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OPEN BOOK: "No Easy Day" is about a lot more than Osama Bin Laden

By Sara Nelson

No-easyI am not a fan of publishing embargoes, the system by which publishers withhold “special” books from readers until an arbitrarily chosen date so as to “control” the noise and discussion around that book. Purveyors of this all-too-common practice will tell you that they do it for pragmatic reasons: because the book is about to be excerpted or the author interviewed in a major media outlet -- and that the embargo is part of the deal. Some will also admit that embargoes are a way of heightening interest; the withheld book becomes the one everybody is talking about, the one you can’t wait to get your hands on. The thing is: embargoes often backfire. More often than not, the withheld book, when finally revealed, is a disappointment, its few and feeble “gems” ultimately disappointments to our fevered, embargo-fueled desires.

Such is not the case with No Easy Day by Mark Owen, with Kevin Maurer. The title, which (as you surely know by now) is billed as a book about how an elite group of Navy SEALS killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan on May 2, 2011. As could have been predicted, some news outlets obtained early copies of the book, which goes on sale today. (Note: there are reporters out there who spend inordinate amounts of time tracking down supposedly “unavailable copies;” it may be the one growth industry within journalism.) And many, many reporters jumped on the revelations: about whether Bin Laden was armed or unarmed when the SEALS found him, about how they got confirmation that it was, in fact, Bin Laden that they’d just killed; about--and this is the biggie--whether “Mark Owen” (a pseudonym) compromised American intelligence by writing this book in the first place.

Those things are important, sure. But what just about nobody has yet said about this book is that the first 2/3 of it aren’t even about Bin Laden--and that it’s largely that 2/3 that makes No Easy Day a fascinating read.

OK, so I’m not an aficionado of the genre: I’ve never seen Delta Force or read any of the other books about Navy Seals. I’m not, exactly, the audience for “gear porn,” as Jonathan Segura so wryly puts it in a recent post on Publishers Weekly. In fact, I’m the mother of a MAM (military aged man in SEAL parlance); we’re not generally the ones who love to read about anybody’s children putting themselves in serious harm’s way--even for love of country, let alone the pure thrill of it.

But as a MOMAM, I was fascinated by what other reviewers might consider the fluffy stuff, Owen’s throat-clearing, his filler. To me, the behind-the-scenes, before-the-raid passages are the most interesting, because they tell us about who our hero is and how he got to be that way. On his childhood in rural Alaska: “My parents never let me play with toy guns because by the time I was finished with elementary school I was carrying a .22 rifle;” on how he felt when he was about to launch his first mission: excited (“I’d been waiting for this moment since I was a kid reading about ambushes in the Mekong Delta”); on how the guys dealt with their tensions before going on missions: there’s an anecdote about hanging a bra, stolen from a victim’s home, on a buddy’s backpack and there’s an overlong particularly puerile passage about how the guys slipped a sex toy into each other’s bag of gear, just to get a reaction.

But I’m hardly a prude--and I honestly think these small revelations go a long way toward educating us about who the SEALS are, and how they think. No matter one’s feelings about war, there’s no doubt that these guys are superior in their very physicality, not to mention their willingness to take on danger at least partly out of a sense of duty. (And even an MOMAM can find herself both shocked and thrilled by violence: i.e. the cold-blooded description of the murder of Bin Laden’s son Khalid. They shot him in the face.)

In places, Owen goes out of his way to try to sound like a “regular guy.” He worries, for example, about his parents reading about the raid on Bin Laden; he’d only been able to tell them he was going to be out of cell phone reach, not anything more detailed about where he was going or what he was doing. Curiously, however, while he alludes to the fact that some of the other guys have families of their own, he never mentions a wife or children and almost always uses the coverall “friends and family.” He clearly loves his fellow SEALS but in time-honored, 50s-movie cliché, he can only show his feelings through pranks and trash talk.

But the message that comes through, over and over again, is that SEALS are not “regular” guys at all, if by regular we mean conventional thirtysomethings with the usual fears and goals and annoyances and joys: they’re just plain not built that way. A “gun geek” whose parents were missionaries, Owen grew up with a sense of adventure “not found in most people” and a conspicuous lack of fear. His physical fitness--and training--rivals that of an Olympic athlete and he’s plenty intelligent; still, he leaves the strategizing to the CIA, particularly to an operative named Jen, just about the only woman in the narrative. He’s also not political, though he does mildly slap Obama, who, he says, promised the guys a beer at the White House and never delivered.

But for all that, Owen emerges as a bit of a cartoon character. And while his detailed descriptions of strategy and gear and raids make the book a  gamer’s delight, he says he wrote it not just about himself, but about “the team.” His goal, he says, is to inspire kids the way he was inspired, to work hard, fight for country and be the best. My guess is his book will succeed in that at least. In addition to whatever else it may be, No Easy Day is a product  of our  hero-worshipping culture. It  both  celebrates and breeds a particular kind of man and a particular kind of brotherhood.

Comments

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After reading the comments above I understand why America is having the difficulties it is having. We don't all agree, but what is missing is the ability to agree to disagree. Why all the mean fighting. We need to come together as a nation and work together and stop all the bad mouthing of our President. Could you do any better. I don't agree with everything our politicians say, they are politicians and want to be elected. Things are easily taken out of context. Just get out and vote and cross your fingers that things get better and stop fighting.

Kate...........really. Lady, even if Karl Rove was behind this, he doesn't have to anything to disparage Obama. Obama is doing that very nicely all by himself.

I recently read "Lone Survivor" and it was truly fascinating in the sense of understanding what heroes our military men and women are. I look forward to reading this book as well and hope the author doesn't get too much grief from our government for the information it contains as our President informed our country and allies of the most kept military secrets including information regarding Seal Team 6 and where they are based. President Obama has put these heroes and their families at great risk. Very few people within the Navy are read into the information pertaining to special operation forces. Every member of Congress including the President should be required to have security clearances and be held to the same standards as our men and women in uniform who would have been jailed for releasing such information pertaining to top secrete operations.

Wow, Karl Rove occupies a lot of rent-free space in Kate's head. Lady, get over it. Karl Rove may have some power in Republican circles, but he is not omnipotent. You have to understand Kate that outside your home there are real people in this country who just don't agree with President Obama. You may not like that or understand it, but it is true. I didn't see 2016, nor do I plan on reading the book - but I can't wait for November 6th so I can vote for Romney/Ryan. President Obama's view of government's role in American lives is just different than mine and that is okay. I don't think that as a single woman I need the government to force my employer or insurer to pay for my birth control. I'm a responsible adult - I can do that for myself. And the list goes on.

And to the SEALs, thank God there are men out there like you to keep us all safe. I can't imagine doing what you do. God bless you all and may He keep you safe.

2016 is a great film and should be seen before the election. It will make you understand where Obama is coming from when it comes to what he is doing/not doing while in the White House.
As for this book, I will be anxious to read it.
Why is it when anything negative but true comes out about Obama, someone thinks it is "dirty tricks." It is obvious to me,that Kate is not from Illinois or Chicago. This is how the Chicago Democratic party works. It is blame someone else but it is never their fault and Chicago Democrats will do "anything" to get their point across including telling lies!

I don't know who the SEALS are, I have no need to know and I don't care to know. But, I'm damn glad they're on our side, or my side at least. If any intelligence secrets are revealed in this book, then shame on the author for publishing them. If any SEALS happen across this post, "Thanks guys, I appreciate what you've done for our country, and keep up the good work."

S

I think this is part of Karl Rove's plan to disparage Obama. This man was most likely paid by Karl Rove's Super Pac to write it.

The same with the anti-Obama film documentary that is in theaters this month. Another Karl Rove Super Pac most likely bankrolled the film. Strange that it should be released at this time, wouldn't you say, after the GOP kicked up such a fuss about the Hollywood female producer doing a film about Osama Bin Laden, which was due to be released October, but had to be pushed back until December (all because of accusations of 'foul' by the GOP, for releasing too close to an election).

It's all about GOP dirty tricks - Karl Rove is directing it all.

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