American Sniper

American Sniper Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Kyle arrives in Baghdad in April 2006, a few days behind the rest of his platoon, which has just shipped out to the region of Ramadi, known for being one of the most dangerous parts of the country. He’s forced to improvise his own way to Ramadi, and manages to persuade a Navy corpsman to take him there.
Kyle’s time in Ramadi is more dangerous than his previous deployments, reflecting the escalating crisis in the region. The fact that he’s delayed in joining his platoon again reflects the tension between family and country in his life.
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Kyle arrives in Ramadi and learns that his platoon has been shipped out east of Ramadi for a few days. In the meantime, Kyle gets to work providing sniper support for the Marines stationed in the area. One day, Kyle is stationed in a tall building nicknamed Seven Story. From Seven Story, he kills two Iraqi snipers firing on the Marines below. Later, one of these Marines shakes Kyle’s hand and thanks him for saving his life.
In spite of his conflicting loyalties and seemingly traumatic experiences during previous tours of the country, Kyle continues to enthusiastically perform his duties as a sniper, saving the lives of his fellow soldiers.
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Kyle’s platoon returns from the east and greets him happily. By this time, Kyle has gained the nickname “Legend”—he’s famous throughout the military for his kills. Kyle enjoys his nickname more than “a full-uniform medal ceremony.” Kyle notes that almost everyone in his platoon had a nickname—for example, Ryan Job’s nickname was “Biggles,” a portmanteau of “Big” and “Giggles.” As a group, Kyle’s platoon is nicknamed “the Punishers,” after the “badass” Marvel comic book character.
Although Kyle seems capable of incredible humility, he’s clearly proud of his nickname, “Legend,” and continues to aspire to be a badass—as, it would seem, do the rest of the Punishers.
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Kyle works alongside his chief, a highly experienced sniper named Tony, who’s rumored to be forty years old (unheard of for a sniper). One of the platoon’s first assignments is to claim land surrounding a hospital in an area of Ramadi nicknamed “Viet Ram” (because of the dense foliage). During the operation, insurgents shoot Kyle’s ankle. Kyle is hurt, but not badly—he’s able to pull the casing out of his ankle and make it back to base.
Kyle continues to weather injuries during his time in Iraq, recognizing that complaining about pain would put him in danger of being shipped out of the SEALs.
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Kyle and his fellow soldiers patrol Ramadi; their plan is to draw fire from insurgents, and then fire back. Eventually, army command orders the soldiers to capture a hospital that’s known to be harboring insurgents (and which, it’s believed, has been evacuated of all injured patients). Soldiers fire a Carl Gustav rocket (a particularly deadly explosive) into the hospital, and, as Kyle reports, “bodies flew everywhere.” The remaining people in the hospital run away, and the soldiers claim the hospital. On later tours, the soldiers use the Carl Gustav rocket again, and Kyle notes that it’s always a “big hit, pun intended.”
In this disturbing passage, Kyle seems to take great pleasure in describing the gory spectacle of dead bodies flying through the air, as if blowing up a hospital (even one without any patients left inside) is a treat, instead of a horrifying duty of combat. Perhaps Kyle makes dark jokes about the war because humor represents a way of staying sane—by joking about death and destruction, Kyle maintains a distance between himself and his brutal actions as a soldier.
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Back in the U.S., Taya struggles to take care of her children. Her mother comes to help her, but she misses Kyle terribly. She also takes an especially long time to recover from her C-section.
Kyle serves his country faithfully, but as a result he’s unable to take care of Taya during her own time of need.
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Kyle and his platoon continue fighting off insurgents. As the fighting goes on, the SEALs collaborate more frequently with the military’s anti-terror unit in Ramadi. Kyle notes that, all things considered, he should have joined the anti-terror unit instead of the SEALs. He respects the anti-terror soldiers for their daring, and envies them for getting to fight so frequently. He also admires them for their humility and down-to-earth attitude about their service.
Kyle is proud of being a SEAL, but he recognizes some of the weaknesses of the SEALs, too—in particular, he doesn’t like that the SEALs have to train to fight in the sea as well as on land. Kyle has a lot of respect for the other branches of the military, including the anti-terror units.
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Every day, Kyle and the platoon receive tipoffs about bombs and landmines being planted in Ramadi—some of the tipoffs are true, and others aren’t. During their operations to find bombs, the soldiers fight off many insurgents. As time goes on, the troops get into a TIC (a term meaning “troops in combat”; in other words, a fight) almost every day.
The fighting escalates in Ramadi, and in Iraq overall, reflecting the overall chaos of the war in Iraq. There is no indication that Americans are becoming safer during this time—as Kyle says elsewhere, for every insurgent he shoots, more insurgents appear.
Themes
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In June 2006, Army command gives word that U.S. soldiers will be put on the offensive soon: their mission will be to reclaim Ramadi from insurgents. Reclaiming Ramadi is important for the war effort because Ramadi is a haven for insurgents, and because insurgents target Iraqi civilians as well as U.S. soldiers. Army leadership puts out the word that soldiers should prioritize killing “hard-core Islamist fanatics,” while also trying to persuade local gangs to work with their tribal leaders. Kyle doesn’t dwell on the details of the military’s strategy in Ramadi—instead, “What we knew was that many people wanted to kill us. And we fought back.”
Kyle again displays his indifference to the fine details of military strategy. His goal, it would seem, isn’t to make Iraq safe—he just wants to kill as many people as possible. The passage offers another indication that Kyle was an Islamophobe who didn’t care about the precise differences between different Iraqi people: instead, he thought of all Iraqis as equally “savage” and potentially dangerous.
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Another priority for Kyle and the troops is to work with Iraqi soldiers and police officers—collectively, jundis—by training them to be better at their jobs. However, most of these jundis, Kyle claims, are incompetent, “if not outright dangerous.” Kyle believes that training jundis to run their own country “is not what my job was about. My job was killing, not teaching.”
Kyle has nothing but contempt for the Iraqi soldiers and police officers; he accuses them of being lazy and undisciplined. Kyle’s attitude toward Iraqi authorities contrasts markedly with his respect for the soldiers from European countries, such as Poland.
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On June 17, the American troops prepare for an offensive strike in Ramadi. Kyle is stationed at a COP (Command Observation Post) at the edge of Ramadi, where he’s instructed to provide sniper backup if necessary. To his surprise, no fight breaks out as the day goes on; instead, American tanks roll in, and American soldiers take the nearby houses without any insurgent fire. For the rest of the day, there isn’t “much action at all.” Kyle thinks, “This was the most dangerous city in Iraq?”
For the time being, the fighting in Ramadi isn’t particularly dangerous for the SEALs; however, in the following chapters, we will learn about the insurgent pushback to the American troops’ presence in Ramadi.
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