Navy SEALs don’t often talk publicly about what they do. There are rare occasions, though, like the killing of Osama Bin Laden, that are hard to keep silent about. After SEAL Team 6’s raid in 2011 that took out Bin Laden, there have been conflicting accounts of that night. Now more details are coming to light.
Robert O’Neil says he’s the one who killed Bin Laden. O’Neil, 41, fought in more than 400 combat missions. The story of his service is chronicled in his new book The Operator.
Their first indications that they were at the right spot came when the team blew up a steel door, only to find a brick wall behind it. It was a fake. One of the team was upset that they hadn’t gotten in, but O’Neil told him “No, this is good. That’s a fake door. That means he’s in there.”
Robert O’Neill describes the moment he pulled the trigger and shot Osama Bin Laden in a high-security compound in Abbottobad, Pakistan.
The next door provided them with the access they needed. “Holy shit,” O’Neil was thinking at the time. “We’re here, that’s Bin Laden’s house. This is so cool. We’re probably not going to live, but this is historic and I’m going to savor this.”
“The woman intel analyst had told us we should expect Khalid bin Laden, Osama’s 23-year-old son, to be there, armed and ready, his father’s last line of defense.”
‘”If you find Khalid,” she told us, “Osama’s on the next floor.”‘
They found him.
One of the SEALs had learned to say “Khalid, come here” in Arabic. He spoke the phrase to a man standing on the stairs. It reportedly confused the young man. He stuck his head around a corner to see who had called out to him, and he was shot in the head.
The advanced team was supposed to wait for support. “Our tactics said we should wait for more guys, but we needed to get up there….”
“And then I had a thought so clear it was like a voice in my head. I’m tired of worrying about it, let’s just get it over. It wasn’t bravery, it was more like fatigue – I’m fucking done with waiting for it to happen.”
There were two women at the top of the stair case. The point man jumped at them, thinking they were wearing suicide vests. “If they blew up, his body would absorb most of the blast and I’d have a better chance of surviving and doing what we had come there to do,” O’Neill wrote of the man’s sacrifice.
They didn’t, but that allowed O’Neil to move into the room where Bin Laden was.
Bin Laden was “taller and thinner than I’d expected, his beard shorter and hair whiter.”
The youngest wife of the terrorist leader was in front of him, and stood to shield him. O’Neil shot over her shoulder. He fired two shots. “Bin Laden’s head split open and he dropped,” he wrote.
To be sure he was dead, O’Neil “put another bullet in his head. Insurance.”
O’Neil’s book is going to find an enthusiastic readership, even if his description of SEAL missions is controversial.
“A critical tenant of our ethos is ‘I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions,'” Rear Adm. Brian Losey said when O’Neil first made the claim that he killed Bin Laden back in 2014. “Our ethos is a life-long commitment and obligation, both in and out of the service. Violators of our ethos are neither teammates in good standing, nor teammates who represent Naval Special Warfare.”
Scribner, who published his book, released a statement on O’Neil’s behalf saying he wanted to show the human side of the SEALs.
“They are extraordinary people, but they are also normal and I was proud to serve with them,” O’Neil’s statement read. “I also wanted to show that it is possible to do anything you want, no matter where you are from, as long as you work hard, avoid negativity and never quit.”
Even so, the Pentagon isn’t pleased about O’Neil’s decision to write this book. He didn’t clear it with them, initially, and they sued him. O’Neil will have to pay millions to the government to cover back earnings and legal fees.