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Peter Bergen


A Comprehensive Account Of The Life & Actions of Osama Bin Laden, The Founder And Former Leader Of Terrorist Organization Al-Qaeda

ISBN 9781982170530
Book Condition BRAND NEW
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Publication Date 08 Dec 2022
Pages 424
Weight 0.43 kg
Dimension 22 × 14 × 3.8 cm
Retail Price RM103.9
Availability: 1 in stock

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  • Detail Description


The world’s leading expert on Osama bin Laden delivers for the first time the “riveting” (The New York Times) definitive biography of a man who set the course of American foreign policy for the 21st century and whose ideological heirs we continue to battle today.
In The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden, Peter Bergan provides the first reevaluation of the man responsible for precipitating America’s long war with al-Qaeda and its decedents, capturing bin Laden in all the dimensions of his life: as a family man, as a zealot, as a battlefield commander, as a terrorist leader, and as a fugitive.
The book sheds light on his many contradictions: he was the son of a billionaire yet insisted his family live like paupers. He adored his wives and children, depending on his two wives, both of whom had PhDs, to make critical strategic decisions.
Yet, he also brought ruin to his family. He was fanatically religious but willing to kill thousands of civilians in the name of Islam. He inspired deep loyalty, yet, in the end, his bodyguards turned against him. And while he inflicted the most lethal act of mass murder in United States history, he failed to achieve any of his strategic goals.

In his final years, the lasting image we have of bin Laden is of an aging man with a graying beard watching old footage of himself, just as another dad flipping through the channels with his remote. In the end, bin Laden died in a squalid suburban compound, far from the front lines of his holy war. And yet, despite that unheroic denouement, his ideology lives on.
Thanks to exclusive interviews with family members and associates, and documents unearthed only recently, Bergen’s “comprehensive, authoritative, and compelling” (H.R. McMaster, author of Dereliction of Duty and Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World) portrait of Osama bin Laden reveals for the first time who he really was and why he continues to inspire a new generation of jihadists.
Peter Bergen was among the first journalists to understand the threat Islamist extremism posed and has since written a series of books on the topic, as well as the US reaction to it. He draws on a wealth of first-hand reporting over 25 years, hundreds of interviews and thousands of documents for this new work. Among the last is new material scooped up during the raid that killed Bin Laden, which has only recently been released.
This allows Bergen to describe the family life of Bin Laden in intimate detail. Much we already know, but there is still a wealth of fresh insights. A journal put together by the sprawling Bin Laden family in Abbottabad – 27 people, including wives, children and grandchildren – allows us a glimpse of the leader of al-Qaeda as he ponders how he should react to the Arab spring uprisings.
We learn of the fugitive’s tears at the bereavement of a close associate, paternal advice on how to avoid being tracked by satellites, husbandly concerns for several wives – a bizarre mix of affection and extreme asceticism. The Bin Laden children never tasted chocolate and were once led by their father on long hikes through deserts with limited water to toughen them for “the struggle to come”.
Bergen starts with Bin Laden’s childhood in Saudi Arabia. He was the son of a low-status temporary wife of an extremely rich and very devout immigrant brickie turned construction magnate. From his early teens, Bin Laden, timid and ill at ease, was seeking to live his life according to the most demanding strictures of the puritanical strand of Islam practised in the kingdom.
Subsequent chapters take us through Bin Laden’s tentative early engagement in activism in Afghanistan, the transformative effect of his first experience of combat against Soviet occupiers, the foundation of al-Qaeda as a brigade of committed Islamist fighters ready to deploy anywhere in the world, his stay in Sudan and then the return to Afghanistan, where he would plan the spectacular and devastating 9/11 attacks.
Here, Bergen makes the very good point that this operation was a short-term disaster for the group, leading to the loss of its vital haven, the death of hundreds of fighters and to a life on the run for its leaders. What saved al-Qaida was the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which did not just divert attention and resources but gave the global movement of Islamist militancy a tremendous boost.
Bergen angrily demolishes the lies that underpinned US policy under the Bush administration and for which few, if any, have ever been held accountable. Having spoken to many of the former CIA officials involved in compiling successive intelligence in 2002 and early 2003 that found no link between Bin Laden and Iraq, Bergen is well placed to nail that particular falsehood.
This is important given that one reason given by the White House for military action to oust Saddam Hussein was that his regime was somehow complicit in 9/11 (along with having weapons of mass destruction). But he also shows other myths for what they are. No, Bin Laden and al-Qaeda did not receive US funding or training in the 1980s. No, torture in CIA “black sites” of al-Qaida suspects did not elicit the intelligence that led to the discovery of Bin Laden’s bolthole.
No, the Pakistanis did not shelter the al-Qaida leader for a decade for their own dastardly purposes. Though all of this has been said before, it is still important to say it all again and refute dangerous, ideological fantasy with solid research and reporting.
Bergen does not dwell on the broader dynamics of the modern violent Islamist extremist movement and could perhaps have allowed himself a few more pages to flesh out some context, but does dive into this immensely complex field where it is relevant to Bin Laden’s transformation from devout but purposeless youth into the very focused, if often wayward, leader of later. At university, he was influenced by Egyptian Islamists from a radical fringe of the Muslim Brotherhood organisation, for example.
This is a biography and so can be read as a story of an individual’s radicalisation. Is there one single crucial factor or a particular moment when Bin Laden went bad? Of course not. He killed several thousand people and sparked conflicts that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands more but as the family details of squabbles and fears and hopes show, he was an ordinary man.
Journalist and national security analyst Bergen delivers a compelling, nuanced portrait of America’s erstwhile public enemy No. 1.
Osama bin Laden, whom the author interviewed long before he became a household name, was an enigmatic and contradictory man: He was rich but insisted on living ascetically—a fact that drove a son of his away in adulthood—and though he had the bearing of a quiet cleric, he engineered the deaths of countless thousands of people, and not just on 9/11.
Bergen resists psychobiography while examining some of the facts of his family life that shaped his personality. He barely knew his father, whom his mother had divorced, and he idealized a remote, dusty corner of Yemen, his family seat, even as it gave birth to an offshoot of Islam that worshipped Christian saints alongside Muslim ones.
In the last weeks of his life, bin Laden was consumed with the fear that, hidden away in a compound in Pakistan, he was missing out on what he felt should have been a leadership role in the Arab Spring movement—and never mind that it had little to do with his religious fundamentalism.
Throughout, Bergen turns up revealing details and sharp arguments against received wisdom: one moment finds bin Laden treating his white beard with Just for Men hair dye; another introduces readers to one of his wives, a “poet and intellectual who…played a key, hidden role in formulating his ideas and helping him prepare his public statements.”
Though intelligence presumes him to have delegated the work to lieutenants, Bergen shows bin Laden micromanaging the 9/11 attacks and subsequent operations as the Bush administration bungled its efforts to find him.
Meaningfully, the author notes that waterboarding and other torture of captured al-Qaida operatives yielded almost no actionable intelligence, and he disputes the claim that the Pakistani intelligence service shielded bin Laden from American discovery, discounting what has become the near-official narrative.
Essential for anyone concerned with geopolitics, national security, and the containment of further terrorist actions.
About the Author :
Peter Bergen is the author or editor of nine books, including three New York Times bestsellers and four Washington Post best nonfiction books of the year. A Vice President at New America, Bergen is a professor at Arizona State University and a national security analyst for CNN. He has testified before congressional committees eighteen times about national security issues and has held teaching positions at Harvard and Johns Hopkins University.
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