Excerpt from Bin Laden by Yossef Bodansky, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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

Bin Laden

The Man Who Declared War on America

by Yossef Bodansky

Bin Laden
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Sep 2001, 464 pages

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

NOW IN HIS MID-FORTIES, a university graduate with computer skills, Osama bin Laden lives with his four wives and some fifteen children in a small cave in eastern Afghanistan. They have no running water and only a rudimentary heating system against the extreme cold of winter. Bin Laden is always on guard against assassins, commando raids, and air strikes. Had he followed the path chosen for him by his father, bin Laden could have been a respected building contractor in Saudi Arabia and a billionaire in his own right. Instead he freely elected to abandon the life of affluence and commit himself to waging a jihad under extremely harsh conditions.

Osama bin Laden is not the only Islamist who has abandoned a good career and comfortable lifestyle in order to wage a jihad. Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri -- bin Laden's right-hand man -- now in his late forties, could have been one of Egypt's leading pediatricians but gave up a promising career and affluence to fight the Egyptian government. He then refused political asylum in Western Europe (with a generous stipend) and ended up living in eastern Afghanistan not far from bin Laden.

Although bin Laden and Zawahiri are the most notorious Islamist terrorists, there are hundreds like them. These dedicated commanders in turn lead thousands of terrorists in a relentless and uncompromising holy war against the United States and the West as a whole. The bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 were the latest but by far not the last shots in this rapidly escalating war of terrorism. What makes these individuals -- the leaders and symbols of the new Islamist upsurge -- commit themselves to this kind of war?

The rise of the new radical Islamist elite is a recent phenomenon in the developing world. These leaders, from the affluent and privileged segment of society, are highly educated and relatively Westernized. They are not the underprivileged, impoverished, and embittered isolates who usually constitute the pool that breeds terrorists and radicals. These Islamist terrorist leaders are different from the typical European middle-class revolutionaries and terrorists -- from the anarchists of the nineteenth century to the Communist revolutionaries of the late twentieth century -- because the Islamists have become popular leaders of the underprivileged masses, while the European terrorists remained isolated from a generally hostile population. Only Ernesto "Che" Guevara -- the Argentinian doctor turned revolutionary fighter of the early 1960s -- came close to being the kind of populist leader these Islamists are.

To understand these Islamist leaders -- particularly Osama bin Laden -- one needs to understand their break with their past, their motivation, the fire in their veins, and the depth of their hatred of the United States and what it stands for.

OSAMA BIN LADEN, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and their compatriots, mostly Saudis and Egyptians, are the product of the tumultuous 1970s and 1980s. Their entire lives, from their early years up until the time they rejected a luxurious lifestyle and embraced radicalism and militancy, were strongly influenced by key events unfolding in the Middle East -- most importantly, the Arab prosperity and identity crisis that accompanied the oil boom in the 1970s, the triumph of revolutionary Islam in Iran, and the rallying cry of the jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Osama bin Muhammad bin Laden was born in the city of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, probably in 1957. At the time his father, Muhammad bin Laden, was a small-time builder and contractor who had arrived from Yemen in search of employment. Osama was one of numerous siblings -- his father had more than fifty children from several wives. Muhammad bin Laden was conscientious about education and advancement in life and tried to provide his children with proper schooling. During the 1960s the family moved to the Hijaz, western Saudi Arabia, and ultimately settled in Al-Medina Al-Munawwara. Osama received most of his formal education in the schools of Medina and later Jedda, Saudi Arabia's main commercial port on the Red Sea.

Excerpted from bin Laden by Yossef Bodansky Copyright 2001 by Yossef Bodansky. Excerpted by permission of Prima Lifestyles, 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!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano
    Munich matron and self-described worldly sophisticate, Isolde Oberreiter, has decided to retire to a...
  • Book Jacket: Of Arms and Artists
    Of Arms and Artists
    by Paul Staiti
    In the late eighteenth-century, the United States of America was still an emerging country, ...
  • Book Jacket: So Say the Fallen
    So Say the Fallen
    by Stuart Neville
    Noir crime fiction – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett anyone? – is an American invention...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Les Parisiennes
    by Anne Sebba

    How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died under Nazi occupation.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

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

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.