The Navy SEAL who killed Osama Bin Laden in the 2011 nighttime raid on the Al Qaeda leader's compound in Abbottabad has finally broken his silence. In an Esquire article published today, the Center for Investigative Reporting's Phil Bronstein writes about the guy—who's remaining anonymous—and his attempts to form a post-Osama life. The upshot: with no assistance from the Navy or the government, he's been left with no insurance, no job, and no security. But he's got a lot of good stories.
Bronstein writes that the SEAL—whom he calls throughout the story, more than a little melodramatically, The Shooter—left the Navy last September, retiring after 16 years. That's four shy of the full 20, which means no transitional health insurance and no pension. And with no desire to become a security contractor, few job prospects. (A call to a video-game company is unfruitful: "Right now we are pretty stacked with consultants," he's told.) The last job help the Navy offered him was a witness protection-like setup: he'd become a beer-truck driver in Milwaukee, under an assumed identity, and he and his family would have to give up any contact with their former lives.
"The Shooter"—unlike No Easy Day author Matt Bissonette—has no desire to go public about who he is, for security reasons as much as anything. (His wife and kids, Bronstein writes, have been taught home-defense tactics that edge into paranoia, and are considering transferring all titles and bill to her name, to sever his paper connection to the family.) Which means he's like almost any other veteran finding inadequate institutional support during a difficult transition into civilian life: depressingly common. (One conspicuous and odd absence from the article: the Department of Veterans Affairs, which should theoretically be able to provide material support and job assistance.)
But, okay. If nothing else, he's got stories, the kind Zero Dark Thirty's screenwriters would've killed for, from the pre-raid:
At Jalalabad, the Shooter saw the CIA analyst pacing. She asked me why I was so calm. I told her, We do this every night. We go to a house, we fuck with some people, and we leave. This is just a longer flight.
This is hearsay, but I understand Obama said, Hell no. My guys are not surrendering. What do we need to rain hell on the Pakistani military? That was the one time in my life I was thinking, I am fucking voting for this guy. I had a picture of him lying in bed at night, thinking, You're not fucking with my guys. Like, he's thinking about us.
to the raid itself:
On the third floor, there were two chicks yelling at us and the point man was yelling at them and he said to me, "Hey, we need to get moving. These bitches is getting truculent." I remember saying to myself, Truculent? Really? Love that word.
and he's not unpoetic when it comes to the assassination itself.
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.
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.
[Esquire; image of Abbottabad via AP]