Is it possible to love something and hate something at the exact same time? If it is, I would say that is exactly how I feel about former Navy Seal Matt Bissonnette's new book No Easy Day (you won't find it under that name though – he used a pseudonym, Mark Owen, as well as a cowriter, Kevin Maurer). Chronicling not only the death of Osama Bin Laden, Bissonnette details what the harsh and secretive life of a top tier Navy Seal is like from his unique perspective. Depictions of numerous missions – both successful and botched – are told in reserved detail. I picked the book up on release day this past Tuesday and finished it quickly. It's a fast, thrilling, easy read that will appeal to many who decide to partake in what he has to say. It's also I book that I believe never should have been written.
Bissonnette is a hero, don't get me wrong. I wrote a whole paper in college on the overuse of heroism in our society, but to him and his comrades protecting this nation I would award them nothing less than a heroic title. That being said, Bissonnette's judgment in the Middle East was not the judgment he used when heading into the dangerous zone of the literary world. While he insists he gives away no secrets, breaks no laws, and changes the names of all those involved, he had to be pretty ignorant to think readers couldn't read between the lines. A simple Google search was all it took for me to find out the true identity of 'Mark Owen'. Bissonnette writes how after the Bin Laden death, he really just wanted his life to get back to normal. I don't understand how becoming a bestselling author accomplishes that goal.
A major problem I had with the book is the way it successfully humanizes the Navy Seals. While I know these brave men and women are people with a normal need for fun and camaraderie, I like to think of our top tier defenses as a group that wouldn't run around stealing the bras of Arab women to play pranks on one another. That is just one specific example that is detailed in the book that shows these heroes acting in a way not unlike Prince Harry in his recent harshly criticized Vegas party exploits. They may not be technically breaking any laws, but if what Bissonnette shares is true, it shines an embarrassing light on the Navy Seal program. Perception is a valuable weapon, and this book served to weaken that weapon. Anything that weakens the power of those serving this country, whether domestically or abroad, is something that I have a hard time supporting.
All that said, if you take out the ethics of this controversial book, it is a very gripping read. As I said, it kept me turning the pages at a rapid pace and not that many non-fiction books have kept me on edge like this one did. While we all know the ending from the get-go (Spoiler alert! Bin Laden dies!), the depiction of that triumphant night is no less incredible. So there is a part of me that is saying this is a must-read, and another part of me saying let's boycott the thing on moral grounds. I mean if cast members on Jersey Shore like Snooki and J-Woww can land book deals, shouldn't a real hero be able to cash in? I initially came to the conclusion that since the book was released, I would experience it first-hand and then make a final judgment call. Now that I have read it, I really could argue it either way based on it's literary merit vs. it's ethical grayness. I'm truly conflicted about this one.
Did you read it? Do you refuse to read it? I would love to hear your take in the comments. I would especially like to hear the feedback of those that have served our country and what they think of Bissonnette's decision to write this book.