Jun 23, 2002

Update on Osama’s world

Copyright 2002 Bergen Record Corporation The Record (Bergen County, NJ) June 23, 2002 Sunday All Editions SECTION: ENTERTAINMENT; Pg. E03 LENGTH: 527 words HEADLINE: Update on Osama's world SOURCE: The Record BYLINE: BILL ERVOLINO, staff WRITER BODY: HOLY WAR, INC.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden, by Peter L. Bergen; Simon & Schuster, 320 pages, $14 (trade paperback edition). Last August, when CNN correspondent Peter Bergen was finishing "Holy War, Inc.," only a handful of people in the world knew what was about to happen in New York City and Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11. Bergen, of course, was not one of them. But like many of the journalists who had spent the previous decade covering the Middle East, he knew that the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center was, in all probability, an omen of worse things to come. Rushed into print in November -- it has since been updated and released as a trade paperback -- "Holy War, Inc." is one of the best books available on Osama bin Laden, written by one of the very few American journalists who has ever interviewed him. The book concentrates less on Bin Laden's personal life than on his ideology, and on the devotion he has inspired in followers throughout the world. Those who see him as a leader and eventual martyr to their cause (presuming he is captured or killed) actually see him as a martyr already: the ultra-wealthy Saudi Arabian businessman who gave up a life of privilege to stand side by side with rebel fighters in the caves of Afghanistan. His "Holy War" against the United States has been embraced by followers throughout the world, and Bergen estimates that there are at least 100 active al-Qaeda members living in America. Global in reach, al-Qaeda's cell members are highly educated, well-financed, and outfitted with every form of state-of-the-art communications technology --hence the book's title. "Holy War, Inc." became an instant bestseller at a time when events were unfolding rapidly in the Middle East. The trade paperback edition, updated with new chapters and information, is superior to the first edition and a vital primer on the radical Islamist movement. In addition to providing insights into Bin Laden and his followers, it connects the dots between assorted terror plots from the 1980s to the present. Among them was the December 1999 hijacking of an Indian Airlines jet by the Kashmiri terrorist group Harakat ul-Mujahedeen. After a standoff that lasted for days, Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh called a press conference announcing that the hostages had been released and that the Indian government had not given in to the terrorists. In fact, the Indians agreed to release three militants being held in India, including Ahmed Omar Sheikh who, two years later, would orchestrate the kidnapping and brutal murder of journalist Daniel Pearl. Like Pearl, Bergen has risked his life on countless occasions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere in the region in search of interviews and answers. At times it's difficult to decide what is more astonishing: the information Bergen shares or what he went through to get that information. Bergen's insights are not filtered through the White House or his employer, CNN. He tells us precisely why Bin Laden's followers are so hateful of the West and warns us, in no uncertain terms, of what we may expect in the future. LOAD-DATE: June 24, 2002