Michael Moore’s now-infamous tweet, in which he called snipers “cowards” while moviegoers raved about Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper,” showed that he never read Chris Kyle’s book. Likewise, Mr. Moore’s ignorant tweet also demonstrated that he was unfamiliar with Nicholas Irving, 3rd Ranger Battalion’s deadliest sniper, with 33 confirmed kills. Mr. Irving’s autobiography, “The Reaper,” is available now, and it is certainly worth checking out for anyone who wants to have a better understanding of the profession.
What separates Mr. Irving’s autobiography from others of a similar vein is that he details quite graphically just how close he came to death on multiple occasions. Many of the other first-person accounts of America’s elite war fighters never really recreate the sense of fear that can sweep over them when death closes in. The man known as “The Reaper” doesn’t shy away from acknowledging that real deal was hovering just over his head in many battles. Contrary to what Michael Moore thinks, snipers often put themselves in great danger — and when they’re spotted there is often nowhere to hide.
It takes brains, guts, and grace under pressure to survive on the battlefield when the best laid plans fall to pieces, and Mr. Irving does an impressive job articulating that reality for readers who are unlikely to ever take one step on foreign soil.
One of the other charges of men like Bill Maher is that American war fighters tell their stories in ways that make them come across as “psychopath patriots.” This once again proves that modern American liberals either do not read books like “The Reaper” or they only read them to the extent that they can find quotes to take completely out of context for their own political gain.
Nicholas Irving is certainly not glorifying war when he says of his experience shortly after a brutal firefight:
“Finally, though, when we were waiting for transport via Chinooks, I drifted off, though I heard a loud crack go past my ear. I immediately jumped up, put on my rucksack and stood there looking around, surveying the scene. All I saw was the rest of the guys just sitting there as calm as could be. In my head, bullets were still flying; in reality they weren’t.” (Nicholas Irving, The Reaper. Saint Martin’s Press, 2015. Page 182)
There are certainly passages in “The Reaper” that, taken out of context by partisan hacks, could be used to frame the Mr. Irving as a “psychopath patriot.” The reality is something else entirely: American snipers train for years to perform at the highest level of excellence. They take pride in their work (i.e., saving the lives of their fellow brothers-in-arms and killing enemies when necessary), just as cops or FBI agents take pride in what they do for a living.
If there are disagreements about foreign policy, then late-night talk show hosts and partisan filmmakers should criticize elected officials — not the men on the front lines who are literally diving into streams of raw sewage to avoid being torn to shreds by Toyota Hilux-mounted DShK machine guns.
The charge that books like “American Sniper” or “The Reaper” serve as “propaganda” (as Hollywood actor Seth Rogen might say) is laughable. Mr. Irving highlights this quite nicely when he describes a brief meeting with a young soldier who just recently completed Ranger School:
Just before we got to the car, our CQ, our company quartermaster, a really good guy named Lyons, came up to me.
“Just wanted to make sure you have everything squared away,” he said, shaking my hand.
“Yeah. Thanks for your help with all the gear and stuff.”
“No problem, Irv.”
Behind him, I could see another Ranger standing there. He was an E4 and I could see that he was a cherry guy, freshly shaved, quiet, standing there at parade rest.
Lyons introduced us. “Sergeant,” he said, “I wanted to meet you. All due respect but I heard you killed a bunch of guys. You set some record. I want to break it. I want my deployment to be just like yours was.”
I couldn’t believe what he was saying. Nobody says that. Nobody says that in front of a man’s wife.
Jessica stood there starting at me, looking like she was trying to figure something out, remember a phone number or something that someone had asked her for, something from her past she wanted to bring back up.
I looked at the cherry new guy, held his gaze until he backed his eyes off me, and said, very quietly but very firmly, “No. You don’t.” (Nicholas Irving, The Reaper. Saint Martin’s Press, 2015. Page 306)
If you’re looking for a compelling autobiography to read, pick up “The Reaper,” by Nicholas Irving. It may not be turned into a blockbuster movie anytime soon, but it’s still worth your time.