Esquire has a big feature on the SEAL who shot Osama Bin Laden, headlined “The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden… Is Screwed,” and if that doesn’t make you want to read it, nothing I can say is going to. It’s a great (and necessary) read, but for our purposes, the section on the actual Bin Laden killing is of interest. One of the main thrusts of criticism in my Zero Dark Thirty review was that it didn’t show a single discussion about whether the Bin Laden mission was a kill mission, and that no one ever even used a euphemism for killing when they were talking about it ahead of time. I thought it was weak that they just left that out. Since I pride myself on admitting it when I’m wrong, I can admit that I was at least half wrong about that, at least as it pertained to the SEALs. As it pertained to the SEALs, the way the shooter tells it, the mission went down just as the movie depicted:
Everybody wanted him dead, but nobody wanted to say, Hey, you’re going to kill this guy. It was just sort of understood that’s what we wanted to do.
Here’s a longer passage:
There was bin Laden standing there. He had his hands on a woman’s shoulders, pushing her ahead, not exactly toward me but by me, in the direction of the hallway commotion. It was his youngest wife, Amal.
He looked confused. And way taller than I was expecting. He had a cap on and didn’t appear to be hit. I can’t tell you 100 percent, but he was standing and moving. He was holding her in front of him. Maybe as a shield, I don’t know.
For me, it was a snapshot of a target ID, definitely him. Even in our kill houses where we train, there are targets with his face on them. This was repetition and muscle memory. That’s him, boom, done.
I thought in that first instant how skinny he was, how tall and how short his beard was, all at once. He was wearing one of those white hats, but he had, like, an almost shaved head. Like a crew cut. I remember all that registering. I was amazed how tall he was, taller than all of us, and it didn’t seem like he would be, because all those guys were always smaller than you think.
I’m just looking at him from right here [he moves his hand out from his face about ten inches]. He’s got a gun on a shelf right there, the short AK he’s famous for. And he’s moving forward. I don’t know if she’s got a vest and she’s being pushed to martyr them both. He’s got a gun within reach. He’s a threat. I need to get a head shot so he won’t have a chance to clack himself off [blow himself up].