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The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader Paperback – Bargain Price, August 8, 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (August 8, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743278925
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743278928
  • ASIN: B000R33QW4
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.3 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,164,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Highly illuminating. Peter Bergen, an experienced reporter as well as an academic, stands out among terrorism 'experts' for his breadth of experience and clear-headedness. Bergen has done a fine job of researching and compiling a very wide range of oral testimony. What emerges is a fascinating sequence of oblique-angled perspectives, casting light on the underlying motives of bin Laden and his companions and revealing some of his less-remarked but significant adventures." -- Max Rodenbeck, The New York Review of Books

"A coherent and dramatic account. How appropriate that the short biographies of those cited are gathered under the rubric 'Dramatis Personae.' This is a compelling story well told. There is plenty of evil, but thanks to Bergen's ability to bring out the human dimensions of the individuals involved, the banality of evil is not lacking either." -- L. Carl Brown, Foreign Affairs

"Peter L. Bergen has written what will long be the 'go-to' resource . . . a chronological record of what is known about bin Laden from his birth in 1957 to 2005, assembled by stringing together statements from bin Laden and those who taught him, met him, worked with him, or interviewed him over those forty-eight years." -- Richard A. Clarke, The Washington Post

About the Author

Peter Bergen is the author of Holy War, Inc. and The Osama Bin Laden I Know, both named among the best nonfiction books of the year by The Washington Post. He is a contributing editor at The New Republic and has worked as a correspondent for National Geographic television, Discovery, and CNN. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, Atlantic, Rolling Stone, Time, Vanity Fair, among other publications.

Customer Reviews

I enjoyed the contents of this book, it is very informative.
S. Gyuris
The interviews are arranged chronologically, with some comments by Bergen interspersed to make a more cohesive and readable book.
It gives you a portrait of how Bin Laden sees himself and how he sees us.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

72 of 80 people found the following review helpful By A.L. on January 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Peter Bergen again manages to write a fascinating book that, for all intents and purposes, states the basic facts of something that has been overly complicated by politics, sensationalistic journalism and just plain ignorance. An attempt is not made to demonize Bin Laden, which is almost always the case with books on Bin Laden, which have unfortunately been plentiful and severely lacking in both substance and often out of context. What makes this book far better than the rest is that everyone can understand it and gleam information from it. I consider myself to be pretty knowledgeable about Osama Bin Laden and terrorism in general. The appeal of this book though is that the novice, the person just starting to learn about Bin laden, can gleam the same knowledge and information from this book as me or anyone else who has followed Bin Laden for years.

This book is different than most books out there for one reason and one reason only: Peter Bergen gets it. The reality is that Bin Laden is demonized to no end, to the point where fact and fiction become blurred for the average man or woman trying to learn about him. Bin Laden is a bad person, I'm not arguing otherwise. However he's not the personification of evil like people wish to paint him as. Those people do all of us a disservice because it forces us to rely on politicians to educate us. While I'm sure I will come off as an anti-Government nut job, the truth is that the politicians don't want you or I to truly understand the nature of our enemy. They benefit from demonizing him because it wins them elections, it boosts poll numbers and brings campaign donations. The facts though are far more disturbing than what politicians, from both sides of the aisle, lead us to believe.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Eros Faust on April 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I had never heard this French phrase until it was introduced in this book by Peter Bergen. It means "to understand all is to pardon [or forgive] all." The sentiment appeals to me intellectually, even though I don't agree with it. I more agree with the phrase you must to understand your enemy to be better able to defeat him.

I think it helps to know that Osama fasts every Monday and Thursday, that he arises before sunrise every day for prayer in a private mosque, that he prays five times a day, that he listens to no music, watches no television except the news, and he keeps no photographs or paintings of any type. It helps to know that he has four wives but that he has only divorced one of them.

It helps to know that he believes his father's generation is weak and that his constant refrain to his followers is "Unless we, the new generation, change and become stronger and more educated and more dedicated, we will never reclaim Palestine."

It helps to know that he counsels his followers not to wear shorts or short sleeve shirts. It helps to know that he is soft spoken and seldom "preaches", preferring to lead by example. It helps to know that his followers tend to follow the example he sets.

It helps to know that he reveres his father, a one-eyed laborer who started a construction empire that built the mosques at Islam's three most holy sites, Mecca, Medina, and the Dome of the Rock (which he deliberately bid at below cost, donating a large portion of the construction money). It helps to know that Osama was enraged when the Saudi Government drove tanks into the mosque at Mecca. The tank treads desecrated the building his father had built.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is quite a superb composition of the statements of others about Bin Laden, interspersed with very credible observations and conclusion by Peter Bergen.

The book opens with a cast of characters and ends with a "where are they now" listing. It also provides a timeline, but a limitation of this book is that it focuses on Bin Laden alone.

I have a number of notes from this excellent book:

1) The 1967 war in which Israel won was vital in showing the Arabs that it was their own inept and corrupt regimes that were leaving the Zionists in power. Also this book, at the end, where the Sykes Picot 1916 agreement highlighted in the Lawrence of Arabia epic movie, is clearly identified by Bin Laden as the start of the current "crusade" against Islam.

2) Bin Laden was a shy and polite, very religious person with a good education--the classic revolutionary (contrary to conventional wisdom, the rebels are the smart ones that see through the facades).

3) The 1979 invasion by Saudi forces to recapture the Al Haram mosque radicalized Bin Laden, as did the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The writings of Egyptian Sayyid Qutb on Islam as a complete way of life, when COMBINED with the corrupt and often decadent lifestyles of the Saudi, Egyptian, and other Arab rules, were in tandem a foundation for the radicalization of youth across the region.

4) The Pakistani cleric Abdullah Azzam was a major influence and enabler for jihadists seeking to fight the Soviets by entering via Pakistan, and the clearly untold story, in this book or any other, is the deep and constant relations between the Pakistani intelligence service, the Taliban, and Bin Laden.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews

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.

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