmed kill shot by a sniper. Later, Kyle called it a “really, really lucky shot.”
Chris Kyle didn’t fit the stereotype of the sullen, lone wolf sniper. In many ways, he was far from the model serviceman. While he always kept his weapons clean, the same was not true of his living space. The way some SEALs tell it, after one deployment, his room was in such a disgusting condition that it took two days to clean. There were six months worth of spent sunflower seed shells he had spit around the bed.
He was seldom seen in anything remotely resembling a military uniform. His teammates remember him painting the Punisher skull on his body armor, helmets, and even his guns. He also cut the sleeves off his shirts. He wore civilian hunting shoes instead of combat boots. Eschewing the protection of Kevlar headgear, he wore his old Longhorns baseball cap. He told people he wore that hat so that the enemy knew Texas was represented, that “Texans shoot straight.”
Kyle heard people call snipers cowards. He would point out that snipers, especially in urban warfare, decrease the number of civilian casualties. Plus, he said, “I will reach out and get you however I can if you’re threatening American lives.”
He terrorized his enemies in true folkhero fashion. In 2006, intelligence officers reported there was a $20,000 bounty on his head. Later it went up to $80,000. He joked that he was afraid to go home at one point. “I was worried my wife might turn me in,” he said.
Taya has been asked often over the years how she reconciles the two Chris Kyles: the trained killer and the loving husband and father—the man who rolled around on the floor with his kids and planned vacations to historical sites and called from wherever he could. (Once he thought his phone was off and she ended up overhearing a firefight.) She always worried about him, but understanding how he could do what he did was never hard.
“Chris was out there fighting for his brothers because he loved them,” she says. “He wanted to protect them and make sure they all got to go home to their families.”
He never cared to talk much about the number of confirmed kills he had. It’s likely considerably higher than what the Pentagon has released, but certain records could remain classified for decades. Besides, while the number garners a lot of attention, it doesn’t tell Kyle’s story. He told people he wished he could somehow calculate the number of people he had saved. “That’s the number I’d care about,” he said. “I’d put that everywhere.”
While seeing his enemies die never gave him much pause, losing his friends devastated him. When fellow Team 3 Charlie platoon member Marc Lee died in August of 2006—the first SEAL to die in the Iraq war—Kyle was inconsolable. All of Lee’s teammates prepared remarks for a memorial service in Ramadi. Kyle wrote out a speech, but when it came time to give it, he couldn’t talk. Every time he tried, he broke down, sobbing.
“He came up and hugged me afterwards,” an active SEAL says. “He apologized. He said, ‘I’m sorry. I wanted to, but I just couldn’t do it.’ ”
It was at a similar event later that year— a wake for fallen SEAL Michael Monsoor, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for throwing himself on a grenade to save the lives of fellow SEALs—when Kyle had his now-infamous confrontation with former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura.
They were in a bar popular among SEALs in Coronado, California. Kyle said that Ventura, a former SEAL himself, was in town for an unrelated event and stopped by the wake. According to Kyle, Ventura disrespected the troops, saying something to the effect of, “You guys deserve to lose a few.” That was enough. Kyle punched him and left the bar. Ventura denied the entire incident and later filed a lawsuit against Kyle. But two other former SEALs, friends of Kyle’s, told me they were there that night, and it happened just the way Kyle said it did.
• • •
chris-kyle-deployment-children.jpg Kyle left the SEALs in 2009 so he could be a better husband to Taya and a better father to his two kids. ‘He loved being a dad,’ Taya said. Courtesy of Taya Kyle
By 2009, the life was taking its toll on Taya. She told him that, because he was gone so much, she would see him just as often if she lived somewhere else. He took that as an ultimatum. As Kyle pointed out in his book and in interviews, the divorce rate among Navy SEALs is over 90 percent. He knew he wouldn’t be able to do both. So he left his promising career, the dream job for which he felt exceptionally well-suited, the purpose that had kept him so motivated for 10 years.
“When I first got out, I had a lot of resentment,” he said. “I felt like she knew who I was when she met me. She knew I was a warrior. That was all I’d ever wanted to do.” He started drinking a lot. He stopped working out. He didn’t want to leave the house or make his usual jokes. He missed the rush of combat, the way being at war sets your priorities straight. He missed knowing that what he was doing mattered. More than anything, though, he missed his brothers in the SEALs. He wrote to them and called them. He told people it felt like a daze.
But when he wrote to his closest friends, he talked about the one benefit of being out of the Navy. In all those years at war, he’d had almost no time with his two children. And in his time out, he discovered there was something he liked even more than being a cowboy or valiant sniper.
“He loved being a dad,” Taya says. She noticed he could be rough and playful with their son and sweet and gentle with their daughter. “A lot of fathers play with their kids, but he was always on the floor with them, rolling around, making everyone giggle.”
Kyle began to feel better. He got sick of feeling sorry for himself. He didn’t want a divorce. He started working out again— “getting my mind right,” he called it.
When he met other vets who were feeling down, he told them they should try working out more, too. But many of them, especially the wounded men with missing limbs or prominent burns, explained that people stared too much. Gyms made them uncomfortable. That’s how he got the idea to put gym equipment in the homes of veterans. When he approached FITCO, the company that provides exercise machines for facilities all over the country, and asked for any used equipment, they said no. They donated new equipment instead and helped fund a nonprofit dedicated to Kyle’s mission.
“With helping people,” Taya says, “Chris found his new purpose.”
She watched him use the same willpower that had carried him through SEAL training and all those impossible missions, but now he was trying to become a better man. He started coaching his son’s tee-ball team and taking his daughter to dance practice. He’d always liked hunting, but he hated fishing. Still, when he learned that his son liked to fish, he dedicated himself to becoming a great fisherman, so they could bond the way he did with his own dad.
Kyle took the family to football games at Cowboys Stadium. He took them to church. Unless he was hanging out of a helicopter with a gun doing overwatch, he hated heights. But when his kids wanted to go, he took them to Six Flags to ride the roller coasters and to the State Fair for the Ferris wheel. His black truck became a familiar sight driving around Midlothian.
He started collecting replicas of Old West guns, like the ones the cowboys used in movies when he was a boy. Taya would find him practicing his quick draw and gun twirling skills. Sometimes they would sit on the couch, watching TV, and he would twirl an unloaded six-shooter around his finger. If she saw someone on the screen that she didn’t like, she would jokingly ask, “Can you shoot that guy?”
He’d point the pistol at the TV and pretend to fire.
“Got him, babe.”
J. Kyle Bass is a hedge fund manager in Dallas, the founder of Hayman Capital Management. He was featured prominently in the Michael Lewis book, Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World, which documented both his keen financial mind and his fantastically opulent lifestyle. A few years ago, Bass was feeling overweight and out of shape. A former college athlete, he wanted something intense, so he found a Navy SEAL reserve commander in California, a man who gets prospective SEALs prepared for BUD/S, and asked if they could tailor a short program for him. Bass found that he really liked hanging out with the future and active SEALs. He said if they knew any SEALs coming back to Texas, he’d love to meet them.
That’s how Bass met Chris Kyle. Bass was building a new house at the time, and he offered to fly in Kyle and pay him for some security consulting.
“I was just trying to come up with anything to help the guy out,” Bass says. “I was looking for ways to try and help him make this transition back into the real world.”
chris-kyle-portrait2.jpg Photography by Brandon Thibodeaux
Bass invited Kyle to live at his house with him while Taya finished selling their place in San Diego. He introduced Kyle to as many “big money” people as he could. And the wealthy men were enthralled by Chris Kyle. They loved being around the legend. They loved hearing his stories and invited him to go hunting on their ranches. Bass would hold an economic summit every year at his ranch in East Texas. He would kick off the festivities by introducing his sniper friends.
“I’d have Chris and other SEALs come out and do exhibition shoots,” Bass says. “They would take 600-yard shots at binary explosives, so when they hit them it’s this giant explosion that shakes the ground.” He smiles as he tells the story. “For all the people that manage money all over the world and on Wall Street to come to Texas and see a Navy SEAL sniper shoot a bomb, it’s about as cool as it gets.”
Bass and some business associates also helped start Craft International. They put the Craft offices on the same floor as Hayman, so the finance folks and the defense contractors often crossed paths. Despite working in a plush office building in downtown Dallas, Kyle didn’t change much. Even if he saw an important meeting, it wouldn’t stop him from grinning and flipping off an entire room of people.
The idea was to market Kyle’s skills. He could help train troops (a lot of military training is done by third-party contractors), and police officers, and wealthy businessmen who would pay top dollar for hands-on instruction from an elite warrior like Chris Kyle. He could take people out to Rough Creek Lodge in Glen Rose, a luxury resort with an extended shooting range. It’s the same place he would take buddies and wounded vets when they were feeling down and needed to unwind.
• • •
Kyle insisted that he never had any intention of writing of a book. He was told there were already other writers working on it, and he figured if it was going to happen anyway, he might as well participate. He wanted to give credit where he felt it was due.
He and Taya were flown to New York in the middle of winter, to meet writer Jim DeFelice and begin pouring out their story. The interviews were exhausting.
In 2006, intelligence officers reported there was a $20,000 bounty on his head. Later it went up to $80,000.
“He was not naturally loquacious,” DeFelice says. “Nor did he particularly like to talk about himself. When we first started working together, telling me what happened in the war put an enormous strain on him. He was reliving battles in great detail for the first time since he’d gotten out of the service. He could have been killed in any number of the situations he’d been in. That’s a reality that can be difficult to comprehend at the time, and even harder to understand later on.”
Kyle did find time at one point for a snowball fight with DeFelice’s 13-year-old son. The war hero claimed he’d had plenty of experience in snow, but on this day, the boy got the better of him. Kyle came running in and grabbed a beer.
“Okay, kid,” Kyle told him. “Now you can say you beat a Navy SEAL in a snowball fight.”
Kyle decided not to take a dime from American Sniper. As it became a best-seller, his share amounted to more than $1.5 million. He gave two-thirds to the families of fallen teammates and the rest to a charity that helped wounded veterans. It was something he and Taya discussed a lot.
“I would ask him, ‘How much is enough? Where does your family fit in?’ ” she says.
“But I understood.”
When the book came out, everyone wanted to interview him. He was on late-night talk shows, cable news, and radio. He did a number of reality TV shows related to shooting. (He rarely took much money from the appearances.) He always went on with a ball cap on his head and a wad of tobacco in his mouth.
He had 1,200 people at his first public book signing. It was similar in every town. He preferred to stand for the length of the book signings. “If y’all are standing, I can stand,” he said. He would wait until he signed every book he was asked to, even if it took hours. It often did, because he wanted to take a moment to talk with each person. He tried to personalize each book. He’d pose for photos, one after another.
As he became more famous, more people wanted to spend time with him. More politicians wanted to go shooting with him. At one point, he was at a range with Governor Rick Perry. Perry was about to shoot the sniper rifle and asked Kyle if he had an extra pad to put on the cement before he lay down. Kyle replied with a mock-serious tone.
“You know, Governor,” he said, “Ann Richards was out here not too far back, and she didn’t need a pad at all.”
A good friend once introduced him to the movie star Natalie Portman. He asked her what she did for a living. And, as the story goes, she liked him even more after that.
Then there is this story: Kyle had been invited to a luxury suite at a UT football game and decided to take a heartbroken buddy of his, a Dallas police officer who had recently caught his girlfriend making out with another guy. They were in the suite for a few hours, talking, drinking, when a former UT football star happened to walk in. At some point, Kyle realized that this former star was also the guy who had kissed his friend’s girlfriend.
Kyle’s friend knew what was coming. He begged him not to, but it was in vain.
“It’s man law,” Kyle said.
He had a party trick he liked to perform, a sleeper hold that would render a man unconscious in seconds. Kyle called it a “hug.” People would dare him to do it to them, saying they wouldn’t go down.
Sure enough, Kyle approached the former star and gave him a “hug” right there in the suite. As women were shrieking and wondering if the former UT great was dead, Kyle kept the hold for just a little longer than normal, causing the man to lose control of his bowels as he passed out.
It wasn’t just his friends he took care of. People wrote to him from all over the world, asking for favors or for his time, especially after he started appearing on TV. He did his best to accommodate every request he could, even when Taya was worried he was spreading himself too thin.
“He was so trusting,” she says. “He didn’t let himself worry about much.”
• • •
Jodi Rough, a teacher’s aide at anelementary school close to Kyle’s home, had a son, a former Marine, who needed help. She reached out to Kyle because she knew his history of caring for veterans. Kyle told people he and his friend, Chad Littlefield, were going to take the kid out to blow off some steam.
Littlefield was a quiet buddy Kyle had come to count on over the last few years. They worked out and went hunting together. He had come over a few nights earlier to have Kyle adjust the scope of his rifle. Kyle invited Littlefield to come with him to Rough Creek. They were going to take Jodi Routh’s son shooting. Littlefield had accompanied Kyle on similar trips dozens of times.
They were in Kyle’s big black truck when they showed up in the Dallas suburb of Lancaster, at the home Eddie Ray Routh shared with his parents. He was a stringy, scraggly 25-year-old. He’d spent four years in the Marines but in the last few months had twice been hospitalized for mental illness. His family worried that he was suicidal. They hoped time with a war hero, a legend like Chris Kyle, might help.
It was a little after lunch on Saturday, February 2, when they picked up Routh and headed west on Highway 67. They got to Rough Creek Lodge around 3:15 pm. They turned up a snaking, 3-mile road toward the lodge and let a Rough Creek employee know they were heading to the range, another mile and a half down a rocky, unpaved road.
This was a place Kyle loved. He had given many lessons here over the last three years. He’d spend hours working with anyone who showed an interest in shooting. This is where he would take his boys when they needed to get away. In the right light, the dry, blanched hills and cliffs looked a little like the places they’d been in Iraq. When a group went out there, away from the rest of the world, they could relax and enjoy the camaraderie so many of them missed.
We may never know exactly what happened next. They weren’t there long, police suspect, before Routh turned his semiautomatic pistol on Kyle and Littlefield. He took Kyle’s truck, left Rough Creek, and headed east on 67. Later he would tell his sister that he “traded his soul for a new truck.” A hunting guide from the lodge spotted two bodies covered in blood, both shot multiple times.
Routh drove to a friend’s house in Alvarado and called his sister. He drove to her house where, his sister told police, he was “out of his mind.” He told her he’d murdered two people, that he’d shot them “before they could kill him.” He said “people were sucking his soul” and that he could “smell the pigs.” She told him he needed to turn himself in.
From there, Routh drove home to Lancaster, where the police were waiting for him. When they tried to talk him out of the truck, he sped off. With the massive grill guard, he ripped through the front of a squad car. They chased Routh through Lancaster and into Dallas. He was headed north on I-35 when the motor of Kyle’s truck finally burned out, near Wheatland Road. Routh was arrested and charged with two counts of murder.
• • •
chris-kyle-memorial-cowboys-stadium.jpg Thousands of people attended Kyle’s memorial service at Cowboys Stadium. Courtesy of Taya Kyle
Chris Kyle’s memorial was held at Cowboys Stadium to accommodate the 7,000 people who wanted to pay their respects. Before the doors even opened that morning, there was a line wrapped halfway around the stadium, people standing patiently in the cold, damp air.
Plenty of people attending knew Kyle. But most didn’t. Some had read his book or seen him on television. Some had only heard of him after his death. Men missed work and took their boys out of school because they thought it was important. Families traveled from three states away.
Most people wore black. Many wore dress uniforms. His SEAL team was there, as were other SEALs and special-operations fighters from multiple generations. There were police officers and sheriff’s deputies and Texas Rangers. Veterans of World War II, some in wheelchairs, nodded to each other quietly as they made their way into the stadium. Some men had served in Korea, some in Vietnam, some in the first Gulf War. There were many servicemen who never served during a war and many people who had never served at all, but they all felt compelled to come.
Celebrities came, including Jerry Jones and Troy Aikman and Sarah Palin. Hundreds of motorcycle riders lined the outside of the field. Bagpipe players and drummers came from all over the state. A military choir stood at the ready the entire time.
A stage was set up in the middle of the football field. On the stage was a podium, some speakers, and a few microphone stands. At the front of the stage, amid a mound of flowers, were Kyle’s gun, his boots, his body armor, and his helmet.
Photos from Kyle’s life scrolled by on the gigantic screen overhead: a boy, getting a shotgun for Christmas. A young cowboy, riding a horse. A SEAL, clean-shaven and bright-eyed. In combat, scanning for targets. In the desert, flying a Texas flag. With his platoon, a fearsome image of American might. At home, hugging Taya, kissing the foot of his baby girl, holding the hand of his little boy.
His casket was draped with the American flag and placed on the giant star at the 50-yard line.
Randy Travis played “Whisper My Name,” and “Amazing Grace.” Joe Nichols played “The Impossible.” Kyle’s friend Scott Brown played a song called “Valor.” The public heard stories about what Kyle was like as a little boy. What he was like in training. What he was like at war. What he was like as a friend and business partner. Some people talked about the times they saw him cry. Fellow SEALs told stories about his resolve, his humor, his bravery. There were tales of his compassion, his intelligence, his dedication to God.
“Though we feel sadness and loss,” one of his former commanders said, “know this: legends never die. Chris Kyle is not gone. Chris Kyle is everywhere. He is the fabric of the freedom that blessed the people of this great nation. He is forever embodied in the strength and tenacity of the SEAL teams, where his courageous path will be followed and his memory is enshrined as SEALs continue to ruthlessly hunt down and destroy America’s enemies.”
Taya stood strong, surrounded by her husband’s SEAL brothers, and told the world about their love.
“God knew it would take the toughest and softest-hearted man on earth to get a hardheaded, cynical, hard-loving woman like me to see what God needed me to see, and he chose you for the job,” she said, her cracking voice filling the stadium. “He chose well.”
When the ceremony ended, uniformed pallbearers carried out the casket to the sounds of mournful bagpipes. Taya walked behind them with her children, hand in handThe next day, the casket was driven to Austin. There was a procession nearly 200 miles long—almost certainly the longest in American history. People lined the road in every town, waving flags and saluting. American flags were draped over every single bridge on I-35 between the Kyle home in Midlothian and the state capital.
• • •
People will tell stories about Chris Kyle for generations to come. Tales of his feats in battle, and of his antics and noble deeds, will probably swell. In a hundred years, people won’t know which stories are completely true and which were embellished over time. And, in the end, it may not matter too much, because people believe in legends for all their own reasons.
Since her husband’s death, Taya has been overwhelmed by the number of veterans who want to tell her that Chris Kyle saved their lives. A man with a 2-year-old girl wept recently as he explained that his daughter would not have been born had it not been for Chris Kyle rescuing him in Iraq. Years from now, men will still be telling stories about the moments when they were seconds or inches from death, when they thought it was all over—only to have a Chris Kyle bullet fly from the heavens and take out their enemies. They’ll tell their grandchildren to thank Chris Kyle in their prayers.
Because his legend is so large, because he personally protected so many people, there will surely be men who think they were saved by Kyle but owe their lives to a different sniper or to another serviceman. Of course, there will be no way to know for sure. Kyle credited his SEAL brothers any chance he could, but he also knew that he was an American hero, and he knew the complications that came with it.
During the interview in which he discussed the gas station incident, he didn’t say where it happened. Most versions of the story have him in Cleburne, not far from Fort Worth. The Cleburne police chief says that if such an incident did happen, it wasn’t in his town. Every other chief of police along Highway 67 says the same thing. Public information requests produced no police reports, no coroner reports, nothing from the Texas Rangers or the Department of Public Safety. I stopped at every gas station along 67, Business 67 in Cleburne, and 10 miles in either direction. Nobody had heard of anything like that happening.
A lot of people will believe that, because there are no public documents or witnesses to corroborate his story, Kyle must have been lying. But why would he lie? He was already one of the most decorated veterans of the Iraq war. Tales of his heroism on the battlefield were already lore in every branch of the armed forces.
People who never met Kyle will think there must have been too much pressure on him, a war hero who thought he might seem purposeless if he wasn’t killing bad guys. Conspiracy theorists will wonder if maybe every part of his life story—his incredible kills, his heroic tales of bravery in the face of death—was concocted by the propaganda wing of the Pentagon.
And, of course, other people—probably most people—will believe the story, because it was about Chris Kyle. He was one of the few men in the entire world capable of such a feat. He was one of the only people who might have had the connections to make something like that disappear—he did work regularly with the CIA. People will believe it because Chris Kyle was incredible, the most celebrated war hero of our time, a true American hero in every sense of the word. They’ll believe this story because there are already so many verified stories of his lethal abilities and astonishing valor, stories of him hanging out with presidents, and ribbing governors, and knocking out former football stars and billionaires and cocky frat boys.
They’ll believe it because Chris Kyle is already a legend, and sometimes we need to believe in legends.