OSAMA BIN LADEN by Michael Scheuer


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Want al-Qaeda to win? Then let the Pentagon handle the fight against that Islamist faction, which just won’t go away.

Scheuer (Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq, 2008, etc.), former chief of the CIA unit charged with tracking al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden, writes that the Western powers have “failed miserably in every conceivable way” in containing the terrorist group and eliminating the threat it poses. Instead, its growth appears constant, while the United States, he argues, “remains largely undefended.” Indeed, he writes, the American-led handling of the fight seems almost calculated to ensure Islamist victory, inasmuch as it helps accomplish the aims of bleeding our treasury, stretching our military to the breaking point and isolating us by destroying former alliances with other powers. The U.S. government has known of bin Laden’s commitment to destroy the West and kill Westerners, and particularly Americans, since 1996, but we have come no closer to accepting that the man is serious; our understanding of him and his cause barely moves beyond caricature. Scheuer examines the various “narratives” that have been constructed and finds them wanting in the face of known realities. One, apparently favored by the Saudi government in an effort to distance itself from bin Laden, born of an influential Saudi family, was that he was a wastrel and the son of a “Syrian-born outsider,” charges that are laughably untrue. Another, advanced by Victor Hanson Davis and other neoconservatives, throws around words like “Islamofascist” and turns a deaf ear to anything the Islamists have to say about their situation, which may turn up a legitimate complaint or two. Rightist media commentators in particular, writes Scheuer, are useless but influential—“they offer politicians an easy way out.” The author paints a careful portrait of his subjects and notes the ideological disagreements that divide elements of the Islamist movement, offering a program by which to combat “a formidable enemy, one whom we have almost willfully misunderstood.”

Of vital interest to many kinds of readers, particularly those who share the author’s view that we are fighting a war that may soon reach our shores.

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-19-973866-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2010


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