The hunt for Osama Bin Laden (UBL) is one of the defining tales straddling the new millennium. Beginning in those anxious days after September 11- Owen’s account delivers a degree of closure on the heinous attrocities.
The Speeding Train
The 250 or so pages are part history, autobiography and personal philosophy. We gain unique insight into the rigours of SEAL training. Hell week is described in stomach churning detail. The narrative never lets up and we feel each thrum of the chopper and whistling of the AK-47 rounds.
Mark doesn’t labor the buildup. We jump between training and missions including the infamous Captain Phillips rescue off Somalia. I came to the book through Jack Carr. Like Owen he is an ex SEAL turned writer and author of the James Reece series. Here though truth really is more gripping than fiction.
The ‘good idea fairy’ is such apt analogy for the bureaucracy which can emerge when you throw mega dollars, layers of management and technology together. There are parallels here with the oil industry. It takes more than one man to drill a well, find a reservoir and produce hydrocarbons. Equally it took many thousands of bright people, millions/ trillions of dollars and over a decade to bring UBL to justice.
Throughout a genuine sense of unity, brotherhood which binds the team resonates with the reader. The cameraderie jumps off the page an aspect which is often overlooked in the print media. The story highlights contrasts between the labyrinthine security agency and the ‘get shit done’ SEALs.
No work is flawless and there are sections where the book falls short. The ultimate killing comes as something as an anti-climax. The dumping of the body at sea is glossed over. There is also a noticeable absence of content on the planning of the attacks. Mastermind Khaled-Sheik-, Mohammad (KLM) is just a footnote. For a much deeper dive on the hijackers take a look at Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower.
Thus to politics which bubbles under the writing like a unscratched itch. Barack Obama doesn’t exactly come out smelling of roses. There are more than a couple or digs at the former ‘change you can believe’ in President. He still cops flack from both sides of the aisle for being drone trigger happy.
Above all we follow an operative who takes really pleasure in his craft. The methodical way he prepares equipment, stays alert and focus under pressure are all things we should heed. As a self confessed type A personality he flounders when not in control.
Bringing this review together is tricky. I loved going on the journey with Mark. I defy readers to not feel they are plunging from the Chinooks into the beat up compound in Abbatabad.
It took real bravery to set down and share the story. No doubt he faced massive pressure from the Intelligence Community. Like Ed Snowdon’s Permanent Record this is a story that had to be told and demands to be read.