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The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden by Mark Bowden

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    No Easy Day by Mark Owen (Anonymous user)

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Mark Bowden knows how to do research and how to write good books, even stellar books. This is not one of them. This is a lazy, shoddy work filled with lies. The publisher is probably aware of the low quality matching the author's low standards with an absence of pictures and maps. The author writes that "It has been my practice to compile detailed source notes for my books, but in this case the number of those who did not wish to have specific information attributed to them directly, even when the source seems obvious, would have made the exercise more frustrating than helpful." He could have looked at Seymour Hersh's work to learn how one quotes anonymous sources correctly. The absence of Bowden's notes has two effects.

Firstly, he thus manages to conceal the paucity of his research efforts and laziness. He writes "On the theory that Osama bin Laden’s command of his native language was comparable to the average English speaker’s mastery of his native tongue, I have taken the liberty of here and there smoothing out the clumsy phrases in the translation of bin Laden’s documents by the CIA." Now, bin Laden's skills in Arabic is a question any decent reporter could answer either by doing some reporting or reading one of the many profiles published about bin Laden which state that the terrorist is known for his stylish use of that language. Bowden doesn't care, as the CIA obviously didn't care, making do with shoddy translations of the words of their number one enemy. It is difficult to understand the thinking of a person if those thoughts arrive only in broken pieces.

Secondly, and more perniciously, the lack of sourcing allows Bowden to repeat many of the long-debunked Bush and Cheney lies about Al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein and the Taliban. The level of truthiness is atrocious. I was previously unaware that Bowden was a right-wing water carrier. Besides the lying, he also promotes the Team America approach to torture, shifting from a "torture is bad and illegal" to a "viewer discretion is advised" enhanced interrogation mode (beloved by the New York TImes). He seems to be quite ok with torture as long as it is outsourced to third parties. Unfortunately, too many Americans have accepted the normality of torture (still a crime if the Department of Justice cared about those).

The book ultimately fails to deliver what most want to read about. Bowden's treatment of the Abbottabad raid is based mostly on third hand accounts. Instead of reading Bowden's garbled version, one is advised to read the reports in The New Yorker and other magazines directly. This book would be a worthy effort for a home-schooled Fox News consuming sophomore. For a writer of Bowden's standing, it is abysmal. ( )
  jcbrunner | Jan 31, 2013 |
The Finish - The Killing of Osama Bin Laden - Mark Bowden
This is another great book on the subject. One thing that set this book apart from the others I have read is that it gave a good account of the decision making that went into the mission that put some closer to 9/11. From the military to the White House. There was some differences from another book I read before this one NO EASY DAY about when the downed helicopter was blown up. ( )
  HistoryNutToo | Jan 11, 2013 |
I've had several books written about the Osama bin Laden killing on my wish list since they first started to appear on the market, mere weeks after the May 2, 2011 U.S. Seal Team action in Abbotabad, Pakistan. I read Mark Bowden's "Black Hawk Down" earlier in the year, and figured few authors would be able to tackle this story better than he.

Bowden delivers a readable narrative of this significant political and military milestone. At only about 300 pages, Bowden blends the context, history, military and intelligence detail, with the key personalities, to create an interesting and entertaining read.

The actual raid on the bin Laden compound covers about 25 pages. The entire operation took about four hours from initial lift-off, to the team's return to base. It took only eighteen minutes from the moment the Seal Team landed in Abbottabad until bin Laden had been fatally shot and initially identified. The rest of the story delves into the background, history, strategy and tactics that revolve around a major operation like this.

The meat of the story lies in Bowden's details of the military intelligence used as part of the ongoing campaigns following the 9/11 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. "Information and intelligence" are the key strategies in major modern warfare. America was still learning how to fight a nation-less enemy. Bowden asks, "...what if attacks came from nowhere? What then? The answer was information."

Bowden writes, "No matter how one felt about the wisdom of invading Iraq, or the seemingly unending conflict in Afghanistan, a near decade of combat had matured a generation of warriors and tools, battle tested and custom-made for finding and killing terrorists."

"America had spread an invisible web of surveillance that registered seemingly everything that stirred." He states that torture techniques employed at Guantanamo Bay in part fed some of the details that eventually led U.S. Intelligence to the small city in Pakistan. And the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones, were a game-changer providing silent, safe (for the U.S. at least), relatively inexpensive, close range and inexpensive enough to provide near full time watch.

Bowden focuses on the foundational elements of an upbringing that built Osama Bin Laden’s personality, passion, perspective and eventual martial-religious leadership. Over many years, he built a cult of personality. In his recruiting efforts, and ongoing management of his disparate troops, he "...decorated the truth with dreams and portents, weaving magic into the facts, coloring them with divine favor."

And as always is the case, one man's rebel is another man's hero or freedom fighter. Bowden writes, "He did not see any of his attacks as wonton terror, as his horrified enemies did. They were retribution. They were not simply just, but divinely inspired. They were his duty."

Bowden spends a good part of his narrative on Barack Obama...both before he was president and after. It was under Obama's Presidential watch that bin Laden was found, but he wasn't responsible for all of the groundwork that led America to his doorstep. Al Qaeda and bin Laden were tracked in the late 90s under the Clinton administration while he was in the Sudan. When bin Laden went to Afghanistan, the U.S. had a more prepared and better-built intelligence structure in place. And the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, initiated under the Bush Presidency, drove the development of a better overall war machine focused on fighting the kinds of war terrorists wage.

There had been many opportunities to strike at and attempt to kill bin Laden before 9/11, but there were always concerns over collateral damage and the risk involved - politically and bodily. Bowden includes prophetic quotes from the CIA team involved in tracking bin Laden pre 9/11 expressing worry that the White House's denied opportunities to strike at him would come back to haunt America in significant ways.

After American forces attacked bin Laden’s hideout at Tora Bora in Afghanistan, he was suspected to have fled through the mountainous border into Pakistan. He went mostly silent, and the elaborate hide-and-seek between America, it's allies, and bin Laden became a long and tedious effort in military intelligence. The final scenes were played out by some of America's most savvy warriors, but the rest of the story was played out behind the scenes.

"(Intelligence work) More than genius or courage, it is about effort and patience and will. It is also, of course, about money and time..." The muscles, weaponry, gadgets and equipment were key in the final attack, but it was "warrior geeks focused on computer-based intelligence gathering and dissemination" that led the muscle to the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Bowden's description of the raid itself comes from numerous interviews of people close to the operation, but none of the SEAL Team members that were directly involved. My preview edition of the book came with a note that indicated that future versions of "The Finish" would include some of the first hand experiences that have been released since this book went to publish.

The book is strong on details, but not blindingly overwhelming in minutiae. I felt that the reporting was appropriately balanced politically, though I suspect some may feel that Bowden perhaps puts too much of a positive spin on Obama. I don’t agree.

If you’re looking for an informative and entertaining overview of the ten-year search for Osama bin Laden and it’s conclusion, then you should buy this book.

I received this book through the Goodreads First Reads program. ( )
  JGolomb | Nov 20, 2012 |
Showing 3 of 3
..... Mark Bowden comes to this story with impressive credentials. He is the author of Black Hawk Down, the much-admired account of a special forces mission that went badly wrong in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993. The book led to a film, but also set a standard for narrative description of combat that has rarely been rivalled since, despite Bowden's many imitators.

It is no surprise, then, that The Finish rattles along at a good pace. The narrative starts, slightly surprisingly, with the discovery of a large cache of documents in Iraq in 2007; runs through the story of the CIA operation that identified the courier, who eventually led the hunters to the Abbottabad hideout; describes the decision-making in the White House in detail; and finally takes us through the operation itself. It ends with Bin Laden's remains sliding off a plank, wrapped in a shroud, from a US aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean. .....
added by marq | editThe Guardian, Jason Burke (Nov 2, 2012)

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0802120342, Hardcover)

While much has been written about the killing of Osama Bin Laden by an elite group of Navy Seals--and much more will be--no account could be more meticulous and balanced than this fascinating report from the author of Black Hawk Down. Riveting but evenhanded, dramatic but thoughtful, Bowden’s account is the deeply sourced story of what was going on in the heads of our government leaders, as well as the Al Qaeda leader known in the intelligence community as “The Pacer.” --Sara Nelson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:05 -0400)

A dramatic account of the hunt for and defeat of Osama bin Laden draws on unprecedented access to primary sources to trace how key decisions were made, revealing events from the perspectives of an adept President Obama and an increasingly despondent bin Laden.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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