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The Age of Sacred Terror: Radical Islam's War Against America Paperback – October 14, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0812969849 ISBN-10: 0812969847 Edition: Reprint
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Benjamin, the National Security Council's director for counterterrorism during the Clinton administration, and Simon, its first senior director of counterterrorism, here argue that Osama bin Laden is not the root of terrorist evil but merely a branch. Chillingly, the authors signed the contract for this book before September 11.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“A lucid, passionate, shocking account of Islamist terrorism. Anyone interested in how the enemies of the West operate will want to read this book. And even those who are not, should.”
-Ian Buruma

The Age of Scared Terror provides a staggering account of the origins of al-Qaeda, its motives and its bloody history since the early 1990s. After reading this book no one should be in any doubt that a new and unprecedented form of terrorism dedicated to the mass destruction of human life now exists. The book is also the chilling story of how slow and reluctant the West has been to recognize and counter an enemy whose intentions are more deadly than any it has ever faced before. The events of September 11, 2001, changed the world: Ours has truly become the age of sacred terror. This book explains in great and compelling detail how those events were possible, how they might perhaps have been avoided, and how they could occur again. Everyone should read it - and be warned."
-Anthony Pagden

"Of the many books spawned by September 11, this one is in a class by itself. The authors range widely and authoritatively from history to current events; from fast-paced narrative to sharp, often original analysis; from deep behind enemy lines, where they get into the heads of the enemy, to the Situation Room in the basement of the White House where the American response is formulated (and where the authors logged so many hours themselves). In the phrase that has gained such currency since 9/11, here's a book that truly connects the dots. It does so in a spare, lucid style with flashes of real brilliance and with admirable fairness to all three administrations -- from Bush to Clinton to Bush -- that have grappled with a decade of steadily escalating terrorism."
-Strobe Talbott,
former deputy Secretary of State and author of The Russia Hand: A Memoir of Presidential Diplomacy

“With telling detail and crisp prose, Benjamin and Simon’s book may emerge as the best insider account.”—Mark Strauss, The Washington Post

“These authors know firsthand how decisions are made within the White House’s National Security Council, irrespective of the political party in power.... [A] meticulously researched, well-written book.”—Judith Miller, The New York Times

“[The] book’s most important and lasting contribution is its exploration of the relationship between al-Qaeda’s toxic message and the Muslim mainstream. [The authors] examine in considerable detail the gradual evolution of Islamist political thought, describing the timeless influence of Islamic thinkers such as the thirteenth-century theologian Taqi al-Din ibn Taymiyya and the eighteenth-century preacher Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, whose ideas form the political and religious foundation of modern Saudi Arabia.”—Ellen Laipson, Foreign Affairs

“[A] gripping account of al-Qaeda’s rise and America’s response.”—Newsweek

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (October 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812969847
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812969849
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #287,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Royce E. Buehler on November 10, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Benjamin and Simon headed the National Security Council's antiterrorism team during the nineties, and they began this book in 99, hoping to convince a skeptical country that Al-Qaeda was the most serious threat facing the West. They wanted to explain why it represented a new *kind* of terrorism, and a far more dangerous kind.
We no longer need convincing that the threat is real; we need information and perspective. The book they wound up writing is a fountain of both. Still central to its theme and its value is their analysis of what makes Al-Qaeda different. For this new breed of terrorist, strategic considerations will never limit the level of destruction they mete out, because violence is not their tactic to gain some other end. Destruction of the infidel *is* their strategy.
The first half is a crisp, brisk read jammed with vital detail on the history behind radical Islamism. That history, from the Crusades to the Balfour declaration, is ever present before the minds' eye of the terrorists, so it behooves us to know it. These are guys who know how to put together an executive summary. Without a word wasted on horrified emotion, partisan sentiment, or political correctness, they give us the names, the dates, the theologies, the actions that led to the current confrontation. You are unlikely to find a precis of Al-Qaeda's motivations and makeup anywhere as complete, concise, and pertinent.
In particular, Benjamin and Simon give the definitive answer to "why they hate us." Many social, economic, and political factors go into the level of tacit support for Al Qaeda on "the street." But the operatives themselves are motivated entirely by religion, and nothing short of the death of all Jews and the destruction of the West will satisfy them.
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52 of 60 people found the following review helpful By M. D Roberts on January 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
At the beginning of this book we are presented with the demands of Islamic terrorists at the time of the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre.
These being the cessation of all US military, economic & political aid to Israel and the suspension of all diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. This tied in with a demand for non-interference with the interior affairs of any Middle East country. In other words, the Arab/Islamic world must be left alone, unhindered, to complete it's declared agenda of the eradication of Israel from it's midst.
Whilst this book provides an excellent outline of the rise of Osama bin Laden, radical Islam and al-Qaeda, and examining the mindset and agenda of the Islamic terrorist, this abiding principle of hatred towards the Jewish state, it's continued existence & a hostile malevolence towards all those who would support it, is clearly foundational to all the terrorist entities referred to.
Early on the book succeeds in detailing the events & political failures before September 11th atrocities which should have led the US Government, the West & it's Intelligence Agencies to be more vigilant and effective in detecting & preventing the forthcoming attacks of September 11th. The writers make their points very professionally and eloquently.
The writers, both former directors of counter-terrorism within the US National Security Council have also provided an excellent study & insight into why Islamic terrorists are prepared to murder an infinite number of innocent civilians in pursuit of their goal of destroying Israel and their global agenda of Islamic expansion.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By J. J. Kwashnak VINE VOICE on March 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Benjamin and Simon bring to the table substantial experience in counterterrorism and the roots of terrorism in the Middle East. This book was timely after September 11th, and is even more so now that we are engaged in war in Iraq. Realizing that the typical reader has only limited experience with Islam, and with the Middle East, they start off exploring the ideological foundation built by Ibn Taymiyya. From this Islamic fundamentalist, others through the years have picked up the torch of activism and hatred of the west. The most striking recent example is Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. They write how bin Laden's hatred towards the west comes from his views of Islam, and many of the terrorists who participate are motivated by religion. And because of this their writings have been controversial.
Much of the danger of terrorism today comes from Islamic fundamentalists, it is not Islam that is the root of the problem, it is the way it is used by these terrorists as justification of activity. This fanaticism is not limited to the Islamic world. One has to only look at the domestic news of Christian fundamentalists murdering doctors and blowing up abortion clinics in the name of God. And once we get past this view we can look at the historical development of anti-American terror, and realize that this is just the beginning. The authors demonstrate that al-Qaeda is a master of taking the attacks steps further than in the past, showing coordinated timing and planning of attacks as demonstrated with the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Tanzania. This book presents a clear eyed view of the terrorist dangers that appear in the world today and how the ideology driving terror has shifted to fulfilling the "will of God (Allah)."
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