I finished reading Peter Bergen’s Manhunt: From 9/11 to Abottabad – The Ten Year Search For Osama Bin Laden a couple of days ago, and although the book said so much to me, I find there is not much I have to say about it. These current affairs/general knowledge-y books are quite wasted on a person like me who chooses to not read the news. But it was hard to resist a book about a man who changed the course of humanity, when it presented itself. And through the 240 pages of the book, I lost myself in the fascinating, almost novel-like story of America’s hunt for Bin Laden after he launched what was perhaps the most brutal terrorist attack in the history of modern civilization.
The book takes us through Bin Laden and the American law enforcement agencies’ long parallel paths from 2001 through 2011 until they finally converge in Pakistan. Bergen traces the beginnings and rise of Bin Laden and America’s, especially, the CIA’s consequent search of him. He tells how from Somalia to Saudi to Afghanistan to Pakistan, from the Clinton to the Bush to the Obama administration, the deft Osama gave the Americans the slip for nearly two decades. The author recounts how the Bush administration made one expensive error of letting Osama slip by in the mountains of Tora Bora in Afghanistan soon after the 9/11 attacks and how it cost them hundreds of thousands of man hours and money. He goes on the say how things changed once Obama took over and how despite his anti-war stance, he gave it his all to find America’s number one enemy.
Bergen sketches Osama’s life on the run too. Sourcing from the many documents and proofs collected by the intelligence agencies, he describes Osama’s near infallible security measures, his astute leadership skills while in hiding and even some idiosyncrasies. He offers glimpses of his family life, especially his relationship with his wives and children, and close associates as well. It is easy to imagine a Bin laden holed up in the caves or in an inconspicuous bungalow when Bergen writes about it.
While Bergen’s writing is good, he never tries to be anything else but the journalist that he is. His lines are fact-laden, purposeful with not one unnecessary word. You may well be reading newspaper reports because Bergen’s words lack emotion. However, his pace more than makes up for it, and will serve well devourers of news. As for me, I’ve said so much already, but do you notice how I’ve not said anything (significant) at all? Well, the bottom line is 2 out of 5.