The Secret History of Al-Qa’ida
Abdel Bari Atwan
Just when you thought that there was nothing excitingly new for you to know about al-Qaeda and you’d be better off reading the history of the IRA instead, Abdel Bari Atwan’s immensely readable and insightful 2006 book The Secret History of Al-Qa’ida comes out in paperback.
Atwan is based in London and is the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi. He is famously one of the very few journalists who has actually met the Che of Al-Qa‘ida, Osama bin Laden.
The introduction describes Atwan’s three days with bin Laden in the latter’s ‘lair’ in Tora Bora in Afghanistan in the winter of 1996. He follows it up with a detailed and authoritative narrative about the shape-shifting ‘foundation’, which is what Qa‘ida means in English.
Apart from getting a view of what happens on the ‘other side’, Atwan makes us understand how the concepts of victory and defeat in the ongoing war of terror is not the same on both sides of the warring fence. And why we should not be surprised at all that Osama bin Laden is loved and respected by so many in the world including in certain countries in Latin America.