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06/05/2012

Book review: "Manhunt" is a solid read about the exhaustive seek & destroy mission for Bin Laden

Manhunt_peter_bergenConsidering no one from the SEAL Team Six that executed the raid to kill Osama Bin Laden has actually conducted an interview about that event, the next best thing is the new book from Peter Bergen, “Manhunt: The 10 Year Search For Bin Laden From 9/11 to Abbottabad”.

Bergen actually visited the compound where Bin Laden spent his final years in Abbottabad, Pakistan. It turned out to be more of a prison, complete with a little "prison yard" where Bin Laden did his daily walks mostly out of reach of satellites and spies.

Bergen is one of the few journalists who ever interviewed Bin Laden, and the CNN correspondent has followed the late terrorist’s career closer than perhaps any member of the media in the western world. Bergen’s research is extensive, and he spoke to nearly every senior member of the White House, CIA, defense department, Pakistani officials and countless others who were involved in this process.

Barring a first person account from a SEAL team member, or some one way up the food chain, this book is about as good as there is right now about the decade long search to kill America’s No. 1 threat.

It’s only 270 pages, reads very fast, and goes into fascinating detail about this long, expensive and painful process.

Peter bergenThe book says:
* Bin Laden’s decision for Al Qaeda to execute the 9/11 attacks was ultimately the organization’s undoing. Bin Laden never thought the U.S. would be so committed for so long to go after the Taliban, and other terrorist cells. Bergen likens this to Japan bombing Pearl Harbor in 1941; the attack ultimately destroyed its empire.

* Bin Laden was a dead man when U.S. forces had him pinned in the mountains of Tora Bora in Afghanistan in late 2001. The book outlines just how dead he was but was able to escape thanks to a U.S. force that was not big enough to close it out, and the reliance on Pakistani troops that may not have been as committed to the cause.

* There was a lesson in this; if you want something done, do it yourself with your own hands, or your own people. 

* The resources, personnel wise and financially, dedicated to killing Bin Laden were exceptional. These are some incredibly smart people using James Bond-like technology, and they still couldn’t find this guy.

Osama-Bin-Laden* The book describes Bin Laden as very smart, humorless, exceptionally conservative, and fanatical in his hatred for the U.S. His greatest miscalculation was that he was sure the U.S. would bail out too soon of any extensive action in the Middle East. 

* In an effort to remain alive, Bin Laden lived like a prisoner in his compound with his many wives for the last four or five years of his life. This guy went nowhere, and stayed away from any technology that could be traced.

* President Obama made finding Bin Laden an absolute priority; not that it wasn’t under President Bush, but for Obama this sounds like a legacy deal.

* Obama’s decision to execute the raid was a far greater risk than the general public may have realized. Despite all of this intelligence, it was still just an assumption that it was Bin Laden living in this compound. There was no 100 percent, eye witness certainty.

* Obama very much risked a disaster on his watch, much like when Jimmy Carter OK’d the raid to rescue the hostages in Iran in 1979. “Operation Eagle Claw” was a fiasco that resulted in no rescued hostages, and only dead American soldiers. It may be a coincidence, but Carter was not re-elected.

Whitehouse-raid* It does not sound as if the U.S. ever intended to capture Bin Laden but always wanted to kill him. To have him alive would have created a line of headaches no one wanted any part of.

* The people who planned and executed this raid performed at the highest levels of their profession. How they did this, without anyone knowing in this day and age, is remarkable.

 

 

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