In Peter Bergen’s Holy War, Inc, the reader is ushered through a head-spinning trip around the globe that serves to highlight the far-reaching effects of Al Qaeda, a terrorist organization that Bergen likens to a Multi-national holding company. While Bergen makes reference to similarities between the management of a Multi-national Corporation and that of al-Qaeda, it is seemingly not the primary focus of the book nor does it serve as a particularly suitable metaphor, especially in light of the events that have transpired since the book was released. Despite the title of the book, Bergen does a fine job setting a backdrop to the organization and illustrating how it operates in an increasingly technologically intertwined world system, as well as outlining factors contributed by the West.
It seems there are few people on the planet who are as qualified as Peter Bergen to tackle as complex a task as explaining al-Qaeda to the masses. It is a feat he has clearly accomplished though, evidenced by the fact that the book became a New York Times best seller, was named one of the best non-fiction books of 2001 by The Washington Post, and has been translated into eighteen different languages. Bergen has traveled extensively through Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to report on bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. In 1997 Bergen brought the Western world bin Laden's first television interview as a producer for CNN. It was in this interview that Western audiences first heard bin Laden’s declaration of war against the United States (1).
Due to his extensive travel and research, Bergen displays an understanding and empathy, if not flat out admiration and sympathy for the Muslim struggle. He spends virtually no effort in further vilifying the terrorists, but concentrates rather on explaining the history and motivation behind the attacks with vocabulary that is, at times, nearly poetic. This ranges from the description of the “hopelessly brave warriors who…suffered so much for their faith” during the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, to the moving experience of watching Muslim men at prayer. He reflects on how “the act of collective worship woven into the fabric of daily life is something we have almost entirely lost in the West (2). My personal favorite however, is his description of Pakistan during Ramadan where the “mornings were chilly, but by midday the sun had warmed the velvet breezes that blew the turning leaves off the trees” (3). Apart from the eloquence employed in his writing, it is still most surprising the great lengths Bergen went through to assemble a case of innocence for Khaled al-Fawwaz, the man who had first arranged CNN’s meeting with bin Laden and who was incidentally arrested by British authorities while Bergen was in London. Khaled is still being held in Britain fighting extradition to the U.S. for his involvement in the bombings of the two U.S. embassies in East Africa despite Bergen’s construct of innocence (4).
Bergen does not excuse the terrorist acts performed by al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but certainly works to explain to the Western world the factors and policies that have contributed to their justification for violence. He is critical of the U.S. Government from the outset of the book where he examines U.S. culpability for placing extremists in power and for providing an arsenal of weapons still employed by Afghan extremists today. During the brutal Afghan war, the U.S. provided political and financial support as well as stinger missiles (via the Pakistani government) to the Hizb party headed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an Islamic extremist who “consistently placed the long-term goal of Islamic revolution over resistance to the Soviets”(5). Bergen identifies Ahmed Shah Massoud, a moderate Islamic general as having been a better choice of leaders, but as they say, hindsight is 20/20. More importantly, Bergen seeks to establish the ignorance on which the United...
...Craig P. Beatty
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
If you don't know the difference between al-Qaeda and the Taliban (and before September 11 ‛01, I sure did not) or if you're a little fuzzy about where Yemen is in relation to Afghanistan, this is an excellent book. Peter Bergen is CNN's terrorism analyst and an experienced reporter. He uses a wide range of sources including his own experience to describe the al-Qaeda terrorist organization. There's even a map of the Middle East that you can refer to as you read.
But those with some expertise in the world of the mindless jihad masters and the issuance of pretentious fatwas will find this rather limited, I would imagine. We don't really get "Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden," but rather are provided with a narrative distilled from numerous news accounts augmented with Bergen's interviews and travel experiences. Essentially, we stay outside the organization (but so did the CIA). Furthermore, Bergen's "HolyWar, Inc." characterization of al-Qaeda as a kind of multinational corporation is exactly the sort of catchy, but superficial and misleading designation that irritates the cognoscenti. Al-Qaeda does not turn a profit, nor does it look to turn a monetary profit. It exists on funds raised from charities, from donations from Muslim fat cat businessmen, from bin...
...The experience of war brings out the moralities of war and the tragedies of loss and death. Bao Ninh portrays these realizations and tragedies throughout his novel The Sorrow of War. The stories told follow the central character Kien whose story shows the moralities of war and tragedies of loss and death.
Bao Ninh’s The Sorrow of War is a novel depicts the horrors that are a result of war. Kien is the main character whose life is used to depict these horrors; a soldier who’s lost all his comrades, lost his love, and lost his path. Kien’s life is made to be extremely harsh and extremely undesirable by the readers. The novel starts off with Kien gathering the remains of his fellow fallen soldiers, this gathering seems to be the trigger for many flashbacks that are jumbled and don’t seem to be in any sort of chronological order.
Some of the themes presented in The Sorrow of War are the moralities of war and the tragedies of loss and death. These are some of the themes that Ninh emphasizes throughout the novel. The title of the novel is very straight forward in meaning and is quite literal in the way the book is written. Ninh’s themes of morality, loss, and death are used to depict the awfulness and true sorrow that is brought on by war. Loss and death are shown through the slaughter that occurred with Kien’s platoon. This loss is the...
McDonough, James L. War in Kentucky From Shiloh to Perryville. Knoxville:
The University of Tennessee Press
19 November 2012
James McDonough's War in Kentucky: From Shiloh to Perryville uses exerts from diaries, letters, and
participant recollection to explore the strategic importance of Kentucky for both sides in the Civil War.
War and Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Record of the Union and Confederate Armies was
also used as a reference. McDonough focuses on the under-examined facets of the Civil War in
Western Theater to recount the Confederates attempt to gain control of Kentucky. McDonough
identifies collective leadership deficiencies on both sides and argues that 1862 should be the decisive
year of the war.
June 20, 1862, Jefferson Davis, commander of the 11 states that made of the Confederate States
of America, removed General P.G. T. Beauregard from the command of the army of the Mississippi.
Braxton Bragg was appointed his successor at a time the Confederacy's circumstances were low.
McDonough does not claim the south would have won under Beauregard's command, however,
McDonough criticizes the Confederate tactics for lack of a clearly defined...
Holywar. How can the word holy be put together with the word war? In the Old Testament though, holywar is presented in such a good light. You were going to war for Yahweh’s command. Holywar was only engaged when Yahweh summons Israel to war. Holywar was initiated when something became a threat to Israel’s loyalty to Yahweh or something became dangerous to Israelites faith. War and killing was what seemed necessary to protect Israelites from swaying towards the Canaanite religion. Holywar was only used for conquests or for the defense of the holy land.
In Deuteronomy and the books of the period known as the Deuteronomistic History which includes Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1st and 2nd Samuel, and 1st and 2nd Kings, we read about a conflict between the Israelites and Canaanites which leads to the Conquest of Canaan. Being a conquest, its justified to call it a holywar. It is described as “Yahweh’s battle’s” in 1st Samuel chapter 25, verse 28. Never in the Old Testament is it referred to as a “holywar.” Because the Canaanites were occupying the land known as the “promised land,” the land meant for gods chosen people, the Israelites, to...
Religious War in Judaism, Christianity and Islam
Throughout history, humans have had a tough time accepting other cultures and ways of life foreign to their own. The human race is a brutal and uncompromising species and when people do not respect what they do not understand, they have tended to take matters into their own hands using Gods will as an excuse to exact war. The only means of justifying their hatred and misguided perceptions is to validate that God is on their side. When one reads the Torah, Bible or the Qur’an, they can ‘choose’ to see texts under a completely different light compared to the person right beside them. The words of all three sacred scripts can be twisted and be completely taken out of context to vindicate ones feelings towards other races, ethnicities and cultures. History has provided many examples of monotheistic religious war and conquering, from the day Joshua and his army brought down the walls of Jericho all the way to where the world finds itself now with war in the Middle East. This paper will set out to answer the question of whether or not the HolyWars that have taken place throughout history were sanctioned by God himself, or rather just the works of men who felt the need to take innocent lives to satisfy their own greed. In the words of American comedian Steve Allen “If there is a God, the phrase that must disgust him...
...Many regard World War II as the best war ever, but why? It seems the one fact that stands out in American minds is that the Allied Powers were fighting against people who were perceived as "evil”, such as Adolf Hitler and Emperor Hirohito. Many disregard all the casualties and hardships and only think about the big picture: victory. Michael C. C. Adams' book, The Best War Ever: America and World War II, attempts to dissipate all of the misconceptions of the Second World War. Americans came out of the war with a positive view of all the years of fighting. This myth was born from several factors, mainly due to the overseas setting of both theaters of the war, intense government propaganda, Hollywood’s glamorization, and widespread economic prosperity. With all of that, Americans were largely sheltered form the brutal truth of World War II. Even to this day, the generation of World War II is viewed as being superior in morality and unity. The popular impressions that were held on to were that “there were no ethnic or gender problems, families were happy and united, and children worked hard in school and read a great number of books” (115).
It was a golden era when all Americans set aside their differences and united for a common cause which everyone put above all other priorities. The United States Army...
Professor W.R. Summerhill
January 28, 2012
The Devil and the Land of the Holy Cross
Laura de Mello e Souza’s doctoral dissertation began a study on sorcery in colonial Brazil during the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The years prior to the time when she began writing her dissertation many works in historiography had been published. With nothing focusing on Brazil, de Mello e Souza knew there was an abundance of information from the Portuguese Inquisition. Delving deeper into her research contained within the Devassas, a new issue surfaced for de Mello e Souza, the emergence of the colonials living religion. Merging together with folkloric European reminiscence were new contributions from both African and indigenous cultures. The formation of Brazilian culture is directly attributed to the newly formed colonial sorcery and religiosity. The final product of colonial calundu took three hundred years to evolve from the traditional European sabbat. Once she concluded her doctoral dissertation in quickly was published in 1986, and The Devil and the Land of the Holy Cross: Witchcraft, Slavery, and Popular Religion in Colonial Brazil quickly became the basis of any future investigation into Brazilian sorcery and witchcraft.
Being able to only work with the documents from Visitations, ecclesiastical inquiries, and trials of accused Brazilians that de Mello e Souza found in the National Archives at...