The world’s leading expert on Osama bin Laden delivers for the first time the definitive biography of a man who set the course of American foreign policy for the 21st century, and whose ideological heirs we continue to battle today.
In The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden, Peter Bergen provides the first reevaluation of the man responsible for precipitating America’s long wars with al-Qaeda and its descendants, capturing bin Laden in all the dimensions of his life: as a family man, as a zealot, as a battlefield commander, as a terrorist leader, and as a fugitive. The book sheds light on his many contradictions: he was the son of a billionaire, yet insisted his family live like paupers. He adored his wives and children, depending on two of his wives, both of whom had PhDs, to make important strategic decisions. Yet he also brought ruin to his family. He was fanatically religious, yet willing to kill thousands of civilians in the name of Islam. He inspired deep loyalty yet, in the end, his bodyguards turned against him. And while he inflicted the most lethal act of mass murder in United States history, he failed to achieve any of his strategic goals.
The lasting image we have of bin Laden in his final years is of an aging man with a graying beard watching old footage of himself, just another dad flipping through the channels with his remote. In the end, bin Laden died in a squalid suburban compound, far from the front lines of his holy war. And yet despite that unheroic denouement, his ideology lives on. Thanks to exclusive interviews with family members and associates, and documents unearthed only recently, Bergen’s portrait of Osama will reveal for the first time who he really was and why he continues to inspire a new generation of jihadists.
CNN national security analyst Bergen (Trump and His Generals) adds intriguing new details to the story of Osama bin Laden in this solid, well-sourced biography. He visits bin Laden's ancestral home in Yemen; traces the origins of his wealth to his father's construction company in Saudi Arabia; and reveals that his father's death in a plane crash helped push bin Laden to embrace fundamentalist Islam. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, bin Laden raised millions of dollars to support the Afghan war effort, recruited Muslim fighters from around the world, and brought in construction equipment to build better roads for the mujahideen. Bergen dispels the myth that the CIA supported the formation of al-Qaeda (though the agency did funnel $3 billion in aid to Afghan fighters) and sharply critiques the slowness of America's response to the terrorist group's rise. He also delves into the 1998 attack on the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, the planning for 9/11, bin Laden's escape from the mountains of Tora Bora when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, and the raid that killed him in 2011. Documents seized in that raid reveal that at the time of his death, bin Laden believed his strategy for bringing down America had failed. Surprising insights (as a young man, bin Laden loved Bruce Lee movies and drove a white Chrysler with red leather seats) and fluid prose enrich this authoritative portrait of the terrorist leader and the movement he inspired. Foreign affairs buffs will be fascinated. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME.
Magnificently written…I couldn’t put it down!
Exceptional attention to detail, and very thorough. This book filled on a lot of the blanks and debunked a lot of the myths…