The Man Who Shot Osama bin Laden

As Hollywood depicted it -- an image from "Zero Dark Thirty."

As Hollywood depicted it — an image from “Zero Dark Thirty.”

I don’t have time to read it all right now, but in case you do, I thought I’d share this extraordinary piece of long-form journalism provided by Esquire and the Center for Investigative Reporting.

It’s an intimate portrait of the man who fired the shots that killed Osama bin Laden. The critical moment described first-hand:

I had my hand on the point man’s shoulder and squeezed, a signal to go. The two of us went up. On the third floor, he tackled the two women in the hallway right outside the first door on the right, moving them past it just enough. He thought he was going to absorb the blast of suicide vests; he was going to kill himself so I could get the shot. It was the most heroic thing I’ve ever seen. I rolled past him into the room, just inside the doorway.

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. …  I’m just looking at him …. 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].

In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he’s going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap! same place. That time I used my EOTech red-dot holo sight. He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out. I watched him take his last breaths, just a reflex breath.

And I remember as I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: Is this the best thing I’ve ever done, or the worst thing I’ve ever done? This is real and that’s him. Holy shit.

The piece goes on to say that now that this man is leaving the Navy, his future is cloudy because he has no pension, and no health benefits. (As I said, I haven’t read it all, but I’m supposing that’s because he was in less than 20 years.) As the report says:

But the Shooter will discover soon enough that when he leaves after sixteen years in the Navy, his body filled with scar tissue, arthritis, tendonitis, eye damage, and blown disks, here is what he gets from his employer and a grateful nation:

Nothing. No pension, no health care, and no protection for himself or his family.

I thought y’all might be interested.

11 thoughts on “The Man Who Shot Osama bin Laden

  1. Barry

    For the man who shot Osama Bin Laden, I don’t think he or his kids will ever have to worry about money in their lifetimes.

    This is a book about him, right? I would guess the good journalist doing this book about him is also offering him some money, right? He’s not doing it for free I suppose?

    Now what about the movie deal? Or does the good journalist just pocket that money himself and decry the government for not making a special exception for one man and offering him a pension after 15 years of service?

    Not sure I understand this. Of all the people in the special forces, this one man won’t have to worry about money. His only concern is a good agent.

  2. Barry

    and in typical modern media fashion

    “The magazine (Esquire) acknowledged the fact they have misstated (that’s another word for lied or didn’t do their homework prior to writing the article) the extent of the healthcare coverage provided by VA to veterans of Afghan and Iraq wars, but underlined that coverage does not cover the veterans’ families. Therefore, ‘the Shooter’ still has to pay for his wife’s and children’s coverage out of his pocket.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      First, what do you mean, “typical modern media fashion”? That when they made a mistake, they corrected it? Not that Esquire was graceful about it. Originally, they were pretty petulant.

      Second, thanks for reminding me. I meant to mention something about that yesterday.

      Third, the paragraph explaining that was in the print version, but not the online version of the piece. I don’t know why.

      Fourth, I’m not sure whom to hold responsible for the omission, since as I first saw the piece, it was billed as a joint production of Esquire and the Center for Investigative Reporting. In fact, on the online version I read, the Center for Investigative Reporting was billed more prominently (it was at their site).

      Fifth, I thought the fact that he had no pension and family benefits was less interesting than the story of what happened that night in Abbottabad, which was why I called it to people’s attention. Note that my headline was “The Man Who Shot Osama bin Laden,” not “Hero gets the shaft.” I thought the details of the Abbottabad raid were fascinating, and I was surprised that there were no comments on it for a couple of days.

      Sixth, while it’s not my focus, I can understand why this guy is concerned. It’s not much consolation to a man that his own service-related injuries will be treated; he’s worried about his family, as I would be in his place.

      1. barry

        They corrected it- even though they really didn’t want to do so.

        This particular special forces member could get any corporate security job in the country at a premium salary in about 5 mins if he wanted it.

  3. Barry

    One thing I can’t understand – and I realize he’d have to protect his identity – but what corporation out there wouldn’t want to hire an ex Navy Seal?

    These guys often have their pick of great jobs all across the globe. Now of course this man would have to be careful, and not advertise his identity- but it seems to me he’d have little trouble finding a job in the security field of any of a number of top international or national companies (not to mention the millions he could pocket from a movie or book deal)

    I think Esquire is writing a politically motivated article.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Seventh (see comment above), while I haven’t read the whole article carefully, in skimming it I saw some stuff about how the market is a little bit glutted, as far as the kinds of jobs suitable for ex-special-forces guys. I don’t know how accurate that is.

      Eighth, as to “politically motivated.” Yes, the insistence on stressing that this guy has been done dirt does seem to fit into a certain narrative that one finds on the left in our time. Liberals decided that the post-Vietnam pose of despising the military and all who serve in it doesn’t win friends and influence people in society as a whole. Over time, that became replaced by a tendency to treat veterans as victims: Look at what we’ve done to these poor people. We shouldn’t engage in wars, or we should end them as soon as possible when we do, because of the strain it puts on them and their families. This is at least sympathetic, and it reacts to real problems. (I know the strains placed on families first-hand, and my Dad was only in Vietnam a year.) But there’s an odd victimization of people who generally would not prefer to see themselves as victims.

      Ninth, another way to look at it is, we should do more for those who have done so much for us. It might be well and good to have a 20-year rule for a peacetime military, but hasn’t a man whose combat experience is as intense as this man’s earned as much consideration from his nation as someone who has put in more time, but made a less dramatic contribution?

      Tenth, a lot of this can be chalked up to the time-honored military tradition of griping. And again, if any soldier has earned the right to gripe, this one has.

      Eleventh, taking that a step further… should an exception to the rules be made for this guy? Should he never have to worry about money or health care or taking care of his family, because of what he did? Set aside the fact that it was just the luck of the way things fell out that HE was the shooter. He wasn’t the point man; he was originally several men back from the point man, but when they got there, he was the first man in the room. But still, he killed Osama bin Laden. Should he ever have to do anything again? I don’t know, but it’s an intriguing question.

      That is all for now.

      1. barry

        I don’t know either.

        My grandfather served in WW 2, aimed artillery guns at targets, and then watched them fired at many, many people. He served in Eurpoe, came home like millions more, went to work at a factory, raised a family, and worked until he retired. Thankfully, he had a long retirement and lived to see his late 80s.

        He talked about WW 2 all the time to me and my dad. He talked of friends, he talked of travels, and he talked of some of the the things he observed. I never once heard him tell me a story about what the government should have done for him.

  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, here is the passage that ran in the print version but not, originally, in the online one:

    “There is also a program at MacDill Air Force Base designed to help Special Ops vets navigate various bureaucracies. And the VA does offer five years of benefits for specific service-related claims — but it’s not comprehensive and it offers nothing for the Shooter’s family.”

    There’s something screwy about that, too, because I know my father-in-law — who was captured at the Battle of the Bulge, but who was only in the Army a couple of years — received VA benefits for the rest of his life, not just for five years.

    I don’t know.

    1. barry

      My uncle served in Vietnam for a few years. He has VA benefits to this day and visits the VA hospital in Columbia on a regular basis.

      I don’t trust this particular article as far as I could throw a dog turd. It’s written as a political piece.

    2. barry

      BTW – what service member doesn’t understand you have to serve 20 years in the military to get the retirement program?

      Esquire makes it sound like the Navy Seal had no clue? ROTC students in high school know you have to serve 20 years to get into the retirement system – and we are to believe a highly trained, smart, skilled, above the best, above the brightest NAVY SEAL had no idea?

      Give me a break.

    3. Steven Davis II

      If you’re honorably discharged from the military you are eligible for VA benefits regardless of your length of service.

      This guy is just whining because he think he should be set up for life… if he spends another 4 years in, he could be.

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