The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden

The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden

by Mark Bowden


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From Mark Bowden, the preeminent chronicler of our military and special forces, comes The Finish , a gripping account of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. With access to key sources, Bowden takes us inside the rooms where decisions were made and on the ground where the action unfolded.

After masterminding the attacks of September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden managed to vanish. Over the next ten years, as Bowden shows, America found that its war with al Qaeda—a scattered group of individuals who were almost impossible to track—demanded an innovative approach. Step by step, Bowden describes the development of a new tactical strategy to fight this war—the fusion of intel from various agencies and on-the-ground special ops. After thousands of special forces missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the right weapon to go after bin Laden had finally evolved. By Spring 2011, intelligence pointed to a compound in Abbottabad; it was estimated that there was a 50/50 chance that Osama was there. Bowden shows how three strategies were mooted: a drone strike, a precision bombing, or an assault by Navy SEALs. In the end, the President had to make the final decision. It was time for the finish.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802121523
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 06/11/2013
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 175,264
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Mark Bowden is the author of nine books, including the #1 New York Times best seller Black Hawk Down. He reported at The Philadelphia Inquirer for twenty years and now writes for Vanity Fair , The Atlantic , and other magazines. His most recent book is Worm: The First Digital World War.

Table of Contents

Prologue xi

1 A Definition of Evil 1

2 The Path of Jihad 29

3 Taking Up Arms 55

4 The Targeting Engine 89

5 "Please Make Sure to Keep the Children and All of the Families Away from the Areas That Are Being Photographed and Bombed" 123

6 Disguised Uncertainty 141

7 "Adhering to These Precautions" 177

8 The Finish 209

9 Glitter 243

Acknowledgments and Notes 265

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The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
JGolomb More than 1 year ago
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.
CarolSTexas More than 1 year ago
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.
Guyus_Germanicus More than 1 year ago
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.
para74 More than 1 year ago
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.
PainFrame More than 1 year ago
I would like to meet that dog. Mark Bowden is the perfect author for this story. After having read and been fascinated by his previous accounts of Black Hawk Down and Killing Pablo (and to a lesser extent, Guests of the Ayatollah) I was primed to finally get to the bottom of this whole episode which always seemed a bit too mysterious to me as a civilian. Thankfully, Bowden’s expert research and frank story telling do much to unravel this complicated and still partially classified story. This isn’t a novel, but the author’s writing is so compelling that I still devoured the whole thing in only a few days. It actually clarified this event for me in a way I thought impossible. This seems like the definitive version of this story, I prefer it to any other I have come across (I am thinking primarily of the film Zero Dark Thirty) and really can’t think of a more qualified author to lay it all out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
NAME &star Wren, just Wren. Kind of like the bird if you're into that sort of thing. <p> AGE &star She looks fairly young, but no one really knows. Or she just doesn't care to remember. <p> GENDER &star Female obviously. If you think any differently the two of you are going to have a problem. <p> APPERANCE &star The best word to describe her would have to be dainty. Wren is a very small pearl colored she-cat with soft gray eyes. Her build is very slender with little or no muscle. She makes up this with her clever fox-like personality that no one dares to challege. Her tail is also very long and much bushier than the rest of her body. <p> PERSONALITY &star Wren is a very strong defender of those close to her. Hurt someone she loves and you'll never sleep well again. To those that are on her good side she is kind, calm-aired, and always willing to help others. Those on her bad side don't get special treatment. <p> CRUSH &star You'd definitely have to be a very special type of cat to win her heart. <p> KIN &star She had a litter once, but she doesn't like to talk about it because they all died very young. <p> THEMESONG &star Don't Stop Believing by Journey
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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. .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its about time a book comes out about the hunt for ubl and not the raid.
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Lerp59 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
silencedogoodreturns More than 1 year ago
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 &quot;birther&quot; 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 &quot;no&quot; 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 &quot;leaks&quot; 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 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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another great book from Bowden.
KHSenior More than 1 year ago
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.
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Please, SANE 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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.