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.
co-author, American Sniper