“The ROEs got so convoluted and fucked-up because the politicians were interfering in the process. The rules are drawn up by lawyers who are trying to protect the admirals and the generals from the politicians, they’re not written by the people who are worried about the guys on the ground getting shot…
…You can argue that my success proves the ROEs worked. But I feel that I could have been more effective, probably protected more people and helped bring the war to a quicker conclusion without them.”, U.S. Navy Seal Chris Kyle, “American Sniper”
“Chris followed the ROE because he had to. Some of the more broad-spectrum ROEs are fine. The problem with the ROEs covering minutiae is that terrorists really don’t give a shit about the Geneva Convention. So picking apart a soldier’s every move against a dark, twisted, rule-free enemy is more than ridiculous; it’s despicable. I care about my husband and other Americans coming home alive.”, Taya Kyle, “American Sniper”
Key Excerpts from American Sniper Where Author Chris Kyle Opines that CYA Rules of Engagement (ROE) are Endangering the Lives of American Warriors on the Battlefield, Destroying Morale, and Risking Self-Defeat (Mr. Kyle implies that his opinion is widely shared by our combat veterans and their loved ones. Furthermore, Mr. Kyle’s opinion is almost identical to that of fellow, highly-decorated Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, as expressed in his book Lone Survivor.):
Page 97 (paperback edition):
“Our top command wanted us to achieve 100 percent success, and to do it with 0 casualties. That may sound admirable…who doesn’t want to succeed, and who wants anyone to get hurt? But in war those are incompatible and unrealistic. If 100 percent success and 0 casualties are your goal, you’re going to conduct very few operations. You will never take risks realistic or otherwise.”
“You cannot be afraid to take your shot. When you see someone with an IED or a rifle maneuvering toward your men, you have clear reason to fire. (The fact that an Iraqi had a gun would not necessarily mean he could be shot.) The ROEs were specific, and in most cases the danger was obvious. But there were times when it wasn’t exactly clear, when a person almost surely was an insurgent, probably was doing evil, but there was still some doubt because of the circumstances or the surroundings….the way he moved, for example, wasn’t toward an area where troops were. A lot of times a guy seemed to be acting macho for friends, completely unaware I was watching him, or that there were American troops nearby. Those were shots I did not take. You couldn’t…you had to worry about your own ass. Make an unjustified shot and you could be charged with murder. I often would sit there and think, “I know this motherfucker is bad; I saw him doing such and such down the street the other day, but here he’s not doing anything, and if I shoot him, I won’t be able to justify it for the lawyers. I’ll fry.” Like I said, there is paperwork for everything. Every confirmed kill had documentation, supporting evidence, and a witness. So I wouldn’t shoot. There weren’t a lot of those, especially in Fallujah, but I was always extremely aware of the fact that every killing might have to be justified to the lawyers. My attitude was: if my justification is I thought my target would do something bad, then I wasn’t justified. He had to be doing something bad. Even with this standard, there were plenty of targets.”
Page 179 (Taya: Chris Kyle’s wife):
“I told him I really, truly did not care what he did in wartime. He had my unconditional support. Still, he needed to go slow, to test the waters. I think he needed to know I wouldn’t look at him differently, and perhaps more than that, he knew he would deploy again and he didn’t want to scare me. As far as I can see it, anyone who has a problem with what guys do over there is incapable of empathy. People want America to have a certain image when we fight. Yet I would guess if someone were shooting at them and they had to hold their family members while they bled out against an enemy who hid behind their children, played dead only to throw a grenade as they got closer, and who had no qualms sending their toddler to die from a grenade from which they personally pulled the pin…..they would be less concerned with playing nicely. Chris followed the ROE because he had to. Some of the more broad-spectrum ROEs are fine. The problem with the ROEs covering minutiae is that terrorists really don’t give a shit about the Geneva Convention. So picking apart a soldier’s every move against a dark, twisted, rule-free enemy is more than ridiculous; it’s despicable. I care about my husband and other Americans coming home alive.”
“We were recalled to base and the entire platoon put in stand down….We were all pissed. The ROEs had been followed; I had plenty of witnesses. It was the Army “investigators” who had screwed up. I had trouble holding my tongue. At one point, I told the Army colonel, “I don’t shoot people with Korans…I’d like to, but I don’t.” I guess I was a little hot. Well, after three days and God only knows how much other “investigation”, he finally realized it had been a good kill and dropped the matter. But when the regiment asked for more overwatches, we told them to fuck off. “Any time I shoot someone, you’re just going to try and have me executed,” I said. “No way.””
“As I pulled up my scope, I spotted two guys coming down the street toward me on a moped. The guy on the back had a backpack. As I was watching, he dropped the backpack in a pot hole. He wasn’t dropping the mail; he was setting an IED….I let them get to about 150 yards away before I fired my .300 Win Mag. Dauber, watching through the binos, said it was like a scene from Dumb and Dumber. The bullet went through the first guy and into the second. The moped wobbled, then veered into a wall. Two guys with one shot. The taxpayer got a good bang for his buck on that one. The shot ended up being controversial. Because of the IED, the Army sent some people over to the scene. But it took them something like six hours to get there. Traffic backed up, and it was impossible for me, or anyone else, to watch the pothole for the entire time. Further complicating things, the Marines took down a dump truck suspected of being a mobile IED on the same road. Traffic back up all over the place, and naturally the IED disappeared. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t have been a problem. But a few days earlier we had noticed a pattern: mopeds would ride past COP a few minutes before and after an attack, obviously scouting the place and then getting intel on the attack. We requested to be cleared hot to shoot anyone on a moped. The request was denied. The lawyers or someone in the chain of command probably thought I was blowing them off when they heard about my double shot. The JAG….Judge Advocate General, kind of like a military version of a prosecuting attorney…came out and investigated. Fortunately, there were plenty of witnesses to what had happened. But I still had to answer all the JAG’s questions. Meanwhile, the insurgents kept using mopeds and gathering intelligence. We watched them closely, and destroyed every parked moped we came across in houses and yards, but that was the most we could do. Maybe legal expected us to wave and smile for the cameras.
“It would have been tough to go and just blatantly shoot people in Iraq. For one thing, there were always plenty of witnesses around. For another, every time I killed someone in Ramadi I had to write a shooter’s statement on it. No joke. This was a report, separate from after-action reports, related only to the shots I took and the kills I recorded. The information had to be very specific. I had a little notebook with me, and I’d record the day, the time, details about the person, what he was doing, the round I used, how many shots I took, how far away the target was, and who witnessed the shot. All that went into the report, along with any other special circumstances. The head shed claimed it was to protect me in case there was ever an investigation for an unjustified kill, but I think what I was really doing was covering the butts of people much further up the chain of command. We kept a running tally of how many insurgents we shot, even during the worst firefights. One of our officers was always tasked with getting his own details on the shooting; he, in turn, would relay it back by radio. There were plenty of times when I was still engaging insurgents and giving details to LT or another officer at the same time. It got to be such a pain in the ass that one time when the officer came to ask the details on my shot, I told him it was a kid waving at me. It was just a sick joke I made. It was my way of saying, “Fuck off.” The red tape war.
I am not sure how widespread the shooter statements were. For me, the process began during my second deployment when I was working on Haifa Street. In that case, someone else filled them out for me. I’m pretty sure it was all CYA….cover your ass, or, in this case, cover the top guy’s ass. We were slaughtering the enemy. In Ramadi, with our kill total becoming astronomical, the statement became mandatory and elaborate. I’d guess that the CO or someone on his staff saw the numbers and said that the lawyers might question what was going on, so let’s protect ourselves. Great way to fight a war….be prepared to defend yourself for winning. What a pain in the ass.”
“I put my eye near the sight, scanning. Not ten seconds later, an insurgent walked fat into the crosshairs, AK out. I watched him move tactically toward an American position for a few seconds, confirming that he was within the ROEs. The I shot him…….I never had any doubts about the people I shot. My guys would tease me: Yeah, I know Chris. He got a little gun cut on the end of his scope. Everybody he sees is in the ROEs. But the truth was, my targets were always obvious, and I, of course, had plenty of witnesses every time I shot. The way things were, you couldn’t chance making a mistake. You’d be crucified if you didn’t strictly obey the ROEs.”
“The way I figure it, if you send us to do a job, let us do it. That’s why you have admirals and generals….let them supervise us, not some fat-ass congressman sitting in a leather chair smoking a cigar back in DC in an air-conditioned office, telling me when and where I can and cannot shoot someone. How would they know? They’ve never even been in a combat situation. And once you decide to send us, let me do my job. War is war. Tell me: Do you want us to conquer our enemy? Annihilate them? Or are we heading over to serve them tea and cookies? Tell the military the end result you want, and you’ll get it. But don’t try and tell us how to do it. All those rules about when and under what circumstances an enemy combatant could be killed didn’t just make our jobs harder, they put our lives in danger.
The ROEs got so convoluted and fucked-up because the politicians were interfering in the process. The rules are drawn up by lawyers who are trying to protect the admirals and the generals from the politicians, they’re not written by the people who are worried about the guys on the ground getting shot.
For some reason, a lot of people back home…not all people…didn’t accept that we were at war. They didn’t accept that war means death, violent death most times. A lot of people, not just politicians, wanted to impose ridiculous fantasies on us, hold us to some standard of behavior that no human being could maintain.
I’m not saying that war crimes should be committed. I am saying that warriors need to be let loose to fight war without their hands tied behind their backs.
According to the ROEs I followed in Iraq, if someone came into my house, shot my wife, my kids, and then threw his gun down, I was supposed to NOT shoot him. I was supposed to take him gently into custody. Would you?
You can argue that my success proves the ROEs worked. But I feel that I could have been more effective, probably protected more people and helped bring the war to a quicker conclusion without them.”
“It seemed the only news stories we read were about atrocities or how impossible it was going to be to pacify Ramadi. Guess what? We killed all those bad guys, and what happened? The Iraqi tribal leaders finally realized we meant business, and they finally banded together not just to govern themselves, but to kick the insurgents out. It took force, it took violence of action, to create a situation where there could be peace.”
“You know how Ramadi was won? We went in and killed all the bad people we could find. When we started, the decent (or potentially decent) Iraqis didn’t fear the United States; they did fear the terrorists. The U.S. told them, “We’ll make it better for you.” The terrorists said, “We’ll cut your head off.” Who would you fear? Who would you listen to? When we came into Ramadi, we told the terrorists, “We’ll cut your head off. We will do whatever we have to and eliminate you.” Not only did we get the terrorists’ attention….we got everyone’s attention. We showed we were the force to be reckoned with. That’s where the so-called Great Awakening came. It wasn’t from kissing up to the Iraqis. It was from kicking butt. The tribal leaders saw that we were bad-asses, and they’d better get their act together, work together, and stop accommodating the insurgents. Force moved that battle. We killed the bad guys and brought the leaders to the peace table. That is how the world works.”
“Victory: It took about a month to get the barriers up (in Sadr City/Bagdahd). As the Army reached its objective, the insurgents started to give up. It was probably a combination of them realizing the wall was going to be finished whether they liked it or not, and the fact that we had killed so many of the bastards that they couldn’t mount much of an attack. Where thirty or forty insurgents would gather with AKs and RPGs to fire on a single fence crew at the beginning of the op, toward the end the bad guys were putting together attacks with two or three men. Gradually, they faded into the slums around us. Muqtada-al-Sadr, meanwhile, decided it was time for him to try and negotiate peace with the Iraqi government. He declared a ceasefire and started talking to the government. Imagine that.”
“In April 2009, after Somali pirates had taken over a ship and were threatening the captain with death, SEAL snipers killed them from a nearby destroyer. Someone from the local media asked Ryan what he thought. “Despite what your mama told you,” he quipped, “violence does solve problems.”
That seemed a pretty appropriate slogan for snipers, so it became ours.
“I’d like us to remember the suffering of those Americans who were injured serving this country…..Look at the homeless: a lot are vets. I think we owe them more than just our gratitude. They were willing to sign a blank check for America, with the cost right up to their life. If they were willing to do that, why shouldn’t we be taking care of them? I’m not suggesting we give vets handouts; what people need are hand-ups….a little opportunity and strategic help…..There’s no reason someone who has fought for their country should be homeless or jobless.”
“But in that backroom or whatever it is when God confronts me with my sins, I do not believe any of the kills I had during the war will be among them. Everyone I shot was evil. I had good cause on every shot. They all deserved to die.
My regrets are about the people I couldn’t save….Marines, soldiers, my buddies. I still feel their loss. I still ache for my failure to protect them.
I am not naïve and I’m beyond romanticizing war and what I had to do there. The worst moments of my life have come as a SEAL. Losing my buddies. Having a kid die on me.
When people ask me how the war changed me, I tell them that biggest thing has to do with my perspective. You know all the everyday things that stress you here? I don’t give a shit about them. There are bigger and worse things that could happen than to have this tiny little problem wreck your life, or even your day. I’ve seen them. More: I lived them.”