Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden

In This Review

Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden

By Peter L. Bergen
Free Press, 2001
300 pp. $26.00

The title makes a point: Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda has the border-transcending reach of a multinational corporation with managerial skills to match. Holy War, Inc. is a first-rate account drawing on the author's years of hard journalistic slogging. He has visited difficult places in dangerous times, interviewed scores of persons (bin Laden himself in 1997), combed media sources including the Internet, and shown a good grasp of relevant scholarly works. Bergen first describes bin Laden's early life and family ties, his time in Sudan, and his cooperation with the Taliban. He then presents the larger network of bin Laden's "secret world," tracing al Qaeda's links to the several thousand foreign Muslims -- the "Afghan Arabs" -- who came to Afghanistan during the 1980s to fight the Soviets. He also tells of the personnel and the modus operandi of different terrorist actions, including those against the World Trade Center in 1993, the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam (1998), and the U.S.S. Cole (2000). In a short afterword, Bergen argues that what bin Laden and his network are waging is closer to a "political war" against the American presence in the Middle East (and against its allies such as the Saudi government) than a "clash of civilizations."

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