Tuesday, September 04, 2012

“No Easy Day”, The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Laden Raises Above Politics - a Book Review:


.Political junkies on the left and the right will both be disappointed that “No Easy Day”, The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Laden” by one of the actual Seal Team Leader is remarkably un-political.  “No Easy Day” is neither a political puff piece of “Mission Accomplished” or tale of interference and incompetence by elected leaders in managing the military.  The book is more of a story of how America’s military capability has evolved from President Carter’s 1980 failed “Operation Desert Claw” attempt to rescue 53 hostages held in the American Embassy in Iran, into today’s ultra-competent military professionals

 Matt Bissonnette, writing under the pen name Mark Owen, is the son of “missionaries who met in college in California and found that their faith not only allowed them to spread Christianity but also appealed to their sense of adventure.”  Having moved the family to Alaska to spread the faith, when Matt was five years old the family moved to a small Eskimo village deep in the frozen interior.  Matt’s main connection to the outside world as a boy was bush pilots that brought in hunting expeditions.  Matt relished going outdoors with his father who ran trap lines for extra income and hunted for food.    
Bissonnette credits his wilderness upbringing as an enormous advantage in developing the mental and physical competitiveness necessary to qualify as a Seal and excel in land warfare.  Although he graduated from college and could have entered the Navy as an officer, he enlisted on the advice of a former Seal in order to get “more time as an operator.”  After seven years as a Seal, he was chosen in 2004 for the elite United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group, also known as Seal Team 6. 

Most books on Seals are overly dramatic with heroic exploits and narrow escapes.  Bissonnette spends two thirds of his book describing how Seals are a profession cadre that require extensive preparation, tremendous focus and willingness to stay the course.  Bissonnette acted as point man for Seal patrols and eventually rose to be one of four Seal Team Leaders.  By 2009 Bissonnette had served eleven consecutive combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, in what Seals refer to as “The Long War.”  

In the spring of 2011, Bissonnette and Seal Team 6 got the word that they would have an opportunity to go after “UBL” (Osama Bin Laden).  It seemed that when Seals and Special Forces had surrounded UBL at Tora Bora in 2002, military infighting within the different services about who would get the capture allowed UBL to quietly escape.  Bissonnette describes the real unsung hero of the mission who spent years meticulously developing the intelligence as a selfless CIA officer he refers to as “Jen”.    

Prior to the mission there are a few quotes in the book from Seal members about the political importance of a successful UBL mission: “And we’ll get Obama reelected for sure.  I can see him now, talking about how he killed Bin Laden.”  But Bissonnette makes clear that Seals understood the importance of the mission to the United States:

We all knew this was bigger than us and bigger than politics.  Maybe the officers and the politicians would benefit, but that didn’t make us want to do it any less.  That was how things went.  Our reward was doing the job, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”     

Prior to the launch of the mission, Seal Team 6 was counseled by White House lawyers that the rules of engagement did not require the killing of Osama bin Laden.  During the attack on the compound, UBL was shot when he tried to take a quick peak around a corner.  When the Seals examined UBL’s room, it was clear that “Bin Laden knew we were coming he had not prepared a defense.”  Bissonnette summed up UBL like most other “high value” targets Seals hunted:

The higher up the food chain the targeted individual was, the bigger a pussy he was.  The leaders were less willing to fight.  It was always the young and impressionable who strap on the explosives and blow themselves up.”

Bissonnette states that he wrote “No Easy Day” to correct dis-information on the mission.  Within four hours after killing an unarmed UBL, the White House and others leaked stories of a heroic Osama Bin Laden dying while reaching for his loaded AK-47 rifle.  According to Bissonnette “We always prided ourselves as being the quiet professions, but that quickly turned to dread as more information leaked.”      

Political types on the left that could not be trusted to tell the true story are trying to paint Bissonnette as a modern “Swift Boater” looking to cash in on his fifteen minutes of fame.  The political types on the right are trying to spin Bissonnette as a hero rebelling against his former Commander in Chief.  The real Matt Bissonnette is a 36-year-old from Alaska who soldiered for 13 deployments and just wants to set the record straight.

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