How to Kill a Monster--Mark Owen's "No Easy Day"
So Superman killed General Zod with Green Kryptonite, and Batman killed Darkseid with a bullet (shot backwards through time, making it, presumably, a llik shot), but in the real world, what does it really take to put an end to pure evil?
For more than a decade, millions of Americans have said they wanted to do what former Navy Seal "Mark Owen" (not his real name) actually did: put a bullet in Osama bin Laden. Owen's "No Easy Day" is a searing account of Operation Neptune Spear, which finally cornered the Al Qaeda leader. So what exactly were the things Owen and his cohorts needed in order to finally get the bastard?
"No Easy Day" outlines the years of painstaking and brutal training it takes to be a Navy Seal. For a start there's the kill house in Mississippi--a place where instructors walk around on a catwalk above candidates as the wannabe "Green Teamers" (as the elite of the elite are known) go from room to room in a simulation of real-dangerous world situations: "woman with purse" to the left, "crook holding a small revolver" to the right. Shoot the wrong dummy and you're out--forever.
A Team of Equals
After tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and even being part of the group who rescued Captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates in 2009, Mark Owen knows he owes a debt of gratitude to the extraordinary soldiers around him. There's "Phil," the prankster team leader, who punked his fellow soldiers with glitter and dildos (and also took a bullet to the leg in a battle); "Charlie," a 6'4" "bully" who's also a crack shot; and even the helicopter pilots who brilliantly crashed their vehicle onto the top of the wall of bin Laden's compound, thereby saving their passengers from a Black Hawk Down-style disaster.
Materiel Up the Wazoo
Given how much stuff they carry, it's a wonder these men can walk, let alone sprint, across the dusty and dangerous terrain of Iraq and Afghanistan. Mark Owen's ballistic helmet alone has four night-vision tubes mounted on the rim (and the helmets cost a cool $65,000 per, by the way). Then there are the pistols, the sixty-pound vests with ballistic plates attached, the assault rifles, explosive charges . . . all this, and they parachute into kill zones like they're stepping off a tour bus?
One of the most chilling scenes in "No Easy Day" concerns the killing of bin Laden's son, Khalid. Our boys have stormed the Evil One's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan; Khalid is in a room at the top of some stairs, and the Seals are afraid he's going to come out shooting (unlike his father, whose guns, they later discover, aren't even loaded). For a while there's a stand-off, until one of the Seals, here chillingly referred to as "the assaulter," whispers Khalid's name over and over again. "They know my name," Owen imagines Khalid thinking; so Khalid does what anyone might do--he sticks his head out of the room to see who's calling. This proves to be a very bad idea.
One of the unsung heroes of "No Easy Day" is a female CIA analyst called "Jen" (now made even more famous by her portrayal in "Zero Dark Thirty") who readily agrees that the sighting of bin Laden in 2007--"a guy in white flowing robes"-- was not a good lead. This time, though, she's 100% certain he's holed up in Abbottabad, inside supposed-US ally Pakistan. Turns out she's right; but her reaction to the aftermath of the raid is to movingly burst into tears: "she'd spent half a decade tracking this man," writes Owen, "and now there he was at her feet."
Brass (Sadly There Are No Female Navy Seals)
The bottom line is this: if you're going to jump out of a crashing helicopter in darkness in a semi-hostile country, creep into an enemy compound, clear every room of possible terrorists, confront the most evil man in the world, bag up his body once you've shot him, drag the corpse out to a different helicopter that doesn't have enough gas to get you back to your base . . . well, I'm betting you're going to have junk forged of an alloy of copper and zinc nestled somewhere deep in your combat fatigues. Just sayin'.