Doug's Blog

Rants from a renegade naturalist

American Sniper

"A Sniper's Tale," fragment from GRIZZLY YEARS: In Search of the American Wilderness, pages 84-85:


"I remembered Tet and the last time I went to Ba An. I waited on the hill above his house for the Vietcong who I had been told cut off the head of my Montagnard friend, Dinh Rua. Bato District was that kind of small war back then, so I knew. At 1715 a VC in black pj's carrying a Swedish K left the house. I hosed down, firing on semiautomatic over seven hundred meters, arching the M16 tracer rounds down from a hill, shooting off half a magazine before he disappeared.

This was early 1968, the time of the Tet Offensive, a time of random murders and blind vengeance, and I wanted to find a scapegoat sufficiently monstrous to explain the necessity of all the corpses.

The next day some villagers from Bato saw the body; I had drilled him dead-center. Later I learned the details and found I had killed the wrong man. What the hell, I told myself, he was a Vietcong and carrying a rifle; so what if he wasn't the assassin?

But something happened to me after that. It was the beginning of my end over there and I came apart rapidly. The rationalization returned to horrify me. I quit killing strangers forever. It never had been my war anyway."

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