The Fog of War: Getting Bin Laden

in “Getting Bin Laden: What happened that night in Abbottabad,” Nicholas Schmidle, a reporter for the magazine The New Yorker, seeks to take the readers on an intimate insiders journey of the actions and mission that led to the execution of Osama Bin Laden; the orchestrator behind the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. 

In his article, Schmidle makes excellent use of language in his descriptions of the movements of Navy Seal Team Six on the night of May 1st, 2011.  He uses language that is foreign to the average lay person but nonetheless is native to those whom participate in this mission.  Every profession has its own linguistic lexicon, vocabulary.  Here the reader hears words like: MH-60 Black Hawk, Saucer P226 pistol, M4 rifle.  Also we hear names.  Names of places that most average Americans probably can’t even locate on a map.  Places like: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, & Yemen.  All of this is useful in helping to create a sense of ambiance that places the reader in the moment.

Perhaps even more interesting is the mention of historical details that otherwise might be simply overlooked as unimportant.  Prime example:

“The SEALs’ destination was a house in the small city of Abbottabad, which is about a hundred and twenty miles across the Pakistan border.  Situated north of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, Abbottabad is in the foothills of the Pir Panjal Range, and is popular in the summertime with families seeking relief from the blistering heat farther south.  Founded in 1853 by a British major named James Abbott, the city became the home of a prestigious militay academy after the creation of Pakistan, in 1947.”[pg.3]

With the inclusion of this, Scmidle offers details that help to enhance the readers understanding of the historical significance of the area and create a sense of ambiance within the piece.

Also Schmidle’s article provides an interesting dilemma that historians wrestle with: the concept of historical distance.  In order to sufficiently view an event from what is referred to as the historical perspective, a reasonable amount of time has to elapse before we can even begin to consider the larger, far-reaching consequences of an event and its effect.  What we have here is the execution of what is arguably the most notorious terrorist in recent memory.  This of course brings with it a whole slew of emotions: positive, negative, and everything else in-between.  Over the course of the last decade, it seems as if America has been wondering in haze, a fog-bank, of extreme emotions, ideations, and situations looking for a handle to latch onto.  Not only to help temper its balance and steady its pace, but rather also to help navigate its way out of the fog of uncertainty to a plain of clarity.  First time must be given a chance to filter this out.

Bibliography: (accessed Sept 9, 2012).



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