On September 11, 2001, the world in which we live was changed forever. The twin towers of the World Trade Center came crashing down, one side of the Pentagon burst into flame, and more than six thousand men, women, and children lost their lives in the most deadly terrorist attack on American soil. As shocking as it was, it had been long in the making: The assault was the most sophisticated and horrifying in a series of operations masterminded by Osama bin Laden and his Jihad group -- an organization that CNN's terrorism analyst Peter Bergen calls Holy War, Inc.
One of only a handful of Western journalists to have interviewed the world's most wanted man face to face, Peter Bergen has produced the definitive book on the Jihadist network that operates globally and in secrecy. In the course of four years of investigative reporting, he has interviewed scores of insiders -- from bin Laden associates and family members to Taliban leaders to CIA officials -- and traveled to Afghanistan, Yemen, Egypt, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom to learn the truth about bin Laden's al Queda organization and his mission.
Immense in scope and unnerving in its findings, Holy War, Inc. reveals:
- How bin Laden lives, travels, and communicates with his "cells."
- How his role in the crushing defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan made him a hero to Muslims all over the world -- and equipped him to endure a long and bloody siege.
- How the CIA ended up funding -- to the tune of three billion dollars -- radical, anti-American Afghan groups allied to bin Laden.
- How the attacks that foreshadowed the destruction of the World Trade Center -- among them the bombings of the American embassies in Africa and the warship USS Cole in Yemen -- were planned and executed.
- The dimensions of bin Laden's personal fortune, and why freezing his assets is both futile and nearly impossible.
- The ideology of bin Laden's number two, the man who has influenced him most profoundly in his holy war -- the Egyptian Ayman al Zawahiri.
- What we can expect from Islamist extremists in the future.
Above all, Peter Bergen helps us to see bin Laden's organization in a radically new light: as a veritable corporation that has exploited twenty-first-century communications and weapons technologies in the service of a medieval reading of the Koran and holy war. Holy War, Inc. is essential reading for anyone trying to understand tomorrow's terrorist threats and the militant Islamist movements that could determine the fate of governments -- and human lives -- the world over.
Both author and publisher will donate a portion of the proceeds from this book to United Way's September 11th Fund for the relief of victims of the World Trade Center attacks.
There's a lot of new information in this well-written examination by CNN's terrorism expert on the man believed to be behind the events of September 11, though some of its revelations have already been reported elsewhere in the media. What distinguishes this account is its depth: Bergen has long tracked the Islamic world the book opens with the account of his 1997 interview with bin Laden, the terrorist's first TV interview and it shows. He sheds light on several outstanding questions, arguing, among other things, that it's unlikely Iraq was involved in the September 11 attacks, and that it's a myth that the CIA directly funded and trained bin Laden during the war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. According to Bergen, the CIA gave its money to Pakistan and then let that country's intelligence agency decide what to do with it, which was to fund those they viewed as the most strictly Islamic groups among those opposing the Soviet Union. He also adds some details about bin Laden's rise from his wealthy childhood in Saudi Arabia to his current career, and the global spread of Al Qaeda's terrorizing tentacles. The information on what is known about September 11 added hurriedly after the original manuscript was completed, as Bergen admits gives the book a slightly jagged feel. But those looking for a balanced, comprehensive look at bin Laden and his crew as well as an answer to the now preeminent question "why do they hate us so much " will do well to start here. (Nov. 13) Forecast: Given the piling up of books about bin Laden, etc., on bestseller lists, it's a foregone conclusion that this will join them, with first serial to Vanity Fair and selection by the major book clubs. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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February 28, 2002
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Excerpt from Holy War, Inc. by Peter L. Bergen
Prologue: How to Find the World's Most Wanted Man
When you go looking for Osama bin Laden, you don't find him: he finds you. It was March 1997 when the phone rang.
"Osama has agreed to meet with you in Afghanistan," said the voice at the other end of the line.
Bin Laden and his advisers had concluded that CNN, my then employer, was the best forum to broadcast his first television interview to the English-speaking world.
My interest in Afghanistan had been sparked in 1983, when I made a documentary about the millions of Afghan refugees pouring into Pakistan following the Soviet invasion of their country. A decade later, I traveled to Afghanistan to explore the links between the CIA-funded rebels who fought the Soviets and the 1993 bombing of New York's World Trade Center.
To me there was always an unresolved quality to the U.S. government's investigation of the first attempt to destroy the World Trade Center, which was also the first time international terrorists had successfully carried out a bombing operation on American soil. The government had convicted the actual bombers, but who was the mastermind of the operation? Who had bankrolled two of the bombers to fly from Pakistan to New York to carry out the attack?
The more I read about bin Laden, the more plausible a candidate he seemed. By 1996 the U.S. State Department was calling him "the most significant financial sponsor of Islamic extremist activities in the world today" and accusing him of running terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Sudan. In August of that year, bin Laden issued his first call to Muslims to attack U.S. military targets, a summons that was well publicized in the Middle East.
My quest to find the mysterious Saudi multimillionaire began in North London. The quiet suburb of Dollis Hill is favored by Arab immigrants, who have set up mosques and Islamic schools on its leafy avenues. On an unassuming street of 1930s Tudor-style houses lived Khaled al-Fawwaz, the spokesman for a Saudi opposition group founded by bin Laden, the Advice and Reformation Committee. I had called from the United States a few weeks earlier, but Khaled had cut the conversation short.
"There are matters I do not want to discuss on the telephone," he said. It was a sensible precaution, since anyone remotely connected to bin Laden is likely to have a tapped phone.
When I arrived at Khaled's house, all the curtains were drawn. He answered the door dressed in a floor-length white robe and a red-and-white-checked headdress, wearing his full, bushy beard in the same manner that the Prophet Muhammad had worn his nearly a millennium and a half ago. Entering the house, I took my shoes off, as if I were already in the Middle East. Khaled conducted me into the tidy sitting room that also served as his office. On one side of the room were computers, printers, and faxes, and on another wall, shelves filled with books in Arabic. Khaled was thirty-four, but he seemed older -- worn down, perhaps, by the cares of a man who was once an entrepreneur in Saudi Arabia but was now a full-time opposition figure. Although England's liberal tradition of hospitality to dissidents allowed Khaled to function, he found London a worrisome place to bring up his children, given the constant assault of its hypersexualized, commercialized culture.