“Holy War, Inc.” the Book by Peter Bergen Essay (Critical Writing)

August 17, 2021 by Essay Writer

Peter Bergen’s argument and how it develops in the text

Peter Bergen’s book, Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden, tries to understand Osama bin Laden psychologically and the way his influence over the Muslim world controls and leads al Qaeda. The text tries to show the onset and drive of bin Laden’s radicalness and his objectives. The author refutes that poverty is the cause of the almost euphoric following bin Laden’s commands (Bergen 34). He argues that poverty is all around the world and has not necessarily resulted in terror activities. According to the way information has been put together, the author shows a belief that understanding the thinking of bin Laden will help the fight against terror (Bergen, 28).

Therefore, one needs to understand how this argument is developed. All the research and interviews carried out by Bergen are all based on one context, to understand bin, Laden. Bergen (a) (55) states that bin Laden claimed he was continuing his father’s wishes and that his father said that “one of his sons would fight enemies of Islam”. This clearly shows that the death of bin Laden’s father, while he was still a boy, does not in any way psychologically affect and create the perceptions against America within bin Laden. With regards to the author’s primary argument and purpose of the book, Bergen is clearly not in accordance with explaining people’s actions with psychological explanations especially when the contact with them is very minimal (Bergen et al, 435). To him, this is insignificant and cannot truly hold weight over the information being passed on to people. Bergen’s argument on this matter is strengthened by the claims by people within bin Laden’s close family that they reject him and do not share his beliefs even though not outrightly on a wide public stage (Forest 55).

Bergen’s arguments on this matter can be said to be able to explain bin Laden’s beliefs. Bergen recounts that bin Laden’s ideologies are largely influenced by a number of very religious older men in his life from a very young age, his father included and most notably Abdullah Azzam his Islamic studies teacher at the university; and his other teacher Muhammad Qutb brother to Sayyid Qutb author of the book Milestones or Signposts-depending on how it is translated [Ma’alim fi’I’Tariq] – considered the ‘what is to be done’, the ‘Lenin of the Muslim world (Bergen (b) 258). Based on these scholars and the interpretation of the book, bin Laden’s ideologies that jihad should not be defensive but offensive. Bergen further argues that bin Laden cannot lay claim to being a religious scholar, rather he has used what other Pakistani clerics, Afghan clerics, and Saudi clerics have said and given him, to invoke fatwa (Bergen (b) 378).

He has used these clerics as a cover. Therefore it is evident that bin Laden’s ideologies and beliefs are not psychological or from a religiously scholarly point of view (Forest 552). Bin laden as observed from Bergen’s book is by and large an influence over people so as to achieve his desires and wishes to create a caliphate to rule over the whole Muslim world. This is in line with Abdullah Azzam’s views that the jihadis “not just about taking back Afghanistan; but retaking back the whole Muslim world region from Tashkent and Samarkand; and even Andalusia (southern Spain), which after all hasn’t been Muslim territory for a long time” (Bergen (a) 321). His claims to be a scholar are nonexistent and apart from his time at the King Abdul-Aziz University in Jeddah under his Islamic teachers, his times spent in Sudan, Peshawar in Pakistan, and in Afghanistan against the Soviet invasion. Bin laden’s view is a very “expansionist view of jihad” (Bergen (a) 128).

Bergen illustrates bin Laden’s interest is not in any way driven by creating or converting everyone into a Muslim state rather restoring the former Muslim caliphate. Bergen points out that bin Laden is driven mostly by political and religious factors; “he funded the Afghan Arabs in their war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan; opposes the presence of “infidels” in the Arabian Peninsula; and once called for a boycott against American goods because of the United States’ support of Israel” (Bergen (b) 72). these are some of the instances where his ideologies have shown their beginning. Bergen also adds that bin Laden is utterly convinced that America wants to take over the Muslim world. Bergen’s assumptions or suggestions about bin Laden’s interest and what he truly wants to achieve based on his statements calling for a change in American policies especially foreign policy. Bergen says that bin Laden is not interested in what America does back at home but his objectives that have political undertones are all-encompassing

Key findings of Holy War Inc.

One of the key findings in the text Holy War Inc. is that bin Laden and his al Qaeda network are just not only fighting to kick out America from Afghanistan but to drive them out of the Muslim world. This is albeit the most fundamental finding uncovered by the text as the author states that bin Laden declared this himself during the interview itself. Another finding of the thinking of al Qaeda is that the terror group is on the brink of a “political war” rather than a “clash of civilizations” with America in the Middle East and its allies (Bergen (a), 15).

The Holy War Inc. points out where bin Laden got influenced. According to Bergen, the year’s bin Laden spent at the King Abdul-Aziz University in Jeddah was a turning point in his perception of America and the development of his radicalness. It points out the dedication among Islamists to restore a caliphate, a supreme government over the whole Muslim world. Out of this perception, there has arisen the commitment to wage jihad not only defensively but also offensively ‘attacking the infidels’ against any enemy of Islam (Bergen (a) 83). The text points out that bin Laden wants to restore the caliphate that once existed in the 7th century “when the perfect Islamic state was from the north African Coast of the Atlantic to northern India” (Bergen (a), 73).Bin Laden comes out as portraying Afghanistan as the perfect Islamic state. He urges his followers and all Muslims to “all make Hijra to Afghanistan and come to the perfect Islamic state where Mullah Omar, the commander of the faithful, has created a perfect state” (Bergen, 271). According to Bergen, bin Laden is somehow becoming rather pretentious, pompous, and imposing in his thinking by trying to pass Afghanistan as the 21st century Medina (Bergen (a) 211).

Sources relied upon by the author for information

Bergen in his text uses a wide array of sources to get factual information so as to give credence to his text. Bergen’s journalistic skill has taken him deep into Afghanistan where he relies on the interviews he carried out there during his research for material for the text. The sources mentioned all throughout the text give credence to it (Bergen (a) 37). His interview of Osama bin Laden in 1997 provides more weight to the subject of the text since bin Laden himself can be said to have been the utmost authority on matters reflecting on the machinations of the al Qaeda. Bergen combines and balances the sources he gets information from in Afghanistan, past scholarly works on the subject of terrorism plus combing of media sources which includes the internet, to come up with comprehensive information (Bergen et al. 76). The sources to Bergen’s information seem balanced as all the text is consistent in its reporting of events and happenings such as bin Laden’s early life, family ties, and his time in Sudan; the modes of operations of terror actions such as the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center and the 1998 bombings of U.S embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the U.S.S. Cole (2000) (Bergen (a) 78).

Does the author exhibit a particular bias and impart certain values and what is its influence on the argument?

All through the text, there is no indication of the book being biased or bearing undertones of biasness. Bergen sets out to understand bin Laden’s mind and how it works. The book cannot claim to not influence the reader but on the other hand, if any biasness can be pointed out within the text it is unintentional and does not in any way influence the author’s arguments (Neumann, 177). Bergen definitely imparts certain values in the reader and this is unavoidable as his mission was to make people understand bin Laden and thereby be able to counter the threat he poses to world peace (Forest 55). The reason for biasness not being outrightly evident is due to the way information has been researched and compiled together. All through the text, Bergen constantly gives backing of his information by stating who he interviewed and their standing or position (Neumann, 47).

Most of his sources are people of authority in their particular areas and are able to give factual information. Even bin Laden himself can be said to be a person of authority in his area; since he alone knows what his ideologies are and he holds the influence of multitudes of radical Islamists just like him. If anyone can give an insight into the mind of bin Laden, then it is bin Laden himself. For that reason, the author’s position and argument plus the evidence illustrated within the text is still intact from the beginning of the text to the end and does not lose track of what is being built up to (Bergen, et al. 100).

This state of affairs brings out a very convincing text in this field of study. No other book has been able to give an in-depth account of bin Laden’s secret world. Bergen’s arguments are convincing and it is more or less impossible to come up with counter-arguments to refute his argument. Bergen’s text is not merely a manuscript meant to assume or suggest that something is true or exists, especially as the basis of an argument or theory but a factual and contextual based text (Bergen (a) 98).

Strengths and limitation of the book

One of the strongest points of this book is the author’s ability to not only take the reader through the important facts and stages brought out about bin laden’s life plus their historical background, but it also provides an analysis of the larger political context inside the world politics. For example, the analysis of the deliberately calculated significance of Stinger missiles today, in the past, and in the coming future. Bergen’s ability to strike a perfect balance between two absurdities brought out by war; on one hand, the natural urge in people to dehumanize one’s enemies, while on the other hand need to understand the cause of conflict and the perpetrators themselves (Bergen et al 112). This clearly outlined paradox provides a very vital strong point to the text and the information it passes along to the reader. By being able to do this, all information contained within the text comes out factual and correct therefore not able to be refuted or disclaimed by anyone as wrong or misleading. Bergen’s investigative journalistic nature and his knack to search for information brought out in the text through the information obtained deep in Afghanistan also add to the strengths of the book (Bergen 278).

A limitation that has openly manifested itself is the use of the “Holy War, Inc.” as a model. The author has extensively throughout the text shown the machinations of Al-Qaeda by using multinational corporations as models. There are very wide conflicting parallels between these two entities that are at variance with each other. For example, the leader-‘CEO’- of a terror cell does not wield complete control over it, there is no realization of profit margins or other objective actions. Profits are not of the essence (Neumann, 167). Therefore no equivalence and similarity can be seen or drawn to players in the corporate world, due to fragmentation and factionalization of the group’s ideologies and purpose. Therefore the use of corporations as models does not effectively pass on the intended message and basing understanding of how terrorist networks work on this is not possible (Bergen (a) 301).

Nature of the threat posed by al-Qaeda and possible ways of dealing with this threat

Bergen started writing this book before the 9/11 attacks and published it after the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center with a few changes here and there to make certain information current and relevant. Bergen adequately deals with the nature of the threat posed by al-Qaeda and suggests possible ways of dealing with this threat. From the text, one of the most convincing attributes of Bergen is his asserting that only one action is sure of combating the terrorist threat in the world today (Bergen et al 82). This action would be to strike a blow against terrorism by eliminating training camps set up all over Afghanistan and around the world (Forest 455). All through the text the author extensively deals with the paradox brought out by war. According to him, bin Laden shows very minimal interest in the divide created between secularism and modern cosmopolitanism as observed from the West and Islamic culture.

Recommendation and appropriate audience

This text is a good source of information despite its somehow conspicuous or vulgar display of wealth and success, specially designed to impress people in some cases and instances of incompleteness on the author’s part while discussing the certain issue. It is to an extent a helpful guide into understanding bin Laden and his organization from a new perspective as an organization with all the machinations of a corporate entity rather than the ragtag groupings witnessed in earlier decades (Forest 149). Bergen further explains that the group has exploited 21st-century communication systems and weapon technology in the service of a medieval interpretation of the Koran and Jihad. This text is a must-have and indispensable reading for anyone committed to the survival or continuing effectiveness of world peace. It provides an understanding of “tomorrow’s terrorist threats and the militant Islamist movements that could determine the fate of governments — and human lives — the world over” (Bergen, et al. 66).

Works Cited

Bergen, Peter et al. Bombers, bank accounts, and bleedout: al-Qaida’s road in and out of Iraq. New York: DIANE Publishing, 2009. Print.

Bergen, Peter (a). Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama Bin Laden. New Jersey: Simon & Schuster, 2001. Print.

Bergen, Peter (a). The Osama Bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of Al Qaeda’s Leader. New Jersey: Simon & Schuster, 2006. Print.

Forest, James. Countering terrorism and insurgency in the 21st century: international perspectives. Lessons from the fight against terrorism. Kent: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007. Print.

Neumann, Peter. Old & new terrorism. New York: Polity, 2009. Print.

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