Author(s): Jason Burke
Jason Burke has produced the definitive account of Islamic militancy - revolutionising our understanding of Al-Qaeda, retelling its history from scratch and critically exploding the myths that form the very foundations of the 'War on Terror'. Fully updated with new material on Iraq and Afghanistan.
It was supposed to be the last day of the war. The Marines had pushed in to Tikrit, Saddam Husseins' hometown and, with various reporters tagging along, swept through the battered buildings for pockets of resistance. The sight of the American soldiers clearing Saddam Hussein's palaces along the banks of the Tigris was extraordinary. Only 15 months before I had watched US Special Forces hunting Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. Though shocking, that operation had at least seemed a reasonable response to the terrorist threat posed by the new wave of modern Islamic militancy. Much of my time since had been spent reporting the 'war on terror' and writing al-Qaeda: the true history of radical Islam. I had found al-Qaeda to be more an ideology than an organisation and, moreover, had discovered no link whatsoever between the ousted Iraqi regime and bin Laden. The book was written in a bid to set the record straight about 'al-Qaeda', to ensure that an authoritative, and readable, work existed to explain the nature of the threat against us. The Marines in Tikrit that day were not interested in the war on terror - future or past. They were interested in a smoke and a rest and calling home on my satellite phone. But, despite the momentary pause as the helicopters wheeled overhead and the engineers cleared bombs from the roads, everyone knew that the war, in Iraq and further a field, was far from over.
Jason Burke is the prize-winning Chief Reporter for the Observer. He has covered the Middle East and Southwest Asia for a decade, and saw many of the key events described in this book at first hand.