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'It is bin Laden's ability to attract recruits willing to martyr themselves that is the priceless commodity in his holy war.' Holy War, Inc. goes on to explain the roots of that capability lying primarily in opposition to any Christian and Jewish presence on the Arabian peninsula, support for this concept as a source of holy war from some Muslim clerics, U.S. support of Israel, bin Laden's role as a Muslim hero through the Afghan rebellion against the Soviet Union, a large number of rootless, educated Muslims with the technical skills to produce sophisticated terror who adhere to these views, and a worldwide network of terrorists, infrastructure, and fund-raising to support them. The book also points out U.S. mistakes in encouraging the development of al-Qaeda and its allies.
You will come away with a greater understanding of how difficult it will be and how long it will take to quell this threat.
The book's main appeal is that Mr. Bergen has visited and done interviews from most of the sites from which the terrorist threats have been developed or launched, so you get a detailed look at the views, geography, and organization involved. In most cases, not too much is known so you'll end up with scattered dots tied together occasionally where that is possible.
The manuscript was completed in August 2001 and submitted to the publisher. After September 11th, material was added to describe what was known immediately after the attacks in the United States. So you will find some repetition in the material from what you have heard on television. I found having a more complete background at one time helpful to my understanding of the roots behind Muslim terrorism against the United States. The author apologizes for the roughness and repetition in places, but felt that getting the book out was more important than creating the best possible book. I think that was the right choice.
The book is filled with names, dates, and quotes. The key points could have been made in far less space, so see the detail as providing texture rather than substance.
For most readers, the most interesting part will come in the book's beginning as Mr. Bergen describes the background to the interview that CNN did with bin Laden in 1997. You will feel like you are reading some sort of spy thriller.
Will this sort of Muslim terrorism against the United States survive the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and a capture of bin Laden? No one can know for sure, but this book suggests that the threat will continue. Sleeper agents interested in performing major terrorists acts are in place waiting to be activated. Most of the terrorists acts require relatively little financing. September 11th was the most expensive set of attacks to launch, and probably cost less than $500,000. This terrorism is run by a structure not unlike that which an effective multinational corporation would use, and has so many sources of funding that we should assume that future acts of terrorism will not lack for money.
The book does a good job of addressing all of the terrorist attacks that have occurred against the United States in the last 11 years that probably are or could be related to bin Laden in some way or other.
How can we defend ourselves against people who feel it is their religious duty to attack us wherever we are vulnerable? "Not very easily," seems to be the answer provided by this book.
Make peace with those who have hate in their hearts. Love thy neighbor as thyself.
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on 22 November 2001
Not - as I half expected - a quick tabloid exploitation of recent events.
Bergen has interviewed numerous sources worldwide. This gives the reader a panoramic view of the Bin Laden network, coupled with a genuine sense of the people involved. Exemplary research underpins the author's analysis. You may not always agree with Bergen, but you can certainly respect the book's integrity and use of argument.
bin Laden's history, the politics and goals of Islamic militantism, and the alliances, activities, and methods of al-Qaeda, are all relayed in a lively, engaging style. The subject matter is never sensationalised (it hardly needs to be), and the book as a whole is a vivid confirmation of the globalised threat posed by groups either roughly allied to bin Laden, or under his formal control.
In all, this is a highly informative and reasoned account, written, of course, from a western perspective. In what will probably be a year when books on bin Laden fill the shelves, this one will prove hard to beat.
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'It is bin Laden's ability to attract recruits willing to martyr themselves that is the priceless commodity in his holy war.' Holy War, Inc. goes on to explain the roots of that capability lying primarily in opposition to any Christian and Jewish presence on the Arabian peninsula, support for this concept as a source of holy war from some Muslim clerics, U.S. support of Israel, bin Laden's role as a Muslim hero through the Afghan rebellion against the Soviet Union, a large number of rootless, educated Muslims with the technical skills to produce sophisticated terror who adhere to these views, and a worldwide network of terrorists, infrastructure, and fund-raising to support them. The book also points out U.S. mistakes in encouraging the development of al-Qaeda and its allies.
You will come away with a greater understanding of how difficult it will be and how long it will take to quell this threat.
The book's main appeal is that Mr. Bergen has visited and done interviews from most of the sites from which the terrorist threats have been developed or launched, so you get a detailed look at the views, geography, and organization involved. In most cases, not too much is known so you'll end up with scattered dots tied together occasionally where that is possible.
The manuscript was completed in August 2001 and submitted to the publisher. After September 11th, material was added to describe what was known immediately after the attacks in the United States. So you will find some repetition in the material from what you have heard on television. I found having a more complete background at one time helpful to my understanding of the roots behind Muslim terrorism against the United States. The author apologizes for the roughness and repetition in places, but felt that getting the book out was more important than creating the best possible book. I think that was the right choice.
The book is filled with names, dates, and quotes. The key points could have been made in far less space, so see the detail as providing texture rather than substance.
For most readers, the most interesting part will come in the book's beginning as Mr. Bergen describes the background to the interview that CNN did with bin Laden in 1997. You will feel like you are reading some sort of spy thriller.
Will this sort of Muslim terrorism against the United States survive the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and a capture of bin Laden? No one can know for sure, but this book suggests that the threat will continue. Sleeper agents interested in performing major terrorists acts are in place waiting to be activated. Most of the terrorists acts require relatively little financing. September 11th was the most expensive set of attacks to launch, and probably cost less than $500,000. This terrorism is run by a structure not unlike that which an effective multinational corporation would use, and has so many sources of funding that we should assume that future acts of terrorism will not lack for money.
The book does a good job of addressing all of the terrorist attacks that have occurred against the United States in the last 11 years that probably are or could be related to bin Laden in some way or other.
How can we defend ourselves against people who feel it is their religious duty to attack us wherever we are vulnerable? "Not very easily," seems to be the answer provided by this book.
Make peace with those who have hate in their hearts. Love thy neighbor as thyself.
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VINE VOICEon 12 September 2009
Four years in the reporting and two in the writing, Peter L. Bergen's Holy Way Inc. is in no way a tawdry cash-in on the awful events of 11th September 2001 but rather a measured study of the wide-ranging influence of al-Qaeda, written by a journalist who has actually interviewed Osama bin Laden.

Bergen's book is part investigative study of bin Laden and his global connections and part travelogue of the writer's journey's around the Middle east and it is these latter parts which provide the book's best sections.

There are a few inconsistencies in the text and, depending on your perspective, these are either trivial and inconsequential and due to the book being pushed into publication ahead of schedule, or they are significant and worth exploring further, though the author does not.

Bergen automatically links Osama bin Laden to the 9/11 atrocity, which might seem reasonable to many readers but this is simply never proven in fact. Indeed, the world's most well-funded investigative agency, the American FBI, does not include 9/11 in the list of crimes for which bin Laden is accused, in their Ten Most Wanted list, due to a lack of evidence.

Bergen acknowledges that the 9/11 hijackers, whilst living in the United States, were wired $100 000 to finance their operation. Who financed 9/11 is never delved into further than that, though it is obviously of tremendous importance. Bergen is not alone in his lack of curiosity: the official 9/11 "Independent" Commission deemed the funding of the hijackers as not worthy of their attentions either.

Bergen writes correctly that Mohammed Atta goes on a drinking binge only days before crashing American Airlines flight 11 into the North Tower, which he describes as "puzzling." Surely the consumption of alcohol undermines the premise that these were religiously motivated terrorists? The actual events are more disturbing than Bergen writes: the hijackers visited Las Vegas, were indeed seen drinking alcohol and enjoying the company of prostitutes. Not exactly the behaviour of people who detested the morally bankrupt West.

Bergen also states that found in Atta's bags which never made it on to flight 11 purely by accident, were Atta's will (other suspect documents were also found). Why Atta would include this document, knowing that it would be immolated in the furnace of the explosion of the aircraft, is never considered.

Despite these errors, Peter L. Bergen's book is still worth a read for how he connects the dots betwixt Embassy bombings in Africa, hotel bombings in the Far East, the bombing of the USS Cole, the 'Black Hawk Down' events in Somalia, the first World Trade Center attacks and others. Not as in-depth as Jason Burke's superior Al-Qaeda, Holy War Inc. provides a serious introduction to the disturbing world of terrorists with a medieval mindset who avail themselves of the modern world's tools of communication and destruction.
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on 15 October 2004
I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up this book, thinking as some of the other reviewers did that this would be a quickly-put-together offering to jump on the 'books about terrorism' bandwagon. However, this book was almost at the publishing stage at the time of the attacks in New York and Washington, and so comes across as extremely well researched and put together, without the hysteria of some other books on this subject (it has since been updated to include the 9/11 attacks). Yes, it is written by a Western journalist, however, Peter Bergen has travelled throughout the Middle East and has interviewed many key figures, including bin Laden. I found this book to very informative and, I think, as balanced as any Western writer can be. I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in current world affairs, and anyone seeking some answers as to why the world is facing an increase in terrorist attacks, and how targets are selected. The historical detail is fascinating and allows the reader to follow how this movement has grown and perhaps how the world needs to respond in the future. Read this book!
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on 26 May 2002
For all those who wanted to know more about the real origins of September 11th this books provides you with increadible depth of knowledge of the matter. By far more interesting than all books written hastily after the events and it provides a background of Ossama Bin Laden which the author gathered over the years. Undoubtebly a powerful book which forces the reader into reflecting on the right questions, it enables a better comprehension of the fracture between islamic extremists and occidental capitalists.
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on 21 January 2004
In compiling this book, Peter Bergen learned of the Taliban's extreme religious vision, talked with child soldiers willing to die for the cause, and interviewed the world's most wanted man. In the late 1970s bin Laden was influenced by an extremist, international jihardist network, the overthrow of the Shah of Persia by the Ayatollah Khomeini, the peace deal between Egypt and Israel, the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He lost his father at an early age: "My father was very keen that one of his sons should fight against the enemies of Islam. So I am the one son who is acting according to his father's wishes." As Muslims rallied to Afghanistan's support, bin Laden built safe havens and rudimentary hospitals inside the mountains. The Russians killed a million people, forced a third of the population into exile and destroyed countless villages; it was a war of the infidel against Muslims. The lessons learned there are now being used to carry the war against all infidels and all the enemies of Islam with the help of about 4000 well trained and highly committed Afghan veterans the majority of whom are part of a loose world-wide network. The dual attacks in New York and Washington were the deadliest salvo in the decade long war against the US which started with the bombing of a Yemen hotel housing American soldiers. The suicide bombers were well-educated, technically savvy men who blended well with their American communities; they looked and acted like the increasingly diverse US of the 21st century. The destruction of the World Trade Center has to be viewed as just one incident in a long series into the distant future.
In this book we gain an insight into bin Laden's political views, why he advocates violence against Americans, the perceived injustices visited upon Muslims, his intention to topple the Saudi regime and replace it with rule aligned to the 7th century teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, the jihad against the American government for its support of Israel and his goal of driving Americans from all Muslim countries. Governance of al-Qaeda is through a policy-making council that makes executive decisions passed to committees for implementation. Al-Qaeda can be thought of as a multinational holding company, headquartered in Afghanistan, chaired by bin Laden and with a financial and business network comparable to an international corporation. Graduates of the training camps export terrorism and holy war to every corner of the world. The Internet allows recruitment tapes to be downloaded; websites are devoted to teaching terror tactics. Al-Qaeda is to terrorism what the Mafia is to crime.
The west is dealing with an extensive network of highly committed, very capable people who seek martyrdom for their cause and against whom a military solution is no solution. Their motto is "Jihad and the rifle alone: no negotiations, no conferences and no dialogues." For the terrorist jihad is an obligation. Even if we capture or kill the leaders, there are hordes of new recruits waiting in the wings to continue their acts of terrorism. To combat this new enemy we need to understand what drives the mastermind and his council; only then can we hope to be successful in meeting the challenge that lies before us. Peter Bergen has done an excellent job of providing us with much that we need to know. We would be wise to study this book very carefully.
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on 6 March 2003
Holy War INC is certainly a book to read for those of you interested in the inner working's of Al-Qaeda. The book successfully explores the trail of Al-Qaeda and effectively covers the events of 9/11.From a students perspective I found it to be extremely factful and useful. So much so, I hope to read it many times in the future. The book focuses on the trail of Peter L.Bergen (author) who worked for CNN and was able to meet with Bin laden, it truely is a compelling insight into Bin Ladens world. Exploring factors from American foreign policy, to the crisis we potentially face today. Certainly a must read!.
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on 16 January 2004
This book, finished in August of 2001, is an in-depth look at Osama bin Laden, and terrorist machine that he built. The author starts with a history of the bin Laden family, and then follows the development of Osama bin Laden, and the Islamist movements that he is now associated with. And then, as the story moves on, the recent wave of terrorist attacks targeted on the United States are examined with sweeping detail and clarity.
This book is something of a masterpiece. Having read numerous media reports on Osama bin Laden, I understood some, but knew that there was much I didn't understand about him and the movement that he is a part of. But, having read this book, I feel like I now understand so much more. I did find that this book was clear and concise, giving a wealth of understanding. I highly recommend it.
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on 16 January 2017
Good book worth a read.
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