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The Man Who Killed Osama Bin Laden Weighs In On The Inaccuracies Of 'Zero Dark Thirty'

by Kevin Jagernauth
February 11, 2013 12:18 PM
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If there is one movie everyone has had an opinion on this Oscar season, it's "Zero Dark Thirty." With folks like ex-CIA director Leon Panetta and filmmaker Michael Moore among the many, many, many pundits, politicians, observers and more weighing in about the film, its portrayal of torture and more, even the filmmakers have had to get in the fray, with director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal forced to remind folks that this is a movie, not a documentary and that depiction is not endorsement. But here's thing -- so far no one who has praised or defended the film was on the ground, but now, one man who was in the midst of action, has seen the movie.

Esquire managed to track down the Navy SEAL who actually killed Osama Bin Laden in a rather fascinating, must read profile that reveals, among other things, that he's living on a meager pension having quit the Navy before serving twenty years, and lives in constant fear of reprisal. But he's also seen what filmmakers have done with the event that forever changed his life, and he's got some minor bones to pick with what Bigelow and Boal have put up on the big screen.

"They Hollywooded it up some," the man said, who Esquire refers to as simply The Shooter for obvious reasons. He adds: "It was fun to watch. There was just little stuff. The helos turned the wrong way [toward the target], and they talked way, way too much [during the assault itself]. If someone was waiting for you, they could track your movements that way."

"When Osama went down, it was chaos, people screaming. No one called his name," The Shooter says about the pivotal, climatic moment while he also mentions smaller points of contention such as the fact that the dog on the mission was a Belgian Malinoise, not a German shepherd, and that there was no talking on the helicopter on the way to the mission at all. But one thing they did get right? Maya. "They made her a tough woman, which she is," he said.

All told, the complaints sound minor, but frankly what The Shooter has lived through and experienced allows him to nitpick the picture all he wants. But as Bigelow and Boal stressed, "Zero Dark Thirty" is a movie, and with that territory comes the knowledge that some events may be dramatized or heightened for effect. This won't end the swirl of talk about the movie, but of all the opinions out there on the content of the movie, there are few with the kind of first hand knowledge The Shooter has.

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  • Ann Park | January 13, 2014 3:45 PMReply

    I think it was entirely justified. We need to quit giving money to Pakastan, they hid him for how long !!

  • Kevin Houser | February 13, 2013 11:42 AMReply

    "they've made sacrifices for our country" - Could you qualify that? The "country" part, I mean.

  • Alan B | February 13, 2013 6:01 PM

    Sure, a 'country' is a region defined by a political geography, that is, a structure of political procedure. Hope that helps you out.

  • AE | February 12, 2013 11:44 AMReply

    So now the actual shooter wades in, I wish he would do what I would have presumed to be his professional duty, namely keep a low profile and not wade into bullshit Hollywood dialogues, it's just tacky. Did we really need to know that the dog wasn't a freaking Belgian Malinoise or the helo's turned the wrong way? As for the debate raging below, maybe I shouldn't go there as I've just seen an interview with England's Prince Harry where he equates war fare with playing a video game. Sorry I just think we are so far past morality to even consider a moral debate around this anymore.

  • Alan B | February 13, 2013 2:35 AM

    Sure, let's not involve our soldiers in any form of discourse. Once they've made sacrifices for our country, let's keep them in a small room, where they cannot engage in important debates. Doesn't this guy know that he needs to shut up and shoot, right?

  • Bob Roberts | February 11, 2013 11:44 PMReply

    Look this movie says "Based on true events". Everyone knows that that gives the impression of truth. You don't have to sardonically repeat Boal/Bigelow's talking points that it's just a movie. We know that. But the movie gives the impression of truth with that first title-card. So please don't call us "folks" and demean us. We get it.

    Bigelow is simply not a universal humanist. She's an American humanist. She thinks that Americans are good and brown people are some "other".

    I'd recommend a Jonathan Demme movie to see what really humanism looks like.

  • Dan Mann | February 11, 2013 4:31 PMReply

    Glorifying a hit man?
    This a Soldier in a WAR. He did his job and that was to take out the leader of a terriorist army who killed thousands of innocant people going to work.
    He shot the man twice in the forehead and he felt zero pain, unlike those who jumped from 105 stories to their deaths.

  • Amoral | February 12, 2013 6:38 PM


  • Alan B | February 12, 2013 6:36 PM

    Come on, Amoral: I asked you not to be boring, and that's exactly what you're being now, telling us, 'that's, like unfair, and I am not talking unless you say what I want you to say'. Don't worry, though: it is patently obvious that you are incapable of entertaining anyone, let alone informing them, even though you so desperately crave to do the latter. And I actually think it's fair enough to take you to task for your claims about Bin Laden ("One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter") when they so obviously ignore the terror he caused to the Muslim people, however you're not interested in the pain of others, specifically those in the Middle East. You're only interested in such pain if (and only if) it was caused by Allied Forces.

  • Amoral | February 12, 2013 11:14 AM

    When you decide to actually respond to something I said in my last comment (instead of just trying to turn this into a conversation about Bin Laden to further your own agenda), we'll talk. Oh, and I have absolutely no interest in entertaining you, Alan. Ironic that you accuse me of being immature and then resort to sarcasm and hyperbole to make your point...

  • Alan B | February 12, 2013 2:21 AM

    Oh, I understand that nations act on their self-interest, got it! But I am a little disturbed by your equating of Bin Laden's actions with the victimisation of the Middle East: "how about the entire Middle East, whose land and people have been devastated by Western imperialism for decades? What about them?" He was a sociopath who happened to be Muslim and happened to be a part of the Middle East: his actions do not reflect Muslims as a whole. He wanted to wipe the world of pan-Arabism, socialism, communism and democracy: i.e. any political methodology that didn't equate with his own. He wanted to ban homosexuality and believed that killing children and other civillians was appropriate if it was an act of aggression. You clearly hate America, that's obvious, but Bin Laden was no friend to the Muslim world. And please do us all a favour: don't be boring in your reply. 'Wah, wah, wah, American is the worst dictatorship in the world, you're all lying to yourselves, only I know the truth, stop being blind, you're lying ...' It's like a teenager's idea of an argument, buddy.

  • Amoral | February 11, 2013 8:50 PM

    Everyone acts on behalf of their own self-interests. You're foolish if you think otherwise. The U.S. is exhibit A. The United States is by no means the first empire. But let's not kid ourselves about what we do and why we do it. Economics. Everything we do, we do to protect and expand our economic interests. Plain and simple. That's fine, since their is no getting around it. But let's stop pretending like that there's anything noble or honorable about the military or the Navy SEALS. They are a tool, nothing more, nothing less. They're not trying to "defend freedom" or "protect democracy." Their job is to exert force and take out individuals who threaten the empire. This is the way the world works. But please, stop lying to yourself about the nature of these things. George Kennan once said "that with 50% of the world's wealth but only 6.3% of its population, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming's. We should cease to talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the livings standards and democratization. We are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans the better."

  • Alan B | February 11, 2013 6:14 PM

    You're right, Amoral. Because Bin Laden and the Taliban actually wanted what's best for the Middle East. You know, I am pretty sure it's a paradise for women in Afghanistan.

  • Amoral | February 11, 2013 5:31 PM

    The 9/11 victims? How about the entire Middle East, whose land and people have been devastated by Western imperialism for decades? What about them? Nah, let's just fly the flag and shout USA! USA! and talk endlessly about "American exceptionalism." Oh please, if you're too blind to recognize that every action has an equal and opposite reaction than you're hopeless. 9/11 was a reaction. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

  • ragtime | February 11, 2013 12:58 PMReply


  • Amoral | February 11, 2013 12:46 PMReply

    Wow, glorifying a hitman. That's a new low.

  • hank | February 11, 2013 2:20 PM

    what's stupid about his comment? Bin Laden's death was an execution, was it not?

  • Andrew | February 11, 2013 1:10 PM

    Oh I get it, you're a stupid person. You had me confused for a moment.

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