No Easy Day: The Autobiography of a Navy SEAL


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Book Title: No Easy Day: The Autobiography of a Navy SEAL (The First Hand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden)

Authors: Mark Owen with Kevin Maurer

Publisher: Dutton/The Penguin Group, New York

Copyright: 2012

Type: Kindle eBook

ISBN: 978-0-525-95372-2 (hardcover)

eISBN: 978-1-101-61130-2 (eBook)

 

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Yackman’s Rating: 6 points out of 10

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Review: I just finished reading No Easy Day, the story of the SEAL Team 6 raid that killed Osama bin Ladin.  It was written by Mark Owen with the help of Kevin Maurer.  Mark Owen is a pen name used to hide the identity of the real SEAL and team leader who participated in the raid and delivered the coup de grace that killed bin Laden.  Owen was a SEAL for more than ten years and participated in many missions, including another high profile rescue, that of Richard Phillips, the captain of the merchant ship Maersk Alabama, who was being held by Somali pirates. 

The book is no literary masterpiece.  But it does provide a straight-forward description of one SEAL’s motivations and the kind of personality that is driven to this kind of work.  It opens with a brief synopsis of the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad.  It then flashes back to the years of training and the experiences that led up to the author’s participation in the raid.  This flash back represents about two-thirds of the book.  It provides an important glimpse into the life and mindset of a man who claims to be a typical Navy SEAL. 

The description of the raid on bin Laden’s compound is riveting.  SEAL’s like Owen train day after day, simulating all the different scenarios they might encounter, till the necessary survival behavior becomes second nature, like the muscle memory of elite athletes that requires little conscious thought to complete.  Raids become missions, men become targets, and killing becomes routine. 

The bin Laden raid was planned down to the smallest detail and many contingencies were planned for.  Learning from the disastrous attempt to free the Iranian hostages during the Carter Administration, they provided for multiple back-up helicopters in case one or more of the attack craft were damaged or destroyed.  Yet there were things they could not know.  For instance, they did not know what the interior layout of bin Laden’s house was like.  Once inside, they would have to rely on their training to find their target. 

We all know that the mission was a success and that bin Laden was killed, so I won’t go into any more detail about the raid.  As a society, we need these warriors, acting as our surrogates, to hunt down the bad guys.  We select them, train them and pay them to do this work.   But the whole issue of the existence of a highly trained killing force employed and trained by us to do our bidding is disturbing on several levels. 

For example, what kind of men devote their lives to becoming highly trained, disciplined killers?  They appear unmoved by the lives they take.  Summing up one raid as a, “Successful mission.  Seventeen killed”.  The dead are the bad guys, the targets.  The SEAL’s have noble motives, yet in the end they give their lives to the art of war and killing.  How do they do this?  What toll does it take on them?  Can they ever successfully leave this work and reenter the larger society?  And who are we that we require this kind of service from others?  The answers are not in this book.

Yet there is nobility, even if the contrasts are jarring.  After bin Laden has been mortally wounded and dispatched with several shots to his chest, the SEAL’s herd his traumatized children and one wife to a balcony removed from the scene, while another tends to the wound a second wife sustained during the action.  In another incident, a courier is killed in his house in an exchange of gunfire and then his wife and children are escorted to safety. 

The book is truly a riveting bit of history.  Osama bin Laden was a mass murderer who needed to be brought to justice.  This was done.  And while I do not rejoice in anyone’s death, I am satisfied that in this case, his death was the correct and just thing.  I am thankful for the skilled men who delivered this justice and the courageous president who ordered the mission.  Still, in my heart I long for a world in which men like bin Laden cease to hate and where men like Mark Owen do not have to defend us from them.  


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 © Don Yackel 2017