Killing Osama bin Laden was No Easy Day for SEAL

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life - KIM CUR­TIS

Some de­tails are mun­dane: Ter­ror­ist leader Osama bin Laden wore a sleeve­less white shirt and tan pants when he was shot and killed by U.S. navy SEALS, he used Just For Men to dye his beard, he was a neat freak. Other de­tails seem sig­nif­i­cant, even trou­bling: the un­armed bin Laden was shot af­ter peek­ing out from be­hind a door, a young girl — per­haps a daugh­ter — was the first to iden­tify him, and an Amer­i­can ser­vice­man, lack­ing ad­e­quate space in a Black Hawk he­li­copter, was forced to sit on the dead man’s chest.

The mem­oir, writ­ten by Owen (a pseu­do­nym, the au­thor was later iden­ti­fied in me­dia ac­counts as for­mer Navy SEAL Matt Bis­son­nette), has at­tracted con­tro­versy and criticism for whether Owen re­vealed clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion and whether the 24-man SEAL Team Six con­ducted it­self prop­erly. But what’s miss­ing is a re­flec­tion on the book’s strengths — a cast of char­ac­ters, in­clud­ing Owen him­self, art­fully drawn, yet painfully hu­man, pas­sion­ate de­scrip­tions of a life­style that few are privy to, as well as its breath­lessly paced, in­ex­orable march to­ward an in­evitable end­ing.

Owen wrote the book with co-au­thor and for­mer jour­nal­ist Kevin Mau­rer in the year af­ter 2011’s Op­er­a­tion Nep­tune Spear, which killed bin Laden at his fam­ily’s com­pound in Ab­bot­tabad, Pak­istan.

The ac­tual raid con­sumes only as many pages as it did min­utes in real life — about 40 — but the rest of No Easy Day (its ti­tle is de­rived from SEAL phi­los­o­phy: “The only easy day was yes­ter­day) is any­thing but filler. In­stead, it’s a re­mark­ably in­ti­mate glimpse into what mo­ti­vates men striv­ing to join an elite fight­ing force like the SEALS — and what keeps them there.

Owen de­scribes his child­hood in Alaska and how he butted heads with his par­ents who wanted a col­lege grad­u­ate, not a mil­i­tary en­lis­tee (Owen got his bach­e­lor’s de­gree be­fore en­list­ing). He de­tails the phys­i­cally and men­tally gru­elling and near-con­stant train­ing. And he doesn’t shirk from al­lud­ing to the failed re­la­tion­ships left be­hind.

Lit­tle more than a day af­ter killing bin Laden, Owen found him­self driv­ing home in Vir­ginia Beach, Va. His dis­ori­en­ta­tion was acute.

He pulled into a Taco Bell drive-thru and or­dered two crispy tacos, a bean bur­rito and a Pepsi.

The re­al­ity of the his­tory he had helped cre­ate be­gan to sink in.

“This was pretty cool. It was the kind of mis­sion I’d read about in Alaska as a kid. It was his­tory,” he writes. “But just as quickly as those thoughts crossed my mind, I forced them out. The sec­ond you stop and be­lieve your own hype, you’ve lost.”

No Easy Day, an ac­count of the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, has drawn criticism and con­tro­versy.

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