If Ever There was a Guy Who Just Needed Killing…
We were at Disneyworld, the Happiest Place on Earth. It had been a grueling day of unfettered fun and frivolity. We took one last trek around Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and settled in for the Electric Light Parade. We were tired, but it was a good sort of tired.
The ropes already defined the parade route, and folks were jockeying for the prime seats on walls, bridges, and curbs. I squeezed my three-year-old daughter close and basked in the moment.
An odd wave suddenly swept through the crowd. Imagine the sound of twenty thousand people whispering in hushed tones and you get the gist. The total stranger sitting next to me turned his phone in my direction and said, “Get a load of this.” At that moment some guy jumped the rope and began running the length of the parade route shouting, “We got him! We got him! We killed Bin Laden!”
Amongst countless happy children, ludicrously overpriced food, sundry costumed characters, and wholesome family-friendly excitement aplenty the entire park raised a coordinated cheer. Halfway around the world, a US Navy SEAL named Rob O’Neill had drilled a pair of Black Hills 77-grain OTM 5.56mm rounds through the brain of the single most reviled human being on the planet. That night at Disneyworld this fact seemed like cause for celebration.
In the months and years that followed rumors would flourish, an official narrative would unfold, and controversy aplenty would be fomented. However, what most everybody could agree upon was that Osama bin Laden, the architect of the single greatest terrorist attack in modern history, was finally queued up to meet his seventy dark-haired virgins.
Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was born on March 10, 1957, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He was the son of Yemeni Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden and his tenth wife Syrian Hamida Alia Ghanem. Osama’s parents divorced soon after he was born, and his mother subsequently married Mohammed al-Attas. Osama’s family was fabulously wealthy, and he later inherited between 25 and 30 million dollars.
Bin Laden was raised as a devout Sunni Muslim. He wrote poetry and was an avid reader. He was a particular acolyte of Bernard Montgomery and Charles de Gaulle. He played center forward on his association soccer team.
Bin Laden married either five or six times and fathered between 20 and 26 children. He stood six foot four and was left-handed. Associates described him as soft-spoken and mild-mannered.
For Osama bin Laden hate was a fungible commodity to be traded, invested, and frequently spent. He reviled America because of its “fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling, and usury.” He despised Jews on principle for reasons that are difficult for me to comprehend. He opposed all music on religious grounds but was fascinated by earth-moving machinery and genetically engineered plants.
Bin Laden was terrified of climate change. He once wrote that Americans should work with President Obama to make “a rational decision to save humanity from the harmful gases that threaten its destiny.” Bin Laden studiously avoided chilled water.
Bin Laden organized and trained mujahidin fighters opposing Soviet troops in Afghanistan. He was at the time tacitly supported by the CIA through the Pakistani intelligence services. In the summer of 1988, bin Laden and a few others formed al-Qaeda which literally translates “The Base.” Prerequisites for membership included listening ability, good manners, obedience, and a pledge to follow one’s superiors.
Al-Qaeda committed sundry acts of terrorism for more than a decade, earning bin Laden the disdain of the civilized world.
Bin Laden’s extensive compound in Abbottabad was located a mere 0.8 miles from the Pakistani Military Academy. The collection of buildings was surrounded by a 12 to 18-foot concrete wall topped with barbed wire. The roof of the largest sported a seven-foot privacy fence behind which bin Laden could stroll unobserved. Unlike their neighbors, the occupants of the compound burned their garbage.
Bin Laden was a smart guy, and he apparently thrived in anonymity for some nine years in Pakistan. The options considered by the National Command Authority included leveling the compound with precision-guided munitions delivered by B2 Spirit bombers, a precision drone strike on bin Laden’s person, or a direct action mission to capture or kill him.
President Obama authorized Operation Neptune Spear, and Navy SEALs from the US Naval Special Warfare Development Group or DevGru hit the compound at 0100 local time on May 2, 2011. Within JSOC DevGru is frequently referred to as Task Force Blue.
79 JSOC and CIA operators along with 1 Belgian Malinois military working dog named Cairo made the insertion in five helicopters from the US Army’s Task Force 160.
One of the Task Force stealth Blackhawks used on the insertion encountered a vortex ring state once it descended within the confines of the compound’s walls and crashed. The pilot’s exceptional skill kept the aircraft and its occupants largely intact.
The disabled $60 million aircraft was blown up during the extraction.
Within the compound, the SEALs found four adult males, five adult females, and thirteen children. Five residents of the compound ultimately died.
The most widely recognized version of events has the Navy SEALs assaulting upward through the main building in the compound starting from the ground floor. Members of the assault team peeled off to secure rooms as they passed in accordance with their training. Bin Laden’s son Khalid was shot and killed in a stairwell leading up to the third floor.
The vagaries of chance led US Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill into the head of the stack as they approached bin Laden’s bedroom. The power was cut to the compound, and the SEALs were operating under night vision goggles. Bin Laden fleetingly stuck his head out into the hallway but retreated.
Once the lead operators pushed into the bedroom the narrative holds that bin Laden was standing behind one of his wives gripping her by the shoulders. Another of his wives purportedly rushed the SEALs only to be shot in the leg and tackled to the floor. O’Neill subsequently shot bin Laden twice in the forehead and once in the chest. The two Black Hills Ammunition 77-grain Open Tip Match bullets blew out much of bin Laden’s forehead and enucleated one of his eyes. By all accounts, he died instantly of his wounds.
Inside bin Laden’s bedroom, the SEALs found a Makarov pistol, an AKS-74U carbine, Just for Men black hair dye, and a treasure trove of computer equipment. They also discovered a large stash of opium. The raid was planned to take 40 minutes. The SEALs exfilled at 38.
The HK 416 was developed in the 1990s as a collaborative effort between Heckler and Koch and the US Army’s Delta Force, specifically their R&D NCO Larry Vickers. Drawing components from the HK G36, the canceled XM8, and the British SA80, the HK 416 utilized the general chassis of the M4 Carbine combined with the short stroke gas piston operating system of the AR18.
Delta transitioned to the 416 in 2004. The militaries of Norway and France have since adopted the 416 as their standard Infantry weapon as have many special operations units around the globe. A friend who served seven combat tours as a Delta shooter told me their 416 rifles required little if any maintenance.
The 416 sports a cold hammer forged barrel rated for 20,000 rounds and weighs between 6.5 and 8.5 pounds dependent upon accessories. In general, a 416 weighs about a pound more than a comparably equipped direct gas M4. In factory testing, the 416 was expected to fire 10,000 rounds on full auto without a malfunction.
Some of the SEALs on the bin Laden mission carried HK MP7 submachine guns or FN MK48 belt-fed weapons.
The killing of bin Laden is the only major policy decision made by President Obama with which I wholeheartedly agree. Rob O’Neill has taken his share of flak from within the Special Operations community for coming out of the shadows.
However, at the time our nation needed a hero, and the guy who killed Osama bin Laden seems like the perfect one to me.
Bin Laden claimed to have fomented 9/11 out of outrage over US involvement in Lebanon, the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia, and American support for Israel. Oddly, his casus belli involved some issues few Americans cared much about.
For his part, bin Laden appears to have tired of the lifestyle. His will included an entreaty for his children to avoid both al-Qaeda and jihad.
Bin Laden’s body was prepared for burial in accordance with Muslim tradition and then disposed of at sea from the USS Carl Vinson. Mohamed Ahmed el-Tayeb, the head of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University and a respected Sunni Muslim scholar, called the aquatic burial an affront to religious and human values. Whatever. He’s lucky we didn’t truck the guy’s moldy corpse from town to town and charge people a quarter apiece to poke it with sticks. If ever there was a man who just needed killing, it was Osama bin Laden.