Book Review

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

Peter L. Bergen
The Free Press, 2001 (281 pages)


This is a post-9/11 book by CNN reporter Peter Bergen about the terrorist whose name is synonymous in America with evil. The book was so hurriedly published that the index is published on a Web site instead of at the end of the book.

Bergen disputes claims that bin Laden was trained or funded by the American CIA. Bin Laden was in Afghanistan fighting the Soviets, but the Americans did not fund the Arabs or the mujihadeen directly. Instead, the CIA gave $3 billion to Pakistan's ISI, which indirectly armed both the native Afghans and the "Afghan Arabs" (anti-Western Muslims from Arab countries, including bin Laden) as the ISI saw fit. The Afghan Arabs also had a separate source of funding. The native Afghans themselves hated the Afghan Arabs, especially those in the Hizb party under the Islamist zealot Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and killed many of them.

According to this book, Saudi intelligence has repeatedly tried to bribe and assassinate bin Laden. Bin Laden also bribed Pakistani parliamentarians to vote against Benazir Bhutto. The book at one point suggests that he wanted Americans out of Saudi Arabia because he wanted the al-Qaeda and Saudi Arabia, not the Americans, to remove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. Later it says the reason is that he wants to reestablish an Ottoman-style pan-Arab caliphate centered in Afghanistan, presumably with himself as its leader. This religious kingdom would include Spain, Burma, the Philippines, Palestine, and of course the Middle East. Toward the end, the book falls back to the standard CNN line that the terrorism is a form of protest against American foreign policy.

If you've been living in a cave or bomb shelter for the past two months, this book contains a good summary of what everyone else in the planet knows by now. It also discusses the terrorist organization in Yemen and Egypt. If you must read this book, read it fast before the United States military finds him and some soldier from Fort Worth, Texas sends this son of a bitch (bin Laden, that is, not the author) to hell.

November 15, 2001 Back