Accuracy in Media

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Transcript by J. C. Hendershot

Interview with Chuck Pfarrer by Roger Aronoff

The “Take AIM” show on BlogTalkRadio, November 17, 2011.

ROGER ARONOFF: Good morning, and welcome to Take AIM, Accuracy in Media’s weekly talk show on BlogTalkRadio.  AIM is America’s original media watchdog, and every week we point out biased coverage and bring you the stories the mainstream media ignore.  I’m Roger Aronoff, the Editor of Accuracy in Media and of The AIM Report, which you can subscribe to at aim.org.  Also, by visiting that site, aim.org, you can sign up to receive our daily E-mail so you can keep track of what the media are up to.  Our guest today is Chuck Pfarrer, a former Assault Element Commander of SEAL Team Six, and the author of the new book SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama bin Laden.  This book reveals the story of bin Laden’s relentless hunters, and how they took down the terrorist mastermind.  After talking to members of the SEAL Team involved in the raid, Pfarrer shares never-before-revealed details of the historic raid and the men who planned and conducted it in an exclusive “boots on the ground” account of what happened during each minute of the mission, both inside the building and out.  Good morning, Chuck!  We’re so glad to have you with us today on Take AIM.

CHUCK PFARRER: Roger, it’s good to talk to you!

ARONOFF: Good!  Before we get started—and we will cover all the details, and a lot more than what’s been covered in your other interviews—I want to take a moment to tell our listeners more about you; it’s quite a fascinating bio.  Chuck Pfarrer went through basic Underwater Demolitions SEAL training in 1981, and spent eight years as a Navy SEAL.  He served as a military advisor in Central America, trained NATO forces in Europe and the Mediterranean, and undertook duties in the Middle East—notably, in Lebanon during the Lebanese civil war.  As Executive Officer of the SEAL Team assigned to the Multinational Peacekeeping Force, he witnessed the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut.  Pfarrer was one of the SEAL Team leaders responsible for the apprehension of Abu Abbas and the hijackers of the cruise ship Achille Lauro.  He ended his service as Assault Element Commander at the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group, formerly known as “SEAL Team Six.”  He has written broadly on terrorism and counter-terrorism, and serves government and industry as a subject matter expert on topics such as special operations, terrorist operational methodology, counter-proliferation, and terrorist employment of weapons of mass destruction.  After leaving the military, Pfarrer embarked on a career as a Hollywood screenwriter.  His film credits include writing, acting, and production work in Navy SEALs, Darkman, and Hard Target, and he was the screenwriter on The Jackal.  His best-selling autobiography, Warrior Soul: The Memoir of a Navy SEAL, was published in 2004, and his debut novel, Killing Che—as in Guevara—was published in 2007.  He is also the author/creator of six graphic novels for Dark Horse Comics, and wrote and produced two interactive, full-motion videos, Flash Traffic and Silent Steel.  Again, welcome to Take AIM!  That’s quite a background!

PFARRER: Roger, thanks!  I wonder who that guy is sometimes!

ARONOFF: [Laughs].  Okay!  Let’s start: How and why did you become a Navy SEAL?

PFARRER: Well, it was long ago—it seems like someone else’s life.  I was one of those guys who got sent to military school when he was in high school.  Other listeners may have skipped English, but I used to skip weeks at a time if the surf was good.  My father, who, at the time, was a professor at the Naval War College, decided that I needed a dose of something.  I graduated from Stanton Military Academy in 1975.  It was a pretty tough place.  I thought, afterwards, I didn’t want anything to do with the military, although my family has been in this country for four generations and three generations have served as naval officers.  I studied psychology in California.  One day, walking to class in graduate school, I thought, This isn’t the way I want to spend my twenties.  So I volunteered for the SEALs, attended Officer Candidate School, and I made it through BUD/S.  I spent sort of the rest of my life, now and since, working around the issues of counter-terrorism and special operations.

ARONOFF: You were practically an original—didn’t it start in 1980?  You started in 1981 . . .

PFARRER: SEAL Team Six was commissioned about that time.  My first service was at SEAL Team Four, where I was an assistant platoon commander, and, later, a platoon commander.  I was selected for SEAL Team Six a bit early—I had the benefit of a combat tour in Lebanon to recommend me—and the rest of my service was at SEAL Team Six, where I eventually became an Assault Element Commander.

ARONOFF: I had a friend who was a Navy SEAL, and the way he described it—no offense to anyone—was that they were like the Green Berets, except that the Green Berets are worthless once you get them off land.

PFARRER: [Chuckles].

ARONOFF: What do you think of that?

PFARRER: I have many friends who sport that good-looking headgear, and I will also kid them that, whatever they do, we can do upside-down, underwater, and at night!

ARONOFF: And the training—one of the things that I always remember is that he said they would fly him out ten miles, drop him ten miles out in the ocean, and they had to swim back.  That was just one of many things.  What was most the distinct thing about the training that you can recall?

PFARRER: Going through BUD/S is really sort of an acid test.  It can be a very unpleasant six months for you, but the whole goal is to show the student that it really is a case of mind over matter.  They’re going to make it unpleasant.  They’re going to make you tired.  They’re going to push you farther, physically, than you ever thought you could go.  But what they’re trying to inculcate is the mindset, and the mindset is never to quit, and pain can’t last forever.  Again, BUD/S is simply the entry into the community.  Upon graduation of BUD/S, you are not referred to as a Navy SEAL.  A young man joining the SEALs faces about two or two-and-a-half years of training before he’ll earn the “BUDweiser,” the Naval Special Warfare badge that marks him as a Navy SEAL.  It’s a long road, and we often refer to our students as “pilgrims,” because you have a long way to go, and you have much to learn from people on the way.

ARONOFF: Of those that start the six-month class, I guess you could call it, how many end up making it?

PFARRER: If you could get a thousand volunteers who want to go to BUD/S, probably about 200 of them would be selected to be put in a class.  Of a class that size, you could expect to lose anywhere from 50% to 80% of those people.  I started with over 100—150, 160—people in my class.  We graduated 30, and that was considered a big class.  The class ahead of me only graduated 13 students.

ARONOFF: About the SEALs: Before May 1st of this year, when they got bin Laden, what was the most famous event in SEAL history?

PFARRER: The interesting thing about the SEALs, and something that they pride themselves on, is that they keep their greatest hits secret.  I think one of their great contributions here to the ongoing war against terrorism is that pretty much every night you have SEAL Teams operational in the field.  They are a constant nightmare to al-Qaeda.  They are literally “the knock on the door.”  Almost every night, naval special warfare elements are carrying out high-value, individual operations, which result, mostly, in the capture of al-Qaeda personnel.  That’s what they’re extraordinarily good at.  That, and also direct action—which means fighting the enemy where the enemy isn’t planning to fight you.

ARONOFF: Tell us about SEAL Team Six.  How many people?  How are they divided up?  Maybe you can’t tell us everything about that, but what can you tell us about it?

PFARRER: You’re right.  I can’t tell you how many, or how they’re divided up.  But I can tell you that, within the community, it’s referred to as “Team Jedi.”  In order to get to Six, you’ll have to undergo your first two years of training.  Then, to be a likely candidate to be selected, you’ll probably need five or six years of exemplary service.  That will mean exemplary service in combat; you need to show yourself to be a leader, an intellectual person, of course physically fit, and, most importantly, that you are skilled as an operator.  If you are invited to try out for the Team, you will be placed in an organization called “Green Team” which will train you for an additional year.  But it’s not strictly training—it is a selection course, and you will find yourself up against the best SEALs in the business.  The people who do make it to this command are seasoned, they are combat veterans, and they are exceptional personalities and characters.  And they are some of the best special warfare operators in the business.

ARONOFF: Can you tell us, when you were a commander, how many men you commanded, and what your special task was?

PFARRER: Yes, yes, yes, and no.  I was selected to command after my service in the Middle East.  I was an Assault Element Commander, which meant that I commanded a subunit within the command.  The mandate of the outfit is global.  We conducted classified operations all over the world.  One operation I can talk about is after the Achille Lauro hijacking.  We were able to hunt down and arrest the murderers of Leon Klinghoffer, and Abu Abbas, who was the crackpot terrorist mastermind of that awful murder on the Achille Lauro.  The operations we conducted, the ones I can’t talk about, are very similar to that.  If you were a murderer and a terrorist, there was no place that you could settle that we weren’t going to come and get you.  That’s what happens to these people quite a bit.

ARONOFF: As far as the Achille Lauro and Abbas, the name normally associated with that is Oliver North.  Were you working with him?  Under his command?  Anything like that during that—

PFARRER: There were wheels within wheels.  Colonel North was part of a big machine.  It was, as far as I understand, his idea to intercept the Egypt Air airliner with Tomcats off U.S.S. Saratoga.  When the hijackers, in their airplane, were forced down at Sigonella, I was on the ground as one of the assault commanders that made sure that they weren’t going anywhere.  I’d also like to point out that the conduct of Mr. Abbas is pretty true to form for these terrorist guys: When confronted with an ultimatum, and told that he was going to get a chance to martyr himself, he surrendered in very short order.  None of these people are people who have physical courage.  Mr. Abbas just proved what they’re all about.

ARONOFF: Now, during my research for this interview, I discovered an op-ed you wrote for The New York Times in 2003.  It was about the twentieth anniversary of the bombing of the Marine headquarters at Beirut International Airport, where 241 Americans were killed.  It was on that anniversary that you wrote this piece for the Times.  How did that come about?  Did you go to them?  Did they come to you?  Tell us a little about that.

PFARRER: It was about mutual.  I had a book coming out.  My editor at Random House asked me if I’d be interested in writing an op-ed.  The twentieth anniversary was coming up, and I felt that would be an important thing to bring up.  I think, in hindsight, lots of historians see that episode as one of the opening salvos in what is now called the Global War on Terror.  I’d also like to point out that that operation, we know now, through communications intercepts, was ordered and executed from Tehran.  It was carried out by elements of the Revolutionary Guard corps using the cover of a there-to-fore unheard-of militia in Lebanon called Amal.  The bomb that hit the Marine barracks was the largest non-nuclear explosion in the history of warfare—I was told that personally by the FBI bomb inspectors who we helped dig through the rubble.  The French Foreign Legion detachment was hit simultaneously with the same weapon.  Three days later, a third copy of the weapon was detonated 200 yards away from an Israeli checkpoint in Sidon, where it was still able to kill and wound dozens and dozens of people.  These were inordinately sophisticated weapons, and the blame for them may be laid squarely at the feet of the Iranian government.  They chose the date: October 23rd.  That was the date on which the United States allowed the Shah of Iran—the post-Shah of Iran—to be admitted into the United States for cancer treatment.

ARONOFF: It was almost by chance that you were not at the scene where the bomb went off, right?  You being in proximity, you ended up staying there and having to deal with that and see all your brothers-in-arms in a pretty bad way.  What was that day or two like for you?

PFARRER: It’s almost indescribable.  It was a horrifying event.  I think it’s often forgotten by the people of the United States that more Marines died in combat in Lebanon than were killed in the Battle of Khe Sanh.  The bombing was, of course, a horrendous day, but most of that tour—the latter parts of that tour, especially—were almost nonstop urban combat.  I’ve compared it, in articles I’ve written, to the last fifteen minutes of Blackhawk Down—every day.  The city of Beirut was literally tearing itself apart—it was almost out of Mad Max.  The Marines and SEALs who had come, we had been deployed as peacekeepers, but we found ourselves drawn increasingly into a crazy six-sided war.  It was a very tragic event.

ARONOFF: I was in Lebanon about a month before the civil war broke out in ’75, the only time I was there.  It was known as the Paris of the Middle East.  It was quite a city, very cosmopolitan, and what happened, from then on until today, is just such a tragedy.  One of the issues that comes up in your book, which hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention in your interviews and all that, is the issue of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  You talk about certain things that were found.  As I go through your website—which is chuckpfarrer.com —is that right?—

PFARRER: That’s correct, yes.

ARONOFF: —again, that’s P-F-A-R-R-E-R.com—you cite a list of books, and one of them is one that we’ve cited here in the past, which is Saddam’s Secrets by General Sada.

PFARRER: Yes.

ARONOFF: You’re citing that book for his claim that they had taken a couple of commercial jet liners and transformed them, reconfigured them, so they took materials out of Iraq and into the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.  But other things were found.  I want to talk a little about this, because this is still an important story.  I mean, everyone says, “Look: We went into Iraq because Bush lied, and they said we were going to find all these stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, and we didn’t.”  Maybe we found a few things that some were saying they were so old that they were worthless.  When I noticed you cited Sada’s book, I thought, Well, maybe you believe that.  Quite frankly, I’ve talked to the guy, and I think he was credible—the whole story was.  But there’s someone, Kris Alexander, who has written a story, now, in response to your book.  He says he was a weapons expert in Iraq after the fall of Saddam.  I’m not familiar with him—

PFARRER: God bless him for his service.

ARONOFF: Right.  Absolutely.  He’s written an article that says, quote, “Pfarrer says that Saddam Hussein had dangerous, active chemical, biological and nuclear programs up until the day of his downfall. Worse, those weapons made it into the hands of Osama himself,” and the reason we don’t know about it is because “craven politicians and the lying media hid the truth about what U.S. military weapons experts uncovered.”  Let’s—

PFARRER: I stand by that statement.

ARONOFF: Okay.

PFARRER: I agree with him: That is what I said.

ARONOFF: All right.  Why don’t you elaborate?  Rebut him.

PFARRER: I’d like to point out that the BBC, The New York Times, and Fox News all reported that, in al Bayaa, Iraq, in May of 2004, al-Qaeda attempted to detonate a 155 mm shell filled with VX nerve gas, the most toxic substance known to man.  This was the first time in the history of the world that a weapon of mass destruction had been attempted to be used by a non-state actor.  Now, did this event happen?  It’s reported by the BBC and The New York Times as happening.  Further, the Department of Defense Public Health Laboratory Journal, a peer-reviewed journal of medicine, published an article discussing the treatment of the two technicians who were exposed to VX.  So this event categorically happened.  Now, does that just mean al-Qaeda just has one?  Okay.  Let’s assume this, for a second: Let’s assume that what he’s saying is true.  Am I supposed to believe that Saddam Hussein put himself at the service of world peace, destroyed all of his weapons of mass destruction in secret, then stood by and watched the United States Marine Corps march right into Baghdad?  It boggles the mind.  Saddam Hussein killed hundreds of thousands of Iranian soldiers with chemical weapons.  He killed thousands of his own people with chemical weapons.  Where did he destroy them?  Where were the sites where he destroyed them?  Were there factories?  Were there furnaces?  None of those have been found.  What have been found in Iraq are thousands of…chemical weapons.  Why do I say that?  Well, would you believe the United Nations?  The United Nations Monitoring Verification and Inspection Service?  Here’s an oddly titled report—“Overview of the Chemical Munitions Recently Found in Iraq”—dated August, 2006.  There are weapons there.  They have fallen into the hands of al-Qaeda.  The VX bomb in al Bayaa was not the only attack.  Subsequent chemical attacks, ordered by al-Qaeda—a string of three large vehicle bombs, also loaded with chlorine gas.  It is insane to say there are no chemical weapons there.  There exists a really odd axis of embarrassment between the political Left and the political Right in this country.  Those on the political Left say, “There were no WMD in Iraq!”  They’re embarrassed by the fact that the United Nations says that there are.  On the Right, people are embarrassed because these weapons were not all scooped up and put off the table by our invasion.  Quite the opposite: The invasion served to drive these weapons underground, and proliferate them.  These weapons have also shown up in Afghanistan.  They are being internationally transported.  This is one of the reasons, I suggest, that America is engaged in the two longest armed conflicts of her history—ten-year wars—because al-Qaeda, the enemy, is armed with chemical weapons of the highest order.  Now, I’ve heard it dismissed—“It’s just a couple,” “It doesn’t matter,” “They’re old ones”—but I beg to differ: Should one of these turn up on a baggage carousel in O’Hare airport, it would be an astonishing catastrophe.  These weapons can’t be brushed off.  Don’t take my word for it—if The New York Times is right, if the Times of London is right, if BBC News is right, there’s a very, very big problem here.

ARONOFF: Okay.  So the narrative is that Colin Powell basically made the final sales pitch at the U.N. to get us in, and he was given all this false information.  Why, I guess, wouldn’t he point to what you’re saying, and say, “Okay, maybe certain of the things, certain stockpiles that we thought were going to be there, weren’t there—” maybe he’d add something about the aluminum tubes or whatever—“but look what was there!”  Why doesn’t he make the case you make?  We’ve now had books out from Rumsfeld, Bush, Condi Rice—who, basically, you would think, have a lot at stake to try to make the same case you’re making.  Now they—particularly Rumsfeld, to some extent—do.  But how do you explain this lapse, or this paradox of history?

PFARRER: I think it’s something that they probably want to stay away from, because they are just one event—one event—away from being culpable.  What’s going to happen tomorrow if a VX nerve gas shell, of Iraqi providence, turns up at the Denver airport?  What can be said then?  “You’ve been in the country for ten years, you failed to ferret this out?”  “Like 9/11, you failed to conceptualize this important threat to the United States?”  I can speak to why the media is avoiding it: They are heavily invested in the narrative that there were no WMD in Iraq, when, in fact, there have been thousands of weapons discovered in Iraq.  Thousands.  Now, again, don’t take my word for it!  Read the ongoing United Nations reports.  They exist in unclassified form right on the Internet.

ARONOFF: Duelfer?  You’re talking about the Duelfer Report, for instance?

PFARRER: Yes, but more the United Nations Monitoring Verification and Inspection Commission reports.

ARONOFF: Okay.

PFARRER: They reveal that Iraq’s biological weapons program was in full swing.  They reveal that there were quantities of highly enriched uranium which were gotten out of the country with Russian connivance and help.  They also show, as you pointed out, that weapons of mass destruction—in particular, chemical weapons—were sent over to the Beqaa Valley.  These things have proliferated.  They haven’t been wrapped up.  I think that everybody involved with that would rather that inconvenient fact just went away.  But, again, I think the media isn’t reporting it because, to be honest with you, what is Nancy Pelosi going to say?  And no one has ever asked the President once—no one—“Mr. President, how many weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons, have been found in Iraq?”  Nobody asks him that.

ARONOFF: Let’s go on.  Before we get into Target Geronimo, the book, I want to ask you: In August of this year, we had the shoot-down of a helicopter in Afghanistan.  There were 22 Navy SEALs killed.  What can you tell us about that tragedy?  Is it normal to have that many together in a single craft?  What was your reaction when you heard that?  What do you think about it now?

PFARRER: Like everyone in the special warfare community, it was a heartbreaking tragedy for us all.  Without even commenting on tactics or methodology, I can say this: When a fire truck leaves the fire station, on board that fire truck are people who are determined to help, to help as soon as they can, to bring comfort and aid as fast as they can.  That was a place where they were vulnerable.  It was a tragedy—the loss of twenty people, for us, is a staggering loss.  This is war,  it happens, the community has to go on, and we’ll do our best to care for our own . . . but that was a very dark day for naval special warfare.

ARONOFF: What do you think of how we deal with the enemy on the battlefield—the rules of engagement, what our soldiers are faced with in confronting the enemy on the battlefield?

PFARRER: I can tell you this: Not only are all American combatants obliged to follow the rules of engagement, and the Geneva Convention as well—as if they needed any other encouragement than the orders of their lawful noncoms and officers—but it shouldn’t be lost on this audience that this administration has prosecuted—brought Navy SEALs to court-martial.  In an awful case where the SEAL Teams went in and arrested the terrorist who was responsible for the killing of four contractors—dismembering them, hanging their burned bodies from a bridge in Fallujah—he was brought into custody by the SEAL Teams, and the next morning he, straight out of his al-Qaeda Prisoner Playbook, complained that one of the SEALs had punched him in the nose.  I only wish I was exaggerating.  These men were brought to court-martial in San Diego, had to hire civilian attorneys, had to put themselves in a fight for their lives—and certainly their livelihoods.  This is an administration that let that court-martial run its full course.  Luckily, they were acquitted, and returned to duty.  I don’t think anyone has to imagine what having a court-martial on your record does to your career.

ARONOFF: Whose decision was that, to pursue that court-martial?

PFARRER: It was the decision of a general, an Army general in Afghanistan.  I’d certainly hope he’s not in the Army anymore.  He was trying to bargain his two stars, perhaps, into three stars.  I’ll do him the courtesy of not mentioning his name, but I’d be happy to duel him if he’d like.  It’s also not lost on anyone in the special operations community—or the intelligence community, unfortunately—that the Attorney General has turned on another investigation into the intelligence officers who may have interrogated al-Qaeda suspects.  This is the elephant in the room if you’re an intelligence professional: You have to worry about guys like Eric Holder coming after you.  If you’re a middle class guy, working at the CIA, or you’re a young man serving your country, you don’t have a political action fund to pay your legal fees.  You don’t have rich donor buddies.  You usually wind up losing your house.  The strain that it puts on your family will usually break them apart.  It’s sport for someone like Mr. Holder.  But, again, the people of the community—

ARONOFF: Yeah.  Holder, one thing: There were six CIA agents who had already been cleared, before Holder came into office, for using enhanced interrogation techniques, but when he came in they reopened that case and went after the six guys again.  What is going on here?

PFARRER: Given that that’s the scene, the milieu, that we’re in, is it very likely that the members of SEAL Team Six were sent on a, quote, “kill mission,” unquote?  Is it very likely that one of them would want to shoot an unarmed man, and shoot a woman in the leg?  But again, as I’d point out to Mr. Holder, a lot of these people—look: These are attorneys who have never slept a day outdoors in their lives.  I’m afraid that this does become a politicized bit of sport.  The specter of these investigations hangs over the CIA like a cold, dead hand.  Everyone in that building has the example of what’s already been done to two patriotic officers who’ve pretty much had their lives ruined by this.  I think that it is an ironic bit of history that Mr. Holder is looking at the guns that he sent across the border, that they’re coming back.  Good luck with all his memos!

ARONOFF: Right . . .

PFARRER: Maybe he’ll have a Janie Wood who can erase some tapes for him.

ARONOFF: Rose Mary.

PFARRER: Rose Mary Wood, yeah!

ARONOFF: Rose Mary Woods.

PFARRER: You got it, though!

ARONOFF: Okay.  How do you characterize who we’re fighting, globally, in this War on Terror, War on Terrorism?  Is it jihadists?  Radical Muslims?  How do you view this?

PFARRER: It’s referred to within the community as the “Global Salafist Jihad.”  A Salafist is an Islamic fundamentalist who wants to go back to the time of the Prophets.  Again, what a Salafist will do is take the concept of jihad, which is basically a spiritual struggle, and turn it outward into a physical struggle as well.  Here, recently—just within the last year or so—the whole atmosphere in which jihad is conducted had changed.  Jihadis like Ayman Zawahiri, who is the present head of al-Qaeda, are not only Salafists, in that they want to turn the world back to the sixth century, but they also practice a doctrine called takfiri, which means that they can determine, in their own minds, which Muslims are “good” Muslims, and which Muslims are apostates, “bad” Muslims.  Al-Qaeda, unfortunately, among their victims, they have killed more Muslims than anyone else.  Dr. Zawahiri is proud and happy to kill Muslims with whom he does not agree.  One of the problems that they have in al-Qaeda, in recruiting operatives who can move and operate in the West, is that, in order to get somebody to blow himself up on an airliner, or jump into a truck bomb, you’ve got to have someone who’s technically adroit, someone who can operate in the Western world, but who still has to buy in to this idea that, by creating mayhem on Earth, by killing women and children, that Paradise awaits on the other side.  It’s pretty hard to find those people.  It’s increasingly hard.  And it’s increasingly hard to find young men, who might ask Dr. Zawahiri, “If it’s so easy to find Paradise, sir, why don’t you join us on this mission?”  They’ve got a really hard time selling this.  They’re trying to turn the world back to the sixth century A.D.  They want to disenfranchise every woman on this planet.  These are the kind of people who throw acid in the faces of schoolgirls.  They’re the kind of people who attack innocent, unarmed people, and Muslims.  I don’t think this war is over by a long shot, but, culturally and intellectually, they’re losing the battle.

ARONOFF: The book has a lot of history about bin Laden, from his birth, his family, his path to becoming “bin Laden”—who he is, and what happened.  At times, it even felt you might have been sympathetic to him, or his cause, if, certainly, not his tactics.  Would you agree with that?  What is the basic reason why they hate us?  Why are certain Muslims determined to kill Americans and, in particular, Israelis?  Why do they want to destroy Jews?  What is their case, their issue, with us?

PFARRER: One of the things I went back to in the book before discussing how Mr. bin Laden got the way he was—the events in Lebanon had a great influence on Osama bin Laden.  As a schoolboy, he attended the Brummana School, outside of Beirut.  You spoke earlier of just how beautiful Lebanon was before its civil war.  I agree with you: It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.  Osama attended, for a few years, a year-and-a-half, one of the only coeducational schools in the Middle East.  After the death of his father, he was not able to get out of Syria or Lebanon to come to Saudi Arabia for his father’s burial, due to the fact that no aircraft could fly—it was close to the 1967 war.  He later was able to get to Saudi Arabia.  He attended Al-Thager School in Jeddah, where he was exposed to teachers who were members of the Muslim Brotherhood.  He gradually became increasingly religious, but his version of religion was guided by the Muslim Brotherhood.  He became increasingly radicalized.

Bin Laden says himself that one of the seminal events that made him a jihadist, just prior to the American intervention in Lebanon, in 1983, was the massacre at the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila.  It was carried out by Christian militiamen of the Phalange militia.  In order to get to the camps, they transversed Israeli military positions.  There were anywhere between 1,500 and 5,000 unarmed, innocent people killed by the Christians in Beirut.  It’s a matter of historical fact that the Israelis assisted them—not in murder on the ground, but they did things like fire artillery flares so they could kill better, and allowed them to come and go.  Ariel Sharon, then the Defense Minister, was found by an Israeli government commission to be culpable in this matter, this massacre.  This event, Sabra and Shatila, was what drove the mainspring of Mr. bin Laden’s hatred both of Israel and the United States.  When the United States intervened to prevent further massacres like Sabra and Shatila, Mr. bin Laden saw the American peacekeepers as a prop for the continued Israeli occupation.  When the American Marines were finally drawn into the fight, when the U.S.S. Virginia and the U.S.S. Bowen fired into the hills at Souk El Gharb, again, Mr. bin Laden saw this as American military intervention.  He wrote of it frequently.  He wrote of his love for Beirut and what he thought the Americans and Israelis had done to it.  Interestingly enough, in another irony of history, about as many people died at Sabra and Shatila as were killed in the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11.  This was a source of joy to Mr. bin Laden—he thought it was righteous payback.  It’s interesting—these little things, perhaps by forgotten by most Americans, of history shaped bin Laden.

ARONOFF: Also, it didn’t happen in a vacuum.  There was the assassination of the Lebanese leader—

PFARRER: Yes.

ARONOFF: —there was the PLO, which was forced out of Jordan after doing everything they did there, then went to Lebanon.  It wasn’t just an out-of-the-blue—

PFARRER: No, you’re right, and I discuss all those things.  Lebanon was the victim of great forces converging on it.  It was a tragedy.

ARONOFF: Let’s move on here to the Neptune Spear, the operation that killed bin Laden.  What I want to talk to you about is what this operation was about, and what’s getting the headlines from your book.  The book, again, is called SEAL Target Geronimo, and the subtitle is The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama bin Laden.  In most of the interviews you’ve had so far, people have talked about what you say happened versus the official version put out by the Obama administration; we’ll get into that.  There have been a number of people now who have stepped up, from the administration and the military, and said that your version is fabricated and false.  We’ll get into that—I’ll give specifics, and give you a chance to respond.  Start by telling me your version: What did they say, and what do you say actually happened?

PFARRER: Like everyone else, I first heard of the mission when the President made his statement live.  The President’s statement was accurate.  It did not contain any internal contradictions.  It was full and complete, and had it been the last word on this mission, I wouldn’t be here, and I wouldn’t have written this book.  The President was not very well served by his national security staff, which, within minutes of the President’s speech, began speed-dialing journalists and feeding them factoids, some of them true, some of them false.  Like everyone else, I heard, at first, that this was a 45 minute firefight.  In my limited combat experience, 45 minutes is a lifetime.  I didn’t see any bullet holes in the buildings.  In a 45 minute firefight, there were no SEAL casualties, and, of the 35-odd people, only five were killed?  Like everyone else, I heard that, allegedly, upon insertion, a helicopter crashed close to the target.  I was left to wonder, like everyone else, why, if the first helicopter crashed, its back-up helicopter then landed on the other side of a twenty-foot wall with a ten-foot steel door.  These things didn’t make sense to me.  What drove me, however, to write the book, was that, in August, a New Yorker article appeared, which was informed correctly, politically, but, unfortunately, drew all these half-truths together into a sordid tale of murder that had the SEALs crashing a helicopter on the way in, then landing outside the building, where they had to blow their way through several external walls and gates into Mr. bin Laden’s house, where they commenced shooting women, children, and unarmed men, fighting their way up three flights of stairs, and then shooting a woman and murdering her husband in cold blood.  That story just didn’t stand with me.  I talked to people very close to the operation—I mean, close enough to smell the powder.  I talked to people in planning.  I talked to people in the intelligence community.  I talked to people officially, on the record.  I talked to people off the record.  I soon found that people were trying to feed me some of these implausible stories.  I was fed the 45 minute firefight by some sources—I said, “Where are the bullet holes?”  I was told the helicopter crashed on insertion—I said, “Why did they divert?”  Finally, pulling together all these sources, I had to sort through them all myself.  I laid down my narrative closer to the eyewitness accounts, and the story told in SEAL Target Geronimo is different from any of the various stories put forward by the administration.

R: I wrote about this at the time—there’s an AIM Report on our site—because, as I was watching it unfold that night, the first things we were hearing in these stories, being sourced from the White House, said that bin Laden had been killed five days earlier, and they were just reporting it now because they had wanted to be sure, testing the DNA and everything, and then, finally, Obama came out and announced that it had just happened that day, they’d tested the DNA in a matter of hours, or minutes or whatever, and then he was taken out to sea and buried in a proper, respectful Muslim burial.  That was just the start of the headscratching.  How could they confuse that?  Was it five days ago?  Was it today?  Why would they go get rid of the body just like that?  Why would they announce it all, and blow the intelligence value of it?  So comment on that, and then I’ll talk about the next phase of it, the next day, in a minute.  Were you watching that night, as it was unfolding on TV?

PFARRER: I watched the press coverage unfolding, yes. It really isn’t a surprise that an administration would seek to influence the narrative of a military event.  Lyndon Johnson, with his spin on the Gulf of Tonkin incident; Richard Nixon spun the invasion of Cambodia—it’s likely that the White House does what it can to spin the events.  But, like you, when there were more contradictions than answers, I felt we weren’t getting the real story, and by the time that New Yorker article came out, I felt that men had risked their lives, not only to take out Mr. bin Laden, but to gather all this intelligence which could have put al-Qaeda away forever, and this was a case where military security and the needs of national security had brushed up against physical and political expediency—and it looked like the politicians won.  For a while it even looked like the politicians were going to get to write history.

ARONOFF: One of the things that Obama referred to, the quote, unquote, “Capture and killing of bin Laden,” in light of the final version, was kind of interesting—the capture and killing.  I’d like you to comment on that.  Also, as the story was written over the following weeks, we found out that, actually, he’d been under observation for many months.  The question arose—did they know it was him early on?  By waiting eight or nine months, was that taking a chance that he would get away?  As a tactician, what do you think of all that?

PFARRER: I think these are things that weighed heavily on Admiral Bill McRaven, who was assigned the job of taking out Mr. bin Laden.  I worked for Bill McRaven at SEAL Team Four.  We were teammates, platoon commanders together.  When he was the [Office of OS] I was his training officer.  He is a Renaissance guy, a deeply read, literate man who’s written a book on special operations that’s read at the Naval postgraduate school.  These are things that Bill had to struggle with.  There’s always a problem with watching a target, and discerning whether he’s going to flip or fly.  Certainly Bill did the right thing—they gathered as much intelligence as they could, and made the best determination that they could, contextually, that it was very likely where Osama bin Laden was.  Not only was this a great operational triumph, it was a triumph of tactical intelligence.

ARONOFF: You brought up Admiral Bill McRaven, so let me bring up what the administration has come out and said through Colonel Tim Nye, who is the U.S. Special Operations Command spokesman.  He described your book as a “fabrication.”  He issued an on-the-record denial, on behalf of Admiral McRaven, who was in charge of Special Forces, as you say, at the time of the raid.  He said that he was concerned that the book “would lead Americans to doubt the administration’s version of events.”  What do you say to Nye and McRaven?

PFARRER: Well, I was gonna read you that same quote—

ARONOFF: Okay.

PFARRER: I am guilty as charged: I am leading Americans to doubt the administration’s versions of the events.  I don’t just have respect for Bill McRaven as a teammate—it’s like love.  As far as Colonel Tim Nye, I’m afraid that he’s been placed in a really unfortunate position—and a little bit of hyperbole has gone into trying to discredit this book. AP Press reporter Kim Dozier referred to me as a “liar,” which was also interesting—during our interview she left to take a call, but left her tape recorder running on the table.  I’m not a liar!

ARONOFF: Hmm.

PFARRER: I spoke to the first person, people here—I’d also like to point out to Colonel Nye that overhead imagery of this raid exists, and it shows, categorically, that this helicopter did not crash on insertion.  It crashed in the middle of the operation—as I am saying—and these overhead images will prove what happened on target.  Further, the truth will eventually come out about this mission and, when it does, my book won’t need to be rewritten.  I appreciate what Colonel Nye does.  God bless him, and I thank him for serving his country.  I’m not his adversary in this, I’m a historian.  Granted, my version of events is controversial, but this is a first-person account of how the raid went down. Writing it has put me in professional jeopardy.  It’s not forwarding my career in special warfare, but I felt that the ugly stories in The New Yorker needed to be corrected.  If I needed to get some snowballs thrown at me for that to happen, then let it happen.  This is the true and accurate story, and I’ve written it with the best facts available.

ARONOFF: You mention Kimberly Dozier and her story.  I’m going to ask you a few questions from there.  You say she called you a liar.  Let me cite a few facts, a few things that she says—

PFARRER: Mm-hmm.

ARONOFF: —where your story departs from the truth.  She says, for instance—this is just a factual matter—that “Pfarrer states that Obama appointed McRaven as the first Navy SEAL to head JSOC in April of this year,” but “McRaven was actually appointed to that post in early 2008 by President George W. Bush.”

PFARRER: Well, if those are the facts, then I have them incorrect.  I will accede to her.  I don’t know what bearing this has on recounting the raid, but good on her.

ARONOFF: Right!  I’m just giving you a chance, going through these things —

PFARRER: Oh, I know.

ARONOFF: —because they’re out there.

PFARRER: Thank you.  I’m glad to take them.

ARONOFF: She says that you state “that the Army Special Forces Green Berets were established in 1962 instead of 1952,” so she just, I guess,  is—

PFARRER: Okay.

ARONOFF: —questioning your—

PFARRER: Well, Roger, again you’ve caught me in a staggering falsehood.

ARONOFF: [Laughs.]  Okay.

PFARRER: I’m weeping in shame.  To my Green Beret brothers: If I have that wrong, please correct me.  I labored under the impression that you were created in 1962, when the SEAL teams were.

ARONOFF: Ah.  A couple more of those—

PFARRER: Sure.

ARONOFF: “When U.S. special operations forces rehearsed for the famous Son Tay Raid Vietnam in 1970, they trained at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida not Offutt in Nebraska.”

PFARRER: Guilty as charged: Eglin Air Force Base is the place they trained.

ARONOFF: “And a jet bombing run, not a drone strike, killed Iraqi Al-Qaeda ringleader . . . Zarqawi in 2006.”

PFARRER: So Ms. Dozier and I respectfully differ on the platform which dropped the laser-guided bomb.

ARONOFF: Okay . . .

PFARRER: Again, I am happy to correct each one of these facts.  I’ve not yet been shot to my soul with anything here that—

ARONOFF: Okay.

PFARRER: —affects the raid.

ARONOFF: A couple of other comments, this one from retired SEAL Rear Admiral George Worthington: “‘The reaction is stunning, chagrined, disappointment.’ . . . ‘This is exactly the sort of thing the special operations community does not need,’ added retired Navy SEAL Capt. Rick Woolard, known for commanding some of the most elite units, and a contemporary of Pfarrer’s.”  So—

PFARRER: I know Admiral Worthington, and I respect him.  I know Rick Woolard more closely, and respect him very much.  I have worked with him as a civilian counter-terrorism guy.  I respectfully differ with both of them.  They are brother officers to me, and teammates.  I think we just disagree.  I felt it necessary to set the historical record right.  Not everyone in the community agreed that I should be doing this—

ARONOFF: Mm-hmm.

PFARRER: —and even the people who were providing me information told me that they didn’t know if it was worth it, and that I was going to get clobbered—and right to the bone.  But to Admiral Worthington and Captain Woolard: We respectfully disagree.

ARONOFF: And what about the claim in your book that you were “still part of the fighting SEAL network, even intimating” that you played a part in preparations for the bin Laden raid?

PFARRER: Ms. Dozier—I told her absolutely flat out that I had nothing to do with this raid, with planning it or anything like that.  I was unequivocal in saying that.  She chose to include it, as she chose to include facts about my medical history.  I categorically deny that I said anything like that, and invite her to refer to the tape recorder she left running on the table.  That contains our entire interview.

ARONOFF: Okay.  So you don’t have your own copy of the tape, I guess.

PFARRER: No.  No, I don’t.

ARONOFF: Okay.  Right, right.  You mentioned that the operation was being viewed, or recorded, at the time, and then there was the report of 24 minutes—talk about Rose Mary Woods!—a 24 minute gap.  They had said, at one point, that they were watching the whole operation in real time, and then it later came out that, no, there was a 24-minute gap.  We saw that picture of everybody— Hillary Clinton and everybody—sitting in the room, supposedly watching it.

PFARRER: What Mr. Panetta refers to—I believe what he said was, there were about 20 minutes where we didn’t know what was going on.  Think of that picture in the Situation Room: What the President and those individuals were observing was an overhead view, taken from a Sentinel drone, of the target.  The expressions on their faces—they are reacting to live feed that shows the helicopter lifting off from the roof, turning around backwards, and carrying out that bad landing in the pen full of animals.  That’s what they were seeing.  Mr. Panetta is quite right when he says there were 24 minutes where he didn’t know what was going on.  He was at a command center in the CIA.  He was accompanied by a SEAL officer.  It was Mr. Panetta’s job to translate the brevity codes of the operation—for example, “Geronimo.”  He was there with the list of the code words, and got to say [the SEALS had] seen him.  I come down on the CIA pretty hard in my book.  Part of the reason I do that is, they were the organization that so very often tried to lead me astray with bits and pieces of what, I guess, is disinformation.  I was also quite chagrined to discover that, although they’d initially begin to talk to me, I got shut off by them—but they continued to host selected journalists—screenwriters, actually—into the CIA.  It’s a little hard to write history if no one’s going to tell you the facts until the movie comes out.

ARONOFF: Let me ask you: Is there any doubt in your mind that they got bin Laden on that day?  I mean, in other words, there are people who say he’s been dead for years.  I received a call from someone that said he was actually killed last January.  The fact that we didn’t ever get to see any pictures of him like we saw Gadaffi.  Is there any doubt in your mind that Osama bin Laden was killed that day in Abbottabad?

PFARRER: No.  I have no doubt whatsoever—

ARONOFF: Okay.

PFARRER: —that he was killed, and buried at sea.  I will say this: There was a serious item of discussion passing through the counter-terrorism community six or seven months before this operation.  I had some very learned friends who put forward the supposition that it was likely that bin Laden had been killed by the ISI, because he had used out his usefulness but it was necessary to keep him alive—as the boogeyman, as it were.  Now, that was incorrect, but it really wasn’t that far incorrect: The ISI had pretty much put him on ice inside that compound, where he’d become the Howard Hughes of jihad.  So I think the ISI had him.  I am also convinced that one of the things that triggered this raid was that Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s very ambitious second-in-command, fingered his boss—I think the whole bit of using a blown courier was the mechanism by which Dr. Zawahiri became the head of al-Qaeda.

ARONOFF: That’s an interesting point. In your book you said that the intelligence revealed that bin Laden was about to part ways with Zawahiri.

PFARRER: Yes, there had often been friction between the two men.  Zawahiri might also have been complicit in sending an informer so that the Pakistanis and the CIA could arrest Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.  After 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s star was in the ascendant.  You’ve got to bear in mind that it was bin Laden who had all the money, and what he lacked in personal wealth, he made up for in retaining the vast amounts of money— tens, perhaps even hundreds, of millions of dollars that poured into his organization, the Afghan Services Bureau.  This has always been a goal of Dr. Zawahiri’s.  Intelligence indicates that as the anniversary of 9/11 approached, the ten year anniversary, there was some consternation that they weren’t going to be able to mount a sufficiently magnificent attack.  Dr. Zawahiri, who betrayed his co-conspirators in the Sadat assassination, also was complicit in the assassination of Sheikh Azzam, Osama bin Laden’s former partner in the Afghan jihad days.  Zawahiri has it over bin Laden in that he could read and speak English.  Dr. Zawahiri’s an avid consumer of press about himself, and also press about al-Qaeda.  Zawahiri could read in several books that Abu [Ahmad] al-Kuwaiti, the courier, was known—not just known to the CIA, but known to journalists.  Not only did he continue to use this man in a communications network, but made sure that it was al-Kuwaiti who was communicating and driving in and out of the compound daily—and to make sure no one missed him, he made sure he was driving a Toyota four-by-four with a rhinoceros painted on it.

ARONOFF: Hmm.

PFARRER: So it was Dr. Zawahiri who made this big city move.  It was inevitable, using al-Kuwuiti as a contact—

ARONOFF: Yeah.

PFARRER: —that the Americans would come, and they did so.

ARONOFF: Going to wrap it up here shortly, but the intelligence—you talked about dozens of computers, tons of material that were taken out of the compound, and how a lot of the SEALs and people are upset in the intelligence community that there was this sort of instant announcement of the whole thing.  Why not use that intelligence, go pick up the other top people in Al Qaeda—you know, get full use of that before announcing this thing?  Then also, along those lines, how the Pakistanis were so upset that they immediately allowed the Chinese to come in and take a look at the technology on the helicopter that was down—

PFARRER: That’s correct.

ARONOFF: What about those two things?

PFARRER: Well, when you examine the pushback, against this book, and also having to resort to personal attacks and releasing my health information—why on earth is it so necessary to push back on what is merely a book of history?  Well, the elephant in the room is that the administration didn’t wait 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours.  They announced this so quickly that not one single follow-up mission could be launched.  When this news went global, it traveled as fast as any news can travel on this planet.  There were al-Qaeda guys literally dropping their cell phones and running for the hills.  Political expediency was traded for national security.  That’s why it’s necessary to push back on this story so hard.  Look: I didn’t think this was going to be a bed of roses, writing this book.  It isn’t—and bring it on.  Regarding the Pakistanis, you are correct: They were incensed, embarrassed at first.  Humiliated.  They actually held an auction for governments to come in and take a look at the tail rotor section.  The Chinese won that.  There’s an interesting side note, however: There are several kinds, but there were two types of aircraft available for the stealth helicopters going in.  When the decision was made not to provide fighter air cover for the mission, JSOC very wisely chose the less technologically advanced version of the stealth helicopters.  Their big sisters are called “Ghost Hawks.” They were designed for this raid—or, they have longer range and can carry more people.  They would have been able to hit the target and return without refueling.  It was decided, and, I think, quite appropriately, to use the Stealth Hawks instead of the Ghost Hawks.  An example for this exists during the Gulf of Sidra operations against Libya back in the ’90s.  The F-117 stealth fighters were not used because it was felt that the loss of one of them would be a great blow, a technological coup for the enemy.  In this case, I think they were very right to use the Stealth Hawks.  In fact, we did lose one, so at least we didn’t lose the best ones.

ARONOFF: So what could be the rationale for the Obama administration, both to release this information as quickly as they did, and also to have their version of the story, the 45 minute version—you know, the firefight, the thing you’re talking about.  Some would say, “Well why would they even make that up?  How is that to their advantage in any way?”

PFARRER: Well—

ARONOFF: “And why release the intelligence early?  How is that to their advantage?”

PFARRER: I think that they were in a hurry to get a bump, a political bump, off the operation.  Thereafter, I don’t think they gave any thought whatsoever to releasing a story.  They never released a story.  What has come about are these series of leaks.  When The New Yorker article came back, I went through it quite in some detail, and I was able to source who might have talked to the author.  These were all political types.  I think that the administration lost control of the narrative.  I think that the Special Operations Command had no desire to speak to journalists whatsoever.  I also think that there was an opportunity there for Mr. Panetta and the CIA to try to inform the media.  After the raid, dozens of journalists were invited into the CIA to four briefings.  I think, also, that eventually this information became politicized.  I repeatedly asked the White House for comment.  I asked to go to see the Situation Room.  I understand now that not everyone who asked the White House for help was blown off, but I was.  I don’t think there was any deliberate effort on the part of the White House to disinform, I think it was just a little bit of a negligent information policy, and this is what happened.

ARONOFF: How is Obama doing, overall, as Commander-in-Chief?  They seem to be wanting to take credit—“Hey, we got bin Laden, we got al-Awlaki”—which, by the way, brings up another interesting question about using a drone attack to go after an American citizen versus, say, waterboarding: Which is worse, which is tougher?  Obama just this week was criticizing waterboarding as “torture,” yet they proudly went after Awlaki and shot him down.  We all know what he’s done, I guess, but he’s never been—as Scott Pelley pointed out in a debate last week—convicted of anything by a jury.  So, in general, has [Obama] shown his chops as Commander-in-Chief?  Should we be pleased with how it’s going?  Then, with Afghanistan, why are we there?  Is he doing the right thing?  I know that’s a few questions thrown into one, but we’ll try to—

PFARRER: Well, I actually—

ARONOFF: —for me.

PFARRER: I actually think the President is doing a pretty good job as Commander-in-Chief.  I’m aware how much he risked in giving this operation the go-ahead.  It’s not lost on anyone in the White House what happened to Jimmy Carter after the failure of the Iranian hostage rescue.  I think the President is wise to use technological and stand-off weapons against our enemies, scattered as they are around the globe.  I’m concerned a little bit that Mr. Awlaki was, of course, an American citizen.  I am satisfied that he met the criteria of an enemy combatant.  I think that he put himself in the game.  I think that, American citizen or not, he showed himself as an enemy of the United States. It’s what he could, what he could expect.  Regarding Afghanistan, never in 2,500 years has Afghanistan been conquered. Alexander the Great could not do it.  Britain at the height of Empire could not do it.  The Soviets, with all their might, could not do it, and the United States is not going to conquer Afghanistan.  In my opinion, we need to get out of there.  In my opinion, we have spent a decade in Iraq, I root for the Iraqi people in their quest to be the first Arab nation in history to have a functional democracy, but I would point out—I’m not a politician, so I get to say what I want, not what people want to hear me say—I think that, from now on, this should be up to Iraqi patriots.  If they want to have a nation, if they want to stand up to Iran and unify their country, then Iraqi patriots need to step forward and do that.  I’m one of those people that think ten years of war is quite enough, and both of these conflicts need to be reconsidered.  I think we need to bring the boys home.

ARONOFF: Maybe one more thing.  You mentioned before the Muslim Brotherhood.  There’s sort of an involvement in bin Laden’s development, that sort of thing, and now they have become very prominent in Egypt, Tunisia, perhaps Libya.  Hillary Clinton, last week, gave a speech in which she basically said, “We don’t have a problem with that. We don’t see it being incompatible with democracy.”  It wasn’t too long ago that—look: Through the Muslim Brotherhood, and what they have spawned, was something that wasn’t acceptable to us as far as being leaders, a movement we could deal with because of their commitments against the U.S., against Israel, all this sort of thing.  How do you view the Arab Spring in general?  Is this going in a direction that’s positive? Is it hanging in the balance?  What are your feelings on that?

PFARRER: I hope that it’s going in the right direction.  God knows you have to support the Libyan people and the Syrian people who literally battled tanks with their bare hands.  I think that as information and communication is democratized, it makes it much, much more difficult for tyrants of any stripe to exist and dominate a people, because a tyrant can only rule through secrecy and fear.  Information, and the free flow of information, is their biggest enemy.  Regarding the Muslim Brotherhood, and it now inveigling itself with the democratic movements, its founding father, Hassan al-Banna, wrote extensively on what he felt, that Islam was not compatible with democracy, that democracy was a heresy to Islam.  Can the Muslim Brotherhood change its stripes?  Well, maybe it can.  Is it being opportunistic now, to take its organization and insert it into an aspiring democracy?  Well, perhaps they are.  People need to remember that, look: jihadis are not democrats.  They consider democracy, they consider the education of women, they consider freedom of expression or freedom of religion to be crimes, capital crimes.  I think, though, the Arab Spring, coming into the Arab Summer, it’s the worst thing that could possibly happen to people like Ayman Zawahiri.  He’s trying to sell a sixth century world, and he’s trying to sell it in the 21st century.  I think gradually—and it may take decades—but people aren’t willing to buy what these guys are trying to sell.  What these people aspire to, nobly, and they are spilling their own blood to attain it, is something that we take for granted every day: A free flow of ideas, political expression.  These things are things Americans can take for granted.  We have to remember that what we have here is precious and occurs almost nowhere else in the world.

ARONOFF: Our guest today has been Chuck Pfarrer, the author of the new book SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama bin Laden.  Is there anything you’d like to add to what we have said?  If not, why don’t you just give people the information—how they can get your book, go to your website, and—

PFARRER: Sure.

ARONOFF: —we’ll leave it there.  Yeah.

PFARRER: One thing that I would like to do.  If this podcast should wind up in a bunker somewhere, in a foxhole somewhere, on top of an armored vehicle somewhere, if a guy has the time to listen when he’s not fighting for his life, I want to tell you that there isn’t a minute that goes by that I don’t think of the sacrifice that men and women are making on my behalf overseas.  There is not a minute that I don’t know that the freedoms that I am enjoying right now are provided by guys who spend the night out in the open, and are lucky if they get a hot meal.  Thank you for protecting me, and protecting my country.  If anyone should be interested, the website is www.chuckpfarrer.com, and my last name is spelled P-F-A-R-R-E-R.  Sign on, leave a comment. If you disagree, I’m happy to hear about that, too.

ARONOFF: I’m sorry.  One more thing I wanted to bring up is, how have the media treated you?  In other words, a lot of books like this don’t even get on CNN or talked about in the networks.  So how do you feel the media have received you, and received this book?  What’s your experience been out promoting this book—

PFARRER: Well—

ARONOFF: —from a media perspective?

PFARRER: With only one exception, I think I’ve really been given a pretty fair shot.  I expected that this would be controversial. It is.  I think most people who’ve interviewed me have been what they appeared to be, with one notable exception, and that’s pretty much as well as I can expect.  The one other thing I would, again, leave here in my wake is that overhead imagery of this raid will confirm what it is I’m saying.  Again, that helicopter did not crash on insertion.  It crashed in the middle of the mission.  Given that—hey, you don’t believe my version, then ask your Congressman.  We’ll see what’s going on.  Again—

ARONOFF: Will we ever get to see that?

PFARRER: You know what?  I sort of doubt it, but I do think this: There is no doubt that this mission will, one day, be declassified, and when that happens, I’m not going to have to rush out and rewrite my book.

ARONOFF: Chuck, thank you.  Thank you for your service to the country, for this fascinating discussion, and the book.  I wish you all the best.

PFARRER: Thanks very much for having me. It’s been a pleasure.



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