Sunday, September 16, 2012

"No Easy Day" Is Easy Read



Mark Owen hasn't written the best SEAL book.

That honor still belongs to Marcus Luttrell's masterful "Lone Survivor," the story of ill-fated SEAL Team 10 in Afghanistan.

But Owen has written the most important SEAL book.

His firsthand account of SEAL Team Six's takeout of Osama Bin Laden in "No Easy Day" -- the book Washington loudmouths condemned for potentially disclosing secret info -- finally sets the record straight on what happened May 1, 2011, when the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Group killed Bin Laden at his $1 million compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, ending the manhunt for America's most infamous wartime enemy since Adolf Hitler.

I call it an important book because many Americans have heard snippets of the story, and some of it inaccurate. The book's important as well because it shows the absolute professionalism and indefatigable dedication of our most elite fighters.

Mark Owen (a pseudonym for obvious security reasons) states at the outset that the account is based on his personal memory. His memory is keen and the narrative style of co-author Kevin Mauer keeps the story moving with the intensity it deserves. And Owen's account rings so much more true than the second-, third- and fourthhand accounts we've gotten from politicians and journalists, and in the 2011 book, "SEAL Target Geronimo," by Chuck Pfarrer. In fact after reading Owen's "eyewitness" account, it becomes clear that at least Pfarrer got the operation's code name for Bin Laden correct, "Geronimo."

Indeed, Owen was right behind the SEAL who killed Bin Laden, with two shots from a suppressed weapon. Shot in the right forehead, part of his skull collapsed. He was still “twitching and convulsing” when SEALs entered the bedroom. Owen and another SEAL “trained our lasers on his chest and fired several rounds.”

Owen doesn’t say, but I doubted it was an act of mercy.

Previous inaccurate accounts had the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks that killed more than three thousand people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, going for a gun when he was killed. Not so. Owen says Bin Laden was shot after peering out his bedroom door at the top of the stairs and wasn't going for a Makarov pistol. The mater-terrorist's two weapons, the pistol and an AK-47, were stowed on a shelf over his bedroom door -- the pistol holstered.

This is where Owen's book sets the historical record straight. He makes the point that because a Black Hawk crashed at the compound, and because of a brief firefight outside Bin Laden's house with his henchman Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, Bin Laden obviously knew something was up and had time to arm himself. He didn’t put up a fight, and didn't go down like a martyr.

It's a significant fact, and not lost on Owen, who writes: "He asked his followers for decades to wear suicide vests or fly planes into buildings. In all of my deployments, we routinely saw this phenomenon. The higher up the food chain the targeted individual was, the bigger pussy he was. The leaders were less willing to fight. It is always the young and impressionable who strap on the explosives and blow themselves up . . . Bin Laden had more time to prepare than the others, and yet he still didn't do anything. Did he believe his own message? Was he willing to fight the war he asked for? I don't think so. Otherwise, he would have at least gotten his gun and stood up for what he believed. There is no honor in sending people to die for something you won't even fight for yourself."

Even Bin Laden's son, Khalid, who had an AK-47 nearby, didn’t fight.

The 316-page book also provides a plethora of visual images, like when two SEALs dragged Bin Laden's body down from the third floor of the house and his blood mixed on the floor with blood from his son who had been shot on the second floor. And the ride back to Afghanistan in a Black Hawk, with a SEAL sitting on Bin Laden's body (his chest) because there was no room to sit anyplace else.

And, as SEALs rushed to positively identify Bin Laden and his wife kept giving them fake names, a quick-thinking SEAL asked a child in the bedroom who the dead man was, and the kid meekly responded, "Osama Bin Laden."

The book has humorous moments, like when a planner wanted SEALs to move Bin Laden's car outside the compound and put a police light on top to make neighbors believe it was a local police action, and was reminded that the SEALs didn't have the car keys with them.

To be sure the nighttime raid had a narrow window of operation, every minute counting. While the SEALs gathered bagfuls of information on paper and computers from the house, Owen admits they left much behind because they ran out of time. (The Pakistanis scrambled a jet to hunt for them.)

The book also has outrageous moments. One outrage came during a planning session when a lawyer from either the Department of Defense or the White House instructed SEAL Team Six members to spare his life if Bin Laden put up his hands.

In his book Owen didn't say more about it, or even offer a comment on the order.

However, as I read it I screamed, "You've got to be kidding." Take Bin Laden prisoner? The cold-murderer of thousands? Bring him here for bloody trial?

Peter L. Bergen, in his scholarly book on the 10-year hunt for Bin Laden, "Man Hunt," (2012), clearly showed that the last thing President Obama wanted was to capture Bin Laden, given all of the problems it brought home with him, and for years to come.

No, this evil dude is where he belongs thanks to SEAL Team Six.

"No Easy Day" by Mark Owen, (September 2012), is an easy, non-jargonistic and historically significant read, and is highly recommended.

The fact that Owen is "donating most of the proceeds" from book sales to charity "in honor of the men we have lost since September 11" makes it even more appealing.

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