You've written a book, American Sniper. Are special-operations guys usually so public?
It's kind of frowned on. But I'm not trying to glorify myself. I didn't want to put the number of kills I had in there. I wanted to get it out about the sacrifices military families have to make.
That number is there though. You have purportedly the highest of any American 160 "confirmed sniper kills." What does that mean?
When you take a shot and the guy goes down, you have to have witnesses verify that he is dead. We'd fill out an assessment of what happened the time, the place, the caliber used, the distance, what he was doing, what he was wearing.
What goes through your mind when you kill someone?
The first time, you're not even sure you can do it. But I'm not over there looking at these people as people. I'm not wondering if he has a family. I'm just trying to keep my guys safe. Every time I kill someone, he can't plant an IED. You don't think twice about it.
You shot a woman with a toddler in Nasiriyah because she had a grenade. But you didn't kill a child in Sadr City who had an RPG launcher. What was your line in the sand?
According to the rules of engagement at the time, you could kill anyone with an RPG on sight. That day I just couldn't kill the kid. He'll probably grow up and fight us, but I just didn't want to do it.
Some snipers leave a target alive so they can shoot the people who come to his aid. Do you think this is O.K.?
I think so. I've never done it. You don't have to leave them alive for someone to come help them. With the Muslim faith, they need to be buried before either the sun goes down or the sun comes up. So they'll come get the body.
Does your wife still have to say your name if she gets into bed after you're asleep, so you don't come up swinging?
It's not as bad as it used to be. But even before I was in the military, I was extremely jumpy when asleep.
How would you respond to the suggestion that your book makes you seem violent and bloodthirsty?
I really don't care what people think of me. I've got my family. I've got my friends. Yes, I have been trained to be a little more aggressive if I need to be, but I don't go around thumping people.
Why weren't you a fan of having journalists embedded with the military?
The media cause more problems than they do good. For the most part, the public is very soft. You live in a dreamworld. You have no idea what goes on on the other side of the world, the harsh realities of what these people are doing to themselves and our guys, and there are certain things that need to be done to take care of them.
Conservatively, the war has cost $824 billion and 4,484 Americans' and 200,000 Iraqis' lives. Was it worth it?
I think it was. I'm not trying to devalue the lives of the guys we lost. But going over there we did the right thing.
What if killing turns out to be the thing you were best at?
I know that's not true. I'm a better husband and father than I was a killer. I'm pretty comfortable with not having to kill anyone. Now, don't take deer hunting away from me.
VIDEO AT TIME.COM
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