Who really shot Bin Laden?

Good stuff from CNN keying off Brandon Webb’s interview with an unnamed SEAL who claims the Esquire cover story about the man who shot Bin Laden is a big ball of shinola. To recap: According to Esquire, two SEALs were present during the initial confrontation with Bin Laden on the third floor. One, the “point man,” allegedly shot Bin Laden’s son Khaled on the way up the stairs, then saw another man on the third floor peeking around a curtain in front of the hallway. The point man squeezed off a shot or two and the man disappeared behind the curtain. The two SEALs then discovered two women in the hallway. The point man grabbed them to take the force of the blow in case either was wired with a suicide bomb. The other SEAL rushed past him, entered the bedroom, and saw OBL standing there behind a third woman. Quote:

There was bin Laden standing there. He had his hands on a woman’s shoulders, pushing her ahead, not exactly toward me but by me, in the direction of the hallway commotion. It was his youngest wife, Amal…

I’m just looking at him from right here [he moves his hand out from his face about ten inches]. He’s got a gun on a shelf right there, the short AK he’s famous for. And he’s moving forward. I don’t know if she’s got a vest and she’s being pushed to martyr them both. He’s got a gun within reach. He’s a threat. I need to get a head shot so he won’t have a chance to clack himself off [blow himself up].

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. That time I used my EOTech red-dot holo sight. He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out. I watched him take his last breaths, just a reflex breath.

I wrote about the Esquire piece last month but missed an obvious red flag at the time. The story about Bin Laden hiding behind his wife was told by John Brennan in the first hours after the raid and went viral instantly, for obvious reasons. The idea of the man responsible for 9/11 hiding behind a woman at the moment of truth is as good as propaganda gets. Just one problem: The White House backed off it immediately, claiming that Brennan had confused an encounter with a different man and woman during the raid with what happened to Bin Laden. That’s highly unlikely — Brennan probably was just seizing an opportunity for psy ops — but there’s no reason for senior officials to retreat from what he said unless it was in fact untrue. Very strange that “the shooter” in Esquire’s article would repeat the same story when other SEAL accounts of OBL’s last moments don’t mention it.

So what really happened? According to Webb’s source, it seems highly likely that when the point man squeezed off a shot at the mysterious man peeking around the curtain on the third floor, he hit him square in the head. Bin Laden collapsed and was either dead or all but dead by the time Esquire’s “shooter” reached him. Quote:

The shooter claims that the point man took a few shots as the man sticks his head out the door…. Ok we all agree on that. But here is where is story goes sideways AGAIN. The shooter claims that the point man, after taking his shots towards the adult male standing in the door, that he then turned his attention towards the women in the hallway. There were ZERO women in the hallway. Also, ZERO shooters are going to take shots at an unidentified adult male, and then simply peal off without following up to see if he hit that target, to go deal with unarmed women. After the point man engaged toward the unknown male (UBL), he DID follow his shots and entered the room. When he saw that UBL was on the floor and no longer a threat, he dropped his weapon, and then at that point dealt with the unarmed females. Even the shooter and No Easy Day say that the point man handled the women.

My point is, the point man would have NEVER dropped his cover on the adult male had he not been 200% sure he was no longer a threat. According to the shooter, the point man stayed in the hallway to deal with the women. Simply not true, because no SEAL I know would have dropped the cover on the male in the room that he had just shot at. The shooter now claims that he enters the room and looks at UBL and shoots him twice in the face as UBL was going for his gun. There was NO WEAPON found in UBLs room until about 5 min into the search, and was found above the door on a shelf. Again, this has never been disputed by anybody, so if the shooter was so sure he was going for his gun….how could he see it???

Per this account, Esquire’s “shooter” pumps a few unnecessary bullets into OBL after he’s already collapsed on the floor, bleeding out from the head wound that the point man had inflicted. Far less gripping than the final tense eye-to-eye encounter in Esquire’s telling. Webb’s source also claims the alleged “shooter” was later fired from Team Six for blabbing too much about his role in the raid and that, contra the premise of Esquire’s piece, he wasn’t blindsided by the sort of health coverage he’d receive after he left the service.

Whom to believe? Well, turns out the story from Webb’s source closely matches the story told by the author of “No Easy Day,” who was allegedly the third SEAL on the third floor (contra the “shooter’s” claim that there were only two). He also claims that it was the point man who took OBL down with a shot from the stairs while he was poking his head out to see what was happening. Another hole in Esquire’s story: According to both Webb’s source and a SEAL operator who spoke to CNN’s Peter Bergen, the SEALs were trying to avoid shooting Bin Laden in the head so that they’d have an easier time with facial recognition afterward. The story about a shot from the stairs at an unknown man to disable him makes more sense in that regard than Esquire’s “shooter” storming into the room and popping OBL three times square in the forehead after he’d already realized who he was. Plus, other members of Team Six told Bergen that they regard the “No Easy Day” author as more credible than the “shooter” who was interviewed by Esquire. A simple question as you watch below: If the Esquire account is true and the other accounts are simply part of some coordinated campaign to discredit the “shooter” because he’s talking too much, why didn’t they concoct a story in which a different SEAL has a glorious face-to-face encounter with OBL at the end? The story about the shot from the stairs rings true precisely because it’s not the sort of dramatic, personal confrontation you’d expect from a made-up tale.

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David Strom 5:21 PM on March 31, 2023