cover image Code over Country: The Tragedy and Corruption of SEAL Team Six

Code over Country: The Tragedy and Corruption of SEAL Team Six

Matthew Cole. Bold Type, $30 (336p) ISBN 978-1-56858-905-3

Journalist Cole debuts with a searing investigation into the misdeeds of the U.S. Navy SEALs. He traces the special operations force’s origins to WWII, when the Navy organized underwater reconnaissance and demolition units to scout landing zones in the South Pacific, and describes the SEALs’ demanding “Hell Week” training program. He also delves into allegations of abuse that emerged during the Vietnam War; documents deployments to Grenada, Panama, Somalia, and Bosnia; and notes that Seal Team Six founder Richard “Dick” Marcinko wanted “pirates, rogues, outlaws, and men who would have had a hard time staying out of legal trouble as civilians” for the hostage rescue and counterterrorism unit, which was created in 1980. After 9/11, SEAL Team Six operated as an “elite group of storm troopers” and “the sharpest tip of the spear in the U.S. military” in Afghanistan and Iraq; according to Cole, this is the period when “sadism crept into the SEALs’ practice.” He documents SEAL Team Six’s assassination of Osama bin Laden, which resulted in million-dollar book deals and squabbles over who could claim credit for the killing, and recounts recent controversies including Alpha platoon leader Eddie Gallagher’s 2019 court-martial for murder and the 2017 cover-up of a fatal hazing incident in Mali. Backed by meticulous research and lucid insights into SEAL culture, this is an impassioned and persuasive call for reforming one of the world’s most elite fighting forces. (Feb.)