Bin Laden had hair dye, no bullets: Book

2012-09-05 11:09

Washington - When US Navy Seals gunned down Osama bin Laden in his bedroom, it was up to one commando to take photos that would serve as proof of the al-Qaeda leader's bloody demise.

"I started to wipe the blood away from his face using a blanket from the bed. With each swipe, the face became more familiar. He looked younger than I expected.

"His beard was dark, like it had been dyed," the former Navy Seal, Matt Bissonnette, recalls in his new book, No Easy Day.

His eyewitness account of the raid, which was released on Tuesday, has angered senior officers and drawn a warning of potential legal action from the Pentagon, which says the author revealed classified information.

As for the book, it is a gripping read, even if it often resorts to the macho clich├ęs typical of the genre.

His account also conveys how "Operation Neptune Spear" was fraught with risk and uncertainty, with troops flying deep inside Pakistan without Islamabad's knowledge. But in the end, the raid was all over in a matter of minutes with no gun battle and little drama.

Profile shot

After an unarmed bin Laden was shot in the head and then pumped full of bullets, it fell to Bissonnette to take the only photos of the al-Qaeda chief after his death.

"It was strange to see such an infamous face up close. Lying in front of me as the reason we had been fighting for the last decade.

"It was surreal trying to clean blood off the most wanted man in the world so that I could shoot his photo."

After taking pictures of bin Laden's full body - the images were never released - the commando kneeled down with his camera to capture the man's face.

"Pulling his beard to the right and then the left, I shot several profile pictures. I really wanted to focus on the nose. Because the beard was so dark, the profile shot was the one that really stood out in my mind," he said.

At one point he asks a favour from his fellow commando: "'Hey, man, hold his good eye open.'"

No major revelations

To confirm bin Laden's identity, the Seals try to get someone in the compound to identify the tall man lying in a pool of blood. A woman refuses, but a girl tells the commandos what they had hoped.

"The girl didn't know to lie," he writes.

Although packed with intriguing anecdotes, the book offers no major revelations that change the fundamental version of events, despite the author's vow to set the record straight.

About half of the 313-page book does not even touch on the raid in Abbottabad, barely a few hours' drive from the Pakistani capital Islamabad.

Instead, the former Seal describes his upbringing in Alaska where he learned to hunt as a boy, the gruelling training that preceded his joining the elite Seal "Team Six", other raids in Iraq and Afghanistan and the successful rescue of an American captured by Somali pirates.

He complains that in Afghanistan, the special forces' nighttime raids were increasingly hampered by what he deemed bureaucratic red tape.

Hair dye

"It took pages of PowerPoint slides to get a mission approved. Lawyers and staff officers pored over the details on each page, making sure our plan was acceptable to the Afghan government," he wrote.

"Policy makers were asking us to ignore all of the lessons we had learned, especially the lessons in blood, for political solutions."

In the bin Laden operation, he describes searching the al-Qaeda leader's bedroom, finding hair dye but no stockpile of bullets.

Above the bedroom door, he finds two guns, "which turned out to be an AK-47 and a Makarov pistol in a holster".

"They were both empty. He hadn't even prepared a defence. He had no intention of fighting," he says, expressing disgust for a man who appears to have relied on others to wage his extremist battles.

He then discovers why bin Laden's beard was not grey - as intelligence analysts had predicted - finding a bottle of "Just for Men" hair dye in the bathroom.

On the flight out of Pakistan, the author focuses on how the crash of one of two helicopters in the operation could have caused havoc with the mission.

Drawers left unopened

"Just more than an hour ago, I thought we were all going to die in a helicopter crash. It was funny, the crash stuck with me a lot longer than getting shot at through the door."

He credits the pilot with a skillful crash landing but he worries that the team had to leave before their job was finished, having had to rush out without fully searching the compound.

"Part of me felt like we had failed despite the body at my feet," he writes, referring to bin Laden's corpse on the floor of the chopper.

"We weren't able to get as much intelligence as we could have. We left drawers unopened."

  • ludlowdj - 2012-09-05 11:41

    NOW I SEE, our police are getting their training from the US, shooting an unarmed man even if he is the scum of the earth is still murder, but then again the US government didn't want him alive or standing trail did they? dead men tell no tales.

      dane.herbst.5 - 2012-09-05 11:50

      can only imagine the secrets he took to the grave

      cliff.slabbert - 2012-09-05 11:55

      I presume you wanted Bin Laden lauded for the great man he wasn't? He was a mass murdering coward who got what he deserved!

      calamariman - 2012-09-05 12:15

      Typical bloody American cowboys. Fly(uninvited) into another country, shoot the place up and kill a few people and come back as heroes. Bin Laden was a monster. He sent people into contries (uninvited) to shoot the place up and kill people. And we are better than that???

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-09-05 15:19

      Bin Laden declared and was waging war on the US and freer world. That means you. The rules of war apply, not the criminal justice system.

      dane.herbst.5 - 2012-09-06 06:36

      cliff, the fact is he was a CIA asset in the 80's , that is why i wonder what he must have known about the US, since that department is also run and was started by the bush family, i still have my doubts about the official story

      GrootWitHaai - 2012-10-06 10:08


  • fort.horseman.7 - 2012-09-05 11:59

    1 of the reasons that motivated bin Laden to attack on 9/11 was the killing of Muhammad al Durrah in the Gaza Strip in September the previous year.

      cliff.slabbert - 2012-09-05 12:21


      fort.horseman.7 - 2012-09-05 12:37

      ..and have u been asleep for the last 11 years??

      cliff.slabbert - 2012-09-05 12:41

      No I have been very awake ! Your comment is pointless that's all jockey!

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-09-05 15:21

      Bin Laden and Al-Quaida declared war on the US and freer world because Saudi Arabia allowed NATO to use its bases to repel Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait.

  • Vic - 2012-09-05 13:00

    Bin Laden's death is a very strange and mysterious. These seals had to ask someone if the person they shot was really Bin Laden. Again these guys forgot to search for intelligence documantation which have crucial informationhis body was never showed to the world. Last but not list, his body was never shown to the world. Who's fooling who here?

      owen.walker.7165 - 2012-09-05 13:26

      Agreed, they could have just as easily have captured him and taken back to the USA.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-09-05 15:26

      Clearly you're uninformed and missed what actually happened. Asking for verification is standard operating procedure. Navy Seal training 101. In fact army foot-soldier training 101. They took multiple computer hard drives and documents with them. An incredible store of information. Their contents are not going to be published, obviously. Photos of his body were published. Again, standard operating procedure. You're fooling yourself.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-09-05 15:48

      Owen, they decided not to do that because Bin Laden standing trial would have provided a major recruitment boost for Al Quaida.

  • owen.walker.7165 - 2012-09-05 13:21

    In war and peace one is not allowed to kill an unarmed man in his home - it is murder. What kind of person kills an unarmed man - certainly not a man with honor and integrity. So these navy seals (where is the honor and integrity - gentlemen?) are no better than the man they killed. If one takes away the military shrowd we have - man calously kills another man in his home and then takes photos of corpse to publish. The judge would rightly say that this is a heinous act and set the maximum sentence. 2 wrongs don't make it right - just more war and hatred. USA, you are supposed to be better than this.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-09-05 15:30

      Your interpretation is faulty. The rules of war certainly do allow the killing of those waging war against you. Obviously. That's what war is. It's not the waging of war by one party on another with no response. What are you thinking. Secondly, what do you suggest the US do when Al-Quaida is waging war on it, and has actually attacked it multiple times, culminating on 9/11 with the death of citizens from 90 countries?

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-09-05 15:34

      By your measure, killing unarmed drug lords is murder, notwithstanding that they are responsible for the most heinous deaths imaginable. Even in the criminal justice system, killing an unarmed person, under certain circumstances, is right and just.

  • Martin - 2012-09-05 16:04

    Only cowards kill an unarmed man. Still Osama should have been tried in a court of law. It depends from which point of view one looks at it. To the Afghans and Iraqis, Bush and Blair must be prosecuted for killing mostly innocent civillians. To the innocent Palestinians killed in cold blood in 1982 in Sabra and Shatilla by the terroris Ariel Sharon, the world was silent. Osama was a product of the US to fight the Soviets in the 1980's. After they had no use for him, they decide to butcher hundreds of thousands of people as an excuse to go to war and illegally invade Afghanistan and Iraq.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-09-05 16:12

      What absolute rubbish. Are you even aware that HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of innocent Muslims (that's members of YOUR community) are being massacred and maimed by Jihadists and unelected dictators in your midsts?

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-09-05 16:14

      Regarding the Al-Quaida being "a product of the US", this is another delusional and uninformed belief that you're choosing to hold. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in the 1980's as part of its ongoing plans to impose Soviet Communism on the rest of the world. The US assisted Afghan fighters to repel the Soviets and was successful in doing so. Most of the Afghans were from the Northern Front, unconnected to the Taliban and Jihadists. Some Taliban and Osama Bin Laden, who had been ejected from Saudi Arabia because of his ultra-extreme views, were however among those assisted by the US. Osama Bin Laden then went on to form Al-Quaida several years later. The US had long left Afghanistan. Bin Laden declared war on the West because Saudi Arabia had allowed Nato to use its bases to repel Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. That was in 1992. For years the US did virtually nothing, allowing Al-Quaida to get stronger, even after being directly attacked several times, such as in the first World Trade Center bombing, and the bombing of the US Cole. Al-Quaida carried out suicide attacks in various other parts of the world, including Africa. 9/11 happened and the US and much of the world was then spurred into action. To suggest the US created Al-Quaida is like saying Soweto High School is responsible when one of its chemistry students plants a home-made bomb at a shopping mall.

      Martin - 2012-09-05 16:17

      Fred, dont resort to strawman tactics. Tackle Sabra and Shatila. I have the utmost disgust for war whether it be Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hutoos or Tutsis affected. War must be avoided at all costs. Innocent people are the victims of war.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-09-05 17:11

      At the very least you're enabling war with your distortion of reality. You're thinking and writing absolute nonsense.

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