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A former Navy SEAL is challenging Nicholas Schmidle’s account of the OBL raid.
Forget whatever you think you know about the night Osama bin Laden was killed. According to a former Navy SEAL who claims to have the inside track, the mangled tales told of that historic night have only now been corrected.
“It became obvious in the weeks evolving after the mission that the story that was getting put out there was not only untrue, but it was a really ugly farce of what did happen,” said Chuck Pfarrer, author of Seal Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama Bin Laden.
In an extensive interview with The Daily Caller, Pfarrer gave a detailed account of why he believes the record needed to be corrected, and why he set out to share the personal stories of the warriors who penetrated bin Laden’s long-secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
In August the New Yorker delivered a riveting blow-by-blow of the SEALs’ May 1, 2011 raid on bin Laden’s hideaway. In that account, later reported to lack contributions from the SEALs involved, readers are taken through a mission that began with a top-secret helicopter crashing and led to a bottom-up assault of the Abbottabad compound.
Freelancer Nicholas Schmidle wrote that the SEALs had shot and blasted their way up floor-by-floor, finally cornering the bewildered Al-Qaida leader:
“The Al Qaeda chief, who was wearing a tan shalwar kameez and a prayer cap on his head, froze; he was unarmed. ‘There was never any question of detaining or capturing him—it wasn’t a split-second decision. No one wanted detainees,’ the special-operations officer told me. (The Administration maintains that had bin Laden immediately surrendered he could have been taken alive.) Nine years, seven months, and twenty days after September 11th, an American was a trigger pull from ending bin Laden’s life. The first round, a 5.56-mm. bullet, struck bin Laden in the chest. As he fell backward, the SEAL fired a second round into his head, just above his left eye.”
Chuck Pfarrer rejects almost all of that story.
“The version of the 45-minute firefight, and the ground-up assault, and the cold-blooded murder on the third floor — that wasn’t the mission,” Pfarrer told TheDC.
“I had to try and figure out, well, look: Why is this story not what I’m hearing? Why is it so off and how is it so off?” he recounted. “One of the things I sort of determined was, OK, somebody was told ‘one of the insertion helicopters crashed.’ OK, well that got muddled to ‘a helicopter crashed on insertion.’”
The helicopters, called “Stealth Hawks,” are inconspicuous machines concealing cutting-edge technology. They entered the compound as planned, with “Razor 1″ disembarking its team of SEALs on the roof of the compound — not on the ground level. There was no crash landing. That wouldn’t occur until after bin Laden was dead.
Meanwhile, “Razor 2″ took up a hovering position so that its on-board snipers, some of whom had also participated in the sea rescue of Maersk Alabama captain Richard Phillips, had a clear view of anyone fleeing the compound.
The SEALs then dropped down from the roof, immediately penetrated the third floor, and hastily encountered bin Laden in his room. He was not standing still.
“He dived across the king-size bed to get at the AKSU rifle he kept by the headboard,” wrote Pfarrer in his book. It was at that moment, a mere 90 seconds after the SEALs first set foot on the roof, that two American bullets shattered bin Laden’s chest and head, killing a man who sought violence to the very end.
Pfarrer goes on to describe how the announcement of the mission on the very day of the mission rendered all intelligence taken from the compound as moot and worthless. Then there is this bombshell statement.
Whether or not bin Laden resisted ultimately developed into a barrage of murky official and unofficial explanations in the days following. And statements from as high as then-CIA Director Leon Panetta offered confirmation that the endeavor was a “kill mission.”
Pfarrer dismisses that assertion.
“An order to go in and murder someone in their house is not a lawful order,” explained Pfarrer, who maintains that bin Laden would have been captured had he surrendered. “Unlike the Germans in World War II, if you’re a petty officer, a chief petty officer, a naval officer, and you’re giving an order to murder somebody, that’s an unlawful order.”
Good grief. I don’t know about the balance of this report, and I like and respect Nick Schmidle and his work. He can address the criticism better than can I. But I will address this last statement by Pfarrer.
This is an absolutely absurd, ridiculous, outlandish, outrageous claim to make. I have discussed the rules of engagement before with 69 articles to date and more detail than be found anywhere on the internet, linking and discussing the standing ROE issued by the CJCS, the Iraq-specific ROE, the Afghanistan ROE and General McChrystal’s tactical directive, and so on.
The fact of the matter is that there are mission-specific rules of engagement, and they don’t always comport with the theater-specific ROE. Furthermore, while it might have been correct to say something like a targeted killing does not comport with the standing ROE issued by the CJCS, thus requiring specific instructions to these servicemen, or thus requiring an order by the POTUS, what Pfarrer has said is that such an order would be “unlawful” and the action tantamount to “murder.”
It’s the same error in judgment that General Kearney made with he attempted to charge two Army snipers with murder when they targeted an unarmed Taliban commander. General Kearney should have been dismissed from his command for being an idiot and the two snipers commended for their actions.
It is legitimate to conduct these kinds of missions, just as it is to conduct sniper operations.
… discussion of the location of bin Laden’s weapon and whether he might have been wearing a suicide vest are utterly irrelevant: engaging bin Laden with deadly force is most appropriately viewed as grounded on the second rationale: jus in bello.
The law pertaining to the conduct of hostilities (jus in bello), which has developed since antiquity and includes certain provisions of the modern Geneva and Hague conventions, permits the sanctioned killing of an opponent in an armed conflict, regardless of whether he is armed at the moment he is engaged. So long as the opponent meets the minimum criteria to be regarded as a combatant (even an unlawful combatant), he may be engaged with deadly force, even if he is separated from his weapon. He may be killed while sleeping, eating, taking a shower, cleaning his weapon, meditating, or standing on his head. It is his status as an enemy combatant, not his activity at the moment of engagement, which is dispositive.
It is manifestly absurd to assert that an order to kill OBL would have been tantamount to murder. It was and is no different than the targeted killings of Tehrik-i-Taliban commanders by drone strikes (which we do on a semi-daily basis).
Again, Nick Schmidle can handle the balance of the criticism. Thus far, I am not impressed with Mr. Pfarrer’s tirade.