Massive media coverage drawing on author's unrivalled knowledge and TV experience as CNN's terrorism analyst
Peter Bergen, CNN's terrorism analyst, with CNN since 1990. In 1983 he researched a documentary about Afghan refugees living in Pakistan for Britain's Channel 4. In March 1997 Osama bin Laden agreed to be interviewed by him in Afghanistan, the first TV interview with him and members of his organisation. Bergen is a winner of the Edward R Murrow Award for best documentary on foreign affairs. An American by birth, Peter Bergen was educated in the UK at Ampleforth and New College, Oxford.
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.
As CNN terrorism analyst Bergen avows, this journalistic study of Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda terrorist network was rushed to publication and thus lacks some editorial smoothness in its delivery. Nevertheless, this book offers a mature, balanced description of bin Laden's background; a concise summary of the organization of the al-Qaeda terrorist network as it has developed in the Middle East, Europe, and America; and a brief narrative of terrorist events through September 11. Bergen asserts that bin Laden's hostility emanates from his religious opposition to an American military presence in Saudi Arabia, American policy toward Israel, and the "un-Islamic" behavior of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Bergen personalizes his story with an account of his 1997 interview with bin Laden and the contacts he made with bin Laden's militant Islamic associates. Here, an interesting story drifts a bit from bin Laden to accounts of al-Qaeda operations. Bergen has, however, pulled together a significant amount of solid information, which he presents with perception and without grand swings of passion. This is an important initial glimpse of bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and the associated Taliban of Afghanistan and is strongly recommended for all libraries. John F. Riddick, Central Michigan Univ. Lib., Mt. Pleasant Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.