From ‘American Sniper’ to the bin Laden raid, top operators grapple with how to quench the public thirst for their exploits.
There’s a scene about halfway through Clint Eastwood’s new war thriller “American Sniper” in which Bradley Cooper, playing real-life Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, is providing what the military calls “overwatch” for Marines on the streets of Ramadi. It’s the height of the worst part of the Iraq War, and the patrol he’s covering through his rifle scope is systematically kicking in doors and searching for bad guys.
The film depicts a teammate telling Kyle previously that half of the Marines had been civilians six months prior and were in desperate need of assistance, training and confidence.
Commence slaying the “savage” Iraqis.
Perhaps this is precisely how it happened in real life. Actual Marines who served in Ramadi tell U.S. News anecdotally that partnering with SEALs was a common occurrence at that time in the war. Marines are, however, notoriously cynical, and this particular encounter may not have occurred exactly as it’s portrayed.
But this attitude among larger-than-life SEALs does encapsulate the public image of the elite warriors – and the result of the Navy’s concerted effort to brand its SEa-Air-Land force as the best of all the top commandos.
“American Sniper” comes out three years after the release of the eponymous book Kyle authored with two ghostwriters, and almost two years after he was gunned down by a Marine suffering from PTSD.
It also comes at a time when public hunger for details about the secretive community is contributing to a subtle chipping away of its desired image.