At the Scene

SEALs Book on Raid to Kill Osama Contradicts Administration’s Version in Several Key Spots

Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette’s account, No Easy Day, describes the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in ways that repeatedly contradict the Obama administration’s version of the story.

Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette, writing under the pseudonym Mark Owen (with Keven Maurer) in the forthcoming, No Easy Day, describes his participation in the raid on Abbottabad in 2011 that killed Osama bin Laden. Bissonnette’s story directly contradicts the Obama administration’s version of the raid on several key points. The book is to be published next week by Dutton.

Bin Laden Was Already DeadBissonnette writes that as the Navy SEALS walked up the stairs of bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound, they saw “a man peeking out of the door.” The Associated Press reported that bin Laden disappeared inside a bedroom after hearing suppressed gunfire. When the SEALS followed him inside, they found bin Laden on the floor in blood with a hole through the right side of his head. The SEALs then shot bin Laden’s twitching body several times until he became motionless. The Obama administration had previously claimed that the SEALS had shot bin Laden because they had assumed he was reaching for a weapon. A White House spokesman said in an email, “'As President Obama said on the night that justice was brought to Osama bin Laden, "We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country."'

Bin Laden Was Unarmed
Despite widespread media reports that bin Laden brandished a weapon and resisted when the SEALs entered the room, Owen writes that bin Laden was actually unarmed, according to the Daily News. Bissonnette’s assertion that bin Laden did not make any effort to defend himself contradicts the White House’s account of the raid, according to Forbes. There was no 40-minute gunfight, he writes, and the SEALs were not fired at as they approached the compound.

He Wasn’t Prepared for an Attack
After searching bin Laden’s bedroom, Bissonnette writes that he only found two guns, an AK-47 and a Makarov pistol, and both had empty chambers, according to The Huffington Post. “He hadn’t even prepared a defense,” he writes. “He had no intention of fighting.” Bissonnette claims that, in his experience, it’s common for top leaders to be unprepared for a raid. “In all of my deployments, we routinely saw this phenomenon. The higher up the food chain the targeted individual was, the bigger a pussy he was.”

Two Women Confirmed bin Laden’s Identity
When the team members entered the bedroom where bin Laden had been shot, they discovered a group of women wailing over his blood-drenched body. According to Bissonnette, bin Laden was wearing a sleeveless white T-shirt, loose tan pants, and a tan tunic. The SEALs then began examining his face to ensure it was bin Laden, before finally interrogating a young girl and one of the women who were crowding around bin Laden’s body—both women, Bissonnette writes, confirmed his identity.

A Soldier Sat on bin Laden’s ChestBissonette also claims that bin Laden’s body was not treated with quite the same level of respect that President Obama promised it had received. Although bin Laden was given a full Muslim burial at sea, Bissonnette reveals that one of the SEALs sat on bin Laden’s chest on the floor of the cramped helicopter during the flight out of the compound. The helicopter was crowded with about 24 SEALs because one of the helicopters had crashed in Abbottabad before the raid began. Troops must sometimes sit on their own war dead in crowded helicopters, so this is not an entirely uncommon practice.

Not an Assassination MissionBefore the raid, a lawyer for “either” the White House or the Defense Department had told the SEALs that they were not going on an assassination mission. Bissonnette recalls that the lawyer said that if the terrorist was “naked with his hands up,” they should not “engage” him. The lawyer told the SEALs to “detain him” if possible.

The SEALs Joked About Obama Taking Credit for the Raid
Bissonnette says the SEALs criticized Obama for taking credit for their success, just as he had after the 2009 mission to free Captain Richard Phillips from pirates off the coast of Somalia. The group joked about it around a fire pit while waiting for their final orders, he writes, jibing about who would play them in a movie and predicting that they had just won Obama another term. One SEAL reportedly joked, “And we’ll get Obama reelected for sure. I can see him now, talking about how he killed bin Laden.” He says many of the SEALs were not Obama supporters, particularly after his speech announcing the raid, but they’re still glad they went through with the mission.

Joe Biden Told “Lame Jokes”Like Osama bin Laden himself, Bissonnette developed a pretty unflattering opinion of Joe Biden after the raid. During their meeting at the headquarters of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Biden told “lame jokes” that no one understood and the vice president reminded the seals of “someone’s drunken uncle at Christmas dinner.”