Books

The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden


In The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden, Peter Bergen provides the first reevaluation of the man responsible for precipitating America’s long wars with al-Qaeda and its descendants, capturing bin Laden in all the dimensions of his life: as a family man, as a zealot, as a battlefield commander, as a terrorist leader, and as a fugitive. The book sheds light on his many contradictions: he was the son of a billionaire, yet insisted his family live like paupers. He adored his wives and children, depending on two of his wives, both of whom had PhDs, to make important strategic decisions. Yet he also brought ruin to his family. He was fanatically religious, yet willing to kill thousands of civilians in the name of Islam. He inspired deep loyalty yet, in the end, his bodyguards turned against him. And while he inflicted the most lethal act of mass murder in United States history, he failed to achieve any of his strategic goals.

The lasting image we have of bin Laden in his final years is of an aging man with a graying beard watching old footage of himself, just another dad flipping through the channels with his remote. In the end, bin Laden died in a squalid suburban compound, far from the front lines of his holy war. And yet despite that unheroic denouement, his ideology lives on. Thanks to exclusive interviews with family members and associates, and documents unearthed only recently, Bergen’s portrait of Osama will reveal for the first time who he really was and why he continues to inspire a new generation of jihadists.