Published November 15, 2011
WASHINGTON – The U.S. military is denouncing a former Navy SEAL's book that claims to describe the "real" version of the raid that killed Usama bin Laden.
"It's just not true," U.S. Special Operations Command spokesman Col. Tim Nye said. "It's not how it happened."
Laden with conspiracy theories and attacks on the Obama White House, Chuck Pfarrer's "SEAL Target Geronimo" claims an alternative version of the raid in which the SEAL team shot bin Laden within 90 seconds of arriving at the Pakistan compound where the Al Qaeda mastermind was holed up.
Pfarrer claims the White House issued a fictional and damaging account of the raid that made the SEALs looks inept. He says President Barack Obama's speedy acknowledgement of the raid was a craven political move that rendered much of the intelligence gathered on the raid useless.
Pfarrer's account broke into Amazon's top 20 book sales list last week, and Pfarrer has appeared on Fox News, CNN and in other venues to promote it.
"I have truth on my side," Pfarrer said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I spoke to the guys on the ground and in the secondary bird," he said, referring to the aircraft full of a second SEAL team that was there to rescue the first if it came under attack so far inside Pakistan's borders.
"This is a fabrication," Nye countered, issuing an on-the-record denial on behalf of Navy SEAL Adm. Bill McRaven, who took command of all special operations this summer.
In his previous role, McRaven executed the raid in May as head of the military's elite Joint Special Operations Command. Nye said McRaven was concerned the book would lead Americans to doubt the administration's version of events. He also disputed Pfarrer's portrayal of friction between the CIA and the military special operations forces who carried out the raid.
"We have never come forward and gone after an author and say that is a lie," Nye said. "That tells you how far off the mark we believe this book is."
Nye says Pfarrer had no access to any troops connected to the mission. He said there will be no investigation into whether individual SEALs spoke to Pfarrer because his account is so off-base.
Among his other claims, Pfarrer insists the stealth helicopter that the White House said crashed within moments of launching the raid -- and local Pakistanis reported hearing crash -- actually crashed later. He says the SEALs were able to launch their raid as they'd planned it all along, landing on top of the building while another team surged from below.
Pfarrer defended the book as a patriotic way to laud the "heroes of the bin Laden mission." He insists the money he earns will barely cover his medical bills for a long and losing battle with colon cancer. His ruddy complexion and expansive girth bely an illness the personable Pfarrer says has now spread to his lungs.
Pfarrer claims he is still part of the fighting SEAL network, even intimating that he was part of the bin Laden raid preparation.
"In the weeks and months leading up to Neptune's Spear (the code name for the bin Laden mission), it was my privilege to help troops and platoons train for submissions and run parallel HVT (high-value target) missions," Pfarrer writes.
"That is categorically incorrect," spokesman Nye said of the passage. "He was not involved in mission planning, execution or close mission analysis."
Two senior military officials with knowledge of the raid seconded that denial. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Pfarrer deflected that criticism, saying he was conducting training for the SEAL Team 6's parent organization, the Naval Special Warfare Command, through his defense security company Acme Ballistics. He refused to describe how closely such training was related to the raid, saying the contracts are classified.
That is Pfarrer's frequent refrain when asked for proof of his controversial claims: that the accounts are from a top secret world only he has access to and that a reader must take his word on faith.
But Pfarrer gets a multitude of facts wrong in describing events that are part of the public record. For instance, Pfarrer states that Obama appointed McRaven as the first Navy SEAL to head JSOC in April of this year. McRaven was actually appointed to that post in early 2008 by President George W. Bush. He states that the Army Special Forces Green Berets were established in 1962, instead of 1952. When U.S. special operations forces rehearsed for the famous Son Tay Raid in Vietnam in 1970, they trained at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, not Offutt in Nebraska.
And a jet bombing run, not a drone strike, killed Iraqi Al Qaeda ringleader Abu Musab al Zarqawi in 2006.
A series of special operations leaders have stepped forward to say Pfarrer is at best misinformed and at worst a profiteering self-promoter.
"The reaction is stunning, chagrined, disappointment," said retired SEAL Rear Adm. George Worthington.
"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.
Pfarrer has made a two-decade career out of his roughly eight years with the SEALs. After retiring as a lieutenant in the late 1980s he co-wrote the screenplay for the 1990 film "Navy Seals," starring Charlie Sheen. Two books about SEALs followed. His current book traces his own history with the unit, and finishes with two chapters on the raid. It includes romantic descriptions of the SEAL raiders.
"When a room is entered, SEALs go into a state like satori -- a wide-awake Zen consciousness," Pfarrer wrote. "All of the SEAL's senses are magnified."