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Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden Hardcover – November 7, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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, Inc.

From Library Journal

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 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (November 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743205022
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743205023
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,837,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peter Bergen is a print and television journalist; the director of the national security studies program at the New America Foundation in Washington D.C.; a research fellow at Fordham University's Center on National Security; CNN's national security analyst and the author of four books, three of which were New York Times bestsellers. He has worked as an Adjunct Lecturer at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and as an Adjunct Professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Bergen has reported on al-Qaeda, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and counterterrorism and homeland security for a range of American newspapers and magazines including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Foreign Affairs, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, TIME, The Nation, The National Interest, Mother Jones, Newsweek, Washington Times and Vanity Fair. He is a contributing editor at The New Republic. His story on extraordinary rendition for Mother Jones was part of a package of stories nominated for a 2008 National Magazine Award. He has also written for newspapers and magazines around the world such as The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, International Herald Tribune, Prospect, El Mundo, La Repubblica, The National, and Die Welt. And he has worked as a correspondent for National Geographic Television, Discovery Television and CNN.

Bergen is on the editorial board of Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, a leading scholarly journal in the field, and has testified before several congressional committees. He is a member of the Homeland Security Project, a successor to the 9/11 Commission and is the editor of the AfPak Channel, a joint publication of Foreign Policy magazine and the New America Foundation that can be found at

Bergen has traveled repeatedly to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to report on al-Qaeda. His most recent book, Manhunt: the Ten-Year Search for bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad was a New York Times bestseller, has been translated into eight languages and was turned into an HBO documentary that was n official selection of the Sundance Film Festival in 2013. The book won the Overseas Press Club's Cornelius Ryan award for the best non-fiction book on international affairs of 2012.

His previous book was The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda. New York Times book reviewer Michiko Kakutani writes, "For readers interested in a highly informed, wide-angled, single-volume briefing on the war on terror so far, "The Longest War" is clearly that essential book." Tom Ricks also writing in the Times described the book as "stunning."

His previous book was "The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader" (Free Press, 2006). It was named one of the best non-fiction books of 2006 by The Washington Post. "The Osama bin Laden I Know" was translated into French, Spanish and Polish, and CNN produced a two hour documentary, "In the Footsteps of bin Laden," based on the book. Bergen was one of the producers of the CNN documentary, which was named the best documentary of 2006 by the Society of Professional Journalists and was nominated for an Emmy.

Bergen is also the author of Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Bin Laden. (Free Press, 2001). Holy War, Inc. was a New York Times bestseller, has been translated into eighteen languages and was named one of the best non-fiction books of 2001 by The Washington Post. A documentary based on Holy War, Inc., which aired on National Geographic Television, was nominated for an Emmy in 2002. Bergen was the recipient of the 2000 Leonard Silk Journalism Fellowship and was the Pew Journalist in Residence at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in 2001 while writing Holy War, Inc.

In 1997, as a producer for CNN, Bergen produced bin Laden's first television interview, in which he declared war against the United States for the first time to a Western audience. In 1994 he won the Overseas Press Club Edward R. Murrow award for best foreign affairs documentary for the CNN program "Kingdom of Cocaine," which was also nominated for an Emmy. Bergen co-produced the CNN documentary Terror Nation which traced the links between Afghanistan and the bombers who attacked the World Trade Center for the first time in 1993. The documentary, which was shot in Afghanistan during the civil war there and aired in 1994, concluded that the country would be the source of additional anti-Western terrorism. From 1998 to 1999 Bergen worked as a correspondent-producer for CNN. He was program editor for "CNN Impact," a co-production of CNN and TIME, from 1997 to 1998.

Previously he worked for CNN as a producer on a wide variety of international and U.S. national stories. From 1985 to 1990 he worked for ABC News in New York. In 1983 he traveled to Pakistan for the first time with two friends to make a documentary about the Afghan refugees fleeing the Soviet invasion of their country. The subsequent documentary, Refugees of Faith, was shown on Channel 4 (UK).

Bergen has a M.A. in Modern History from New College, Oxford University. He won an Open Scholarship when he went up to New College in 1981. Before that he attended Ampleforth. He was born in Minneapolis in 1962 and was raised in London.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

142 of 156 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Picket on November 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is the ticket if you want reality. But it shows us how evil the terrorist is, how unconscious! These terrorists come to life in this book in that it shows you how they actually do believe in their cause. I now am convinced Laden thinks he is doing gods will, but how he became that way is beyond me. I cannot go into all the details here but you need to read this to understand how the situation came about, there are many facts here, including CIA and USA policies I would never of guessed that left me aware. I want to also recommend another good book like this but also predicted the WTC events and the Bio war and a few other events that have come to pass as well as more predictions. Karl Mark Maddox's SB 1 or God
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38 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
If you don't know the difference between al-Qaeda and the Taliban (and before September 11 ‛01, I sure did not) or if you're a little fuzzy about where Yemen is in relation to Afghanistan, this an excellent book. Peter Bergen is CNN's terrorism analyst and an experienced reporter. He uses a wide range of sources including his own experience to describe the al-Qaeda terrorist organization. There's even a map of the Middle East that you can refer to as you read.
But those with some expertise in the world of the mindless jihad masters and the issuance of pretentious fatwas will find this rather limited, I would imagine. We don't really get "Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden," but rather are provided with a narrative distilled from numerous news accounts augmented with Bergen's interviews and travel experiences. Essentially, we stay outside the organization (but so did the CIA). Furthermore, Bergen's "Holy War, Inc." characterization of al-Qaeda as a kind of multinational corporation is exactly the sort of catchy, but superficial and misleading designation that irritates the cognoscenti. Al-Qaeda does not turn a profit, nor does it look to turn a profit. It exists on funds raised from charities, from donations from Muslim fat cat businessmen, from bin Laden's inheritance and from funds siphoned from various commercial enterprises, both legal and illegal, and from what it can beg, borrow and steal. It would perhaps be more accurate to designate al-Qaeda as a Mephistophelian service organization. Perhaps "The Black Crescent" would be an appropriate agnomen.
Nonetheless, to Bergen's credit this is not the usual sort of "rush to judgment" volume churned out by book publishers to take advantage of a major news event.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By James Patterson on April 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Peter Bergen's aptly titled book "Holy War, Inc", draws a stunning portrait of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization. He depicts al-Qaeda as a multi-national terrorist network, with members everywhere from Egypt and the Philippines to Disney World and the suburbs of London. Bergen takes the reader on a fast-paced journey around the world to try to understand the minds of these Islamic militants.
Bergen's first contention is that Osama bin Laden is grossly misunderstood by the West. Bergen begins by dispelling various rumors circulating around bin Laden. For instance, it was falsely speculated that bin Laden received an engineering degree from an American University, teamed up with Iraq to plot the 1998 African embassy bombings, and was receiving funds from the CIA. The first step Bergen, a journalist by profession, takes to give the reader a clear understanding of bin Laden is to lay out the factual aspects of bin Laden's life.
Bergen argues that it was misunderstanding that led to, what he deems as, countless blunders in U.S. foreign policy, especially the actions of the CIA, with regard to the Muslim world in the 1980s. He does not go as far as to claim that the CIA "created" bin Laden and al-Qaeda, however he does argue that the CIA committed a "significant tactical error" in giving the Pakistani Intelligence Service, the ISI, carte blanche authority over the distribution of about $3 billion to the Afghani resistance against the Soviets. The ISI, according to Bergen, mostly supported anti-Western mujahedin, including Pashtun General Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is a known associate of bin Laden.
Bergen does an excellent job of conveying the pervasiveness of al-Qaeda throughout the globe.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By James E. Carroll on December 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Holy War, Inc. is a first rate primer on Osama bin Laden and his al- Qaeda network that every responsible American should read after the attacks of 9-11-01. Author Peter L. Bergen, a CNN correspondent, does yeoman's work in detailing the structure of bin Laden's organization, its roots, its financing, its reach and its goals. With a gripping prologue that recounts the secrecy and precautions surrounding the author's 1997 televised interview with bin Laden, the reader is drawn straight into the web of today's terrorist. It is compelling reading. In the ensuing chapters, Bergen sets out to make the case that bin Laden is the CEO of Holy War, Inc.
To most of us the origin of the ideology and historical details that culminated in the September attacks is confusing and complex. In this very readable text that provides a look, albeit cursory, inside the politics and cultures of Pakistan and Afghanistan, we see how the framework of a highly organized and sophisticated organization that employs and trains thousands in terrorism began. Bergen informs his readers that " the men who lead these movements are generally well educated and utilize the latest in technology in their various jihads." Many Americans will learn for the first time while reading this book of the constantly updated web sites where the members of these organizations communicate, the faxes that deliver the "fatwas" around the world to the group's members and news organizations and the use of the internet and DVD's to propel the group's messages and training materials. These followers are not just hiding in caves in Afghanistan, they are on line.
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