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No Easy Day: The Autobiography of a Navy Seal: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden Hardcover – September 4, 2012
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“Mark Owen” is a pseudonym for Matt Bissonnette, a Navy SEAL who took part in the 2011 raid on a compound in Pakistan that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. His muscular memoir was cowritten by Maurer, a journalist who has covered American special-ops forces for nearly a decade, including a stint as an embedded reporter in Iraq. Owen was already a SEAL at the time of the 9/11 attacks; the book begins shortly thereafter, as he is qualifying for the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group (otherwise known as the famed SEAL Team Six), and follows him through various missions, culminating with a detailed account of the planning and execution of the assault on bin Laden’s compound. His version of events has already sparked some controversy—no surprise there, since the mission itself is still a controversial subject—but it doesn’t feel as though Owen intended to add fuel to the fire. Incendiary subject matter aside, this might feel somewhat familiar due to its thematic similarities to such books as Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead, Evan Wright’s Generation Kill, and Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down. Like those modern classics, No Easy Day doesn’t merely tell war stories—it also explores the culture of war and what it means to be a soldier. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: This is the book of the moment and has already ended 50 Shades of Grey’s record-setting run at the top of various best-seller lists. Last Sunday’s 60 Minutes interview with the heavily disguised author only added fuel to the fire. --David Pitt
“This harrowing, minute-by-minute account by one of the highly trained members of Navy SEAL Team Six is narrative nonfiction at its most gripping....No Easy Day puts you right there for every tense moment.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Gripping....There is no better illustration in No Easy Day that SEALs are ruthless pragmatists. They think fast. They adapt to whatever faces them. They do what they have to do.”—The New York Times
“[Mark Owen] has given us a brave retelling of one of the most important events in U.S. military history.”—People
“Make no mistake: No Easy Day is an important historic document.”—Los Angeles Times
“A remarkably intimate glimpse into what motivates men striving to join an elite fighting force like the SEALS—and what keeps them there.”—Associated Press
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Top Customer Reviews
Murphy's Law is illustrated throughout the book. The author doesn't stray from what he knows--the pointy end of the spear--to explain the helicopter crash or how intelligence was developed over more than a decade. On the other hand "Mark Owen" does cover those subjects.
I do quibble. On page 60 the Bradley Fighting Vehicle is described in error as being armed with a 20mm turret gun. The turret of the M-2 BFV has a twin TOW launcher (wire-guided anti-tank missiles, Saddam's sons were clobbered by some of these), an M240 coaxial machine gun in 7.62mm NATO, and a 25mm Bushmaster cannon. The latter has two magazines: a 70 round magazine that usually is loaded with armor piercing rounds capable of killing Russian T-72 tanks `up close' (in tank combat terms) and a 230 round magazine usually loaded with high explosive cannon shells (which also proved capable of taking out the T-72) plus 600 more 25mm cannon rounds stowed. The gunner can select which of the magazines with a flick of a switch and also pick rate of fire. The "effective range" of the 25mm Bushmaster Chain Gun is 3000 meters, and its intended mission was "suppressing" SAGGER anti-tank missile crews to protect the M-1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. The 20mm wouldn't be able to do that. On page 259 the text says that the Pakistani F-16 was armed with 30mm cannon--my best information is that these ex-USAF F-16's have the standard 20mm M-61 Vulcan multi-barrel cannon with a maximum 511 rounds of cannon ammunition. Foreign F-16 operators frequent the Hill Aerospace Museum where I volunteer as a receptionist, and I spoke to several Pakistani airmen over the past few months as they attended various F-16 workshops.
Like I said, I quibble!
Nothing was mentioned about the Blackhawk used in the raid being stealthy. By the way, the movie, "Blue Thunder" (1983)
Blue Thunder (Special Edition) mentioned that the helicopter stealth technology was in service--but "No Easy Day" didn't mention that the Blackhawk was stealthy or standard!
The controversy over "No Easy Day" is of the same kind that this movie covers: "The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell," The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell and for the same reason. Dwight D. Eisenhower was threatened with court martial, too, when he completed a 1920 paper on the tank. "Mark Owen" signed a non-disclosure agreement against releasing classified information, but prosecutions are more often for revealing information that is less than flattering to the politicians in power. The author states that he is donating the proceeds of his book to three charities (page 299).
Of course, his statement on page 249 that Osama bin Laden didn't man up and fight to the death might be the reason that the Department of Defense is angry. Or perhaps it is the shoddy way the SEALs were treated by the White House? That's standard for all administrations--regardless of which party "owns" the White House. It's something that military people understand--we're dirt and they are the beautiful people. It's been that way for years. America's military is non-partisan--though Abe Lincoln may owe re-election to the military vote in 1864. On page 298 "Owens" states: "Of course, the raid is now being used in a political wrestling match as both parties fight for the White House. The mission was never about that for the twenty-four men who climbed aboard the helicopters that night. Politics are for the Washington, D.C., policy makers who safely watched the action on a video monitor from thousands of miles away."
On the other hand, the release of "No Easy Day" on September 11, 2012 can be interpreted as a move to influence the November elections. But the book didn't really expose classified means and techniques; these have been exhibited in many other places, many other times over the past thirty years. I did mention "Blue Thunder."
"No Easy Day" was an enjoyable read. Get a copy. If you must, wait until after you cast your ballot in November so that you aren't "influenced" by "Mark Owen"--but it shouldn't make a difference. The Beltway Bandits are out of touch with what happens on the sharp end of the spear--just as the Thin Red Line is out of touch with the politician's world.
No Easy Day is an easy read presented in a (mostly) linear fashion. Owen flashes back to some of his previous experiences on deployment in the Middle East and does not talk much about the bin Laden mission until the middle of the book. Regarding the actual operation, he couldn't spill all the beans, but he still gives a clear account of how it all went down. Essentially, the story of the raid carries the book along and would have made it interesting even if Owen couldn't spell "SEAL," and it is worth reading for that reason alone. Just keep in mind that it isn't the best book out there written by a former Navy SEAL (I would recommend Lone Survivor for more details about SEAL life and toughness).
My above impression of the book being what it is (not as good as I had hoped but definitely worth reading), I am astounded by some of the criticism other reviewers have leveled against Owen. To refute some of the myths going around...
First, some reviewers have claimed No Easy Day is one big ego trip. Hardly! Again, compared to other books written by former SEALs, Owen is on the lower extreme of the ego scale. He opens the book explaining that his purpose for writing it at all is to set the record straight about the operation and show that it was a team effort. Throughout, Owen remains humble, even pointing to instances where he reminded himself not to get caught up in the hoopla of having "been there" when bin Laden was killed. To anyone claiming Owen is arrogant based on No Easy Day, I invite you to read Rogue Warrior by Richard Marcinko (founder of SEAL Team Six) to get a taste of genuine egotism.
Second, there are a lot of people sore over Owen's commentary on President Obama. Based on reviews here, I was led to believe this book flat-out smears Obama, which is entirely not the case. Owen mentions the Commander in Chief two separate times. He is critical of Obama the first time for non-political reasons (Owen and his teammates were tired of waiting for Presidential approval to launch the bin Laden raid, which seems perfectly reasonable). In the second instance, Owen admits he and his teammates are not fans of Obama (which is what reviewers are up in arms over) but then proceeds to praise the President for giving a good speech post-raid (which the aforementioned critics all conveniently neglected to mention in their reviews). Owen does make one comment about Biden acting like "a drunk uncle at Christmas," but let's be real- Owen was simply making an observation that the majority of the American population has also made.
Third and most important, there seems to be a lot of debate over how genuine Owen is in writing No Easy Day. A lot of servicemen, current and retired, have criticized him for being irresponsible at best and betraying his ethos to "cash in" at worst. Because of the high volume of passionate criticism Owen has received because of No Easy Day, I held off buying it for awhile. If his intention is indeed to make a cash grab, I was going to make sure I didn't shell out twenty bucks for his book. Ultimately, though, I decided the criticism was not heavy enough or unanimous enough to keep me from checking it out for myself. My impression strictly based on what I read is this:
Owen is a decent enough guy. He gave credit to his teammates, didn't take much for himself, and at the end of No Easy Day announced his intention to donate the proceeds from the book sales to three different veterans' foundations, an honorable move.
The problem is at least one of these organizations, the Navy SEAL Foundation, has rejected his offer and is refusing to accept any donation from Owen, presumably because the SEAL community takes issue with him writing it at all. Where, then, are the proceeds going? Are they going to the other two foundations? A different one not mentioned? Or are the critics right about Owen- has greed gotten to him?
These are questions to which I have no answers. I paid one cent for a hardcover copy of No Easy Day, so whatever happens to be the case, I don't feel guilty for "supporting" Owen. He can keep my penny. However, I do think these questions warrant answering. Given the fact that Owen has legitimate reasons for laying low (I wonder if he ever intended for his real name, which I will not post here, to surface), it is unlikely we'll ever hear from him about the controversy. This makes it easy for his critics to attack him; it also makes it easy for him to swim in pools of cash the reader believes he has donated to a good cause. But once again, based only on what I read in No Easy Day, Owen seems like he's a stand-up guy.