Truth is just as strange as fiction, as the recent U.S. release of five key Taliban figures closely mirrors the plot line of Scott McEwen’s new novel, “Target America: A Sniper Elite Novel,” which suggests the consequences of such a move could be calamitous within our own borders.
McEwen is a prolific author, known best for co-writing the best-selling “American Sniper” alongside famed military sniper and U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. “American Target” is the latest in McEwen’s Sniper Elite series. He also co-authored the nonfiction work “Eyes on Target,” which chronicles the Benghazi terrorist attack and the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and how he believes the Obama administration poorly served Navy SEALs in both events.
In addition to discussing his new book, McEwen offered details about the forthcoming feature film based on “American Sniper” and the pending lawsuit Kyle’s widow still faces for Kyle allegedly defaming Jesse Ventura in that book.
“American Target” centers on Navy SEAL Gil Shannon and his elite team as they race to stop a nuclear weapon smuggled into the U.S. through its southern border. McEwen said his idea for the novel originated from real-life events and policies.
“We were concerned that there were terrorists being let out of Gitmo even back then, which has come to light pretty heavily in the last few days given the administration’s most recent releases. They’ve been doing this for some time. We were always concerned that this could end up blowing up in all of our faces,” McEwen said.
“When you let these guys go, if you think that they’re rehabilitated, then you live in a dream world in Washington. They’re not rehabilitated, and I expect that the ones we just let out are going to come back and show us that once again. ‘Target America’ is about preparing our country for that eventuality.”
Watch the Radio America interview with Scott McEwen:
In addition to combining a real-world threat and a compelling novel, McEwen said making Americans aware of the courage of the U.S. military is also a priority. He specifically cited the examples of ex-SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods in Benghazi, who saved upward of 30 American lives by battling hundreds of terrorists for hours. He said there many other American heroes of that caliber as well.
"That's what these guys do," he said. "I know a lot of guys who do that kind of work, and that's what I've incorporated into 'American Target,' real-life stuff that goes on, real-life bad guys that get hunted and the methods and operations that are used to hunt these bad guys. I think it's important people know that there is another world out there. It's a shadowy world, but it's one where heroes are made every day, and there's guys out there putting their lives on the line for us."
One of those heroes was Chris Kyle, who stated in "American Sniper" that he recorded 255 kills, 160 of which he said are confirmed. Those numbers make him the most prolific sniper in U.S. military history.
He was tragically killed in 2013 by a fellow veteran Kyle was trying to help work through post-traumatic stress disorder.
His story is being made into a major motion picture being directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper. McEwen said Eastwood just finished shooting, and the movie could be out as early as the end of the year.
McEwen said he thinks there are several reasons why Kyle's story resonates with the American public.
"Chris was a patriot, and he was a down-home type of guy. He was a great guy, one of my favorite people to go out and have a beer with, just an interesting guy that just happened to be very, very good at what he did and ended up distinguishing himself in battle amongst some really heroic guys and SEAL teams," McEwen said.
"At the end of the day, he was an American patriot. He was a hero and someone people could identify with, no matter what walk of society you were from."
One unpleasant result of "American Sniper" was the defamation lawsuit filed against Kyle by ex-SEAL and former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.
In the book, Kyle describes punching out a famous person following an argument in a bar. The book does not name Ventura, but Kyle said it was Ventura in a subsequent radio interview.
When Kyle was killed, Ventura chose not to drop the lawsuit but instead to sue Kyle's widow, Taya, and his estate.
"Unfortunately, Jesse has seen fit to proceed with this, notwithstanding my discussions with him and imploring him to the contrary. He is convinced the events didn't take place as reported, whereas we had multiple SEAL team people who have told similar events as to what was in the book," McEwen said.
However, a judge has decided to allow the lawsuit go to trial, writing that Ventura has provided enough evidence “to create a genuine issue of fact as to whether Kyle knowingly (or recklessly) published false statements about him.” Ventura told the Associated Press in March, “It’s never been about money. It’s about clearing my name. It’s a lie."
What is McEwen's reaction to Ventura continuing to pursue the case?
"It's disappointment," he said. "At the end of the day, suing Taya and the kids and the estate seems to make very little sense to me. Jesse's going to do whatever Jesse's going to do. I have my opinion of it and obviously my opinion is that it's pretty low," he said.
"This is the decision he made. I have attempted to get him talked out of that and say this is not the right one, either for himself, or Taya and the kids or for the military community in general. But I think Jesse kind of listens to his own drummer."
McEwen said the case is scheduled to go to trial in the first week of July.