A response to the New Republic

(Referring to an article by Isaac Chotiner published May 29, 2013 and titled "If Chris Kyle Had Been a Muslim, We'd Call Him an Extremist.")

I ordinarily do not respond to articles that have misconceptions about Chris Kyle or American Sniper. Doing so would be a full-time job. But in this case, as the person who wrote American Sniper and who knew Chris fairly well, I feel compelled to respond to the erroneous impressions conveyed by Isaac Chotiner in the article, "If Chris Kyle had been a Muslim, we'd call him an extremist."

In short, the claim that Chris Kyle was or could be compared to an extremist is absurd. It is especially galling that the quote chosen to illustrate this comes from an incident that demonstrates the exact opposite. It was said, in fact, on the one occasion Chris Kyle was accused of killing a civilian, or more precisely, a person not engaged in active warfare against an American or an Iraqi civilian. In fact, the investigation that followed cleared Kyle of the charge. And quite honestly, the contention that the Iraqi was carrying a Koran rather than a rifle in those circumstances was patently absurd.
Mr. Chotiner might just as easily have focused on another incident, also detailed in American Sniper, where Chris Kyle deliberately did not shoot a child retrieving an RPG later used against Americans. Was he an extremist in that instance? If so, on which side was he extreme?
The Chris Kyle presented in Mr. Chotiner's article is by necessity a small fraction of the man, so I suppose it is not surprising that it doesn't mention that Chris had Muslim friends. Perhaps that is irrelevant. What surely is relevant is this: Chris Kyle was ordered, by the American people, to protect Americans and Iraqis. He did that job professionally, lawfully, and without regard to his personal beliefs -- as the whole of American Sniper makes clear. If that is the definition of extremism, then any soldier who does his job well is an extremist. In fact, the definition would apply equally to a policeman, or anyone - even, one supposes, a journalist.
I can't comment on Nicholas Schmidt's long-form article, as I have not read it, though I was interviewed for it. But I find that many people tend to come to American Sniper, and Chris, with their own preconceived notions of things, using both the book and the person as an excuse to expound those notions. Many people tend to misinterpret the "number" of kills credited to Chris as unique in the annals of warfare, as if no man before him killed so many on the battlefield. On the contrary, throughout history, many individuals - most recently bomber crews, artillerymen, machine gunners - have in fact killed many more people. What was unique in the Iraq war was the use of technology and trained individuals to make selective kills on enemy combatants in an urban environment, rather than obliterating whole city blocks indiscriminately. Chris Kyle's "number" actually reflects a concerted effort to minimize civilians casualties and collateral damage. I have a hard time fitting that into any definition of extremism, whether it pertains to an individual or a society.
So yes, the value of Chris Kyle's story - the WHOLE story, not what was presented here - IS that we look in the mirror as a society . . . even if what we see is not at all what Mr. Chotiner thinks we should see.
Jim DeFelice
co-author, American Sniper

Sargent on "the suit"

From Publisher's Weekly:

What Sargent did say about the pending DoJ suit is that Justice is "extraordinarily myopic. They carried the water for Amazon, when it had 92% of the market." And, he said, they prevented others from coming into the market. "The senior guys, Eric Holder, are just incompetent," he added, to resounding applause. As to the lasting effect of the DoJ case, Sargent said, "There's no way to tell. I have a lot of hope. There are a lot of good signs about the movement to digital." He's been heartened that even with the increase in the number of screens, the growth of e-books is flat. "What is dangerous for us is cataclysmic change. You guys are superb at adapting. You need time to adjust. If it stays flat or declines slowly, we're in good shape."

Story here.
Speaking of American Gun . . .

It's one of USA Today's hottest titles for the summer. (Panel four here.)

American Gun

One of the great pleasures of working on American Gun was reacquainting myself with the Battle of Saratoga.

As it happens, I wrote a trilogy of novels set during the Revolution, and had done a lot of research on the battle – but unfortunately never got use to it.

Pretty much none of it’s in Gun, since the focus in that chapter is, well, on guns – the long rifle in particular – not the overall battle so much, or (what I was interesting for my novels) the use of spies in the war. But American Gun reminded me just how important individuals are in a conflict, and how they shape the different tactics an army takes.

American Gun’s first chapter begins by introducing a sniper whose shot arguably turned the final battle decisively in favor of the Americans. There are some problems figuring out who took the shot, as we mention in the book. But still, if the rebels didn’t have precision weapons and men who could use it, the complexion not just of that battle but of the entire war would have been much different.

Would we have won independence?

Sure. But a good argument can be made that the conflict would have gone on even longer. Even if the Americans would have won at Saratoga – the odds were heavily stacked in their favor by the time the armies met – removing snipers and their weapons from the Americans' “toolkit” would have made that campaign and the war much harder. And a good case can be made – and it’s made in American Gun – that the Battle of Cowpens, a small but pivotal American victory in the south, might have been lost. It certainly would have looked a lot different.

You can order American Gun on line at B&N and Amazon, and my favorite bookstore, Merritt Books. You can also get it in “real” stores, starting Tuesday. The book's profits go entirely to the Kyle family, unlike American Sniper, where Chris donated the money to the families of two deceased SEALs he served with in Iraq.

On sale next week . . .

Available on-line at Amazon and B&N, among other places.
Let the sun shine . . .

. . . but not too hard. Item:

Worldwide, testing labs, developers, financiers and insurers are reporting similar problems and say the $77 billion solar industry is facing a quality crisis just as solar panels are on the verge of widespread adoption.
No one is sure how pervasive the problem is. There are no industrywide figures about defective solar panels. And when defects are discovered, confidentiality agreements often keep the manufacturer’s identity secret, making accountability in the industry all the more difficult. . . .
Most of the concerns over quality center on China, home to the majority of the world’s solar panel manufacturing capacity.
After incurring billions of dollars in debt to accelerate production that has sent solar panel prices plunging since 2009, Chinese solar companies are under extreme pressure to cut costs.
Bet no one saw that coming (snark, snark).

From Russia, with love . . .

. . . or not. Item:
Russia said on Tuesday that it would supply one of its most advanced anti-aircraft missiles to the Syrian government hours after the EU ended its arms embargo on the country's rebels, raising the prospect of a rapidly escalating proxy war in the region if peace talks fail in Geneva next month.Israel quickly issued a thinly veiled warning that it would bomb the Russian S-300s if they were deployed in Syria as such a move would bring the advanced guided missiles within range of civilian and military planes in Israeli air space.

The cynic in me says the Russians just want to discover the tactics the U.S. will use to defeat the missiles, thus saving them a few years in development costs.

Then again, that theory makes more sense than whatever the Russians think they'll achieve.
Thresholds crossed


New Computer Attacks Traced to Iran, Officials Say
American officials have not offered any technical evidence to back up their assertions of Iranian authorship of the latest attacks, but they describe the recent campaign as different from most attacks against American companies — particularly those from China — which quietly siphon off intellectual property for competitive purposes.
The new attacks, officials say, were devised to destroy data and manipulate the machinery that operates critical control systems, like oil pipelines. One official described them as “probes that suggest someone is looking at how to take control of these systems.”
. . .
Jeff Moss, chief security officer at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the private body that oversees the basic design of the Internet, said: “For the last year, Iran has been focused on disrupting financial institutions’ Web sites. If they are going after energy, and opening a multiprong front, at what point does it cross from annoyance to a threshold?”

Surely we're past that point . . .
For all the accordion heroes out there . . .

It takes a fish . . .

. . . to find a fish.

Two bottlenose dolphins trained by the U.S. Navy’s marine mammal program have discovered a rare 19th-century Howell torpedo off the coast of San Diego. 

Oh all right, they were really mammals. Still . . .

The find hints at what the dolphins can actually do, or maybe could do at some point in the future. Locate mines, find robotic detection systems?The question isn't whether dolphins are as smart as humans; rather, are they smarter than unmanned underwater vehicles?

The true art . . .

. . . is in making it appear artless.

                  - anonymous writer of military biographies and thriller novels

Speaking of drones . . .

The Chinese are making a real splash lately with their own, though at least some of those images appear to be mockups.

 Extremely blurry photos posted on Internet forums over the past few months may show a Chinese stealth UAV, supposedly called the Lijan or Sharp Sword, along the lines of the U.S. Navy’s X-47B.Story, more photos.

While that looks more than a bit like the X-47B, the UAV the Chinese supposedly are ready to field looks a lot like a Predator B:

What was the sincerest form of flattery again?

The future is here . . .

. . . and it may not need us. Much, anyway.


"This is the way of the future," Winter said. "I like to say, it's one small step for man and one significant technical leap for unmanned kind."
The X-47B is far bigger than the Predator, has three times the range and can be programmed to carry out missions with no human intervention, the Navy said.

Read more: http://www.seattlepi.com/news/us/article/U-S-launches-drone-from-aircraft-carrier-4515717.php#ixzz2TItjGSPi

And if some of that reminds you a little of the plot in this book:

. . . I owe you many thanks for reading my work.

The world's shortest drill sergeant . . .

. . . addresses his recruit.

I'm not exactly sure what he said, but I did drop and give him fifty.

Where do you sound from?

American dialects - there are more of them than you think. Looky here.
Of Pipers, generals & readers

Speaking of World War II planes (see this post), Gus  has an Aeronca Champion, a slightly later competitor  of the Piper Cub around the same size. Both planes served with the military as observation aircraft and battlefield transports.

The amazing thing is how tiny these planes were; a lot of today's UAVs are larger. tiny, light and fragile - not the greatest combination if you're in a war zone. Especially if you're a general in charge of an Army corps or an entire Army group. But Omar Bradley regularly flew in them to survey the front.

And they're still flying.

Here's Gus's plane:

And Gus:

My wee Aeronca Champion is essentially the same as the Piper L-4, same engine and general design except the Champ has a normal door instead of a split door. Most laymen don't notice the difference. The only really obvious thing is that the Piper engine protrudes and the Champ's is covered. My Champ has a wood prop, no electrical system and is hand propped to start. Just about as much fun as anything I've ever flown and gently sips fuel.

And here's a Piper:


Since we're on the topic, the trade paperback of Omar Bradley, General at War, is now available. You can get it at your favorite bookstore, or online at Amazon here, or Barnes & Noble here. The ebook edition, which includes some small corrections to the text (thanks readers!!!), is also available on-line, both from those sites and places like Google Play.
Bradley & balsa wood

I got an email a while back from a reader named Gus who'd just finished Omar Bradley: General at War. We got to talking a bit about aircraft that the general had flown in; Gus is a buff and a pilot from way back, and we've had quite a bit of fun talking about the old planes.

 Most readers will probably shoot right by the section on the C-78, a plane Bradley took to cross the Channel during one of the (many) crises after D-Day. I'd noted in the book that it was a small and slow plane. Gus seconded that, and also noted that the type was re-designated as the UC-78, though as far as I can tell the two planes were essentially the same. Here's a photo; it's a later version than anything Bradley would have used or probably even seen during the war, but it'll give an idea of the aircraft's size:

What you can't get from the photo is the fact that it was made out of wood.

So to put the aircraft in perspective: The fate of the Normandy invasion and the entire European campaign rested on the pluck of spruce, a pair of Jacobs radials, and the skill of a pilot who, no matter how ballsy he was, would have been a fat target for a passing Messerschmidt.

Not that Bradley's trans-Atlantic transport would have fared much better against a flight of Me-109s or Focke-Wulfs, but at least there would have been room to grab a parachute:

The general did get balled out for flying in the slow and unescorted C-78, but as usual he shrugged it off.

Coming to an aircraft carrier near you

First "arrested" landing for the Navy's new stealth UAV. Story.

"Hogs 4" is now an ebook . . .

. . . in Kindle format. You can get it here.

Yes, to the rumors - Spielberg will direct . . .

. . . American Sniper.


Steven Spielberg is returning to the charged terrain of real-life American events, with the “Lincoln” director announcing Thursday he'll tackle the story of U.S. sniper Chris Kyle as his next directorial project. Bradley Cooper will star as the late Navy SEAL.