Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, “L’islam revolutionnaire”, (Editions du Rocher, Paris 2003.) Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, better known as Carlos the Jackal, the notorious terrorist and mass murderer, has weighed in on the war on terrorism from his Paris prison cell. In what must surely qualify as one of the more tasteless exercises in publishing history, Carlos holds forth windily about how the United States got what it deserved on 9/11 because of its imperialist policies.

Well, as promised, Peter Bergen joins us now from Washington. He’s a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Washington and author of the book “Holy War Inc., Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden.” Well, when you listen to that latest tape, what does it tell you? You’ve heard many of these in the past; what does this one tell you?


Friday, Dec 26, 2003 The Dense Web of al Qaeda

It seems, on some levels, a simple question. After all, “al Qaeda” is a term much bandied about by the public, politicians and commentators. Indeed, it’s now one of the best-known organizations in the world.

Yet there is a great deal of ambiguity about what exactly constitutes al Qaeda. Is it a terrorist organization run in a regimented top-down fashion by its CEO, Osama bin Laden? Or is it a loose-knit group of Islamist militants around the world whose only common link is that many of them trained in Afghanistan? Or has al Qaeda, the organization, morphed into something best described as al Qaeda, the movement — a movement defined by adherence to bin Laden’s virulent anti-Westernism/anti-Semitism and propensity for violence? Is “al Qaeda” all of the above?

So Now, What About Osama? The capture of Saddam Hussein was a victory both for the American army in Iraq and the Iraqi people, but let us be clear: it will have little impact on the wider war on terrorism. It was al Qaeda that struck us on 9/11; it was al Qaeda that attacked […]

This class will examine how the al Qaeda network established itself in the United States. The class will focus in particular on the 1993 Trade Center attack; the mastermind of that attack, Ramzi Yousef; Yousef’s uncle, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who would eventually become al Qaeda’s military commander, and Ahmed Ressam who attempted to bomb Los Angeles airport at the time of the Millennium. We will also discuss the role of Brooklyn’s Afghan Refugee Center, which was effectively a branch office of al Qaeda, and Ali Mohamed, a former US army sergeant who was an important leader within al Qaeda.

This reading list is adapted from a course about al Qaeda and international terrorism that I teach at the School of Advanced International Studies at the Johns Hopkins University. Required reading for the entire course. (Relevant individual chapters for particular classes are noted below.) Anonymous, Through Our Enemies’ Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam and […]

Laurie Mylroie, the pet conspiracy theorist of the neoconservatives, long ago earned the painful debunking inflicted in the new Washington Monthly by Peter Bergen, a serious journalist and scholar widely recognized for his pioneering investigations of al-Qaida.

Americans supported the war in Iraq not because Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator–we had known that for many years–but because President Bush had made the case that Saddam might hand off weapons of mass destruction to his terrorist allies to wreak havoc on the United States. As of this writing, there appears to be no evidence that Saddam had either weapons of mass destruction or significant ties to terrorist groups like al Qaeda. Yet the belief that Saddam posed an imminent threat to the United States amounted to a theological conviction within the administration, a conviction successfully sold to the American public. So it’s fair to ask: Where did this faith come from?

Al Qaeda: The Movement In perhaps their most concentrated burst of activity since 9/11, jihadists who look to Osama bin Laden as their spiritual guide have in the past three weeks carried out a series of devastating suicide attacks in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The targets have included two synagogues and a British consulate […]

Tuesday, Nov 18, 2003 PB comment on the Night of Power

It’s worth noting that,depending where exactly you live in the Muslim world, Friday or Saturday night will be the 27th night of Ramadan, the “night of power” when the Prophet received the first verses of the Koran. It is the most sacred night of a sacred month for more than a billion Muslims around the […]