Monday, September 10, 2012

'No Easy Day' by Mark Owen

I’m going to have to change my stance on nonfiction.  I’m a very strict “fictionarian” and it takes a lot to pull me from my comfort zone.  They hype on this book did a lot to help push me over to the dark side, but the main reason was; I wanted to hear a true narrative from a real-life SEAL.  I read books by Brad Thor, Vince Flynn, Ted Bell, and Brad Taylor (to name a few) and enjoy their books immensely!  However, while their books are based on true accounts and true warrior-heroes, they aren’t the real true stories.  THIS is a true story and there was no way I wasn't going to read it.  And damn, what a story!

Let me be clear about one point from the start: I don’t think “Owen” should have told this story.  My mantra is simple: “serve and shut the fuck up”.  Soldiers are people like the rest of us and are prone to the same mistakes we all trip over.  Sometimes we talk too damn much, hell I know I do.  But to write a book and go through the process of telling us about one of the most important missions in the history of the U.S.? Something about that doesn’t sit right.  Of course in the paradoxical world in which live, I was the first one in line to buy (download) and if I had ANY conviction at all, I wouldn’t be supporting the author by doing so.  Despite my feelings about “Owen” running off at the mouth, I enjoyed every minute of this book and I don’t feel the least bit guilty in saying so.

'No Easy Day' is a VERY good book!  Any story that gives you a “fly on the wall” perspective into an operation that we only hear (and only in snippets) about is a thrill.  This is extremely well written and not choppy or staccato like someone just trying to rush out a tale.  ‘No Easy Day’ starts out with a note from the author covering his bases.  “This books won’t tell you about any secrets”, “this book has changed the names of all involved”, “this book has been checked by a special attorney”, "this book was endorsed by Ronald Reagan in a séance"… whatever.  If you have the stones to put out a story like this then don’t bother with covering your ass.  We get it and we don't need it OK?  And the people that need an explanation won’t believe anything you have to say anyway.

After those few pages we get what we came for: the mission.  “Owen” starts off with the team being on a Blackhawk one minute out from the compound on the mission to kill Osama.  This story switches from the past to the present but not in a confusing way.  In the first part of the book we get a taste of what drove him to want to be a SEAL and the absolute agonizing vetting process these guys go through.  Physical doesn’t even begin to describe it.  Grueling doesn’t either.  Matter of fact; just throw out every adjective that comes to mind because you won’t even come close.  These guys are the guys that Alpha Males want to be.

We learn about SEAL training, we read about “Owen’s” first missions, and we also learn about two million and one military acronyms. You wanna see what Sesame Street would be like if everyone was on crack?!  Good heavens! We are taken on missions and we see, in a small way, how SEALs run their operations, and it was a good buildup to why I wanted to read this book in the first place. "Owen" mentions more than a few times about how Hollywood gets these types of movies wrong all the time. Reading about the missions in this book I can see that. One of the best parts of this book was the mission was when they went after the pirates that kidnapped one of our. Remember that?  I do.  The precision in which they did their job is chilling. And even though I had nothing to do with that mission, I was proud. Borderline giddy.

As I alluded to earlier, this book goes from past to present and it does so because "Owen" is setting the foundation for the big story. Bin Laden.  As "Owen" says in this book, "this is the mission they all dream about". Not necessarily Bin Laden, but one with implications that will be felt for years, even decades later. After years of tracking and misinformation, the U.S. gets lucky with a bit of Intel and that little bit turns out to be the golden ticket.  Enter the SEALs and start the death timer for that animal. In the earlier missions we didn't hear much about the political caca that must be dealt with. With the hunting of this animal the American PC machine is in full useless bloom!  It's so bad the SEALs didn't even believe they would get the green light.

One of the most sickening parts of this story was when they were planning the mission with the VIP's, and in the room with these elite, professional, war tested and war proven soldiers... was a lawyer. A  freaking lawyer!!  This is a quote from this idiot: "If he doesn't pose a threat you will detain him". WHAT?!  I was literally yelling at the book, "this is Bin Laden you moron!!  What do you mean "if he poses a threat"?  "This guy’s very life is a threat!!" Typical Washington BS.

Stupid comments like that as well as other things done for the betterment of politics, rather than for the betterment of the mission was why the SEALs didn't believe Washington had the balls to say "go".  In this case they did and the SEALs did what they do best. This part of the book just flew by because I wanted to know what happened. OK fine, I already knew what happened, but I wanted... more.  Make time for this part of the book folks... you'll need it. I reread and highlighted more in the last 1/4 than I did the entire 3/4 of this book. Parts of this mission have their own chapter and the most arresting one was the one entitled "Geronimo". All of the (so called) controversy is worth it when you read this section. That's all I'm going to say about that.

Because I usually read the fictional stories I had to tell myself that this was a true and these were real people.  Jen was a woman who really stood out.  She had a small part in this book but a big part in our real world.  And I know that we are talking SEAL this and SEAL that, but "Owen" paints a very detailed picture about the number of people working behind the scene. Of course SEALs usually work behind the scenes (ouch)... I've never served even as I was/am surrounded by people who do. As a layman I didn't see any secrets being given up. True I wouldn't know what to look for, but I do admit that the bigger issue is he spoke, not what he spoke about.

Another big issue being bantered around was what "Owen" said about President Obama. Ummmmm... I finished the book and didn't see any disparaging remarks about our President. There are some remarks that were made by teammates that I'm sure were private (again, shut up "Owen") but I didn't see anything disrespectful at all. The only thing I saw were soldiers being soldiers. Soldiers, who were tired of politicians making laws from behind a desk while they put in the work. Tired of burying friends while they bury earmarks. Tired of fighting and detaining the same enemy every thirty days because they are very versed on our laws, and has taken to running and hiding under the constitution of a country they profess to hate and actively seek to destroy.  Yeah I see the frustration there and some things will be said in the heat of the moment.
That being said, no soldier should publicly say anything negative about the Commander in Chief.  Privately… go at it.  (Holy crap, am I really at three pages for this review?)  OK I better wrap this up.  Look, bottom line; if you are looking for a quick very good non-fiction read then I highly, highly recommend this book.  Ignore the hype, and to be fair, ignore the good AND bad hype.  This is a book that you will need to read personally to draw your own conclusions.  No matter your feeling on Mr. “Owen” and his yammering jaw, we can at least agree that the SEALs are an elite and extremely brave type of soldier that America is honored to have on her soil and who will forever be in debt to these men.


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