This week's Mystery Journalist: CNN terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen
How did you do this week? I'll post another Mystery Journalist clue in Friday's post.
In January 2006, Peter Bergen released his book “The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al-Qaeda’s Leader.” Washington Life, December 2005 issue included an interview with Bergen by The Washington Post reporter N.C. Aizenman. Below is an excerpt from that interview:
NCA: Instead of writing a biography of bin Laden, you have woven together first person accounts from a wide array of people who knew bin Laden personally to create an oral history. Why did you choose to present the material this way?
NCA: What impact do you think it would have if he were caught? And would the circumstances of his capture make a difference?
PB: If he were caught it would be a psychological victory for our side and it would be a psychological blow to theirs—particularly if he were captured and given some of the Saddam Hussein treatment. But, I don’t think he will be caught. He said he is willing to die and I take him at face value.
Juliana Silva and Peter Bergen
Appeared in: 62nd annual Washington press club dinner CQ putting on The Ritz after - party on March 2006
PB: In death I think he would be perhaps an even more important figure than in life. He would certainly be an important martyr for this movement. By the way, when you were there, were there any indications that bin Laden was in Afghanistan?
NCA: You already knew a lot about bin Laden before putting this book together. As you conducted interviews and gathered material, was there anything that surprised you?
PB: Mostly lots of little things. The guy is a sort of a closet Larry King fan, apparently. He watches a fair amount of CNN and BBC, and is a news junkie. He is a big horse rider. He has a thing about growing sunflowers and was very excited that his sunflowers are bigger than the sunflowers that grow in the United States. He has been telling people that even in sunflowers, he was beating the United States. For a billionaire’s son, he’s always been very ascetic. He has rejected all American products for a long time. He doesn’t drink Pepsi, Coke, or Sprite. Even when he had lots of money, he didn’t have a fancy car or air conditioning and he slept on the floor. He also forced his kids and his wives to live the same way. When he was a free man he taught his wives to shoot. He won’t let his children drink cold water because he wants them hardened for jihad. His oldest son Abdullah, who is now back in Saudi Arabia, essentially left him in the mid-1990s when the family was living in Sudan, saying, “Look, now there are millions in the bank. Why are we living like peasants?”
NCA: After all your research, do you feel any closer to truly understanding this man?
PB: The more you know about a person, the more puzzling they can sometimes seem. And I am sure that one of the things people will say in criticizing the book is that I am humanizing the guy. But, the last time I checked, the people who attacked us on 9/11 were not robots, they were human. Their boss is a human and I thought it was important to try to understand him more.
Thanks to Cyn for reminding me that I had found this interview and pictures!