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Osama Bin Laden [Hardcover]

by Michael Scheuer
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 17, 2011 0199738661 978-0199738663 1
9/11 almost instantaneously remade American politics and foreign policy. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Patriot Act, water boarding and Guantanamo are examples of its profound and far-reaching effects. But despite its monumental impact--and a deluge of books about al-Qaeda and Islamist terrorism--no one has written a serious assessment of the man who planned it, Osama bin Laden. Available biographies depict bin Laden as an historical figure, the mastermind behind 9/11, but no longer relevant to the world it created. These accounts, Michael Scheuer strongly believes, have contributed to a widespread and dangerous denial of his continuing significance and power.

In this book, Scheuer provides a much-needed corrective--a hard-headed, closely reasoned portrait of bin Laden, showing him to be a figure of remarkable leadership skills, strategic genius, and considerable rhetorical abilities. The first head of the CIA's bin Laden Unit, where he led the effort to track down bin Laden, Scheuer draws from a wealth of information about bin Laden and his evolution from peaceful Saudi dissident to America's Most Wanted. Shedding light on his development as a theologian, media manipulator, and paramilitary commander, Scheuer makes use of all the speeches and interviews bin Laden has given as well as lengthy interviews, testimony, and previously untranslated documents written by those who grew up with bin Laden in Saudi Arabia, served as his bodyguards and drivers, and fought alongside him against the Soviets. The bin Laden who emerges from these accounts is devout, talented, patient, and ruthless; in other words, a truly formidable and implacable enemy of the West.

Acclaim for Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terrorism

"Pulls few punches...a fascinating window on America's war with Al Qaeda."
--Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

"No serious observer of the war on terrorism can ignore this scathing critique."
--Peter Bergen, author of Holy War, Inc.

"A powerful, persuasive analysis of the terrorist threat and the Bush administration's failed efforts to fight it."
--Richard A. Clarke, Washington Post Book World

"A fire-breathing denunciation of U.S. counterterrorism policy."
--Julian Borger, The Guardian

"Presents overwhelmingly persuasive evidence to buttress a host of significant and controversial arguments."
--Benjamin Schwarz, Atlantic Monthly

"Destined to become a classic in the field of counterterrorism analysis."
--Bruce Hoffman, author of Inside Terrorism

Frequently Bought Together

Osama Bin Laden + Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror + Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America
Price for all three: $60.18

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This propulsive biography is not bin Laden for beginners, but its central point is clear. Scheuer (Imperial Hubris), chief of the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999, argues that the West chronically underestimates bin Laden's "piety, generosity, personal bravery, strategic ability, charisma and patience." In creating a cartoonish enemy, the U.S. has "mindlessly" played into bin Laden's plans to provoke a war on Muslim soil to catalyze a jihad to "obliterate America from within, by making it economically weak, until its markets collapse." The depiction of bin Laden's evolution from devout student to militant leader is deeply detailed and dense, and readers unable to keep up with a dissection of Islam's diverse creeds and doctrines will feel overwhelmed at times, but Scheuer's project is lucid and important. Bin Laden "anticipated a war of attrition that might last decades" and has planned ahead. He has cultivated a multigenerational cadre of between 5,000 and 7,000 loyal warriors, many from the educated upper classes. The conflict with al-Qaeda will, by bin Laden's design, likely be multigenerational, and Scheuer takes a crucial step in revealing how the West keeps itself vulnerable by persisting in demonizing rather than understanding its formidable opponent. (Feb.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Scheuer, chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999 and a consultant to that unit until 2004, delivers an unnerving profile of the al-Qaeda leader. Unnerving not just because it lays out bin Laden’s genius in luring the U.S. into a financially ruinous “war on terrorism” but also because it shows a “pious, brave, intelligent, charismatic” man fully capable of leading an insurgent Muslim force against the West, a profile at odds with the more fanatical, marginalized figure often portrayed by mainstream media. Scheuer tracks bin Laden’s life from his Saudi childhood as the son of a remote but revered and very wealthy contractor all the way to his place as one of the pivotal political figures of our time. More to the point, as he has in previous books (Marching toward Hell, 2008), Scheuer argues that bin Laden’s success owes as much to America’s ineptness in the Mideast as it does to bin Laden himself, a sentiment that should warn policymakers and citizens alike. --Alan Moores

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 1 edition (February 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199738661
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199738663
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #631,789 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Scheuer is a twenty-plus-year CIA veteran. From 1996 to 1999, he served as the Chief of the bin Laden unit (aka Alec Station), the Osama bin Laden tracking unit at the Counterterrorism Center. He then worked as Special Adviser to the Chief of the bin Laden unit from September 2001 to November 2004. He resigned from the CIA in 2004. He is currently an Adjunct Professor of Security Studies at Georgetown University and a Senior Fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, writing regularly for its online publication Global Terrorism Analysis. He lives in Virginia with his wife and two children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
61 of 68 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some good points but writing seems incomplete January 10, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Michael Scheuer is a unique personality in the field of "bin Laden Studies." He's neither liberal nor conservative, although he holds positions that please and upset both parties. However, at times he seems to have nuggets of wisdom, but his insights are limited by his passionate and occasionally sloppy communication. Osama Bin Laden bears all of these characteristics.

First, Scheuer goes to great lengths to write an actual biography of bin Laden, not simply diatribe against the man. Scheuer uses many sources both written by bin Laden or by those close to him. It's fascinating to see what Scheuer highlights that goes missing in the typical "war on terror" books. For example, bin Laden loves the outdoors and believes a Spartan lifestyle toughens soldiers. Thus, it should come as no surprise that he's survived quite readily in the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan. More importantly, Scheuer clarifies that bin Laden has never followed takfirism, or the policy of judging certain Muslims insufficiently pure. In fact, his success derives in no small part to his appeals to pan-Islamism, going so far as to chastise his lieutenant Zarqawi in Iraq for targeting Shias.

While I appreciate Scheuer's caution against rushing to villainize bin Laden, at time he goes too far in the opposite direction. Scheuer lambast anyone who accepts what he calls the "Saudi propaganda version" of bin Laden's life, notably that bin Laden as a good Saudi led astray by the Egyptian al-Zawahiri. Scheuer does point out that Zawahiri does seem to have moved closer to bin Laden's positions after they met.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Mr. Scheuer does us a great service in telling us the truth rather than what we want to hear. It is difficult to seek to understand an enemy for his merits rather than simple name-calling that portray him as that which we prefer he was. But Mr. Scheuer reminds us that it is not because he wishes to praise bin Laden, but to bury him. He argues convincingly that others have, for various reasons, misjudged and misrepresented bin Laden and al Queda. Some have done so, perhaps for political or economical reasons to cover their own failings. Others more out of ignorance and desiring to say what itching ears want to hear. Whatever the source of the obfuscation it leads to the same result - our defeat. By intentionally covering our ears and eyes to reality we have sealed our own demise. Until we learn to acknowledge this enemy for what it really is, we will never understand how to defeat him.

One such understanding is to stop referring to al Queda as simply a terrorist organization rather than an insurgency. The difference is one of organization and rational planning. Terrorists are not rational nor do they have the networked organization nor organizational skills of bin Laden. Insurgency is not motivated simply out of distrust and dislike of our 'liberal western freedoms.' It is, in the minds of the insurgents, simply fighting what it believes is a defensive war to retain or regain what it feels is rightfully their's. Perception is indeed reality and their perception is that the west is the aggressor against Islam and they do not fight for world domination so much as the prevention of meddling in Muslim lands either by western military and money or by the lukewarm Muslim leaders who cooperate with infidel powers in order to retain their political standing and foreign funding.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Subject: Briefing Osama bin Laden January 11, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Michael Scheuer who worked in the "bin Laden" unit while with the CIA has continued is interest if not constant focus on Osama bin Laden. This is not necessarily a bad thing and in his book we have what is the first objective biography of the man who has declared war on not just the U.S.A. but on all who stand in the way of the teachings of Islam of eight hundred years ago. This includes the Royal Family of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

I found this not to be the normal biography and read more like an intelligence briefing with the end notes being an important part of the book. We get a glimpse of Osama bin Laden the educated businessman, family man, farmer, Islamic solider and lover of nature. All that made him the intelligent and patient adversary Mr. Scheur pro-ports him to be. Along with his short biography is the author insight into the thinking and motivations of Osama bin Laden using the hundreds of pages of documents written by bin Laden himself and those close to him for his research.

We see through the writings and broadcast that Osama bin Laden has laid out his philosophy and plan of action and has done so in a way that the over one billion Muslims of the world can understand his reason based on their cultural and religious history. It is obvious that the author has tremendous respect for his subject yet knows he must be defeated. He points out many of the errors that are made by the western politicians and academia who have completely misread this man and his intentions. Though an insightful analysis and based on many facts there is still interpretations made on subjects that can only be known to the subject.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read
I learned more from this book about modern politics than I imagined I would. Michael Scheuer's thesis makes a lot of sense.
Published 7 days ago by Martin Stendevad
3.0 out of 5 stars pretty good
Very informative but I don't like the authors know it all attitude protraid via his words. Particularly toward the west and how he knows how the USA could have handled finding him... Read more
Published 2 months ago by JSR
1.0 out of 5 stars A book distinguishing itself by significant omissions
The author omits:

- The absence of a definite accusation by the US government against bin Laden regarding his responsibility for 9/11 (even President Bush only qualified... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Elias Davidsson
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother
A former Chief of the CIA Bin Laden unit, Scheuer does not so much correct misconceptions about bin Laden or Islam as to add new ones. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Alyssa A. Lappen
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Awesome book about what Usama wants the world to know why he attacked the USA on 9/11, the first time i read this i understood his thinking by now i know this as the story the CIA... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Jamie Michael Norris
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but now dated.
This book had the unfortunate luck of coming out shortly before Bin Laden was killed. Still Michael Scheurer is a voice to be listened to when it comes to Al-Qaeda and Bin Laden. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Conor B. Dugan
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading
I finished reading this book before Osama Bin Laden was killed by Seal Team 6, and it hasn't been far from my thoughts since I turned the last page. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Daniel V. Reilly
5.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat moot, but if only we'd listened to the author years ago
It's odd to be reviewing this book now, more than a year after Osama bin Laden was killed in a Navy SEAL stealth attack, but obviously as a historical figure, bin Laden continues... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Tung Yin
4.0 out of 5 stars Reviewing the Earlier Version Before Bin Laden's Death
This is an interesting book written by an expert of the CIA Michael Scheuer. He relates that the idea of Bin Laden being an isolated whacko not relevant to Al Qaeda anymore and... Read more
Published on March 16, 2012 by Lynn Ellingwood
4.0 out of 5 stars Bin Laden Biography
Michael Scheuer's biography of Osama bin Laden, although slim, speaks to the understanding we in the west have of a figure that can be claimed to have changed the United States... Read more
Published on February 29, 2012 by T. Kunikov
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