Thursday, Dec 16, 2010 The Generals’ Victory

The arrival of a Bob Woodward book is attended with rituals as solemn and predictable as those of the annual Congress of the Communist Party in North Korea—there are the three days of excerpts in The Washington Post; a few days before that the obligatory spoiler piece in The New York Times where an enterprising reporter has obtained a copy of the heavily-embargoed tome; Woodward appearing for the full hour with Larry King; the defensive comments from the institutions that have something to defend—when asked to comment on Obama’s Wars, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell demurred, explaining “We don’t do literary criticism;” the quotable insider disses, the best being General Tommy Franks on the senior Bush Pentagon official Douglas Feith—”the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth”; and the telling anecdotes about key players in the narrative, such as the one about the intensely focused General Petraeus electing to stay in Iraq rather than attend the funeral of his father.

Sunday, Dec 12, 2010 Bin Laden’s Lonely Crusade

Exactly 10 years ago this month, just days after the inauguration of George W. Bush as president, Richard Clarke, the top counterterrorism aide in the White House, wrote a now famous memo warning the administration of the challenge posed by al-Qaeda. He “urgently” requested a high-level review of American efforts to deal with Osama bin Laden and his terrorist organization. The warning was not heeded—and, even if it had been, there is no way of knowing whether the 9/11 attacks could have been prevented. The attacks came, and in their aftermath, encouraged by political leaders and national-security experts, a particular view of terrorism and of al-Qaeda took hold, and remains entrenched to this day. The idea, simply put, is that Islamist terrorism, spearheaded by al-Qaeda, poses an “existential” threat to America and the West. That sentiment was repeatedly voiced by Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Tony Blair, and many others. We continue to hear it today.

A revelatory, pull-no-punches history of the War on Terror, from before 9/11 to the present day. CNN national security analyst and journalist Bergen (The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda’s Leader, 2006, etc.) takes a critical look at all phases of the conflict between the West and al-Qaeda.

Wednesday, Nov 10, 2010 The Drone wars

In late May, some 16 miles down a dirt road from the main town in the isolated tribal region of North Waziristan, a missile from an unmanned Predator drone slammed into a house owned by local tribesmen and killed Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, a founding member of al-Qaeda and its top operational leader in Afghanistan. His wife and several of their children were also killed.

Tuesday, Nov 02, 2010 First review of the Longest War

Bergen (The Osama bin Laden I Know), CNN’s national security analyst, revisits the personality and career of the al-Qaeda leader and his immediate circle, while delving into the conflict between al-Qaeda and associates and the U.S. and its coalition

Editor’s note: Peter Bergen, CNN’s national security analyst, is a fellow at the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank that promotes innovative thought from across the ideological spectrum, and at New York University’s Center on Law and Security. He’s the author of “The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda’s Leader.”

Thursday, Sep 30, 2010 U.S.-led drone war is self-defeating

Editor’s note: CNN National Security analyst Peter Bergen and Patrick Doherty are members of the staff of the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank that looks for solutions across the political spectrum. Ken Ballen is president of Terror Free Tomorrow, a nonprofit institute that researches attitudes toward extremism.


Al-Qaeda and allied groups continue to pose a threat to the United States. Although it is less severe than the catastrophic proportions of a 9/11-like attack, the threat today is more complex and more diverse than at any time over the past nine years. Al-Qaeda or its allies continue to have the capacity to kill dozens, or even hundreds, of Americans in a single attack. A key shift in the past couple of years is the increasingly prominent role in planning and operations that U.S. citizens and residents have played in the leadership of al-Qaeda and aligned groups, and the higher numbers of Americans attaching themselves to these groups. Another development is the increasing diversification of the types of U.S.-based jihadist militants, and the groups with which those militants have affiliated. Indeed, these jihadists do not fit any particular ethnic, economic, educational, or social profile.

My testimony will consider four broad questions: A. What kind of the threat does al-Qaeda and its allies now pose to the United States? B. Who are the American recruits to these groups over the past couple of years? C. What kinds of targets are these groups likely to attack in the future, and what kinds of new tactics might they use? D. What factors are helping or hindering these group

Monday, Sep 06, 2010 Why Bin Laden Still Matters

In late January, Osama bin Laden released an audiotape praising the Nigerian who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009. “The message delivered to you through the plane of the heroic warrior Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was a confirmation of the previous messages sent by the heroes of [September] 11th,” he said.