A review of:
by Dalton Fury, St. Martin's
Thomas (Tom) P. Odom
LTC US Army (ret)
Journey Into Darkness: Genocide In Rwanda
In January 1977 a brave man and a living legend by the name of Major Richard
Meadows reached down and pulled my patrol of RANGER students out of a freezing swamp
after 10 hours of agony had killed two of my classmates. Thirty-one years
later I can still feel that cold. I remember how effective Major Meadows was
in pulling us together when we were barely capable of thinking. I also have never
forgotten how Meadows' low key manner radiated calm authority. Special Operations
Detachment-Delta or Delta was soon to take root. Major Meadows—battlefield
commissioned in Viet Nam and member of the Son Tay Raiders—would be retired before
Delta came to be. But Dick Meadows would return as a contractor scout to guide
Delta into Tehran. He made it to the target city in mufti when Delta did not.
Kill Bin Laden was written by another brave man, Major Dalton Fury, about other
brave men in their efforts to hunt down and kill the most hunted man in the world.
For those of us who were raised in Fort Bragg circles in the late 1970s and early
1980s, Delta emerged as a rumor and soon became legendary as tales of selection
and non-selection circulated. After my RANGER student experience, I had no
desire to try my hand; I have several comrades who did and some made it. I
respect them all for even trying. Major Fury's description of his final selection
took me right back to 1977. His low key, outward focused prose in describing
his men reminds me of Dick Meadow's radiated authority.
This book then is a story written on several levels, the first being a story
of Soldiers who self-selected to become America's most capable warriors. Fury's
first person description of that selection and the warriors who passed is stunning.
His loyalty and love of his men saturates the pages of the book. Next of course
the book reveals the true story of what happened in the effort to hunt down and
kill Usama Bin Laden. As one should expect, Fury relates that story like a
Soldier. Sometimes it is profane. Sometimes it is a bit choppy. But it is
always interesting. Finally Fury's story is of great value to the historian
and the theorist seeking to understand the perils and pitfalls of 21st
Century Warfare, especially our current efforts in the Long War.
If you love or at least respect warriors, you will like this book. A friend
of mine likes the line in the movie Zulu where Colour Sergeant Bourne calms
the private facing their attackers with the line, "because we're here, boy.
No one else. Just us." Seems to me that the same line applied to Fury's command—Delta,
U.S. Air Force Commando, agency assets, and British Special Boot Service—with one
critical difference. Bourne and the private with that small element of Her
Majesty's 24th Foot faced thousands of Zulu warriors because fate had
dictated they would do so. They did not however seek that battle. They fought
on the defensive. Fate similarly dictated that Fury's troop would face thousands
of Al Qaeda and Taliban. Fury and his men attacked when their allies retreated.
And as Fury writes, it was a great time to be in Delta.
In Fury's own words, his unit failed in its mission to kill Bin Laden.
That is a harsh self-judgment but an honest one. His motivation in writing
the book was to describe how and why his troop failed. Certainly it was not
due to a lack of trying. Fury's men stayed in the mountains when no one else
did, notably their Afghan allies who supposedly were doing all the fighting.
As is the case in most history, the real story was very different from what policy
makers and press offered to the greater US population. For the policy makers
it would have been inconvenient at the time to admit that the alliance responsible
for defeating the Taliban was less than determined to kill Bin Laden or —
to allow their US counterparts to do so. Press reports usually hinge on availability
and agenda. The first priority is to get a story, any story. The second—like
policy makers—flows from fitting that story into an agenda.
And that takes me to my concluding thoughts in this review and my only criticism
of what the author had to say. Major Fury wrote in discussing the debate over
the operation, "I will leave the overall strategic debate to the critics and scholars,
for I was not in those air-conditioned rooms with leather chairs when they came
up with some of the strangest decisions I have ever encountered."
Dalton, you did not, could not, and should not leave the strategic debate alone.
Had you left it alone, your men would not have stayed on the mountain when your
allies left them. Sergeant Major Ironhead would not have rucked supplies up
to keep them on the mountain when it seemed higher headquarters either wanted the
operation to fail or was at least indifferent to its possible success. You
could not leave the strategy alone because your mission was ultimately undone by
strategic considerations; putting the suggestion forward to infiltrate the battle
space from Pakistan was the right thing to do. Denying that suggestion due
to strategic considerations is the policy maker's privilege and his responsibility
to accept the results. And in the post-operational world you now live in,
you should not stay out of the strategic debate when bumper sticker solutions are
bandied about by folks who have never had their body hair freeze and break off as
they moved up a mountain side when rational thought demanded they retreat.
This is a brave book by a brave man about other brave men. I am glad you
- Tom Odom
Ed. Note - see also this
Council discussion on the book and the 60 Minutes piece.