Customer Reviews for

The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Informative and Entertaining I've had several books written abou

Informative and Entertaining
I've had several books written about the Osama bin Laden killing on my wish list since they first started to appear on the market, mere weeks after the May 2, 2011 U.S. Seal Team action in Abbotabad, Pakistan. I read Mark Bowden's "Blac...
Informative and Entertaining
I've had several books written about the Osama bin Laden killing on my wish list since they first started to appear on the market, mere weeks after the May 2, 2011 U.S. Seal Team action in Abbotabad, Pakistan. I read Mark Bowden's "Black Hawk Down" earlier in the year, and figured few authors would be able to tackle this story better than he.

Bowden delivers a readable narrative of this significant political and military milestone. At only about 300 pages, Bowden blends the context, history, military and intelligence detail, with the key personalities, to create an interesting and entertaining read.

The actual raid on the bin Laden compound covers about 25 pages. The entire operation took about four hours from initial lift-off, to the team's return to base. It took only eighteen minutes from the moment the Seal Team landed in Abbottabad until bin Laden had been fatally shot and initially identified. The rest of the story delves into the background, history, strategy and tactics that revolve around a major operation like this.

The meat of the story lies in Bowden's details of the military intelligence used as part of the ongoing campaigns following the 9/11 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. "Information and intelligence" are the key strategies in major modern warfare. America was still learning how to fight a nation-less enemy. Bowden asks, "...what if attacks came from nowhere? What then? The answer was information."

Bowden writes, "No matter how one felt about the wisdom of invading Iraq, or the seemingly unending conflict in Afghanistan, a near decade of combat had matured a generation of warriors and tools, battle tested and custom-made for finding and killing terrorists."

"America had spread an invisible web of surveillance that registered seemingly everything that stirred." He states that torture techniques employed at Guantanamo Bay in part fed some of the details that eventually led U.S. Intelligence to the small city in Pakistan. And the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones, were a game-changer providing silent, safe (for the U.S. at least), relatively inexpensive, close range and inexpensive enough to provide near full time watch.

Bowden focuses on the foundational elements of an upbringing that built Osama Bin Laden’s personality, passion, perspective and eventual martial-religious leadership. Over many years, he built a cult of personality. In his recruiting efforts, and ongoing management of his disparate troops, he "...decorated the truth with dreams and portents, weaving magic into the facts, coloring them with divine favor."

And as always is the case, one man's rebel is another man's hero or freedom fighter. Bowden writes, "He did not see any of his attacks as wonton terror, as his horrified enemies did. They were retribution. They were not simply just, but divinely inspired. They were his duty."

Bowden spends a good part of his narrative on Barack Obama...both before he was president and after. It was under Obama's Presidential watch that bin Laden was found, but he wasn't responsible for all of the groundwork that led America to his doorstep. Al Qaeda and bin Laden were tracked in the late 90s under the Clinton administration while he was in the Sudan. When bin Laden went to Afghanistan, the U.S. had a more prepared and better-built intelligence structure in place. And the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, initiated under the Bush Presidency, drove the development of a better overall war machine focused on fighting the kinds of war terrorists wage.

There had been many opportunities to strike at and attempt to kill bin Laden before 9/11, but there were always concerns over collateral damage and the risk involved - politically and bodily. Bowden includes prophetic quotes from the CIA team involved in tracking bin Laden pre 9/11 expressing worry that the White House's denied opportunities to strike at him would come back to haunt America in significant ways.

After American forces attacked bin Laden’s hideout at Tora Bora in Afghanistan, he was suspected to have fled through the mountainous border into Pakistan. He went mostly silent, and the elaborate hide-and-seek between America, it's allies, and bin Laden became a long and tedious effort in military intelligence. The final scenes were played out by some of America's most savvy warriors, but the rest of the story was played out behind the scenes.

"(Intelligence work) More than genius or courage, it is about effort and patience and will. It is also, of course, about money and time..." The muscles, weaponry, gadgets and equipment were key in the final attack, but it was "warrior geeks focused on computer-based intelligence gathering and dissemination" that led the muscle to the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Bowden's description of the raid itself comes from numerous interviews of people close to the operation, but none of the SEAL Team members that were directly involved. My preview edition of the book came with a note that indicated that future versions of "The Finish" would include some of the first hand experiences that have been released since this book went to publish.

The book is strong on details, but not blindingly overwhelming in minutiae. I felt that the reporting was appropriately balanced politically, though I suspect some may feel that Bowden perhaps puts too much of a positive spin on Obama. I don’t agree.

If you’re looking for an informative and entertaining overview of the ten-year search for Osama bin Laden and it’s conclusion, then you should buy this book.

I received this book through the Goodreads First Reads program.

posted by JGolomb on November 20, 2012

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Most Helpful Critical Review

9 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

This is NOT "Black Hawk Down." And do not look for the

This is NOT "Black Hawk Down." And do not look for the journalism that produced it here. Whatever credibility Bowden had as a journalist, he sacrificed here with a not-so-well disguised love paean to our current President. In the end, Bowden can't deny that...
This is NOT "Black Hawk Down." And do not look for the journalism that produced it here. Whatever credibility Bowden had as a journalist, he sacrificed here with a not-so-well disguised love paean to our current President. In the end, Bowden can't deny that 'enhanced interrogation' wasn't effective or that Obama's 'renewed'? focus on al-Qaeda made the search for Osama more effectual or more a priority. Indeed, one official he quotes says just the opposite. There is absolutely no mention of Obama's No. 1 political confidante, the one without whose input he makes no decisions, ever - Valerie Jarrett. Read Richard Minitur's "Leading From Behind" if you want to know what role she played in this event. Bowden unintentionally reveals the managerial chaos of this WH at the end of the book when he describes the multiple accounts of the mission shared by several 'key players' of the administration after the event to the media, revealing once again the administrative weakness of this President. There is the usual anti-Bush mythology - how 'W' hot-dogged it with the 'Mission Accomplished' banner on the carrier after the fall of Baghdad. This is a 'Daily Kos' style exaggeration of events and a slander of Bush's motives that has gone viral in the Post Modern world of contemporary journalism where the new rule seems to be: "It's OK to be bias as long as you try to be hon e s. . . ., it's OK to be biased." Bowden's criticisms of Bush, a bit non sequiter here, are simply unfair or dishonest, and never contextualized. But then, that's not the conventional 'wisdom' at the Atlantic Monthly, the employer of the paranoid conspiracy theorist, and prevaricator, Andrew Sullivan. Undoubtedly, Admiral McRaven deserves some significant credit for coming up with the operational concept of the hit. But given all the sins of omission, exaggerations, political prevarications, and BO effusions; it's hard to know where you might risk believing Bowden's account. He even manages a cheap shot at General Petraeus telling a story of his borrowing McRaven's laptop to send an email to another General addressing him by his first name, and McRaven had to remind him to identify himself so that McRaven wouldn't be tarnished by the indiscretion (the book was published before the sex scandal broke). Very low class. Nevertheless, had he dropped the Bush slanders and mentioned Valerie Jarrett, I could rate the book a 2. But, I won't.

posted by Guyus_Germanicus on December 13, 2012

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  • Posted December 13, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    This is NOT "Black Hawk Down." And do not look for the

    This is NOT "Black Hawk Down." And do not look for the journalism that produced it here. Whatever credibility Bowden had as a journalist, he sacrificed here with a not-so-well disguised love paean to our current President. In the end, Bowden can't deny that 'enhanced interrogation' wasn't effective or that Obama's 'renewed'? focus on al-Qaeda made the search for Osama more effectual or more a priority. Indeed, one official he quotes says just the opposite. There is absolutely no mention of Obama's No. 1 political confidante, the one without whose input he makes no decisions, ever - Valerie Jarrett. Read Richard Minitur's "Leading From Behind" if you want to know what role she played in this event. Bowden unintentionally reveals the managerial chaos of this WH at the end of the book when he describes the multiple accounts of the mission shared by several 'key players' of the administration after the event to the media, revealing once again the administrative weakness of this President. There is the usual anti-Bush mythology - how 'W' hot-dogged it with the 'Mission Accomplished' banner on the carrier after the fall of Baghdad. This is a 'Daily Kos' style exaggeration of events and a slander of Bush's motives that has gone viral in the Post Modern world of contemporary journalism where the new rule seems to be: "It's OK to be bias as long as you try to be hon e s. . . ., it's OK to be biased." Bowden's criticisms of Bush, a bit non sequiter here, are simply unfair or dishonest, and never contextualized. But then, that's not the conventional 'wisdom' at the Atlantic Monthly, the employer of the paranoid conspiracy theorist, and prevaricator, Andrew Sullivan. Undoubtedly, Admiral McRaven deserves some significant credit for coming up with the operational concept of the hit. But given all the sins of omission, exaggerations, political prevarications, and BO effusions; it's hard to know where you might risk believing Bowden's account. He even manages a cheap shot at General Petraeus telling a story of his borrowing McRaven's laptop to send an email to another General addressing him by his first name, and McRaven had to remind him to identify himself so that McRaven wouldn't be tarnished by the indiscretion (the book was published before the sex scandal broke). Very low class. Nevertheless, had he dropped the Bush slanders and mentioned Valerie Jarrett, I could rate the book a 2. But, I won't.

    9 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 19, 2012

    Don't waste your time

    Should have been titled "Obama how I love thee". This book is an ode to President Obama, rather than to the skill and courage of our Navy Seals!

    6 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    He sold out! I'm a fan of Bowden's, but this is NOT one of his

    He sold out! I'm a fan of Bowden's, but this is NOT one of his better efforts. The tenor of it feels like it was rushed; like not all the research was completed to the level expected of a writer of Bowden's caliber and reputation; like there was a hurry and deadline to get it published (like maybe 6 Nov 12, election day?). His other books are well-researched and for the most part factual/thoroughly documented. This one - not so much at a slim 235 pages. It's hard to get past that his sources all have an angle and agenda to play in their anonymity, especially amidst Bowden's effusive and complementary tone for the current POTUS. I've never sensed bias or political opinion in other Bowden tomes. You can't escape the bias here. At the end, the overwhelming feeling I had was, this was political propoganda, a la 'pay to play'. We'll give you 'insider access' if you tell the story we tell you and then talk about us in glowing, walk-on-water terms. Bowden sold out on this one. Disappointing.

    5 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 20, 2012

    To Political For Me...

    Not happy with this book at all. BHDown much better and did not contain the pre-election politics. Didn't even finish it... maybe later. Obama is not my hero not.

    5 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 20, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Informative and Entertaining I've had several books written abou

    Informative and Entertaining
    I've had several books written about the Osama bin Laden killing on my wish list since they first started to appear on the market, mere weeks after the May 2, 2011 U.S. Seal Team action in Abbotabad, Pakistan. I read Mark Bowden's "Black Hawk Down" earlier in the year, and figured few authors would be able to tackle this story better than he.

    Bowden delivers a readable narrative of this significant political and military milestone. At only about 300 pages, Bowden blends the context, history, military and intelligence detail, with the key personalities, to create an interesting and entertaining read.

    The actual raid on the bin Laden compound covers about 25 pages. The entire operation took about four hours from initial lift-off, to the team's return to base. It took only eighteen minutes from the moment the Seal Team landed in Abbottabad until bin Laden had been fatally shot and initially identified. The rest of the story delves into the background, history, strategy and tactics that revolve around a major operation like this.

    The meat of the story lies in Bowden's details of the military intelligence used as part of the ongoing campaigns following the 9/11 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. "Information and intelligence" are the key strategies in major modern warfare. America was still learning how to fight a nation-less enemy. Bowden asks, "...what if attacks came from nowhere? What then? The answer was information."

    Bowden writes, "No matter how one felt about the wisdom of invading Iraq, or the seemingly unending conflict in Afghanistan, a near decade of combat had matured a generation of warriors and tools, battle tested and custom-made for finding and killing terrorists."

    "America had spread an invisible web of surveillance that registered seemingly everything that stirred." He states that torture techniques employed at Guantanamo Bay in part fed some of the details that eventually led U.S. Intelligence to the small city in Pakistan. And the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones, were a game-changer providing silent, safe (for the U.S. at least), relatively inexpensive, close range and inexpensive enough to provide near full time watch.

    Bowden focuses on the foundational elements of an upbringing that built Osama Bin Laden’s personality, passion, perspective and eventual martial-religious leadership. Over many years, he built a cult of personality. In his recruiting efforts, and ongoing management of his disparate troops, he "...decorated the truth with dreams and portents, weaving magic into the facts, coloring them with divine favor."

    And as always is the case, one man's rebel is another man's hero or freedom fighter. Bowden writes, "He did not see any of his attacks as wonton terror, as his horrified enemies did. They were retribution. They were not simply just, but divinely inspired. They were his duty."

    Bowden spends a good part of his narrative on Barack Obama...both before he was president and after. It was under Obama's Presidential watch that bin Laden was found, but he wasn't responsible for all of the groundwork that led America to his doorstep. Al Qaeda and bin Laden were tracked in the late 90s under the Clinton administration while he was in the Sudan. When bin Laden went to Afghanistan, the U.S. had a more prepared and better-built intelligence structure in place. And the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, initiated under the Bush Presidency, drove the development of a better overall war machine focused on fighting the kinds of war terrorists wage.

    There had been many opportunities to strike at and attempt to kill bin Laden before 9/11, but there were always concerns over collateral damage and the risk involved - politically and bodily. Bowden includes prophetic quotes from the CIA team involved in tracking bin Laden pre 9/11 expressing worry that the White House's denied opportunities to strike at him would come back to haunt America in significant ways.

    After American forces attacked bin Laden’s hideout at Tora Bora in Afghanistan, he was suspected to have fled through the mountainous border into Pakistan. He went mostly silent, and the elaborate hide-and-seek between America, it's allies, and bin Laden became a long and tedious effort in military intelligence. The final scenes were played out by some of America's most savvy warriors, but the rest of the story was played out behind the scenes.

    "(Intelligence work) More than genius or courage, it is about effort and patience and will. It is also, of course, about money and time..." The muscles, weaponry, gadgets and equipment were key in the final attack, but it was "warrior geeks focused on computer-based intelligence gathering and dissemination" that led the muscle to the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

    Bowden's description of the raid itself comes from numerous interviews of people close to the operation, but none of the SEAL Team members that were directly involved. My preview edition of the book came with a note that indicated that future versions of "The Finish" would include some of the first hand experiences that have been released since this book went to publish.

    The book is strong on details, but not blindingly overwhelming in minutiae. I felt that the reporting was appropriately balanced politically, though I suspect some may feel that Bowden perhaps puts too much of a positive spin on Obama. I don’t agree.

    If you’re looking for an informative and entertaining overview of the ten-year search for Osama bin Laden and it’s conclusion, then you should buy this book.

    I received this book through the Goodreads First Reads program.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2012

    An excellent account of the events leading up to the killing of

    An excellent account of the events leading up to the killing of The Evil One. Our Special Forces deserve the profound thanks from all Americans. Those who gave so many years to study and find OBL are also to be highly commended.

    The only thing more frightening than another four years of this President is the thought of a President Biden.


    4 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 31, 2012

    Knowing better, I bought the book anyway.  From articles that I

    Knowing better, I bought the book anyway.  From articles that I had read I knew it would be an Obama lovefest, and it was.

    Chapter 2 had good information on Osama Bin Laden's background.  Chapters 1 and 3 were a waste of time.  Most of the rest of the book was a huge waste of time.  Little info on the raid itself.  Background on the people in the background.

    Without actually saying so, Bowden blames Bush for most everything and for not finding Bin Laden.  Credits Obama with restarting the search with renewed vigor.  Hogwash.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 27, 2012

    Very Disappointing. I'm a big fan of Mark Bowden's previous wor

    Very Disappointing.

    I'm a big fan of Mark Bowden's previous works, but this book falls far short. In fact, it appears contrived, almost as if it was commissioned. Essentially, it is an Ode to Obama. For those seeking a glimpse into the mission itself that took out Bin Laden, this is not that book, as even Bowden admits he talked to no one who was actually on the raid (Check out No Easy Day for that inside info). This is mostly about the political background in Washington that led up to the decision to go and act on CIA information that Obama was probably in Pakistan. Sadly, Bowden spends a lot of time belittling George Bush and bashing Republicans in general - even mentioning Rush Limbaugh and talking about the "birther" issue, as if either of those had anything to do with the hunt for Bin Laden. He likewise downplays Democrat failings in the hunt for Obama: while he goes into some detail about how mission after mission was denied to go after Bin Laden in the 1990s based on CIA info, not once does he mention in that segment that the "no" was always coming from Bill Clinton. And while he mentions the Pakistani doctor who aided the CIA in the hunt and was subsequently arrested and imprisoned by Pakistan for it, he neglects to mention that he was arrested due to "leaks" that came from DC, most probably from Obama's national security advisor Donilon, who Bowden repeatedly writes about positively in the book.

    Overall, there's some good background here, but as I said...it all sounds contrived and as if Bowden was contracted by the WHite HOuse to put out a good spin. It was a book written very quickly, and is very short. Not at all like Bowden's previous works. I smell a rat.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 26, 2012

    It's so refreshing to read a book that features the countless pe

    It's so refreshing to read a book that features the countless people behind the scenes in our military's infrastructure - the information analysts, speech writers and attorneys - who diligently lay the ground work for our military operations. A boardroom or cubicle may not look sexy nor could a guy who spends his life in front of a computer screen do nearly as many push-ups as a SEAL but Mark Bowden's writing ties together all aspects of our nation's largest international manhunt with candor and integrity. This is a great read for anybody who wants to know more about the people behind the scenes - a nice antidote to the flashy special ops books that seen to be popping up every other week. Good job, Mr. Bowden.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2012

    Good overall account

    But no real secrets revealed and np mew information. Review the book - not necessary to politic on here.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2014

    This book was the biggest wet-kiss for Barack Obama. The autho

    This book was the biggest wet-kiss for Barack Obama. The author never acknowledges that the Obama administration benefitted from the systems/policies established by the previous admininstration. I felt that the book was really a 'Help Barack Obama get re-elected' piece and the publication date before the Nov 2012 election re-inforced my belief. I thought Bowen's rant about the publication of 'No Easy Day' was unprofessional and a bit funny. Actually, 'No Easy Day' was a better book.

    .

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2013

    Too Biased

    This is a right wing bit of revisionest history at its worse. The author glosses over the deception deployed by Bush to invade Iraq and completely misrepresents the failure of our national security agencies and FBI to prevent 9/11.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2012

    A huge disappointment

    Basically, a big wet kiss to obama. I think Bowden was on the payroll. Get No Easy Day; much better unbiased read.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2012

    Fantastic

    If you enjoy Bowdens style in his other books, then you won't be dissapointed with this book. Highly reccomended.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 20, 2012

    Excellent

    I've read his book Black Hawk Down and watched his documentary on killing Pablo. He is a excellent author and writes and speaks from somebody who has researched to every fine point before he writes, I highly recommend this book. A very talented author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2012

    Great read

    Another great book from Bowden.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2013

    Good read!

    Its about time a book comes out about the hunt for ubl and not the raid.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2013

    Great book

    Please, SANE Americans...do not be swayed by the nearly identical negative reviews...ALL.submitted by programmed FOX News tea party robots, none of whom have read this book, probably ANY book without pictures.

    BUY IT, READ IT..YOU.WON'T BE SORRY

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2012

    Is this written by a navy seal?

    Im confused

    0 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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