In light of the upcoming fifth year anniversary of the Bin Laden raid, I review this book for this weekend’s reading recommendation.
Chuck Pfarrer. SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama bin Laden. New York, NY: Saint Martin’s Press, November 8th, 2011. 240 pp.
At first I wasn’t sure of whether or not I should read this book, having read other works surrounding the mission that killed Bin Laden especially the work No Easy Day. I was glad that I read it because this book definitely manage to contribute to the conversation of what happened that day. What makes this book unique is that this book was written by a former SEAL who interviewed the SEALs operators involved with the Bin Laden raid. From these interviews the author attempt to synthesize all the accounts from the SEALs (some of which the author admit were conflicting) in order to give a better narrative of what happened that day.
Those interested in the book might want to know that the book wasn’t just about the operation to hunt Bin Laden. For the first half there was a lot of talk about what Navy SEALs are, their training and history. Especially interesting is the author’s perspective about the history of SEAL team Six and his take on the founder Richard Marcinko. The author argues that Marcinko hurt SEAL Team Six more than he helped since Marcinko developed more a cult of personality rather than a Team that could easily be transitioned to a new commander. The author even argues that it was the second commander of SEAL Team Six that built the Team to what it is now known. I think at this time in my life I am in more agreement with the author than with Marcinko, though of course I appreciate his contribution to the SEALs and the defense of this country.
The book also devotes considerable attention to the history of Bin Laden especially his early pre-Al Qaeda years. The author shares in the book of Bin Laden’s military incompetence during the Soviet Afghan conflict. Interestingly enough the author also advance the theory that Al Qaeda’s number two man has always wanted to try to get Bin Laden killed and become a martyr so that he could take over Al Qaeda but alas fate would not be in his favor with how long Bin Laden lived for. I think the author’s claim was shocking for me as it was the first time I heard it but I think it is very plausible.
I’m glad I read it even though the book’s chronology of the timing of what took place was different than those mentioned elsewhere. For instance this mentioned the death of Bin Laden during the raid was mentioned in the book as having taken place before the helicopter crash. The book makes it out that the helicopter crashed took place while the team was about to leave rather than arriving. It left me wondering more about what happened though the author himself admit that the final say about happened will be left to the historians even decades from now when more sources could be declassified. I was blown away with the book stating the fact that the Bin Laden raid was very surgical and the SEALs were professional and not out to just lay waste to the compound—the total operation bullet expenditure was only twelve rounds, which reveal incredible accuracy and discipline on the part of the SEALs.
I recommend this book. It was an emotional read as I read this approaching the fifth anniversary of the raid. I cried thinking about 9/11. I cried thinking of the two wars that was launched since that dreadful day, and how Bin Laden’s death brought some (not all) closure.