But he’s a good one. Almost half of “No Easy Day” is dedicated to Bissonnette’s training as a SEAL and to a number of kill-and-capture raids he went on, most of them in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bissonnette, the son of missionaries who grew up in Alaska, is a nearly perfect physical specimen, able to tolerate tests of strength and endurance that would wreck or even kill most other men. In one particularly grueling mission in Afghanistan, Bissonnette and his comrades traversed miles of nearly vertical escarpments to sneak up on a Taliban compound. The secret of the SEALs, Bissonnette writes, is knowing when to tiptoe and when to pounce: “We started to creep forward. Everyone was quiet, and each step was deliberate. Nothing got our blood pumping more than creeping into an enemy compound, sometimes directly into the rooms of enemy fighters while they were sleeping.” They killed 17 Taliban that day.
When, after nearly 10 years of searching, C.I.A. analysts tracked a man they believed was Bin Laden to a compound in Abbottabad, the SEALs got the call. We all know the outline of the story: No one in the United States government was certain that Bin Laden was in the compound, and President Obama did not trust Pakistan’s leaders to ask them for help. So he ordered the SEALs to fly into the country and kill or capture Bin Laden themselves, without anyone’s permission, and then get out. It could have ended in disaster — to the SEALs, to Obama’s presidency.
Even though we know the basics of the story, Bissonnette takes us on a great ride. This is a book of details. And though many of the specifics are left out — like the identities of Bissonnette and his comrades — there are enough here to bring the mission to life. “No Easy Day” amounts to a cinematic account of the raid to kill Bin Laden: you feel as if you’re sitting in the Black Hawk as it swoops in, peering through the greenish haze of night-vision goggles, wending up the stairs to Bin Laden’s lair.
I don’t want to ruin it for you if you haven’t read the book yet, but allow me to toss out a few of the most vivid particulars from Bissonnette’s account. First detail: We all know Obama made the call to send the SEALs into Pakistan, and Bissonnette reports that the president’s team left very little to chance. While still in the United States, Bissonnette and his fellow SEALs conducted a nighttime dress rehearsal of the raid, on a mock-up of Bin Laden’s house, for the president’s national security team. As Bissonnette and the other SEALs slid down ropes and stormed the fake house, administration officials like Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stood by and watched through night-vision goggles.