Excerpt from Osama by Jonathan Randal, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Osama

The Making of a Terrorist

By Jonathan Randal

Osama
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Aug 2004,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2005,
    368 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


He accurately listed the nationalities and sometimes the names of the nineteen-man suicide squad, all but four his Saudi compatriots. Osama confirmed the existence of four hijacking teams, rejoiced in the tradecraft that deliberately kept each in the dark about the others' existence. He explained their division between the four witting pilots and the Saudi "muscle" who, he chuckled, learned the exact nature of their suicide mission only "just before boarding" the four airliners to cow their passengers into submission with box cutters once the plane was in the air.[1] Osama said he knew five days in advance that the operations would take place on September 11 and had a radio tuned in ready to hear the first plane hit the Trade Center's north tower.

"Be patient," he then told his "overjoyed" guests: more was to come, as it indeed did over the next hour or so. He recounted that in the planning stage his engineering training had helped him calculate the number of likely deaths from the explosive impact of a nearly fully fueled airliner on the twin towers' metal structures. He acknowledged his surprise that they collapsed completely. "All that we had hoped for," he allowed, was the destruction of "three or four floors" where the aircraft hit and those above the impact.

And, as it turned out, indeed I had been--almost--right about his watching the crashes on television. His spokesman, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, had turned on a television set in an adjoining room and seen the first run of the constantly repeated footage of the planes hitting the twin towers before excitedly summoning Osama. "I tried to tell him about what I saw," the spokesman recounted, "but he made a gesture with his hands, meaning: 'I know, I know.'"


The specialist literature long ago concluded that modern terrorism's objective was to inflict maximum casualties with maximum publicity. In those terms Osama had succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. For days on end television screens the world over repeatedly showed the scenes of horror that consumed nearly 3,000 lives (and initially were feared to have killed more than twice as many). Yet his very success left a string of tantalizing questions unanswered. Logically, he must have realized that the United States would react--and massively. Yet perhaps his gift for meticulous reckoning finally had gone awry or his increasingly audacious acts of violence emboldened him to the point that he felt invulnerable. He had preached that the Americans were paper tigers so long and hard that he could be excused for relishing the disarray that overtook the U.S. government and kept a humiliated President George W. Bush out of Washington for nine embarrassing hours after the fourth and final airliner crashed in Pennsylvania.

Had such cocksure reasoning now convinced him the United States dared not mount a major punitive expedition in Afghanistan, where he had come to believe his own distorted propaganda claims that his Arab volunteers all but single-handedly defeated the Soviet Red Army in the 1980s? Osama was not alone in suggesting the dangers of a new foreign intervention in Afghanistan. Russian veterans warned the United States of the horrors they had experienced there. Those tales of Afghan savagery and resentment of foreigners, reinforced by nineteenth-century massacres of British troops at Afghan hands, had played no small role in dissuading President Bill Clinton and his successor from mounting a major military operation to punish the increasingly cheeky Taliban regime and its Al-Qaeda guests. (In fact, high-tech American weaponry, combined with wads of cash and local Afghan allies, initially routed the foot soldiers of Osama's Al-Qaeda organization and its Taliban protectors with surprising ease and speed in what more properly should be called a campaign rather than a war. If there was going to be an Afghan quagmire, more likely than not it would take the form of trying to maintain a modicum of law and order on the cheap rather than investing in the "nation-building" that was so doctrinally repugnant to the administration.)

Excerpted from Osama by Jonathan Randal Copyright© 2004 by Jonathan Randal. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Shotgun Lovesongs
    Shotgun Lovesongs
    by Nickolas Butler
    Nickolas Butler's debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, follows five life-long friends, now in their mid-...
  • Book Jacket: Gemini
    Gemini
    by Carol Cassella
    How good is Gemini, Carol Cassella's book about a Seattle intensive care physician who becomes ...
  • Book Jacket: The Goldfinch
    The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer for Fiction.

    Her canvas is vast. To frame a story about art, love and ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  254Cartwheel:
    Jennifer duBois
  2.  143Happier at Home:
    Gretchen Rubin

All Discussions

Who Said...

There is no science without fancy and no art without fact

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.