Top critical review
Serious Threat Built on Clerical Support and Good Organizing
on 28 June 2004
'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.