WASHINGTON, February 11 (RIA Novosti) – A popular US magazine on Monday published what it billed as a first-hand account from the special forces soldier who killed Osama Bin Laden, weaving details of that mission together with a description of difficulties he has faced in returning to civilian life.
The subject of the 27-page article published on monthly magazine Esquire’s website is identified only as “the Shooter,” a former member of Navy Seal Team 6 credited with carrying out the mission that resulted in the al-Qaida leader being killed in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2, 2011.
In the article, reported by Esquire in cooperation with the non-profit Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), “the Shooter” described how since leaving military service last year he has faced mounting financial problems and had healthcare benefits for himself and his family terminated.
“I asked if there was some transition” from military healthcare to a civilian program, the article quoted him as saying. “They said no. You’re out of the service, your coverage is over. Thanks for your sixteen years. Go f--- yourself.”
Within hours of publication of the article, US broadcast and internet media were ablaze with panel discussions and debates on whether “the Shooter” deserves treatment different from any other combat veteran, how the US government cares for war veterans and whether the article was entirely accurate.
At the core of the debate was the jarring contrast between the laurels heaped by US political officials on military personnel in general and Seal Team 6 members in particular as “heroes” and the paltry help they get on leaving military service and trying to begin a new life as civilians.
“Nothing. No pension, no healthcare and no protection for himself or his family,” was how the Esquire story described the benefits “the Shooter” was entitled to receive on leaving the service.
Not all readers however were automatically sympathetic.
“I smell a rat,” said one comment on the website of National Public Radio, noting that “the Shooter” entered the military freely and decided to leave service three years before the mandatory 20 years for retirement fully aware that in doing so he would not be eligible for a military pension.
“This article is very misleading,” read another incredulous comment. “Just because he performed a well-known act doesn't mean he should be treated any different than his fellow seals who put in the same years.”
Impossible to verify independently, the account reportedly given by “the Shooter” nonetheless offered considerable dramatic and compelling detail.
“There was Bin Laden standing there,” “the Shooter” is quoted as saying, describing the moment he entered the al-Qaida leader’s bedroom on the third floor of the Abbottabad compound.
“He looked confused. And way taller than I was expecting. … For me, it was a snapshot of a target ID, definitely him. … In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he’s going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap! Same place.
“He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out. I watched him take his last breaths, just a reflex breath. And I remember as I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: Is this the best thing I’ve ever done, or the worst thing I’ve ever done? This is real and that’s him. Holy s—t,” he said.
The reporter of the article, CIR executive chairman Phil Bronstein, said “enough people” had confirmed that the subject named only as “the Shooter” was indeed behind the mission’s point man as the pair ascended the stairs to the room where Bin Laden was waiting.
And that point man himself, according to the article, had, according “to another Seal I spoke with,” confirmed the sequence of events that resulted in the killing of Bin Laden.