No Easy Day is a military memoir by a former Navy SEAL. It is subtitled, “The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama bin Laden.” Talk about an attention grabbing subtitle, and the book doesn’t disappoint.
The listed author of the book is Mark Owen, but that is a pseudonym, and according to Wikipedia, the author’s real name has been revealed to be Matt Bissonnette by an official al Qaeda website. Since that revelation, Bissonnette has been threatened by al Qaeda for killing OBL and by the Defense Department for disclosing national-security secrets.
There is no exaggeration in the description of the book as a “firsthand account.” Of the 22 SEALs who landed in Abbottabad, Bissonnette was the second of three who went up the staircase to the third floor, and this has to be the definitive version of how OBL died:
- “We were less than five steps from getting to the top when I heard suppressed shots. BOP. BOP. The point man had seen a man peeking out of the door on the right side of the hallway about ten feet in front of him. I couldn’t tell from my position if the rounds hit the target or not…. [after entering the room] the point man grabbed both women and drove them toward the corner of the room…. With the women out of the way, I entered the room with a third SEAL. We saw the man lying on the floor…. The point man’s shots had entered the right side of his head. Blood and brains spilled out the side of his skull. In his death throes, he was still twitching and convulsing. Another assaulter and I trained our lasers on his chest and fired several rounds. The bullets tore into him, slamming his body into the floor until he was motionless.”
The other newsworthy item in the book relates to whether the so-called Operation Neptune Spear was a “kill mission.” According to Bissonnette:
- “Toward the end [of a briefing], a question was asked whether or not this was a kill mission. A lawyer from either the Department of Defense or the White House made it clear this wasn’t an assassination. ‘If he is naked with his hands up, you’re not going to engage him,’ he told us. ‘I am not going to tell you how to do your job. What we’re saying is if he does not pose a threat, you will detain him.’”
Based on this legal guidance, I suppose the point man was justified in taking the killing action that he did, but I’m not sure how Bissonnette justifies putting OBL out of his misery.
Among the less significant trivia in the book, Bissonnette points out that, not surprisingly for patriotic military men, “None of us were huge fans of Obama.” During a subsequent Obama TV speech, one of the SEALs said, “You know we just put admiral’s stars on Jay. And we just got this guy reelected.” How true! “GM is alive and bin Laden is dead” became Obama’s campaign battle cry, which reminds me of the greenhorn who got famous as The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
Bissonnette also describes meeting with Obama a few days after the killing – “I don’t recall much about the speech. It was straight from the speechwriter playbook…. After the speech, we posed for a few pictures. Biden kept cracking lame jokes that no one got. He seemed like a nice guy, but he reminded me of someone’s drunken uncle at a Christmas dinner.”
Coincidentally, there is a brand new action-thriller movie called Zero Dark Thirty based on the search for and killing of OBL. The movie, which doesn’t get to San Antonio until January 11, apparently focuses more on the search for OBL (including the so-called torture) and less on his killing, but I will be interested in seeing whether the movie-makers got the facts right without the benefit of reading No Easy Day.