Copyright 2011 by John T. Reed

In my initial article about the bin Laden killing, I interpolated in a number of aspects because the details released by the administration were incomplete and, in some cases, obvious lies.

On 5/16/11, the Military Channel ran what appeared to be a pretty good one-hour documentary about the operation. I was pleasantly surprised that it confirmed almost all of my interpolations. One comment I got on my original article was that I am old and have not been in the military for 39 years and the world’s changed and tactics and strategies have changed so I just need to shut up. It ain’t that hard to figure it out, the world has not changed that much with regard to the hidebound military, and I have not been in a coma since I got out of the military.

Obama had a ton of information about bin Laden’s compound and the flight path to and from it

I said,

Unless he had a lot more certainty about how the operation would go than they let on, that was the wrong decision.

Turns out, Obama did have a lot more information than they originally let on. I still think they should have bombed instead of put boots on the ground, but they knew

• how many people lived in the building

• their ages and sexes

• most of the construction features of the property

• locations of radar coverage of the Pakistan defense forces and a path that led into and out of Abbottabad which could be negotiated without being picked up by Pakistan radar

It was still potentially a dangerous mission. The helicopter crash illustrates that. But they had a much better idea that they would meet virtually no resistance on the flight or in the compound. They observed the compound for many months with satellites, drones, and from a house they rented near bin Laden’s compound. They were eavesdropping on conversations within the bin Laden house using lasers that can hear the conversations from the vibrations of the windows in the rooms.

I still think they spent too much time doing that. He could have detected their efforts. Drones are visible. So are people spying on you from another house in your neighborhood. All of those months of spying on the house served the SWAT team approach rather than the bombing. They could have and should have done it a lot sooner and with no risk to American lives by Stealth Bomber bombing.

I figured it would take two or three 2,000-pound bombs. I read an analysis where the government said it would have taken 30 2,000 pound bombs. I am not an expert on aerial bombing, but I saw and felt what 2,000 pound bombs did in Vietnam and I do not believe the 30 bombs statement. It sounds like they were just justifying the boots-on-the-ground raid.

Landed outside the compound

They tried to land a helicopter inside the compound. It crashed. Then the second chopper landed outside the compound and they used explosives to get into the compound.

That’s all rather noisy. I still think they should have parachuted into the compound or into an adjacent farm field. And I think they should have WD-40-ed the gate hinges and opened the gate quietly. How?

• it might have been left unlocked

• ever heard of a locksmith? I think SEALs have been trained in everything but that, which is consistent with the total lack of common sense in government bureaucracies.

• bolt cutters

• acetylene torch (how some of my West Point classmates cut the reveille cannon off its mount and threw it into the Hudson River when we were cadets)

Anyway, the element of surprise can make all the difference in operations like this. Chopper noise, crashing chopper noise, and explosions are not conducive to the element of surprise. On the other hand, these guys seemed to be extremely sound sleepers. The guy with the AK-47 was shot in his bedroom after all the racket outside. His wife ran between him and the CIA/SEALs during the shooting. Not real bright. She was killed by the CIA/SEALs shooting at her husband or her husband shooting at the CIA/SEALs or both.

Two other guys were shot unarmed on the stair way inside the house by SEALs or CIA who were also on the stairs. And bin Laden was shot in his bedroom unarmed although he had an AK-47 and 9mm pistol lying on a nearby table.

The greater danger from all the noise was the local Pakistan military arriving in force to see what was going on. They did, but too late to get the Americans.

My comments that the CIA did fantastic were proven and then some in the documentary. Ditto the pilots of the choppers and their preparation for the flight. The documentary lessened my favorable impression of the SEALs performance on the mission. They knew who was inside the place. Their lack of stealth when it was still possible struck me as crude like running some 1950s three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust football offense devoid of passing or misdirection plays.

Chopper crash

The latest story—there’s a new one every day about why the chopper crashed—is the walls of the compound prevented the chopper blades from maintaining enough lift to land slowly. Keep trying new stories. That one sounds like bullshit, too.

I doubt this was the first time a chopper ever tried to land near 12 to 18 foot walls. For one thing, they should have done this multiple times in the rehearsals at the replica compound they built. Secondly, the specs on how to operate the chopper should have warned pilots not to attempt such landing or hovering if it is not aerodynamically feasible and safe. Duh.

Sounds like pilot error to me, or maybe lousy maintenance of the chopper. We are lucky they did not kill half the men on the mission.

Once again, if the SEALs are “The Quiet Professionals,” how come we know almost every single thing that happened and the SEALs are taking all the credit for what happened on the ground in spite of their being 46 CIA guys with them—almost twice as many CIA and SEALs?

License to kill

One theory I have just developed is that this was an assassination. Assassinations are legally dubious both under U.S. and international law. But the U.S. government seems to think SEALs, being in the military, have licenses to kill like 007 James Bond, the fictional hero of Ian Fleming spy novels. If the CIA murders someone, Attorney General Eric Holder or the Hague may prosecute them. But if a SEAL does it, the Administration can say that’s allowed because it was “a military mission.” And that is precisely what the Administration does say in this case when asked about the legality of killing bin Laden.

Oh so elite

Various experts on the Military Channel pushed the SEALs are so elite party line. This helps the Military Channel get ratings. The History Channel had a series called Greatest Military Blunders. They could do a number of episodes for that on SEAL blunder operations, but that does not sell papers as they say.


SEALs claim glory for all the rounds they shoot in training. According to the documentary, each and every bad guy who was shot in this operation was shot from a range of about 10 to 15 feet. That is not point blank. See my account of my training at Front Sight which was also at that range.

Setting the selector switch of your weapon on automatic (machine gun; one trigger pulls shoots multiple bullets until you stop pulling) instead of semi-automatic sort of obviates the need for marksmanship in an operation like this. It’s like garden hose marksmanship. You aim at the bush and if the water lands off to the left you adjust the aim to the right.

The documentary seemed to indicate the CIA/SEAL weapons were set on semi-automatic (one trigger pull shoots one bullet).

Exploding bullets

It appears from descriptions of bin Laden’s wounds that he was shot with an exploding bullet. His brains were hanging out his left eye socket and his left ear. Here is a paragraph on exploding bullets from Wikipedia.

The Hague Convention of 1899, Declaration III, prohibits the use in international warfare of bullets which easily expand or flatten in the body, giving as example a bullet with a jacket with incisions or one that does not fully cover the core.[14] This is often incorrectly believed to be prohibited in the Geneva Conventions, but it significantly predates those conventions, and is in fact a continuance of the Declaration of St Petersburg in 1868, which banned exploding projectiles of less than 400 grams.

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John T. Reed