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October 17, 2012

6 myths about the bin Laden raid

(Continued)

It should be noted that having encountered that initial fire, the team members had to assume that the other occupants of the house were armed and likely to shoot at them, even though this did not happen.

"Bin Laden was living in luxury."

False. This myth has its origins in the fact that bin Laden's Abbottabad compound was built on a large slice of suburban property with a value estimated in the millions of dollars. White House Counterterrorism Adviser John Brennan, in the days after the raid, also got carried away denigrating bin Laden as a hypocrite, and described him as living in "luxury."

Bin Laden was a fanatic and a determined mass murderer, but no one could accuse him of being addicted to the good life. True, his compound and its main three-story house was large compared with others in the neighborhood — but it housed three families, including eight adults and a dozen or more children.

Nor was it in any way lavish. Bin Laden was a determined ascetic who refused such modern conveniences as refrigeration and air conditioning, even as he lived in some of the warmest climates on Earth. For his final five years, he hid with three of his wives and children in the cramped upper two floors of the Abbottabad house, leaving it only to pace in circles in the garden. It was more like imprisonment than high living, and it certainly fell well below middle-class living standards in the United States.

"Obama's determination to bulk up the operation saved the day."

Hardly. This misconception arose from poorly briefed White House staffers who were eager to inflate their boss's role in the raid. They assumed that the additional chopper — one of two Chinooks that flew into Pakistan with back-up fuel and a rescue team when one of the stealth Blackhawks crashed — was present only because the president had ordered McRaven to be prepared to fight his way out of the country if challenged by Pakistani forces.

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