Book on bin Laden raid is a 'fabrication,' says US Special Operations

'SEAL Target Geronimo' by former Navy SEAL Chuck Pfarrer, which presents an alternate version of the death of Osama bin Laden, is 'far off the mark,' says a US Special Operations spokesperson.

Mohammad Zubair/AP
Chuck Pfarrer's book 'SEAL Target Geronimo' claims the stealth helicopter involved in the raid on bin Laden's compound on May 2, 2011, crashed later than the White House reported in their version of events.

Officials from US Special Operations are saying the book “SEAL Target Geronimo” by former Navy SEAL Chuck Pfarrer is full of “fabrications” and that Pfarrer’s version of the attack on Osama bin Laden is untrue.

“It's just not true,” U.S. Special Operations Command spokesman Col. Tim Nye told the Associated Press. “It's not how it happened.”

“SEAL Target Geronimo,” which was released Nov. 8, says that many of the official details on the attack released by the US government are untrue. It claims that the SEAL team killed bin Laden less than two minutes after arriving at the compound where bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan and that a stealth helicopter that the White House said crashed soon after the raid began actually crashed later, allowing the attack to be carried out in the way the SEALs had wanted.

In his book, Pfarrer says the US account of the attack would mean the SEALs had committed “murder,” but that in his version, in which bin Laden reaches for a gun before being shot, it’s legal. The government says the fashion in which the attack was carried out is legal under post-9/11 combat law, which approves targeting bin Laden with deadly intent.

“I have truth on my side,” Pfarrer told the AP. “I spoke to the guys on the ground and in the secondary bird [an aircraft which held a backup SEAL team on the day of the attack].”

Nye said that this did not happen and that there will not be an investigation into any SEALs speaking to Pfarrer because his version of events is so untrue.

“We have never come forward and gone after an author and [said] that is a lie,” he said. “That tells you how far off the mark we believe this book is.”

Nye said he is denying the book’s version of events on behalf of Navy SEAL Admiral Bill McRaven, who was worried Pfarrer’s version would make the country doubt the account of events issued by the government.

Pfarrer implies in the book that he was part of the planning process for the operation.

“It was my privilege to help troops and platoons train for submissions and run parallel HVT [high-value target] missions,” he writes in “SEAL Target Geronimo.”

Nye said that Pfarrer was not involved in any way. Pfarrer said in response that he carried out training for the Naval Special Warfare Command through his company Acme Ballistics, which focuses on security defense, but that the contracts are classified, so he cannot elaborate how it was linked to the bin Laden mission. 

Pfarrer, who has been diagnosed with colon cancer, told the AP that profits from his book will go to his medical bills and that he wanted to write the book as a way to honor the “heroes of the bin Laden mission."

Leaders of special operations have also discredited the book.

“The reaction is stunned, chagrined, disappointment,” Rear Adm. George Worthington, a retired Navy SEAL, said about Pfarrer's book in an interview with the AP.

Others have noted Pfarrer makes errors in the book with facts that are widely known, including the date on which Navy SEAL Admiral Bill McRaven was appointed (2008, not this past April as Pfarrer states); the year in which the Army Special Forces Green Berets was created (1952, not 1962 as he says); and the manner in which al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi was killed (in a jet bombing run, not through a drone strike).

Pfarrer has written other titles, including “Warrior Soul: The Memoir of a Navy Seal” and “Killing Che,” and has written and co-written screenplays for films such as “Red Planet,” “Navy Seals,” and “Virus,” which was based on his book of the same name.

Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.

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