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Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Finish, The Killing of Osama bin Laden

"It will not be denied that power is of an encroaching nature and that it ought to be effectually restrained from passing the limits assigned to it." - James Madison, Federalist No. 48, 1788

I have just finished Mark Bowden’s book, “The Finish, The Killing of Osama bin Laden”. It was a tough read as in many cases Bowden repeated himself. About half of the book was devoted to Obama and his decision making process dating back to 2007 and his first impressions on 9/11. One-quarter of the book was devoted bin Laden and his writings to member al Qaeda and his philosophies on Islam and letters to his fighters and subordinates. One quarter of the book was devoted to the planning for the raid, the raid itself and an epilogue on the aftermath including the spin and Biden’s stupid statements. Bowden even took a shot at Mitt Romney over a comment the 2012 Republican candidate made say the “even Jimmy Carter would have authorized this raid as it was so well planned.” Bowden went on to say the he did not believe Romney would have pulled the trigger on the raid. This sounds very political to me.

Before ordering the e-book for my iPad I read the reviews. Some were 5 star while others were 1 star. One reviewer went so far as to state the book coulddownload have been written by Obama’s reelection committee. A great deal of the book focused on how Obama and his National Security staff decided on a raid rather than a drone strike. This part was interesting and informative as to how the air force wanted a drone strike while Admiral McRaven, the head of JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) wanted the raid. JSOC believed that a drone strike, would cause too much collateral damage and the untried mini missile while targeting bin Laden, known as “The Pacer” was risky. It would also be difficult to prove that it was bin Laden who was killed. A raid, while risking US Special Forces would provide positive proof that they got bin Laden. This debate within the NSC was interesting. The CIA wanted the raid and were planning with their special ops people while the air force and secretary of defense were in favor of the drone strike. The CIA after conferring with McRaven acquiesced to JSOC. Obama did go with the raid.

The raid was planned and orchestrated by Admiral McRaven and he choose the red team from SEAL Team 6. The rehearsals for the raid on the house were carried out at Fort Bragg and the rehearsals for the helicopter pilots – the 160 Night Stalkers – were carried out in the Nevada desert where the heat and terrain altitude most resembled the conditions at Abbottabad, Pakistan. This is where the shinned.

Otherwise the book was too much about Obama and could have been many less pages. One reviewer on Amazon wrote:

“I wouldn't've been surprised to find Mr. Bowden asserting that Mr. Obama was with the DEVGRU boys in J'Bad, and that he personally loaded their magazines, dialed in their radios, pinned their lunch money to their web gear, and had barbecue and beer waiting for them when they returned. I actually found myself thinking that the author believed that, had Mr. Obama not taken matters in hand, OBL would never have been hit. This is a slap in the face to those analysts, operatives, operators and other professionals who, prior to and well after 9/11 and up to OBL being forcibly checked out of the net, never too THEIR eyes off the ball.

This book is nothing short of a love song to Mr. Obama. Credit where it is due, but leave us not exaggerate the man's this or any other instance.”

Another reviewer said:

“In the past I've read several of your works thus when I saw you had written on the subject of the killing of Bin Laden I got excited. Sadly as I clawed my way through each page I found myself wondering why was I re-reading the same data over again. Other reviews point out that you giving president Obama too much glory but I don't agree. I do think our president made this mission a priority and for that he enjoys honor. But once is enough to harp on this right?”

I agree with both reviewers. Too much Obama! Granted he had to make the final decision and risk a great deal of political capital, but enough is enough. Rob O’Neill’s interviews with Peter Doocy were much more informative than Bowden’s book when it came to the operational side of the raid. Bowden never talked with O’Neill or Mark Owen (the pseudonym for the author of the first book by a SEAL about the raid) – “No Easy Day: The Autobiography of a Navy Seal: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden.” He talked with Owen’s contractor of the book.

This book is a far cry from Black Hawk Down or Killing Pablo. It appeared to me that Bowden wanted to write a book and without good interviews with the SEALS, the CIA analysts, or McRaven he spent his time interviewing Obama, Ben Rhodes, Samantha Power, and other White House staffers.

My advice, don’t waste you time or money.

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