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The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History…
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The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader (2006)

by Peter Bergen

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"...This book is very comprehensive. It’s just about the best reference book in America when it comes to bin Laden, as far as the establishment is concerned. Bergen met bin Laden once – he was a producer for CNN and he arranged the meeting with local people who gave him access. He took along the correspondent, Peter Arnett, and they talked in some detail. The idea of the book is that he interviewed many people who knew bin Laden personally and who studied him and who followed him. It’s a personal account and it makes it more vivid for people and helps them to relate to it more.

I don’t think the average reader knows why bin Laden decided to leave life and the world and all that it offered, especially as he came from this famous, rich family, and why he decided to live off bread and water in a cold cave. Peter Bergen believes, even now that al Qaeda is dismantled, that bin Laden is very important. I agree that he is important, but I disagree in the sense that if you focus only on him then you miss the people on the ground like Mohammed Atta. Bergen thinks it’s the leadership, but I think that without Mohammed Atta 9/11 wouldn’t have happened. It’s the small people on the ground willing to die, but there are a lot of those. If they are willing to die and capable of pulling something together then you have a deadly combination. I don’t think al Qaeda recruited Mohammed Atta. I think Mohammed Atta recruited al Qaeda. It suited him and he needed an umbrella for his frustration. There is never a shortage of people who want to die, but al Qaeda was shopping for people of this kind of calibre.



When I met Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the real mastermind of 9/11, he said there was no shortage in what he called ‘the department of martyrs’ – the problem he had was keeping a lid on them. What he needed but what he didn’t have was people who read and speak English, who know the lifestyle, who can integrate and are intelligent but frustrated perfectionists. Before they had Mohammed Atta they had these two Saudi guys in California who were referred to everywhere as ‘Dumb and Dumber’(Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi).



This book is a great reference when it comes to the mindset of al Qaeda..."  (reviewed by Yosri Fouda in FiveBooks).



The full interview is available here: http://fivebooks.com/interviews/yosri-fouda-on-911 ( )
  FiveBooks | May 28, 2010 |
I'll admit it, this was a book I did not get around to reading at first because of its style and a misunderstanding of the book's purpose. The style of the book is difficult in that it is a series of excerpts, often overlapping, of diverse sources. The players are difficult to keep track of, but they need to be introduced time after time. Thus, we are constantly being reminded of who was bin Laden's bodyguard, which player this guy is, and how they fit into the organization.

Despite its limitations, the book is a fascinating read, and excerpted by those who knew or met bin Laden personally throughout the years. Where else are you going to find detailed information such as in one visitor to bin Laden's hangout, two of bin Laden's sons were playing Nintendo while hiding out with their infamous father?

But most importantly, Bergen is one of those rare journalists who allows bin Laden to be bin Laden, without the distortions or biases built in many other sources. Although the book suffers from a lack of cogent analysis, and that has been done elsewhere by Michael Scheuer particularly, Bergen's work is valuable read in that an accurate oral history emerges from the text to reveal a bin Laden who is unremarkable in some respects, absolutely lethal, and a worthy adversary of the U.S. In addition, since he is engaged in religious war, and a typical product of Islam, the West should realize that more bin Laden's are going to follow his lead, regardless of the presence of Al-Qaeda, or the life of bin Laden.
1 vote gmicksmith | Oct 4, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743278925, Paperback)

No one knows more about Osama bin Laden than Peter Bergen. In 1997, well before the West suddenly became aware of the world's most sought-after terrorist, Bergen met with him and has followed his activities ever since.

Today, years after President Bush swore to get him dead or alive and despite haunting the popular imagination since September 11, 2001, bin Laden remains shrouded in mystery and obscured by a barrage of facts, details and myths. With numerous never-before-published interviews, The Osama Bin Laden I Know provides unprecedented insight into bin Laden's life and character drawing on the experiences of his most intimate acquaintances. This timely and important work gives readers their first true, enduring look at the man who has declared the West his greatest enemy.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:38 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The author of 'Holy War, Inc.' draws on his personal meetings with Osama Bin Laden as well as interviews with some of his most intimate acquaintances, describing the terrorist's self-presentation as a soft-spoken cleric & offering insight into how he garners the fanatical loyalty of hundreds of thousands of followers.… (more)

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