cover image The Killing of Osama Bin Laden

The Killing of Osama Bin Laden

Seymour M. Hersh. Verso, $19.95 (172p) ISBN 978-1-78478-436-2

Respected investigative journalist Hersh’s controversial account of the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is the highlight of this collection of four essays originally published in the London Review of Books between May 2015 and January 2016. Few aspects of the official version of Seal Team Six’s killing of bin Laden in May 2011 survive Hersh’s scrutiny. For him, the White House’s “most blatant lie” was that the American mission was kept secret from Pakistan’s senior military leadership. Most of Hersh’s essay derives from an unnamed “retired senior intelligence official” whose anonymity has been cited as the reason why Hersh’s exposé did not appear in another of his usual publications, the New Yorker. Not all of the source’s arguments convince—for example, even if bin Laden was no longer overseeing al-Qaeda operations, the White House could still have justified killing him rather than capturing him, undercutting the source’s point that the White House lied about his role at the time of his death. The book’s introduction, in which Hersh downplays Russian president Vladimir Putin’s aggressive foreign policy, especially toward Ukraine, will also lead to questions about his objectivity. The three other essays offer new perspectives on President Obama’s handling of the revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that buttress Hersh’s view that the president was guilty of serious “lapses in judgment and integrity.” (Apr.)