A new report gives a blow-by-blow description of the daring raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, and for the first time we learn there was never a chance that Bin Laden would be captured -- this was a kill mission right from the start.
Nicholas Schmidle writes in The New Yorker that "there was never any question of detaining or capturing" Bin Laden, despite the White House repeatedly saying Navy SEALS would not have killed him had he simply surrendered.
Planning for the raid began late in 2010 when it was discovered that Bin Laden was in that compound in Abbottabad. Presidential advisers were split over whether a helicopter raid was the best course of action.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates argued the loudest, saying it was too dangerous. He was in the same situation room in 1980 when Jimmy Carter's helicopter rescue of the hostages in Iran ended with a helicopter crash and the deaths of eight American soldiers. "That was a pretty good idea, too," he said.
But President Obama decided to go with it. One Navy SEAL said it wasn't a difficult mission. "This wasn’t a hard op. It would be like hitting a target in (D.C. suburb) McLean."
But it didn't go as planned. The plan was for one helicopter to hover over the compound with SEALS climbing down, and the other landing in the roof. But one chopper crashed inside the compound walls, and the other abandoned the roof landing and touched down outside the walls.
Obama and his staff watched all of this unfold on a video feed. It took 12 minutes to hear back to make sure things were still on course. A special operations officer told The New Yorker, "Eternity is defined as the time between when you see something go awry and that first voice report."
The 23 Navy SEALS then broke off into smaller teams. One team reached the guest house where Bin Laden's courier was staying with his family. He came out armed with an AK-47. SEALS shot him dead.
After blasting through several gates, one team reached the patio of the main house. The courier's brother was there with his wife. He had an AK-47. They were both shot dead.
They then entered the house, and for the next 20 minutes, the White House had no idea what was going on.
Three SEALS encountered a locked metal game at the bottom of a stairwell. They blasted it open and went up the stairs. When they were halfway up, Bin Laden's 23-year-old son came around the corner with an AK-47. He was shot dead.
They continued up the stairs and spotted a tall man with a beard poking his head out of a bedroom door. Target acquired. They entered the room.
Bin Laden's two wives tried to shield him. One SEAL shot one of them in the calf. Then, fearing they might be wearing suicide vests, the SEAL ran over and put them in a bear hug, willing to absorb the blast impact to save his fellow two SEALS and complete the mission.
With Bin Laden in the clear, one of the SEALS saw he was unarmed and opened fire, hitting Bin Laden in chest. A second shot got him in the left eye. He then radioed, "For God and country - Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo."
Obama then said out loud, "We got him."
Bin Laden was then put in a body bag, and later a medic took bone marrow and DNA samples for identification. Back in Afghanistan, the body was shown to a commander for further identification. No tape measure was around to check Bin Laden's 6'4'' frame, so a 6' tall SEAL laid down next to him, and indeed the corpse was around four-inches taller than the SEAL.
The body was then put on an aircraft carrier and buried at sea.
No one -- not even Obama -- knows the identity of the SEAL who shot Bin Laden.
Up until its successful conclusion, the mission was a covert CIA operation so the White House could deny responsibility if things went wrong.
Image: SOURCE: IDW Publishing. GRAPHIC: Mark S. Luckie