Osama Bin Laden

( 19 )

Overview


9/11 almost instantaneously remade American politics and foreign policy. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Patriot Act, water boarding and Guantanamo are examples of its profound and far-reaching effects. But despite its monumental impact--and a deluge of books about al-Qaeda and Islamist terrorism--no one has written a serious assessment of the man who planned it, Osama bin Laden. Available biographies depict bin Laden as an historical figure, the mastermind behind 9/11, but no longer relevant to the world ...
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Osama Bin Laden

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Overview


9/11 almost instantaneously remade American politics and foreign policy. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Patriot Act, water boarding and Guantanamo are examples of its profound and far-reaching effects. But despite its monumental impact--and a deluge of books about al-Qaeda and Islamist terrorism--no one has written a serious assessment of the man who planned it, Osama bin Laden. Available biographies depict bin Laden as an historical figure, the mastermind behind 9/11, but no longer relevant to the world it created. These accounts, Michael Scheuer strongly believes, have contributed to a widespread and dangerous denial of his continuing significance and power.

In this book, Scheuer provides a much-needed corrective--a hard-headed, closely reasoned portrait of bin Laden, showing him to be a figure of remarkable leadership skills, strategic genius, and considerable rhetorical abilities. The first head of the CIA's bin Laden Unit, where he led the effort to track down bin Laden, Scheuer draws from a wealth of information about bin Laden and his evolution from peaceful Saudi dissident to America's Most Wanted. Shedding light on his development as a theologian, media manipulator, and paramilitary commander, Scheuer makes use of all the speeches and interviews bin Laden has given as well as lengthy interviews, testimony, and previously untranslated documents written by those who grew up with bin Laden in Saudi Arabia, served as his bodyguards and drivers, and fought alongside him against the Soviets. The bin Laden who emerges from these accounts is devout, talented, patient, and ruthless; in other words, a truly formidable and implacable enemy of the West.

Acclaim for Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terrorism

"Pulls few punches...a fascinating window on America's war with Al Qaeda."
--Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

"No serious observer of the war on terrorism can ignore this scathing critique."
--Peter Bergen, author of Holy War, Inc.

"A powerful, persuasive analysis of the terrorist threat and the Bush administration's failed efforts to fight it."
--Richard A. Clarke, Washington Post Book World

"A fire-breathing denunciation of U.S. counterterrorism policy."
--Julian Borger, The Guardian

"Presents overwhelmingly persuasive evidence to buttress a host of significant and controversial arguments."
--Benjamin Schwarz, Atlantic Monthly

"Destined to become a classic in the field of counterterrorism analysis."
--Bruce Hoffman, author of Inside Terrorism

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This propulsive biography is not bin Laden for beginners, but its central point is clear. Scheuer (Imperial Hubris), chief of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999, argues that the West chronically underestimates bin Laden’s “piety, generosity, personal bravery, strategic ability, charisma and patience.” In creating a cartoonish enemy, the U.S. has “mindlessly” played into bin Laden’s plans to provoke a war on Muslim soil to catalyze a jihad to “obliterate America from within, by making it economically weak, until its markets collapse.” The depiction of bin Laden’s evolution from devout student to militant leader is deeply detailed and dense, and readers unable to keep up with a dissection of Islam’s diverse creeds and doctrines will feel overwhelmed at times, but Scheuer’s project is lucid and important. Bin Laden “anticipated a war of attrition that might last decades” and has planned ahead. He has cultivated a multigenerational cadre of between 5,000 and 7,000 loyal warriors, many from the educated upper classes. The conflict with al-Qaeda will, by bin Laden’s design, likely be multigenerational, and Scheuer takes a crucial step in revealing how the West keeps itself vulnerable by persisting in demonizing rather than understanding its formidable opponent. (Feb.)
From the Publisher

"Mike Scheuer was long the dean of U.S. government analysts of Osama bin Laden. Out of government Scheuer has continued to be one of the most original and thoughtful interpreters of bin Laden and al- Qaeda, and in this volume he has distilled his decade and half of thinking about them to great effect, synthesizing a large body of literature to produce a portrait of bin Laden that is authoritative."--Peter Bergen, author of The Longest War and The Osama bin Laden I Know

"No American knows bin Laden better than Scheuer. In this masterful and groundbreaking biography, Scheuer shatters many myths about the al-Qaeda leader that dangerously persist in Washington nearly a decade after 9/11. Drawing on his unparalleled experience and a multitude of primary sources, Scheuer correctly and convincingly portrays America's most determined enemy as a rational, intelligent, patient and pious Muslim who understands us far better than we comprehend him." --Craig Whitlock, National Security Correspondent, The Washington Post

"No individual enemy has done more to drive the direction and sap the resources of U.S. foreign policy than bin Laden, yet policymakers have paradoxically underestimated his ability and character, dismissing him as a simple demon. This book by a uniquely qualified expert probes the depth and complexity of his ideas, strategy, and leadership, shakes off conveniently misleading images, exposes uncomfortable realities, and faces the full challenge posed by bin Laden." --Richard K. Betts, Director, Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, Columbia University

"Lucid and important. Scheuer takes a crucial step in revealing how the West keeps itself vulnerable by persisting in demonizing rather than understanding its formidable opponent." --Publishers Weekly

"In this highly readable and jargon-free book, Scheuer (Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror), head of the CIA's bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999, updates the issues he had covered in his previous publications and offers a serious and nonideological treatment and analysis of bin Laden's thinking. Unlike many Western analysts who dismiss bin Laden as simplistic, uncouth, and incompetent, Scheuer portrays him as a patient, devout, and talented, albeit ruthless, leader who remains a formidable enemy of the West. This informative book is one of the most detailed biographical sketches of bin Laden available in the West and is useful for both the general public and specialists." --Library Journal

"Scheuer, 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. 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." --KIRKUS Reviews

"Steeped in detailed knowledge of the Saudi jihadist. It is a needed corrective to most of the airy generalisations about bin Laden and his followers." --The Financial Times

"Scheuer knows more about Bin Laden as a subject of US intelligence pursuit than almost any other expert." --International Affairs

"...This book is a first-class study, well argued and written for a broad audience; it retains its value for understanding al Qaeda in the post-bin Laden era... [T]his book will be the definitive biography for the future." --CHOICE

Library Journal
Since the events of 9/11, Osama bin Laden has been the subject of numerous books and articles of varying quality, but the U.S. intelligence community's assessment of bin Laden and al-Qaeda continues to be based on information before the attacks of 9/11. In this highly readable and jargon-free book, Scheuer (Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror), head of the CIA's bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999, updates the issues he had covered in his previous publications and offers a serious and nonideological treatment and analysis of bin Laden's thinking. Unlike many Western analysts who dismiss bin Laden as simplistic, uncouth, and incompetent, Scheuer portrays him as a patient, devout, and talented, albeit ruthless, leader who remains a formidable enemy of the West. VERDICT This informative book is one of the most detailed biographical sketches of bin Laden available in the West and is useful for both the general public and specialists.—Nader Entessar, Univ. of South Alabama, Mobile
Kirkus Reviews

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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199738663
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/17/2011
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 970,659
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Scheuer

Michael Scheuer was the chief of the CIA's bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999 and remained a counterterrorism analyst until 2004. He is the author of many books, including the bestselling Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terrorism. He lives in the Washington, DC area.

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Table of Contents

Preface
1. Osama bin Laden as Subject
2. Education, 1957-1979
3. Apprenticeship, 1979-1989
4. Nomad, 1989-1996
5. Organizer, 1996-2001
6. Survivor and Planner, 2001-2010
7. The Bin Laden Era Epilogue

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 19 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Size up Osama Bin Laden as Abraham Lincoln did Jefferson Davis

    Among the theses presented and defended by Michael Scheuer in his 2011 biography OSAMA BIN LADEN, three stand out: (1) Osama bin Laden has lured the USA into fighting his war on his turf (Afghanistan) on his terms; (2) At relatively low cost to himself and the al Qaeda organization he founded and leads, Osama has driven the USA to the edge of bankruptcy and so stretched its armed forces and intelligence apparatus as to ruin their flexibility; and (3) his opponents haven't a clue what makes him tick. ... What makes Obama tick? His growing up as a poster boy of Saudi Arabian education throungh university in Jiddah, his admiration for and emulation of his hard-working, pious father Muhammad bin Ladan, his ability to overcome widespread Muslim and Arab stereotypes of Saudis as lazy, devious, untrustworthy, cowardly human beings, his deep-seated sincere, orthodox devotion to Sunni Islam. And, oh, by the way, none of this is a mystery. Like Hitler in MEIN KAMPF, Osama bin Laden, long before the attacks on US soil of 9/11/2001 told the world what he was about. ... Scheuer paints Osama as a "Salafi defensive Jihadist." That is, religiously, Osama is a "strict constructionist Muslim" who applies to any infidel power occupying any lands once held by Muslims the dying words of the Prophet Mohammad: drive the infidels out of Arabia! In August 1996 he publicly declared war on the United States and has launched several devastating attacks against her. It is not only necessary to drive the United States, its bases, its armed forces, out of the land of the Faithful (defensive jihad), it is the personal religious duty of every Muslim to help make that happen. And then the USA must stop propping up through its funding and international support such evil occupiers as Israel, but also corrupt ostensibly Muslim rulers such as the Saudi ruling family. ... To fight such an intelligent, resourceful, patient antagonist, the USA must first understand him. Michael Scheuer tells us how. In his State of the Union message to Congress, December 3, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln said of Confederate President Jefferson Davis: "... no attempt to negotiate with the insurgent leader could result in any good. ... He does not attempt to deceive us. He affords us no excuse to deceive ourselves. He cannot voluntarily reaccept the Union; we cannot voluntarily yield it. ... If we yield we are beaten; if the Southern people fail him he is beaten. Either way, it would be the victory or defeat following war" (Epilogue). ... Paraphrasing Lincoln and comparing Union v. Confederacy with USA v. Osama, Scheuer concludes his narrative thus: "... if Muslims fail bin Laden, then he is beaten. We should work to make that happen. However, most of the assumptions we have about bin Laden ... are dead wrong. He affords us no excuse to deceive ourselves" (Preface). -OOO-

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2013

    Michael looks like another author, Mort Stump. Wonder if it is t

    Michael looks like another author, Mort Stump. Wonder if it is the same person?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2012

    Certainly one of the best book about sheikh osama

    If history ever had the ability to write it self down then things might have been different. Sadly honest historians are hard to find. But then again great people dont require honest historians to be recognized as great.

    The so called leaders of the so called great democracies need of indulge in self praising narcissistic charades on national television to feel "great". They need media empires with 24/7 non stop lies to feel at the top of the world. Where infact they are the bottom of all morality and humanity. The oppressed shall prevail.

    The truth shall set you free.

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  • Posted May 6, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    An engrossing, provocative, disturbing report on al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden

    Osama bin Laden's jihad against the West continued years after September 11, 2001. While he remained a fugitive, his ideas and his al-Qaeda cells flourished despite global opposition and a relentless manhunt. Now that he is dead, how much continuing influence will his legacy have? Apparently, his machinations still threaten the US, the West, Israel, Christians in Arab lands, Jews, some Muslims and Arab efforts at building democracies. Michael Scheuer, who led the CIA's bin Laden desk from 1996 to 1999, eloquently explains that defeating al-Qaeda requires understanding jihad's history and deadly goals, like driving "infidels" out of Arab lands. Scheuer deeply criticizes US actions and policy - often controversially - but his analysis is engrossing, as is his informed, historical perspective on bin Laden, a lethally skilled leader who murdered ruthlessly in pursuit of his political and theological goals. While the opinions in this provocative, disturbing book are entirely the author's, getAbstract recommends this revealing, fully annotated work as a valuable reference, whatever your politics (for readers may well be throwing things before Scheuer is done, enraged by his criticisms or, depending on their views, by policymakers' decisions). Little did he know that two months after his book's publication, the US Navy would slide Osama bin Laden's dead body into the trackless sea - where the dark ripples still circle.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2011

    Simplistic

    Held in such high esteem by so many others. I found this book lacking in many areas. If this is the best mind that the CIA had working on the cause of capturing Osama Bin Ladden, then this is perhaps why it took 10 years to capture and kill him. Better books out there on Osama Bin Laden, including the Looming Tower.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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