American Sniper

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American Sniper Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In April 2008, Kyle is stationed in Sadr City, near Baghdad. He and his SEAL team clear houses suspected of harboring insurgents. On their first night in the city, Kyle and the SEALs raid a house; suddenly, insurgents open fire on the house from across the street. A massive bomb explodes, throwing Kyle to the ground.
During Kyle’s final deployment in Iraq, he sustains more injuries than usual, and has more near-death experiences than before, reflecting the escalating chaos in the country.
Themes
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Trauma Theme Icon
Kyle backs up to explain how he came to be in Sadr City. Kyle began his tour in Western Iraq, doing “boring work.” Then, Kyle got an unexpected opportunity to join a task unit. He was recruited for the unit because of his talents as a sniper, as well as his training as an LPO. The unit’s job is to fight a growing group of insurgents, the Mahdi Army, who are training in the Iraqi city of Sadr. They’ll work closely with Army forces, who are building a concrete wall through Sadr City. On their first night in Sadr City, the SEALs are sent out on foot patrol to make sure that the houses near the wall are safe.
Kyle’s reputation as a sniper helps him get special assignments during his final tour of Iraq: because he’s spent so many years raiding houses and firing on insurgents, he’s the ideal candidate for a mission to attack the Mahdi Army.
Themes
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
We’re back where we were at the start of the chapter: Kyle has been thrown to the floor by the force of a bomb. His head is bleeding, and he can feel that he’s been shot in the back (though his body armor protects him). Luckily, the other SEALs call for emergency backup, and a fleet of Army Strykers—heavily armed personnel carriers—arrives minutes later. Kyle and the remaining SEALs stumble into the Strykers and speed back to base. Kyle thanks God that he survived the night, but senses that his good luck is running out.
Kyle survives his first night in Sadr City, but is severely shaken by the experience—had the bullet that hit him gone a few inches higher, he’d have been shot in the head, just like Ryan Job. Kyle has thought of himself as “invincible” in the past—now, he’s finding it increasingly difficult to preserve such an illusion.
Themes
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Trauma Theme Icon
Two days later, Kyle and the other SEALs return to the area surrounding the wall, this time with Strykers. They raid a nearby factory, which Kyle begins to use as a sniper post. The next day alone, Kyle snipes eight insurgents. One of these insurgents is carrying an RPG (rocket-powered grenade launcher). Kyle waits for another insurgent to pick up the valuable weapon; eventually, a small child recovers it. Kyle decides, “I wasn’t going to kill a kid, innocent or not.”
In this disturbing passage, Kyle seems to think that he’s behaving kindly to the small child carrying the RPG. However, notice that he says he refuses to kill a child, “innocent or not”—the clear implication being that Kyle believes it’s possible for a young Iraqi child to be “guilty” enough to deserve death. Even when he’s merciful, Kyle’s language betrays his contemptuous attitude toward all Iraqis.
Themes
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Trauma Theme Icon
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Looking back, Kyle decides, Sadr City was the worst place he ever served—even worse than Fallujah or Ramadi. Insurgents fire on him every day, often with rockets and advanced weapons. The Iraqi government claims that SEALs are killing civilians, but Kyle insists that this is “pure bullshit.”
Kyle continues to deny that he killed any civilians during his long tenure as a sniper.
Themes
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Trauma Theme Icon
After a month, the soldiers complete the concrete walls through Sadr City. During this time, Kyle and his fellow SEALs kill hundreds of insurgents. Soon after the barriers go up, the leaders of the Mahdi Army begin to negotiate a peace treaty with the Iraqi government. “Imagine that,” Kyle writes.
Previously, Kyle argued that the “hearts and minds” approach to warfare will never work, because people only respond to violence. Kyle takes the Mahdi Army’s peace treaty as proof that violence and intimidation work better than kindness and diplomacy.
Themes
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Back in the U.S. Taya continues to worry about Kyle. Her friends tell her that she doesn’t really know her husband. Privately, Taya wonders what Kyle is doing in Iraq; over the phone he just says he’s on a “training trip,” but Taya senses that this isn’t true.
Taya continues to worry about Kyle, especially because this is his final tour of the Middle East. Knowing that Kyle will soon be back in the U.S., living with her, Taya wrestles with the possibility that she doesn’t really know her own husband.
Themes
Country vs. Family Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Trauma Theme Icon
After the Mahdi Army begins negotiating for peace, Sadr City becomes much safer. Kyle gets a new assignment: find bomb makers and other insurgents in the villages surrounding Baghdad. Kyle, temporarily separated from his platoon, joins up with a team of Army soldiers. Together, they fight many insurgents in the village, and Kyle notes, “It was surprising how many idiots you had to kill before they finally got [the point].” Kyle spends three months patrolling the villages; in this time, he kills about twenty insurgents.
Kyle continues to accumulate more and more kills; furthermore, he betrays no signs of regretting his actions. Rather, he regards the Iraqi insurgents as foolish animals, who only respond to violence after many months of “reinforcement” (earlier in the memoir, Kyle makes a similar point about the Iraqi people in general).
Themes
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
One day in the villages, Kyle and the other soldiers come upon a man wearing a police uniform. Kyle is immediately suspicious that the man is an insurgent—the Army has received reports that terrorists have been stealing police uniforms. Kyle arrests the man, but his superiors in the Army order him to release the man immediately; the Army has no intelligence on the suspect. Kyle is outraged that he has to let the man go, and he thinks about him “every time we heard of an attack by insurgents dressed as policemen.”
Kyle has argued that the war in Iraq was too bureaucratic, with the result that dangerous insurgents were allowed to walk free. He offers this anecdote about the alleged insurgent wearing the police uniform as proof of the higher-level incompetence of the war effort: his point seems to be that ground-level SEALs like himself were forbidden from doing their jobs by pesky rules and human rights regulations.
Themes
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
On another night, Kyle and the soldiers raid a building. Kyle sees a man standing in the window of another building far away. At first, he’s unable to see anything, but after a few moments, he realizes that the man is aiming an RPG at the troops. Kyle aims his gun and fires at the man with the RPG; even though the man is 2,100 yards away, Kyle hits him in one shot, saving his fellow soldiers’ lives. The shot, Kyle notes, remains his longest confirmed kill, though it was partly luck that led him to make the kill.
Kyle seems enormously proud of his kill, since it testifies to his talents as a marksman (although he modestly admits that there was an element of luck involved).
Themes
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
U.S. soldiers continue to occupy the building until the next day. By mid-morning, insurgents are firing on them. The soldiers try to make their exit, and they run out of the building, toward a soccer field, where the army’s RG-33s (big, bulletproof vehicles) are parked. Kyle and his friends run for the RG-33s; one of the soldiers throws a smoke bomb, hoping to disguise the group’s movements. However, the smoke bomb also makes it impossible for the soldiers to see where they’re going. Even so, the soldiers manage to run toward their vehicles and drive away.
Even while Kyle and his fellow soldiers amass more and more kills, the insurgency effort refuses to die down. Indeed, the situation in Sadr City seems to be getting more and more dangerous—in this passage, for example, Kyle has another near-death experience running away from the building toward the RG-33s. The escalating chaos in Sadr City calls into question Kyle’s claims that violence alone will win the War on Terror.
Themes
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
Racism Theme Icon
Trauma Theme Icon
Shortly after the incident in the village, Kyle applies for a transfer and returns to Delta platoon. At this time of year, it’s often 120 degrees outside. Kyle learns that he’s been promoted to chief petty officer (CPO). Before shipping out for his current tour, Kyle had taken a “chief’s exam”—now he learns that, although he barely passed his exam, his reputation as a sniper won him the promotion. At first, Kyle isn’t “crazy about becoming a chief,” as he enjoys his current, hands-on work.
Kyle’s talents as a soldier continue to earn him promotions and added responsibilities; nevertheless, he remains happiest when shooting at insurgents.
Themes
The War on Terror Theme Icon
Machismo Theme Icon
In the following weeks as CPO, Kyle finds himself reliving the experience of being shot in Sadr City. He’s unable to sleep, he feels a constant sense of danger, and his blood pressure is unhealthily high. Kyle goes to the doctors and tells them about how he’s been feeling. The doctors propose that Kyle go home early—the tour is due to end in only a couple weeks, and the “mission tempo was practically nonexistent.” Kyle agrees.
This passage marks one of the only times in the book that Kyle even alludes to his own trauma. It seems fairly likely that the symptoms Kyle describes here, such as stress and high blood pressure, aren’t sudden reactions to the situation in Sadr City, but rather long-term, chronic conditions that Kyle developed over many years of dangerous combat. In the end, the stress and trauma of warfare probably contribute to Kyle’s decision to come home.
Themes
Country vs. Family Theme Icon
Trauma Theme Icon