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Book Review of No Easy Day

Author: Mark Owen with Kevin Maurer

Publisher: Dutton

Review by Jim Zabek, 17 September, 2012


No Easy Day is the story of the killing of Usama bin Laden. Since the news of its intended publication broke just a few weeks ago, the book has been the center of controversy. Reports circulated in the news of how the author might be at risk of leaking classified information regarding the raid. Other reports indicated that the Pentagon might prosecute the author for any breaches of security or non-disclosure. To date, I am unaware of any legal action against the author.

Because of the controversy surrounding the book's release I was eager to read it. Nearly a year and a half after the killing took place a picture had emerged in the news media, but one that was marked by contradiction and information gaps. I have read several biographies and non-fiction accounts of Navy SEALs and special operations training and missions. As a life-long civilian I wouldn't know classified data if it bit me in the butt. It turns out that is a good thing, because I can examine the details of the book without bias – I only know facts that are available to the public. And it was with an eye on discovering details that weren't public that examined the book. With all of the controversy, what could I learn from No Easy Day that I hadn't read in another book or heard on the news?

As it turns out, nothing.

That isn't to say there weren't details that were new in the book. Certain events, such as the clarification of details such as whether UBL had pushed his wife in front of him as cover or not are revealed in No Easy Day. But in terms of the execution of a special operations mission, the training and preparation for it – there is nothing new here. You can find more about how to train for and execute one of these missions in a first-person shooter game than you can by reading No Easy Day.

So why read No Easy Day? It is to get the record straight. We learn how the raid was executed and just why the best of the best were selected for it. Conducted by what the author calls a “dream team” the finest operators of SEAL Team Six were chosen for this mission. It's an amazing story and well worth the time to read.

Another reason to read No Easy Day is that it doesn't follow the typical script that often characterize these semi-autobiographical works. Typically there is an introductory chapter followed by half the book being devoted to the author's life as he grows up and then goes through the vetting process of becoming a SEAL. It isn't to take away from that accomplishment – the process is jarringly difficult. However, it is unfortunate that, having read one such account, you've largely read them all.

No Easy Day breaks from that pattern. The reader does learn something about the process of being selected for SEAL Team Six. To my knowledge this is the first time a biography has been written about the process. The structure of the book is such that the reader is treated to discussions of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan which are artfully woven into the story leading up to the the final operation. The break from the formula of other books is appreciated and makes for a more interesting story.

Personally, I found a great deal of satisfaction in reading the story of UBL's demise. No Easy Day is informative and enjoyable to read. It is a must-buy for anyone interested in the actual account of the mission.


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