“Countdown Bin Laden: The Untold Story of the 247-Day Hunt to Bring the Mastermind of 9/11 to Justice” by Chris Wallace with Mitch Weiss, Avid Reader Press, 257 pages, $30.
The 20th anniversary of the destruction of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11 featured multiple solemn commemorative events. It also inspired the release of Fox News personality Chris Wallace’s second book, “Countdown Bin Laden.” His first book, “Countdown 1945” received a favorable review in this space on July 5, 2020.
Wallace and his collaborator, Mitch Weiss, seem to be using the formula of former colleague Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard for their “Killing” books by choosing a significant historical event to create a bestseller that is then marketed vigorously.
This book, like O’Reilly’s, uses concise chapters and easily readable characters, jumps between several characters and locations, and faithfully documents its many sources.
Relevant photos are inserted in the prose, although a map of the area involved in the raid would have been helpful. The authors no doubt hope to begin a similar “Countdown” series of guaranteed hits. Unfortunately, this book only left the reviewer with a disappointing feeling of deja vu.
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Since virtually every major player in the search and assassination of Bin Laden has written their own book, most readers already know the details. CIA Director Leon Panetta and President Obama should rightly be commended for pursuing this politically risky and potentially tragic mission. Wallace also repeats then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ assertion that he only reluctantly approved the raid because Vice President Biden, who had been on the wrong side of all decisions of foreign policy over the previous 40 years, had opposed it.
In 2012, the film “Zero Dark Thirty” won the Golden Globe for Best Picture and Best Actress for Jessica Chastain for her portrayal of a fictional young CIA composite character, “Maya,” who led with stubbornly searching for Bin Laden. . Neither the film nor Chastain won the Oscars due to the film’s implied endorsement of the use of waterboarding to find bin Laden’s location.
Wallace’s book minimizes mention of this controversial subject and inexplicably always refers to “Maya” despite the name of the real female CIA agent having been “outed” several years ago. Also, the emotionally touching portrayal of one of the victims of the 9/11 attack feels superfluous and detracts from the book’s pace.
In summary, readers wanting a quick review of one of the United States’ most successful attempts in the Middle East will be satisfied. Moral questions such as the justification for entering a sovereign nation without warning to assassinate a single individual are left to the individual reader. However, those looking for new ideas and “untold stories” regarding the dangerous mission should check out one of the many alternatives.
J. Kemper Campbell, MD, is a retired Lincoln ophthalmologist who, in retrospect, wishes this mission had marked the end of the war in Afghanistan.