Book Review - Kill Bin Laden

A review of:

Kill Bin Laden: A Delta Force Commander's Account of the Hunt for the World's Most Wanted Man

by Dalton Fury, St. Martin's

Press, 2008.

Reviewed by:

Thomas (Tom) P. Odom

LTC US Army (ret)

Author,

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

wrote it.

- Tom Odom

Ed. Note - see also this

Small Wars

Council discussion on the book and the 60 Minutes piece.

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Comments

I have read Kill Bin Laden by Dalton Fury (in parts), it is just like the game I used to play on computer 'Delta Force some of the events are more scarier in the book, but I am amazed how well prepared each soldier is (learning from their research & development), on a certain mission, the chain of command and the code of conduct is truly commendable. I wish I could be one of the fighting men, played the game in childhood/young age, now here is the practical for real. I had my brother fighting on the other side of the border from Pakistani Army... fighting the same bunch of idiots (Taliban), he tells me stories of his missions, there is so much he implemented from the learning that he gained from Delta Force game by Novalogic.

Well done Sir.

Best Regards
Salman Lodhi