You Lie!

No, I’m not talking about what I expected to hear Ted Nugent yelling from the gallery during last night’s State of the Union speech. No, I’m talking about Esquire magazine and its recent article titled “The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden … Is Screwed.”

The article’s subject is “the Shooter,” an unnamed member of SEAL Team 6, the actual man who fired the fatal shot during the May 2, 2011 raid on bin Laden’s complex in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Here’s the blurb:

For the first time, the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden tells his story — speaking not just about the raid and the three shots that changed history, but about the personal aftermath for himself and his family. And the startling failure of the United States government to help its most experienced and skilled warriors carry on with their lives.

Here’s how two influential opinion-makers summarized the government’s “startling failure” on Twitter:

  • Ezra Klein (@ezraklein): The Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden is now uninsured
  • Michael Moore (@MMFlint): Ex-SEAL who shot OBL:”My health care 4 my family stopped on Friday night. (They said) thanks for your 16 yrs. (Now) go fuck yourself.”

I wish our media was better. In this case, they’re not even trying.

As others have since pointed out, the Esquire writer got nearly everything about the US government’s “startling failure … to help its most experienced and skilled warriors carry on with their lives” wrong. The Shooter decided to leave the military after 16 years. You don’t get a pension unless you complete a full career, which is 20 years, nor does your family get medical coverage. As for the veterans themselves, they are in fact eligible for health care if they leave early. According to Megan McCloskey, responding to the Esquire article in Stars & Stripes, “the claim about health care is wrong.” Like every combat veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Shooter “is automatically eligible for five years of free healthcare through the Department of Veterans Affairs.” The US government takes extraordinarily good care of its warriors. Who else gets VA medical care? Who else, after serving just a 20-year career, gets pensions plus medical care for life?

Everyone in the service knows the rules. Young officers and NCOs who decide to leave early for more promising careers on the outside do so at the 8- or 10-year point. You stay beyond that, you’re a “lifer” … in for the long haul, a full 20-year career. It’s very rare for anyone who stays past 10 to leave before reaching 20 and retirement eligibility. But a few will decide to leave early, and even though they know the rules, their fellow troops, commanders, and even the service itself will warn them of the consequences again. The military’s attitude past that point: if you’re still intent on bailing out short of retirement, well, don’t say we didn’t try to talk you out of it.

In the middle 1980s I was the immediate supervisor of a 16-year USAF NCO at US Special Operations Command at MacDill AFB in Florida. He was no barn-burner and probably wouldn’t have made master sergeant, but he could certainly have made it to 20 years at his present rank. One day he decided he’d had enough of military life and put in his papers. I tried to stop him. My commanders tried to stop him. All his co-workers tried to stop him. When the local USAF personnel shop got his paperwork they tried to stop him. There was no talking to him; he’d made up his mind. So we tried to talk him into at least joining the reserves, where he could eventually earn a full military pension and health care based on all the years of active service he’d already piled up. No deal.

The military bent over backwards to give my NCO the opportunity to earn a pension and health care for life. Do you think it was any different for this Navy SEAL who decided to leave just short of a full career? I don’t.

People are publishing articles pointing out all the mistakes in the Esquire article, but Esquire doesn’t seem interested correcting them. Ezra Klein and Michael Moore are happy in their role as uninformed shit-stirrers. A year from now, when people think of the man who shot bin Laden, they’ll remember this: the Navy rewarded him by telling him to go fuck himself.

Since I led in with it, let me go back to the State of the Union speech for a second. When I heard a backwoods senator had invited Ted Nugent I decided I was no longer interested in watching. It’s turned into a circus. Open mic night at the US Capitol. But of course I did watch:

  • Obama’s protracted entrance: this shit has got to stop
  • The Nuge: at least he kept his mouth shut
  • John Boehner: the drunken guest in the background of a wedding reception video, just before hurling all over the table
  • Republicans remaining seated: what contemptible children
  • The Republican and Tea Party responses: wouldn’t know, didn’t watch

I really have burned out on politics, haven’t I?

© 2013, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.


3 comments to You Lie!

  • Just a few days after surgery and you come out swinging! Now that’s what I call form. But, details, we need details. And how does that alarming-looking device on your knee work, anyhow?

    Thanks for the correction to the Esquire story. But it’s not nearly as alarmist as Esquire’s story. I’m now convinced that one of the real problems of America is that we’re all becoming adrenalin junkies. Everything has to be URGENT! Everything has to be NOW! How many times can Wolf Blitzer say, “But (enter name or title), shouldn’t we be OUTRAGED?”

    Meanwhile, back in Big Bear, the LAPD takes care of business as usual, burn ’em out, shoot ’em down. All the anchors are saying, “Oh, this is just unprecedented!” Can you say, “Symbionese Liberation Army?” or “Patty Hearst”? Ah, how quickly they forget.

  • Even a 7 year veteran know’s that his next reenlistment (3 years) takes him to the point of no return. I was only 25 at 7 years, but I knew full well what it meant to stay any longer. I’d seen folks that left later and they never ended up amounting to their full potential. At least the guys who stayed until “retirement” were able to obtain a reasonable job even when hiring times were rough and they did well on the retirement pay and medical benefits along with their seondary income.

  • Obviously I have no idea what was going through that Navy SEAL’s mind. A hint, discussed in the article, is where he said he didn’t want to continue doing high-intensity operational missions, and that he didn’t want to seek civilian contractor work doing things similar to what he’d done in the military. Okay, burnout. But the Navy could surely have found him an instructional job or even a desk job for the remaining four years. I think the reporter fell into a state of hero-worship hanging around with this guy and his comrades, the most inner of all inner circles, and was more than willing to simply & uncritically repeat whatever they told him.

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