Johnny on Chris . . .

. . .  and accusations that he was a "racist."

The insurgents had a $50,000.00 bounty on my head. Every time Chris Kyle killed an insurgent he saved my family, and the innocent Iraqi families too. Why would a racist man protect me and innocent Iraqi families?


Meanwhile, in Iraq . . .

The NY Post writes about American Sniper being shown in Iraq. . .

While the film obviously stirred controversy among locals, Iraqi moviegoers couldn’t get enough of the film, packing numerous showings during opening week, according to the Global Post.
“I love watching war movies because especially now they give me the strength to face ISIS,” Mohammed said.
Crowds swarmed the cinemas throughout the week and most of the showings were sold out, according to the Global Post.
People were even forced to book their tickets a day in advance during opening week, Mohammed said. When asked if he thought the movie was racist or anti-Arab, the young man —roughly in his 20s — replied, “No, why? The sniper was killing terrorists, the only thing that bothered me was when he said he didn’t know anything about the Quran!”

Spotted in Dallas

Two titles in the best-seller rack. Love it.

Johnny & I in Arabic

Code Name: Johnny Walker recently came out in paperback, and Johnny and I have been doing a lot of interviews, talking about the book and, occasionally, our mutual friend. Chris Kyle.

The other day we did one that was a little different - ordinarily I'm the native speaker, helping Johnny understand. This time, our friend Samir Haddad conducted most of the interview in Arabic, and Johnny filled me in.

Here's a link to the show.

Here's Samir's main website. (English version)

Samir very graciously conducted my portion in English. I think it's safe to say I won't have a job as an interpreter any time soon, but it was fun to have our positions reversed for once.

Snow & chocolate

The blizzard skipped past us with minimal effect - six inches, max - but why not? It's National Chocolate Cake Day.

Wait, isn't that every day?


The chaos in Yemen encapsulates a lot of the complicated civil war wracking Islam. As difficult as it is to explain the situation to a Western audience, I think this NY Times story, especially down towards the bottom, does a reasonable job.

To a very large extent, the West and the U.S. are just bystanders in the larger conflicts shaking the Islamic world. At the heart of the conflict is a question of what century and what values the Middle East will live in and by in the future.

The first interview

Two or three weeks before American Sniper was published, Chris Kyle came up to New York for an interview with Time magazine. The interview was condensed for publication; the magazine has now made the full transcript available on the web here:

It was the first time that Chris talked to the media about the book and his experiences. I still vividly remember him sitting across from the interviewer, Belinda Luscombe, as she asked him the questions.

Belinda Luscombe was extremely professional and gracious, and Chris responded in kind. I doubt that all of her personal opinions would have matched up with Chris's, but you would never have known that from her manner. I still think of this as one of the best and respectful interviews that Chris gave, and admire Luscombe for her skill.

Here's a very brief excerpt; I highly recommend the whole interview:

So why did you decide to do the book?
Well, because I’m not trying to glorify myself. In fact, when we started the book I didn’t want to put the number [of kills] in there. I wanted to be able to get it out about not the sacrifices that the military members make, but the sacrifices that their families have to go through about the single mothers now raising their children and doing all the day-to-day house chores. But then also stories about my guys who deserve to be out there. They didn’t get the Medal of Honor so you don’t know about them, but they died heroes and people should know about them.

Ryan Job & Marc Lee

I gave the wrong impression in a few of the interviews this week when I talked about the men who inspired Chris to tell his story in American Sniper.

Chris wanted to give proper due to Ryan Job and Marc Lee, two good friends and fellow SEALs who were with him in Ramadi. Marc died on the battlefield. Ryan, though severely wounded, managed to survive. Though blind, he inspired Chris and many others with his fight to live a normal life. Among other things, he married a beautiful wife and was expecting a baby when, a couple of years after the war, he died of complications following surgery related to his wounds.

We got it right in the book, but sometimes I don’t make Ryan's immediate fate clear when speaking in quick interviews, and I apologize for confusing anyone.

Incidentally, Marc’s memory lives on here.
On Mr. Moore, et al . . .

I realize that in wake of any great success, there is bound to be some controversy and negative criticism. It’s the price we pay for success, and the privilege of living in the country with the greatest tradition of free speech the world has ever known.

But while I think that all critics of American Sniper are absolutely and fundamentally entitled to their opinions, I feel an obligation to supply a little more information so that those opinions can at least be made with some reference on facts rather than fantasies.

As many others who have not read the book, Michael Moore recently made some remarks that, at least in my interpretation, equated snipers to being cowards. That betrays a grave misunderstanding of how and why snipers were used in the Iraq War.

If I read the tweets correctly, Mr. Moore unfortunately lost an uncle during World War II to a German sniper. I am grateful to his uncle for his service in the war; his blood helped keep my family free. In that war, a great deal of collateral damage was done to cities, towns and villages as the allies fought to liberate them. Not only were whole building reduced to rubble, but many innocent civilians were caught in the crossfire, or crushed by artillery shells and bombs.

We don’t think about this today, but there were plenty of civilians in France, Italy and the rest of Europe when the allies liberated it, often square foot by square foot.
In the years following that awful war, civilian leaders have preached the importance of cutting down on collateral damage, of preserving not only life but the infrastructure of communities whenever possible.

Minimizing civilian casualties in war is a difficult, though worthy task. Various technologies and tactics were employed in the Second Gulf War – including using snipers to make precision kills on enemy combatants. To be brief, highly trained marksmen, like Chris Kyle, were given precision weapons and extremely tight Rules of Engagement to counter terrorists who were targeting not merely Americans but Iraqi civilians.

As you can read in the book, snipers became the target of choice for insurgents once their positions were known – which was essentially as soon as they fired. The reason Chris – and other snipers – had such high “kill” counts was that the enemy recognized that they were valuable targets and did whatever they could to attack, generally in numbers far higher than the Americans they were attacking.

The movie really didn’t have time to explain the tactics, but you can certainly imply much of this watching the battle scenes. If you do want a fuller picture, though, I’d suggest reading the book.

A lot of people have focused on the number of kills we used in the book as horrific. That number – whatever number you chose to insert, as I see is often done – pales in comparison to the number of combatants killed by other means such as artillery or machine guns in previous wars. But for some reason we don’t think about those totals.

Chris would say we’re right not to think about the totals of enemy killed. The number he was interested in was how many people he saved. That number, thankfully, was far into the thousands.
As to whether the fight was worth it or not, Chris’s perspective was always that he didn’t make that call. Congress and the President sent him to Iraq. Once he was there, he did his job: protect Iraqis and his fellow Americans.

Were the people he fought savages? Read the first few pages of the book and decide. Or just watch the movie trailer. You can do both of those for free.

But you don’t have to trust my perspective on the war, or even Chris’s. Johnny Walker – an Iraqi, Muslim, and coincidentally a friend of Chris’s – put his own thoughts together in a book I helped him write, Code Name: Johnny Walker.

I pray that someday war won’t be necessary, that people like Chris Kyle and Michael Moore’s uncle won’t need to give our country a blank check on their lives, and that their families won’t have to make the sacrifices that military service demands. Until that day, I am enormously grateful that they do.

Me, on Newsmax (via Skype)

Hello, Texas

Arriving in Dallas tonight for this great event. For more information about the foundation, check out the website.

Bots acting badly

Let’s say you have a robot, and its job is to buy stuff. Just random stuff.

What happens if one day it comes back with a stolen passport? Or maybe the plans to a nuclear bomb?

The first has actually happened; check out the story, then the project.
From an interview . . .

Interviewer: Tell us something about the movie (American Sniper) we don't know.

Me: Sienna Miller is hot.

Interviewer: Something we don't know.


Robert Stone, poet of disaffection and broken ambition, 1937-2015. Dog Soldiers, Flag for Sunrise and Outerbridge Reach remain mandatory reading if you hope to understand the Vietnam/post-Vietnam generation.

Case in point

From the NY Times:

DAKAR, Senegal — A girl perhaps no more than 10 years old detonated powerful explosives concealed under her veil at a crowded northern Nigeria market on Saturday, killing as many as 20 people and wounding many more.


The word "savages" is too kind when describing terrorists.

Terror is cheap

. . . which is a big part of the problem.

Following the Charlie Hebdo massacre and during the manhunt that followed, a number of analysts talked about how well-trained and sophisticated the attackers were.

I’m sorry, but no.

Think about it. The ring leader was a failed pizza delivery guy. They began their attack by going to the wrong door.

No, the terrorists “succeeded” because they attacked unarmed, innocent civilians. It doesn’t take much to kill innocent people. Three or four abject failures at life upended a whole nation with a few magazines of bullets and surplus rifles.

That’s why terrorism is so difficult to deal with: it’s cheap to do. Easy. That’s why striking at its sources of funding, of training, of alleged planning is so important. That’s why aggressive intelligence efforts are critical. Even then, terrorism is so easy, so cheap, some terrorist somewhere will "succeed" - and others will keep trying until their sick movement against peace and the future of mankind shrivels up of its own weight.

Building is hard. But it’s the surest way to leave the savages behind. Attacks like the Charlie Hebdo Massacre should remind us not only of the need for free speech, not merely of the urgency of fighting terrorism, but of the importance of doing the hard work that creates the future.


President Hollande on the tragedy in Paris, and the struggle against the barbarians:

‘We will win. Nothing will make us renounce our determination. Long live the republic. Long live France. “
Euronews story (brief).

Vive la France! Today we are all Frenchmen.
Johnny Walker and Chris Kyle . . .

I first heard about Johnny Walker from Chris Kyle when we were working on American Sniper. We were looking at some photos from one of his deployments in Iraq when a face popped on the screen that I didn't recognize.

"Who's that?" I asked.

"That's the only Iraqi I ever trusted with a gun," said Chris.

He told me the story of this incredible Iraqi "terp" (interpreter) who not only kept up with the SEALs but at times led the way on their operations. He wasn't sure where Johnny was - if I'm remembering correctly, he thought he was either dead or still in Iraq - which might have amounted to the same thing. I ended up writing about Johnny in American Sniper, but since I thought he was still in Iraq (if he was alive), I disguised him.

Over a year later, Chris was in San Diego doing a book event when he looked out into the audience and saw a tall, rangy character with a penetrating stare offset by a goofy grin.

Chris made Johnny stand up and told the crowd a tiny bit about what Johnny had done with the SEALs. Johnny got a standing ovation.

Shortly after that, Chris got a hold of our editor at Harper Collins and basically ordered him to publish a book on Johnny. I came along for the ride.

We'd been working on the book for six or seven months when Chris was shot; in fact, I was supposed to leave to see Johnny the next day. Johnny was devastated; he'd lost a brother.

The funny thing is, Johnny didn't want to talk about Chris in Code Name: Johnny Walker; he was afraid people would think that he was exploiting Chris's death for his own purposes. Even though I knew that wouldn't be true, I had to respect his wishes. We do talk about Chris in the book, but we very consciously downplay the relationship.

That is the SEAL way, after all. These guys are heroes, but hate to do anything that, in their minds, might - emphasis on might - make them possibly look conceited or like braggarts. And they don't really care if you don't know what they've done -- they know, and that's what counts.

Which is the same for Johnny.

The publisher is planning some publicity events in connection with the paperback edition of Code Name, and I'm hoping Johnny will talk a little bit more about Chris and how much he meant to him. It's not bragging when you're telling the truth.

Now in paperback . . .

At Amazon here, Barnes and Noble here, Books-A-Million here - you get the idea.

About the movie . . .

Burbank, CA, December 30, 2014 – On the heels of a record-breaking Christmas Day opening, Clint Eastwood’s critically acclaimed “American Sniper” has become the highest-grossing limited release (10 theatres or less) in cinema history, it was announced today by Dan Fellman, President of Domestic Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures.
A riveting portrait of Chris Kyle’s heroism and the struggles he faced on both the battlefield and the homefront, “American Sniper” earned $1.04 million in its first five days in release, shattering the previous record with an astounding $260,000 per theatre average.
In making the announcement, Fellman stated, “Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper have created a remarkable portrayal of a truly remarkable man. We are proud that ‘American Sniper’ is already resonating so strongly with critics and audiences as we begin our roll out of the film, and we look forward to sharing this story with the rest of the country in the New Year.”
From director Clint Eastwood comes “American Sniper,” starring Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, whose skills as a sniper made him a hero on the battlefield. But there was much more to him than his skill as a sharpshooter.
Navy SEAL Chris Kyle is sent to Iraq with only one mission: to protect his brothers-in-arms. His pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and, as stories of his courageous exploits spread, he earns the nickname “Legend.” However, his reputation is also growing behind enemy lines, putting a price on his head and making him a prime target of insurgents. He is also facing a different kind of battle on the home front: striving to be a good husband and father from halfway around the world. Despite the danger, as well as the toll on his family at home, Chris serves through four harrowing tours of duty in Iraq, personifying the spirit of the SEAL creed to “leave no one behind.” But upon returning to his wife, Taya (Sienna Miller), and kids, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind.
Two-time Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper heads the cast, which also includes Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Jake McDorman, Cory Hardrict, Kevin Lacz, Navid Negahban and Keir O’Donnell.
Oscar-winning filmmaker Clint Eastwood (“Million Dollar Baby,” “Unforgiven”) directed “American Sniper” from a screenplay written by Jason Hall, based on the book by Chris Kyle, with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. The autobiography was a runaway bestseller, spending 18 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, 13 of those at number one. The film is produced by Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper and Peter Morgan. Tim Moore, Jason Hall, Sheroum Kim, Steven Mnuchin and Bruce Berman served as executive producers.
Eastwood’s behind-the-scenes creative team includes Oscar-nominated director of photography Tom Stern (“Changeling”); Oscar-nominated production designer James J. Murakami (“Changeling”) and production designer Charisse Cardenas; Oscar-winning editor Joel Cox (“Unforgiven”) and editor Gary D. Roach; and costume designer Deborah Hopper.
Warner Bros. Pictures presents in Association with Village Roadshow Pictures, A Mad Chance Production, A 22nd & Indiana Production, “American Sniper.” The film will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company and in select territories by Village Roadshow Pictures. “American Sniper” has been rated R for strong and disturbing war violence and language throughout, including some sexual references.

Thanks to all!