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Author Mark Bowden talks Bin Laden, getting an interview with the President, & Killing Pablo

341b2b6a806f21bf1f41dba62392d66d2790c3c8-i200Mark Bowden landed on the national map with his book "Black Hawk Down" and another score with "Killing Pablo". Both are wonderful reads.

He now has a book about about the manhunt for Osama Bin Laden - "The Finish".

One of my favorite authors, he was nice enough to chat with me a few minutes this week about his book, the research behind it.

The Big Mac Blog: Your book may be the only place that had President Obama saying he wanted Bin Laden killed - is that correct?
Mark Bowden: Well, what we said was that he preferred Bin Laden capture and he explained why but he felt it was very unlikely. He was ready to accept that outcome. 

The Big Mac Blog: In your research are you of a mind there was no way to establish any leads on Bin Laden without torture?
Mark Bowden: It was definitely involved and so anyone who says that it wasn’t has not looked very hard at the evidence. You can’t say with any certainty that we would not have found the information without leaning on these folks. My personal belief is some of these people were not going to be helpful without being prodded. The question comes is whether it was worth it. I don’t know the answer to that. As I have written that the coercive interrogation should be banned for moral and practical reasons. However, I believe there are instances when that rule should be broken.

Cn_image.size.mark-bowden-obamaThe Big Mac Blog: Having read or talked about it often are you numb to the realities of torture?
Mark Bowden: I’m not numb to it. I can imagine the ugliness of it. Anyone with an imgaingation can place themselves ina  position of someone being tortured or mistreated. So I’m not numb to it. I think that, I thought long and hard about these things, because I have written about them and I can imagine instances when I would be willing to lean on someone. I don’t know how far I would be willing to go. Those are rare. 

The Big Mac Blog: Al Qaeda did not seem to think, or be prepared for, the retaliation that ensued - is that fair?
Mark Bowden: I would agree with that. They could not have imagined they would be hit with, in part because of the tactics and tools employed against them didn’t even exist when they started this. It’s hard for anyone who has made a study of it to fully comprehend the scale and the depth and scope of military power and depth of intelligence that exists in this country. By definition, and certainly true of Bin Laden, were fairly ignorant beyond the scriptures of their own faith. They were incapable of imagining what was coming.

The-FinishThe Big Mac Blog: What were your thoughts on Zero Dark Thirty?
Mark Bowden: I thought it was very good and within the definition of a Hollywood movie based on a true story they did a very good job of condensing it all. It fictionalized a lot of things as the film makers claimed it’s not a journalistic account of what happened but better than most Hollywood movies purport.

The Big Mac Blog: How did this book come about for you?
Mark Bowden: The day after Bin Laden was killed a producer friend called me and asked if I was interested in writing a screenplay. I know President Obama's press secretary, so I contacted him and asked him for an interview. I knew the President was going to be getting a ton of requests but I thought I would ask. 
To my surprise, the press secretary said yes. And then the movie producer friend said never mind. I thought, 'Here I am going to have this amazing access', so I have to be able to find something. That's when I contacted my book publisher. 

The Big Mac Blog: Will your book 'Killing Pablo' ever be made into a movie?
Mark Bowden: It's a great, great story. I think it’s likely it will be made in the long run if not based on my book but a film about that incident. The story of Pablo Escobar is one of the most amazing stories from the 20th century.
There are a number of reasons why (my book) drifted off from being made. One of the reasons in the beginning was the studios didn't want to make a movie where the majority of the characaters were Hispanic. That reason has evaporated in recent years.

The Big Mac Blog: What are you working on now? 
Mark Bowden: For the first time in my life I'm spending a few months working on nothing. I am trying to gear up for some magazine pieces for Vanity Fair and for Atlantic. I have two books under contract, the first is the Battle of Hue during the Tet Offensive during the Vietname war. The anniversary for that is 2018, so I have five years to do that. 

The Big Mac Blog: You are a Philly guy and I know you covered the Eagles for a while - what do you think of the Eagles hiring Chip Kelly?
Mark Bowden: I'm excited. The team has sucked for the last two years. They needed a big change. 


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Michael T.

Good interview. Another big score for you and The Big Mac Blog. Say what you want but you have interviewed some serious folks. Well done.

You have peaked my interest on two fronts (and i am not a big reader) I want to read a Bin Laden book and I want to read 'Killing Pablo'.

Good interview.


Best Ben Laden book on the market. A must read. Massive appeal on a bunch of levels.

free agent

You are a good interviewer. You may be missing your calling.

Eduardo Noriega

The whole Bin Laden thing is sooo done. How about Arnold's new action flick "Last Stand". Now THAT's exciting!

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