Friday, August 9, 2013

Review of Mark Bowden's "The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden"

Mr. Bowden has enjoyed a fine reputation in literary circles for his previous books, "Blackhawk Down" and "Guests of the Ayatollah."  This is why I was unprepared to be disappointed by his latest book about the killing of Bin Laden.  He remains a gripping writer who sprinkles important details through his narrative, but he seems to have seized upon the Obama administration's version of events.  Most importantly he tries to make the case that not only had the trail gone cold, but the trail had been abandoned by a Bush administration that was preoccupied with other things.

On the one hand Mr. Bowden mentions that a 2007 raid (likely the Army's Delta Force) in Western Iraq near the Syrian border found information that would prove to be a turning point in the hunt for Bin Laden.  On the other hand however, he pushes the chain of events ahead five years to the eve of the SEAL Team Six raid into Pakistan without giving fair treatment to the ongoing efforts of military and intelligence professionals over a decade and across the Bush and Obama administrations.

 Essentially Mr. Bowden repeats the Obama administration's line that it was largely the president's personal prodding and pestering of the CIA and SOC that directly led to finally getting the most wanted man in history.  It makes for a compelling story, but I recommend you skip this book and rent "Zero Dark-Thirty."  Not a perfect film, but as I wrote on this site, it gives a fairly comprehensive and balanced picture of the complex series of events that culminated in Bin Laden's death.