AN INCONVENIENT BOOK: “We’ve done this a million times,” former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette recently told 60 Minutes as he described the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The author of No Easy Day, a controversial new book detailing his role in the operation, Bissonnette was steps behind the SEAL who shot the Al Qaeda leader after he poked his head out of his bedroom doorway. As bin Laden’s wives and children watched, Bissonnette and another SEAL fired several more rounds into his twitching body. Yet Bissonnette says it was not an assassination mission and that their orders were to take bin Laden alive, if possible.
The account contradicts official reports claiming that bin Laden reached for a weapon, and others that described an extended firefight. Bissonnette says the raid was “reported like a bad action movie” and claims his book is an effort to “set the record straight.” Out of safety concerns, he wrote it under the pseudonym Mark Owen, but almost immediately after the book was announced, Fox News revealed his identity. An Al Qaeda–linked website has called for his death.
No Easy Day comes after four years in which the White House cracked down heavily on whistleblowers while selectively leaking national security information to major news outlets. The Pentagon claims that Bissonnette leaked classified information and has threatened legal action. (He didn’t submit the book for government review before publishing it.) Whether the government will bring legal action against a man many Americans consider a hero in the middle of an election season remains to be seen.
Bissonnette served thirteen consecutive combat deployments as a SEAL, mostly with the Navy’s premier counterterrorism unit, SEAL Team Six. He recounts missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa, offering a glimpse into these intensifying “capture and kill” missions, which seem to show no sign of slowing down in the wake of bin Laden’s death. RYAN DEVEREAUX
TWITTER AND THE PRESIDENT: In an unusual move at a campaign rally on September 8, President Obama paraphrased a tweet that went viral during the Democratic National Convention. Recalling Bill Clinton’s detailed, wonky speech about economic policy, Obama said, “Somebody sent out a tweet… ‘He needs to be made Secretary of Explaining Stuff.’”
The original tweet, by New Yorker editor Ben Greenman, drew more than 8,000 retweets, reflecting both massive interest in Clinton’s address—25 million TV viewers—and interest in the cheeky proposal from Greenman, who has about 10,000 followers on Twitter. “Obviously, a lot of people were thinking something similar,” Greenman told The Nation. The tweet was shared by everyone from journalists and politicos to Anita Baker and MC Hammer. While Greenman hasn’t heard directly from the Obama campaign, he says the rapid spread of the tweet all the way to the president shows how ideas can filter up via the social network. He likened the online explosion of the quip to watching “an inconsequential stock market.”
Consequential or not, Greenman is standing by his proposal to appoint Clinton the secretary of explaining things. “I’d like to go to the swearing-in ceremony,” he told The Nation. That’s about as likely, he added, as the Dolphins making it to the Super Bowl this year. ARI MELBER
A NEW FRONT IN THE ‘WAR ON DRUGS’: On August 29, a US military spokesperson announced that 200 marines have started patrolling the western coast of Guatemala as part of Operation Martillo, a surge campaign in the “war on drugs.” Staff Sgt. Earnest Barnes told Wired that the troops are providing support in the form of “aerial detection and monitoring, and aerial surveillance.”
The US initiative, approved by Guatemalan authorities in July, marks a fairly dramatic development in the military relationship between the United States and Guatemala. No Guatemalan government has enjoyed comparable assistance since 1978.
It’s a discomfiting partnership. Right-wing President Otto Perez Molina, who was inaugurated in January, served in the country’s special forces during Guatemala’s decades-long civil war, a conflict notorious for its scorched-earth campaign carried out by the Guatemalan military against the indigenous population. Elected, in part, on a promise to govern with an “iron fist,” Molina delivered on that promise in May, after residents in the northern town of Santa Cruz Barillas stormed an army base. Activists say they became enraged following the murder of a resident who opposed the building of a hydroelectric dam nearby—allegedly at the hands of security guards for the construction company. Accusing the residents of being the accomplices of drug traffickers, Molina declared a two-week siege on Barillas. Homes were raided, and seventeen people were arrested.
In a WikiLeaks cable from 2009, former US Ambassador to Guatemala Stephen McFarland took note of a remark by Molina, who said that “human rights seemed to be the Obama administration’s dominant priority.” With the recent military deployment, one wonders if this is still the case. MICHAEL YOUHANA
LGBT RIGHTS: 7, ANTI-GAY POLS: 0 Baltimore Ravens player Brendon Ayanbadejo has been an outspoken advocate of LGBT rights for years. But when he recently threw his support behind a Maryland ballot initiative in favor of recognizing same-sex marriage, it proved too much for State Delegate Emmett Burns. Burns, a Democrat who represents Baltimore County’s Tenth District, wrote a letter to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti calling the public endorsement “inconceivable” and going so far as to request that he order Ayanbadejo “to cease and desist such injurious actions.”
Ayanbadejo defended himself, telling USA Today, “There was a time when women didn’t have rights. Black people didn’t have rights…. We’re slowly chopping down the barriers to equality.” But the best response came from Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who called Burns out for his “hatred and bigotry” and schooled the politician on the First Amendment and the history of segregation in the NFL. Gay people, he wrote, will not “overthrow the government in an orgy of hedonistic debauchery because all of a sudden they have the same legal rights as the other 90 percent of our population—rights like Social Security benefits, child care tax credits, Family and Medical Leave to take care of loved ones, and COBRA healthcare for spouses and children.” For the full statement, visit TheNation.com. DAVE ZIRIN