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Conflicting claims about who killed bin Laden draw fire

Who killed Osama bin Laden?  And who cares?

A retired Navy Seal, Robert O’Neill, recently came out and claimed that he was the one whose shots killed Osama bin Laden during the famous raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan in 2011.

O’Neill’s account of the raid contradicts statements made by a fellow Navy Seal, Matt Bissonnette, who wrote in his book No Easy Day that he was the shooter who killed bin Laden back in 2012.

The “official account” – aka “the government’s account” – is unlikely to be disclosed for several years. In fact, to date the Pentagon has neither confirmed nor denied details associated with either account.

Navy Seals Leadership has, however, publicly condemned O’Neill’s speaking out and many believe that it is impossible to confirm specific details such as who killed bin Laden given that the raid was conducted at night in close quarters.

And both claims have received a lot of criticism from veterans, the Pentagon, and the Public.  Much of which is well-deserved given that former military personnel generally adhere to a code of silence that prevents them from taking credit and speaking publicly about classified operations.

Conflicting Claims

Robert O’Neill, now 38 and retired after serving almost 17 years, said that he was the one whose two shots killed Osama bin Laden, according to the Washington Post.

O’Neill’s story was previously reported in Esquire magazine where he was identified only as “the Shooter.”  In those interviews, O’Neill reported that the point man, who was the first one to see bin Laden, shot and missed.  Then O’Neill fired two shots that killed Osama bin Laden.

A former Seal reported that he believed that the point man wounded bin Laden with a shot on his side and that rather than killing Bin Laden, he grabbed the women who were present and pushed them aside, because he feared that they might be wearing explosive vests.

Another member of the team reported that “anyone could have been in that position” and that “we have known that this moment with Rob O’Neill coming out was going to happen sooner or later, and here it is.”

Yet other members of the team believe that it was the point man, who is still with the team, who either severely injured or even killed bin Laden.  They credit O’Neill for firing “insurance rounds” because those rounds ensured that bin Laden was dead.

O’Neill’s claim is significant because it comes nearly two years after Matt Bissonnette, another member of the team, published a best seller, No Easy Day, under the pseudonym Mark Owen.  In that book, Bisonnette describes how the point man shot Bin Laden and then he entered the room.

Bisonnette wrote, “In his death throes, he was still twitching and convulsing” and that “another assaulter and I trained our lasers on his chest and fired several rounds.”

Various Reactions

All of this seems to have outraged both the Pentagon and Active Duty Seals because Seals are known and respected for being “quiet professionals.”

In an open letter to current and former Navy Seals, dated Oct. 31, Seal Commander, Rear Admiral Brian L. Losey, and the Senior Enlisted Seal, Michael L. Magaraci, sought to deter undesirable behaviors.

The letter states, “At naval special warfare’s core is the Seal ethos.  A critical tenant of our ethos is: ‘I do not advertise the nature of my work, or seek recognition for my actions.’  Our ethos is a lifelong commitment and obligation, both in and out of the service.”

The letter also states, “Any real credit to be rendered is about the incredible focus, commitment and teamwork of this diverse network, and the years of hard work undertaken with little public credit” and that “We do not abide willful or selfish disregard for our core values in return for public notoriety and financial gain, which only diminishes otherwise honorable service, courage and sacrifice.”

The letter concludes by saying, “We will actively seek judicial consequence for members who willfully violate the law and place our teammates, our families and potential operations at risk.”

Many Navy Seals feel that the failure to retain silence represents a low point in the history of the Seals.

A retired Seal, for instance, argued on Fox News that O’Neill should be “prosecuted and dishonorably discharged.”

But other veterans feel that unfair burdens are placed on people who served honorably.  They see senior officials speaking publicly and writing books, even while they are still on the job.

That is one of many reasons why some veterans feel that O’Neill and Bissonnette are unfairly being held to higher standards than the Pentagon and White House officials that they worked under.

Another is that many White House and Pentagon Officials have already described this event in exhaustive detail.

Former Seal Jonathan Gilliam summed much of this up stating, “It’s ridiculous for O’Neill to claim the credit for the fatal shot as we probably never will know and we don’t need to know.”

Ryan Peckyno

Ryan graduated from West Point (BS) and Penn State, Main Campus (MBA). He worked for P&G, Lockheed Martin, the United States Army, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Motley Fool, Pinnacle Consulting, and various nonprofits.

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