American Sniper

American Sniper Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Kyle returns to Iraq. He feels horrible about leaving Taya only weeks after the birth of their child, but he feels that it’s his duty to fight for his country. He still doesn’t feel like a father.
Kyle’s loyalty to his country actively interferes with his family life—even though he’s now the father of a baby boy, he doesn’t feel much of a connection with his child.
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Before flying to Iraq, Kyle passes by a group of Americans protesting the war. Kyle is disgusted that protestors would criticize U.S. troops—if anything, he notes, they should be protesting the government, not the people who keep them safe. He writes, “I do not choose which battles I go to. Y’all send me to them.”
Kyle thinks of himself as a fighter, not a military strategist. Thus, he finds it outrageous when he sees protesters criticizing American troops—their fight is with the Bush administration, not the troops themselves. As Kyle points out, soldiers are often unjustly hated for fighting wars to which other people send them.
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When Kyle returns to Iraq, the country has been “liberated” from Saddam Hussein. However, the country is still full of terrorists. Fighters calling themselves the mujahedeen (people on jihad, or holy war) target American soldiers in Iraq. The mujahedeen join with al-Qaeda, the terrorist organization that engineering the 9/11 attacks, and begin planning attacks on military bases in the country. Kyle is stationed in the city of Baghdad, one of the hotbeds of the new mujahedeen resistance. Shortly before Kyle arrives in the area, four American contractors in the nearby city of Fallujah are murdered. Even after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi insurgency is growing, and radical terrorists are beginning to control more and more of the country.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iraq remained an exceptionally dangerous place, full of terrorists and insurgents. (It’s even been argued that the American government’s decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein made the Middle East more violent and less safe, since it destabilized the region and gave terrorists the opportunity to seize power.) Saddam Hussein was not a supporter of al-Qaeda before 9/11, and in many ways, the fall of Saddam Hussein strengthened al-Qaeda’s position in Iraq.
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Early on, Kyle is promoted to an assault team. He works with the Polish GROM fighters to raid houses suspected of harboring terrorists and dangerous weapons. During this time, Kyle befriends a Polish sniper who uses the code name Matthew, and in general, he comes to admire the GROM for their professionalism and courage.
Kyle continues to work alongside the Polish GROM, as he did during his first deployment.
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Kyle takes a moment to talk about the gear he carried with him in Iraq. He wore body armor, and carried pistols in his thigh holster. He also carried a “blowout kit”—i.e., medical equipment. Unlike most soldiers in Iraq, Kyle never wore ear protection, because the military’s noise-canceling technology makes it impossible to hear what direction a shot comes from—a serious problem for a sniper. Finally, Kyle wore a ball cap, because “you look so much cooler wearing a ball cap.”
This passage is a good example of the mixture of extreme professionalism and informal machismo in Kyle’s personality. On one hand, Kyle takes great precautions with his gear: for instance, he wears body armor designed to keep himself safe at all times. However, Kyle is also interested in looking “cool,” hence the ball cap.
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After about a month of working with the GROM, Kyle is transferred to Fallujah. Fallujah is home to some of the deadliest insurgents in Iraq. In the months before troops entered Fallujah, insurgents fortified the city, building a network of compounds and tunnels, and some converted mosques into bunkers. Insurgent groups continue to plant bombs near military bases.
In Fallujah, Kyle experienced some of the deadliest fighting of the war in Iraq. Insurgents had an important advantage over the SEALs: they knew the territory well, and constructed secret tunnels and compounds that the SEALs initially found difficult to navigate.
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In Fallujah, Kyle receives his first major assignment as a sniper. He’ll be sent out into the outskirts of Fallujah, where the Marines will be leading an assault on a large group of insurgents. Kyle will be stationed high up in a nearby apartment complex, where he’ll provide support for troops below. Before he leaves, Kyle calls Taya; it’s a brief conversation, and he only tells her that he’ll be gone for a while.
As Kyle prepares for his first assignments as a sniper, his relationship with Taya seems to become increasingly distant. He continues to love Taya, but he focuses on his responsibilities to his fellow SEALs, not his responsibilities to his wife.
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At the apartment complex, the Marines clear most of the residents, while keeping an eye out for a man named Mustafa. Mustafa is infamous among the American military forces—he’s a former Olympic marksman who is now working as a sniper against the Marines. Kyle takes a room in the apartment, and prepares to shoot enemy forces below. He remembers, “I wanted to shoot someone.”
In the film version of American Sniper, Mustafa is the most prominent villain; in the book, however, he’s barely mentioned at all. Notice, also, that Kyle is hungry for violence—unlike many other soldiers in Iraq, he seems to enjoy firing at his enemies.
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Kyle has already described taking his first sniper shot (the woman from the book’s prologue). By the time he arrives at the apartment complex, however, he doesn’t hesitate to shoot. He sees men carrying grenades running toward the American Marines, and shoots them before they can hurt his friends. In the following months, Kyle continues to snipe. He shoots from roofs, apartment rooms, and other secure areas. As always, the goal is to draw as little attention as possible to his location.
Where other soldiers might hesitate to take a human being’s life, Kyle never pauses. Instead, he does his duty as a sniper quickly and efficiently, protecting American lives in the process.
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Kyle’s enemies in Iraq, the insurgents, are “savage and well-armed.” The Marines raid insurgent houses and find guns, missiles, and other weapons. Kyle also notes that the insurgents were deadly not just because of their fanatical religious beliefs, but because they were “pretty doped up.”
Kyle reiterates his point that the insurgents in Iraq are “savage,” and suggests that, contrary to their claims of religious devotion, some insurgents were more inspired by drugs than religious piety. (The Koran prohibits taking drugs.)
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During his time as a sniper, Kyle gets into shootouts with insurgents. One day, an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) hits the building on top of which he’s positioned; he survives, but with a limp. Though he’s in pain, he refuses to go to a doctor, knowing, “You go to a doctor and you get pulled out.”
Like most SEALs, Kyle refuses to acknowledge any weakness or pain—as with Hell Week, he continues to serve his country in spite of his injuries.
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Sniping is difficult, Kyle recalls, because “you make an unjustified shot and you could be charged with murder.” Kyle has to be very cautious with his shots—he has to have visible evidence for shooting at anyone. Kyle shoots at two or three targets a day.
This passage marks one of the few times that Kyle discusses the moral challenge of sniping: his job is to preempt insurgents’ violence (by shooting first), but he also needs to be careful not to shoot an unarmed civilian. Kyle never mentions a case in which he accidentally shot a civilian—some argue that this is because he was good at his job, and never hit anyone who wasn’t an insurgent, while others have argued that Kyle did, in fact, kill civilians, and yet was never punished for it.
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One day, Kyle and another soldier—who he’ll refer to as Runaway—are walking along the street when a group of insurgents begins firing upon them. Kyle shoots back, then waits for Runaway to “cover him,” so that he can run away. Kyle discovers that Runaway has, true to his nickname, run away, leaving Kyle alone. Kyle is forced to call for backup immediately. The Marines save him, but barely. Later, Kyle yells at Runaway for abandoning him, and concludes that Runaway is “just a coward.”
Kyle has respect for many of his fellow SEALs, but he also finds some of them to be cowardly and unfit for military duty. The passage is a good example of why SEALs need to form a close bond of friendship and trust during their basic training—if they don’t, then they won’t work well together in the field.
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Shortly afterwards, Kyle and another soldier are sent to provide backup for a group of Marines. The two soldiers see a group of wounded Marines near an alley, being shot at from all sides. They also round up a second group of Marines, many of whom are wounded, from the roof of a nearby house. Kyle gathers the Marines at the base of the house, while, all around him, insurgents fire. Unable to locate the direction of the fire, Kyle tells the Marines, “We’re all just gonna shoot.” Thinking that the uninjured Marines will follow him away from the house, Kyle runs out, sees an insurgent with a machine gun, and fires at him. Suddenly, Kyle turns and sees that none of the Marines have followed him—he’s on his own. He runs down the street, trying to avoid machine gun fire from the insurgent. As he runs, another insurgent throws a grenade at him, and the explosion throws him to the ground. Nevertheless, Kyle gets back up and continues firing at the insurgents, covering the group of Marines as they get away to safety, and then running after them. Miraculously, none of the uninjured Marines are killed.
Kyle contrasts Runaway’s cowardice with his own bravery and willingness to sacrifice his life. As Kyle explains here, he provided backup for a group of Marines that had been surrounded by heavily armed insurgents. Kyle risks his own life to protect the Marines, and continues to protect them, even after they refuse to follow him into dangerous gunfire. As Kyle told Taya on the night that they met, “I’d lay down my life for my country.” Here, his selfless service saves the lives of many other soldiers.
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By providing cover outside the house, Kyle has saved the lives of multiple Marines, and his superiors award him a Bronze Medal (a prestigious honor recognizing valor in combat). Kyle notes that he ended his military career with two Silver Stars and five Bronze Medals.
Kyle is clearly a brave, hardworking SEAL, and his willingness to sacrifice his life for the good of others earns him many official military honors.
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Kyle returns from his second deployment and reunites with Taya. Taya finds it increasingly difficult to talk to her husband: he wakes up screaming in the middle of the night, and tells grisly stories about his military service. Taya senses that Kyle is testing her, trying to see how much she can “handle to hear.”
In Iraq, Kyle’s life is in near-constant danger; thus, he doesn’t know how to conduct himself back at home, where there’s no immediate danger to be stressed about. Kyle struggles to open up to Taya about his experiences overseas; he seems unsure whether or not to tell her about the horrors he’s witnessed.
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Taya also senses that Kyle feels guilty about some of his actions in Iraq—he believes that he violated some of the rules of the Geneva Conventions (the internationally accepted rules governing wartime ethics). Taya responds by arguing that “picking apart a soldier’s every move against a dark, twisted, rule-free enemy is more than ridiculous; it’s despicable.” She also admits that she finds Kyle “kind of a bad ass” when he talks about “killing someone up close.” While back in the U.S., Kyle bumps into veterans with whom he served in Iraq. Many of these veterans are proud to meet Kyle, noting that he saved their lives.
In this troubling passage, Taya suggests that it’s immoral to expect American soldiers to follow the international rules of war. While Taya never says so explicitly, it’s strongly implied that she’s defending her husband from allegations that he killed innocent people during his time as a sniper in Iraq. Additionally, Taya seems to regard her husband’s “badass” kills as something to celebrate and glamorize, rather than a sobering, necessary duty.
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