tv Peter Bergen The Rise and Fall of Osama Bin Laden CSPAN December 20, 2021 11:53am-1:00pm EST
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program, the commonwealth club, and we are also with peter bergen. director of dangerous organizations with facebook to former director of research at the center and i am pleased to be a moderator for today's program. it is my pleasure to introduce peter bergen, producer of national security vice president for global studies in new america and author of the new book the rise and fall of osama bin laden. i work for peter years ago in america and particularly excited about this discussion. peter's been called the world's leading person in on osama bin laden and as we approach the anniversary of 911 it, in his new book, the rise and fall of osama bin laden, peter bergen provides the first analyzation
of the man responsible of all kinds of attacks in the united states precipitated all wars with al qaeda and his allies. and peter bergen discovers and discusses osama bin laden he was a family man and a villain and a commander and a terrorist leader and a fugitive pretty thanks to the exclusive interviews with family members and associates and documented only recently, peters reveal the osama bin laden and why he continues to inspire new generation today adi conversation at amanda of american policy for the 21st century and his etiological compared to the u.s. battles this today and welcome peter bergen. >> we did work together. for many years and it was such a great time and you are doing such great work of facebook. and with this platform and try to make sure of the benefits and
thank you. >> thank you particular time and enjoyed the book and my question is you've written a number of books obviously and the world is your oyster, for his this book right now.na >> i teach at arizona state siwas 19 at the time and al qaea and taliban and i was like well i should just read this question and the kids that i teach. [inaudible]. and in many cases, these people are voluntary's u.s. military and ultimately serve. and to me it is something that happening history.
and out of afghanistan and compat vision in iraq so in the 20th anniversary, and for decades is recording it. hundred and 70000 at least, which became an american followed by this. [inaudible]. and she has her own book coming out in 2022, these documents and truly condiment effort that he had written it every day ever since. since really osama bin laden anh i think the subsistence, in which was written in.
and i had a particular person in american fellow and the journey really get to inside this at large in the big thing that was happening was extremely concerned that he could somehow this interview could get him to think that he was one of the leaders. and i was only asking his opinion about it but one of thef larger things in the book is the wives and the thinking and the children and child psychology and the rise and the work in his adult son and them i have meetings to discuss kind of
weather that experience had these positions and rather written in an approaching the statement about that. in fact he was some kind of issues on poetry strangely. and you could see the al qaeda had this very kind of fact and he was apology by saying, never apologize for hitting americans but the muslims and asians rebranded and attacks and so additional research, and read a lot more about the continents and that they actually during the trump administration it. and really kind of this trail
that i was able to draw on. i didn't really want to write this book really, back in 2006, and he gave me this opportunity to really do this. .. mythical hero or villain, leader of al qaeda. going back even before al qaeda this is a man who comes from a large wealthy family it almost feels to the layperson like it was inevitable that osama would become the man was. how did heam become the most infamous man when his brothers sisters and parents did not?
>> great question. it's kind of a controlled situation, none of his siblings chose this path. i try not to do too much i apologize in the book including a psychologist and a don't think it's that helpful. i try and layout for the reader how this happened. it's hard to answer why. often we don't even completely understand our own motivation. try to get inside somebody's head, i try to share, i use the word to show it was one sequence of radicalization. it didn't happen overnight. it took over place of decades. the book isn't tim to document
why this shiite religious son of a multimillionaire, billionaire turn into leader of the group dedicated to killing, mass killing of civilians. this is what the book attempts to do and that's really why decided to write it. there's a variety of books i don't want to compare them but there's a library of books that hitler and hise' motivations. the last time we had a conversation i wrote a book about jihadist and you kindly hosted me at the commonwealth wclub. when looking to these cases americans adoptedal-qaeda isis like ideas i often found they themselves were not expert on why they turned this way. those cultural reasons that might get involved in jihadism but -- [inaudible]
sardis brother -- if he was here as bayou by you why did ye would know have an explanation. rumblings about american foreign policy.e lots of people or post-american foreign policy. few of them decide to launch 9/11. innocent spectators of the boston marathon. at the end you can't, with really no rational reason but there was a process and a document the process. >> let me try to get at this question without using the word why. are there a couple of specific forks in the road? i guess i'm asking for counterfactual but what are some of those choices where you went right and you might've gone left? >> the first one --
[inaudible]at tell he had a one-on-one meeting in his entire. his parents divorced when used to had other wives and four siblings. kimberly was dad has dad died in an crash. they did when he was ten he told his family and the bin laden family journal that he really began to study because of the death of his father. he becomes a religious teenager even in 1970s saudi arabia demands he kept friends about palestine when he was a teenager. it's not typical teenage behavior. in the night he was saying a second prayer, he was fasting, not a regular teenager.
somewhat in the muslim brotherhood may or may not of been in the brotherhood in the invasion of afghanistan for a secular dictator in iran by ayatollah, the attack on mecca by religious zealots. those a very significant year. and traveled to pakistan within two to the soviet invasion. for the first years of the war is going back and forth raising money. and then and 84, he went into afghanistan regretted he had not gone earlier for the first four years of the soviet war in afghanistan he was going back and forth raising money and raise millions of dollars for the afghan mujahedin
and an 84, a transformation moment he went into afghanistan, regretted had not come earlier. people told him it was too dangerous .1 of the myths the book helps demolish is whatever else he was, fighting the soviets, almost suicidal brave man. there's a wonderful book in error book written by a guy who he published the book and 91 andy interviewed of all people the afghan arabs. get access to transmissions. it's a book that takes the afghan arabs to task for their mistake. even though it sympathetic it's also a pretty reliable piece of history. of course jamal khashoggi interview these guys when he was, a young journalist in saudi arabia in 1990. he visited bin laden. another transformation moment was the battle in 1987 where bin
laden fought the soviets and out of that battle group the base called al-qaeda. and al-qaeda the base became the name of the group by 1988 a year after the battle there begin meetings to formalize the founding of al-qaeda in a more formalized manner and it was nothing there indicate an anti-american -- with the minutes of those meetings which may be anybody who's taking notes in meeting those the notetaker can put his our spin on it but the point is we have contemporaneous documents about the founding of al-qaeda. there was nothing about the united states. bin laden was at the american because of your support for israel by his own account and i believe this by other eyewitnesses in the mid to late '80s he's delivering speeches in riyadh and jetta criticizing the united states call for boycott of american goods because of its support for israel. the invasion of kuwait, saddam
threatening saudi arabia, bin laden offered his troops to the saudi royal family. he had a number of projects in this time all ofwa which did not go well. he wanted to intervene in the timeyemen which at the was a quasi-marxist state that he wanted over though. the saudi government wasn't in favor of that. they favored a unified yemen which is what happened. he wanted to intervene in afghanistan with the soviets had beenn defeated but there was a comment his government. the afghans didn't treat him seriously. they saw him as a money guy, not as a military guy which is exactly right. every military engagement that involved in, the battle, he was rescued by the afghans essentially peer to battle in jalalabad was a fiasco in which a lot of his men were killed. 9/11 was a tactical success but strategic failure.
this guy was not a big military genius by any stretch by military training and it is thought of this military organization and i think he had a big ego or something. >> peter, two questions. yoyour book documents two key. it's it's here that i think have contributed to the public understanding of al-qaeda in ways that are think are contrary to fact. one is, and you go at this very hard in the book is clarifying the arab volunteers in afghanistan in the 1980s were militarily insignificant and were not an major component of the fighting yet that experience was whatever bin laden dead. did. it was key to his mythology going forward both among potential supporters and his enemies, and then this point you just made about 9/11 as a strategic failure and a
strategic mistake by al-qaeda. can you talk about those pieces? i think those are probably going to challenge some assumptions folks listening a have. >> certainly the afghan arabs bin laden steam on the battlefields against the soviets they were you said militarily insignificant, i think that's correct. there were at most 300 at any given moment. estimates of the size of afghan fighting the soviets in a given moment, 175,000, 200,000. afghans don't afghans don't need help fighting ticket from souders with no military experience. the were people who did have military experience, the egyptians, the number two and al-qaeda, he was egyptian policemen and also had served in the egyptian army as a lot of egyptian men had. there were some people who did understand the battlefield but whatever the understanding had no impact on the war.
i think that's point number one. number two, the 9/11 attack like pearl harbor for imperial japanu it was attacked victory, not a strategic victory. it backfired. bin laden in 2004 in 20a videotape saying hey, this is all a plan to suck the united states into the middle east and bankrupted. there's evidence that was his actual plan. at the time you rosiglitazone propaganda which is the united states is weak. when we interviewed him in 97 for cnn he was comparing us, americans to the former soviet union. he readably that apply in a political pressure to the united states we will pull out and instead we invaded afghanistan to launch the iraq war, , only a basis today and kuwait and qatar and uae that didn't exist before 9/11.
it backfired spectacularly. it didn't work and people there are some people who sort of believe he didn't want to suck us into endless wars but that is really to accept his own post fact the judgment of his own failures. >> bin laden goes on the run after 9/11. he was surrounded at tora bora and when we think aboutr counterfactual and i think about counterfactual it's not so much and lots of choices but america's choices. explain what happened to tora bora for folks are listening in the decision-making among americans. because we're -- will ask about this more pointedly later on, were in the midst of this process of withdrawing from afghanistan and there was a moment in tora
the architect of 9/11 is essentially escaping the battlefield. we didn't put extra boots on the ground. there were more a journalists and american soldiers at the battle of tora bora by my count and reason i say with some certainty, dalton fury which is the pseudonym tom greer who unfortunately now dead special forces officer led the american forces at tora bora counted a total of 70 american special forces and total 70 that include two patrol patrol people from the british special boat service. i went to nic robertson at cnn and susan glasser of the "washington post" who both with the battle and us and how many journalists were there. both of them said about 100. the point is if the journalists could get their it's not like to have c-130s and apache helicopters. in fact, jim mattis in his new book interestingly, then brigadier general jim mattis, marine commander, had up to 1500 marines just outside of kandahar
and he put forward a plan to put marines in observation post around tora bora. the plan just died on the vine and is also the tenth mountain division in uzbekistan which specializes in alpine warfare. tora bora is a wintry mountainous area at the time of the battle of tora bora and they were not deployed either. we didn't try. i'm not saying if we had tried it would've worked because the mountains got up to 40,000 feet, it's six miles x six miles long. you can go into pakistan very easily. bin laden eventually escaped. it was the middle of ramadan. the afghans were fasting. everything -- the main thing is we just didn't try really in any serious way and is known to bush administration officials that bin laden was there. they said so publicly despite they can did a reinterpretation of what happened when the election came up in 2004 and they begin to all say we don't really know if hee was there or
not. if you go back on the public record cheney said he was there. contemporaneously they all believed he was at tora bora and, of course, he was. >> it's a crystallization of refocusinge on iraq and away frm the meter perpetrators ofon 9/1. and yet al-qaeda was disrupted tremendously over natalie immediate aftermath of 9/11 with eu's the is attack on afghanistan but over ensuing years. they have conducted a number of attacks on the west. their affiliates have grown and at times split off in different directions, most famously isis. bin laden ultimately winds up in the seychelles in the bottom of the pakistan not far from pakistani, pakistan's west point. to what extent while he is holed
up there in the safe us come you are thehe only american western journalist who had visited the place, to what extent is actually running the show for al-qaeda during those years? what strings did he have to pull? >> the only outside observer to get inside the compound. obviously to a lot of journalists which help you canan reconstruct an iq skills and also the hee was living. there is two ways of looking, answering your question. one is if you're running a business in the 19th century without a phone or e-mail and you are relying on messages and carried, it's hard when to run a business because messages get lost, people ignore your message pretending they never got it or they sent a reply from it gets lost and it all takes months. he was trying to micromanage his organization using a method that was hard to micromanage without face-to-face meetings or phone calls or e-mail. and so he did the best he could.
he was only intervening as you know he blocked the elevation of the cleric he brought at his elevation to become leader in human. he told al-shabaab not identify itself with al-qaeda would be bad for fundraising. one of the things he said to almost all the affiliates he was in contact with is don't try to set up a local islamic state. don't try and attack the near enemy government. to focus on the united states. that was a constant thing. he was deep in the weeds. he would write 40 page memos to his top deputy, and then the top deputy would disagree with those orders to different parts of the organization. you can make the argument he was micromanaging the organization and really still in charge or you could make the argument it was hard for him to manage because just the way he had to
communicate within a very constrainedim way. jim clapper has a good line in the book, which is telling people to attack the united states and yet kill barack obama and kill david petraeus and don't bother with vice president joe biden because is not prepared to be present but he was constantly tasking t them wh things that were preposterous. jim clapper said reading these documents reminded him of hitler and the dying days of world war ii when he was moving his army divisions around europe that didn't really exist. it's a complicated picture of a sort of delusion a guy trying to micromanage things to the best invisibility t of his ability with the tools he had. >> there's a lesson there for all rw of us that study terrori. oftentimes the only inside folks over what these people say. what they say may be deeply divorced from reality. saying you're going to blow up the isil tower doesn't you can blow up the isil tower.
i think it's a stark reminder in my mind and one of the risks frankly of some of the analysis we see now based on statements of these folks make and throughout online, the barrier to entry is so low you conservative you want. doesn't mean you can back it up. >> that is so true. bin laden is certainly, i think he famously said al-qaeda wave a flag and a freak of the world outcome and he understood that you could say things that were not really true but would produce a reaction. but in the end he died knowing that his main goal of attacking the united states again had not happened and it was not a hec end. the beginning you talk a little bit about what t is his legacy. he stole an inspirational figure even to isis which of course is in a fight with al-qaeda.
i think he lingers on as best that i think over time the half-life of people's attention to bin laden is quicker and quicker and quicker. if you look at the polling data in the muslim world it tracks rather neatly with support for suicide bombing which has cratered in iraq in pakistan because of so many victims and civilians. bin laden is public approval has cratered along with his approval for suicide bombing which was his niche tactic. i think eventually i'm pretty sure this one was written by michael garson, president bush's speech writer, great line about al-qaeda would be eventually consigned to the unmarked grave of lies and that's a wonderful line and it was in i think 2002 speech congress by president george w. bush. we're getting to the point where
may be we're getting to that point. it's not like he's the subject of great discussion now. he has entered into history. he will be on show he will an inspirational figure in the same way that stalin is still circles,onal in some but it doesn't mean his ideas are going to have a huge impact on the continuing. one of the things demanded, he kind of come he made it very simple which is it's all the united states fault, if the united states withdraws its support from a foreign turn carpets in the lease, everything will change. that theory of history turned out not to be true because he didn't achieve what he hoped. >> what would bin laden say about our withdrawal from afghanistan today? >> he would be delighted of course. the problem on 9/11 the 20th anniversary will have this split screen. in the last day or so i'm reading a caatsa taliban on
humvees moving into cities and humvees being of course u.s. military hardware which that captured in afghan government. the split screen an a 9/11 woe the taliban on american military hardware taking over i don't know what afghan city but they'veo already taken a significant city in the north or if you look at the successes they had been in the north which is not the taliban stronghold. they are making the compilation we only have the south and east, we will push from the north so we can take kabul. will they be able to do that? they have the afghan national army which is semi-competent but not great. the afghan nationals forces which are confident but rather small. militias are allif armed and rey to fight. the may be pretty tough. they would be fighting for their home territory. organizing the tajiks. ishmael khan like my wife said i
did know he was still alive. he was one of the mujahedin warlords. these guys are serious fighters and spent theirom entire lives fighting, but bin laden of course, he would say hey, , i gt what i wanted. it took 20 years. that of course, i'm speculating but he would be reveling in this moment. >> i want to come back to this because this is obviously a critical question and -- do want to stay focus on al-qaeda but first, which what is the future of al-qaeda? once you lose bin laden, there are other leaders out there that have experienced. people talk about -- is a potential leader. how do you see that organization being able to function? it's been ten years. they are still out there. we still have from them occasionally. they still conduct attacks. do they have a future?
does al-qaeda have legs without osama bin laden? >> alza we return now to be a terrible leader and a black hole of charisma and not an inspirational figure. one of the scenes in the book which appeals to you and people follow this in some detail is extent to which, and i include myself in this, people overestimate how important al-zawahiri was to this organization. turns out al-zawahiri had no role in any planning of attacks against the united states including 9/11. he had no role on the big idea which was attacking the united states. he was really focused on egypt and bin laden could care less about that. somebody done a survey of bin laden statements in the top statement is anger at the united states and anger at the status. these are the two big preoccupations, and egypt is like number 29 down the list, maybe number 32. it doesn't even feature bin laden almost never talked about and that was zawahiri
preoccupation. zawahiri spent six months in prison in 97. in 97. that was right in the middle of the embassye planning attacks, planning for the attacks on intimacy in africa. when he comes back he's a supplicant in bin laden is world, not a big thinker and bin laden uses an sort of the windowdressing for his world islamic front because zawahiri is egyptian but zawahiri did not play an important part in al-qaeda before 9/11 after 9/11 of course becomes the deputy and now he's the leader but he spends his group into the ground. ifif i was was a u.s. catecm official i would leaveni them in place. even if let's say someone took over the organization, al-qaeda, now it's a local jihadi group in afghanistan and pakistan. it has affiliates in yemen, in
north africa, affiliates in east asia and they wax and wane over time.no sometimes you may recall when al-qaeda in yemen controlled big chunks of the country. they don't now that you may recall when al-shabaab in somalia controlled a good chunk of somalia. that's not to do. that can change. these things are up and down but at the end of the day we are talking you arere in san francio and we are in the bay area and i'm in washington, d.c. here could al-qaeda carry out an attack in the united states? the answer is i think it's highly unlikely. those live in one attack by foreign terrorist organization since 9/11 in the united states, and that was the pensacola attack by a saudi military officer killed three american sailors in 2019. it's not clear if that attack was directed by al-qaeda in yemen or simply they were genuinely aware. if we'd had this conversation to use after 9/11, we would've
said al-qaeda and its affiliates despite attempts were not able to carry out a lethal terrorist attack in the united states, we would say that is absurd optimistic but that is what's happened. that isn't to say if we let afghanistan disappear into a giant civil war and it turns into a vortex of ungoverned spaces and every jihadi group in the world pours in, you know, we've seen the movie before and resolve it and iraq. the thing i find surprising is tony blinken secretary of state and president joe biden presided over that decision to pull out troops in iraq to zero in december 2011 in 3 years later the obama administration is back and back in iraq because of the rise of isis. isis and taliban are different but there some interesting similarities and a playbooks. you may recall, i know you will recall that whole campaign that
al-qaeda in iraq did to attack prisons and get the prisoners released. that became the core of isis. you have seen this with the taliban, the peace negotiations with the taliban that we essentially, we got the afghan government to go along with it even though we didn't include them and we forced them to release 5000 taliban prisoners. those most adjoin the taliban. every city the taliban goes into or town first thing to do say go to the present and to let loose tracers. there's interesting similarity between the taliban advances and isis advances of course different organizations but they are using free depressors, also using the sense that their victory -- people not fighting the taliban and he didn't fight isis. afghans have told and as a presbyters the afghan national army is weakerer than the iraqi national army was at the time of the 2014 isis campaign. if that's true it's sad.
>> peter, this is coming up in some of the questions folks are asking is, what's the alternative? we spent 20 years in afghanistan helped trillions of dollars into the ansf trying to build out a government that can fund itself and defend itself into the sorts of things. and yet we see within a matter of weeks, months it's crumbling. isn't it good money after bad to continue to invest? >> president all came up with similar answer president obama want to go zero.tssi they needed a kind of cost risk-benefit analysis. he left 8400 troops. trump wanted to go to zero. never got there but he said he was trying down and president biden is getting zero again at the end of the month. very different president and
kind of arrived at similar conclusions. my answer would be the following. following. we're stillgh in south korea 75 years after the armistice that ended hostilities and with 25,000 troops in south korea, one of the poorest edges of the world in 1953 notes one of the richest. south korea and afghanistan, it's not like they are exactly sent with our some leaders in the since 20 that long time in the grand scheme of things. if i would back a look at the history of south korea, south korea has been an authority and democracy for long time or military center. it's not like they're a democratic state as they are now. for much of their history. of course afghanistan is an imperfect democracy inon the see the government that i think our big mistake, to make big mistakes. one, treating the taliban as a government in waiting. read the united states did at as opposed to the actual government that we had supported. and it's going that come from in discussions with the taliban.
at the end o of the day if thers going to t be peace it has been between the afghan government and the taliban. peace negotiations work with all negotiations for the united states, and i think it could be managed differently. if we left -- have to leave some brains outside u.s. embassies or doesn't get overrun, but part of a palm has been a messaging problem in the sense of december first-come 2000 and president obama goes to do was point and delivers his surge speech but talk to withdraw. i cannot withdraw for long time which is at on the taliban, afghan québec, afghan people, pakistan. people take this seriously that we're leaving shortly. i think part of it, this is maybe bigger observation but the united states is an anti-empire project from the begin and and we are very uncomfortable with aspects of empire even though we are the world superpower. the fact is i do believe we have some interest in afghanistan
that we are preserving, whether that's preventing another al-qaeda rise or preserving the girls and women, kind of the rights they have received sort of post-taliban era. i say t all that because i spent time at least in afghanistan under the taliban. the population of cobbled and was 500,000 and it's now no windows with with the numbers come 4 million come 5 million. no internet services, no economy. the world bank stopped measuring indicators because there were none. in the taliban era. it was -- let's say the taliban to become the government again. there's evidence they would be if an and if the plan for real governance. they want to make the world pure and have their version of sharia law and a think that's sufficient. the good thing is afghanistan is
one of the youngest country in the world. i think 70% of the population is under the age of 25. i don't think most of those many women there's no great nostalgia for the taliban. they know what happened and but we will see. i think what will happen for sure is very nasty civil war. the weakness of the afghan national army is one thing. the afghan special forces do have some capacity but i would also look at the chic militias, who's back militias. these guys fought the brutal civil war and they fought the taliban. they are ready to do it again. instead of taliban taking over the entire country what we have condemned afghanistan to is a nasty civil war that makes the present conflict look like a croquet match. we may have to intervene again. we did it in iraq because event in afghanistan have a way of not staying there, and for a country
that is relatively insignificant, it's blatant outside role in american kind of foreign policy whether the defeat of the soviet union for the 9/11 attacks. >> when you're going through the documents that were collected in abbottabad, and i want to visit ask you about the rape itself and the development of that rate and abuse government understood the rise of binin laden and ultimately hunt for him. by skipping ahead a, little bit what was the relationship between al-qaeda and the taliban now? does that tell us anything about how we can understand? the taliban on one hand, and negotiate with us. al-qaeda would not have done that. they have had long-term relationships withh pakistani government and dealt with others in responsible or at least you know they had had discourse ways al-qaeda wouldo not.
what should we understand as the relationship and what's the same about al-qaeda and the taliban and what's the difference? these are your interests so in a state as to what of differences? >> i want to respond to one of the about the taliban peace negotiations. the taliban had no intention of making peace. they just saw, they won more of the negotiating table than the ever one of the battle to because they got us to pull out. it was a very clever ruse and one we are prepared to along with perhaps but they had no intention, they were supposed divorce themselvesge from acade. the relations remained very close. united nations is not an organization promoting war and here's the official report saying al-qaeda and taliban are very close. in fact, he even said relations are getting tighter because of intermarriage. so i mean of course the taliban
as as a pashtun ethnic group that wants to install theocratic state across all of afghanistan. that is not al-qaeda has goal. al-qaeda has a much bigger vision of getting united states to pull out of the middle east and hoping the taliban style theocracies will stretch from indonesia to morocco. i've tried to summarize the difference is what the want. one. one is a national movement with a totally nutcase religious fundamentals aspect to it. the command of the faithful means he's a command of everywhere. it's not a modest statement. he was a religious fanatic with delusions of grandeur and he was -- the differences i think are less important than the similarities in the sense -- at the documents come to estimate the documents. the documents show joint operations between al-qaeda and the taliban, the haqqani network.
the. bob michel al-qaeda funding the taliban which is interesting because you think the taliban is been more well-funded than al-qaeda. the documents show bin laden is hiding letters the weeks before his guilt, letters to al-qaeda, the main negotiator for the taliban with the americans. the documents portray a warm relationship. the documents are tenna years od now but fast-forward to the u.n. report and fast-forward to accounts of al-qaeda beyond the front lines today. i was skeptical of these groups would somehow i think people make the mistake when you think of what is going to behave like a like a rational actor because the rational actor, you know, there was a bunch i was a taliban apologists, you know who they are, brian. they always have2 the taliban will kind of, they realize what a disaster 9/11 was for them and they will just do the right thing and separate themselves from al-qaeda.
the documentary record suggests that's not true. i do think, however, it was a moment missed in 2002. the taliban were really defeated and ime think it would've it easier to have peace negotiation with them then when they were defeated and ready to talk, and that was basically, that was a road not taken. but today, the idea they're going to doda p sigar sheesh wih afghan government is ludicrous on its b face but that was one f the premises of our peace negotiations that begin in earnest in 2018. >> yeah. i have a lot of questions for you, peter. i could pick your brain on afghanistan all day. i'm going to go to the audience though. i have been summarizing a few of those questions but there are a couple of interesting. one is do you have any idea why bin laden never attacked israel over palestine? >> that is such a great question, and one of the people
that a quote in the book i asked bin laden that question directly. hannah says bin laden, he hadn't really, he just i didn't have a good answer to that. it's like he had not even considered the question. i'm trying to do my best to answer for bin laden to this question. for some reason even though israel, he started thinking about palestine when he was a teenager, and being focus on the issue, he may have calculated al-qaeda, i don't know what -- the fact is he didn't. why he didn't is sort of a mystery. if i can add t another point, which is hep really thought of new york is sort of a jewish target i think. if youen think about mullah omar was asked after 9/11, kind of like about al-qaeda is role in the attacks and he spouted
conspiracy theory about 4000 jews who didn't show up to work. both bin laden -- bin laden by the way, what are the anecdotes in the book, he named his daughter was born a few days after 9/11, sophia. why did he never sephia? safir was aunt of the prophet prophet muhammad who killed a jew and he told people that he hoped his daughter would go up to kill jews. he was a profound anti-semite and very anti-israel, but he didn't attack israel itself. it's a question he couldn't really answer when he was asked. >> there are a couple of questions that i a think .2 some of our politics in the united states right now and the terrorist threat domestically. how do we understand the continued threat from al-qaeda, international terrorist groups like that, with the rise of more domestic terrorism? the ideas may not know but early
in your career you did a lot of work on domestic terrorism. how do you compare those differences? do we everih get a bin laden coming from an american bin laden? >> interesting question. we at new america track all forms of political violence. jihadist terrorists since 9/11 have killed like 107 s people i believe, and right-wing extremists have killed 111. my numbers maybe not precise but a very close. the point is that right-wing terrorism courses been a very steady b kind of threat in the united states, and long preceded 9/11 with the oklahoma city bombing and other acts of right-wing violence. of course there's been other forms of physical violence in the united states. some people forget the 1970s
ever 100 hijackings in the taken many for criminal purposes but for political purposes. there were nationalists who detonated 85 85 bombs in the. it was the weather underground, the black panthers council political violence is not, various kinds is a fairly constant feature of american life. will it be an american bin laden? no, because you can have training camps in oregon training thousands of people and have a secret organization where people pledge allegiance to bin laden. it would be very, a very hard to do, but we do have obviously right-wing extremists. we also have interestingly one of the things we are tracking is rise of the logical misogyny as a -- we track lethal attacks and we use very conservative methodology.
so if some kind of question around ideology we don't include it but you see an uptick of that, not an uptick, sort of some black nationalist lethal terrorist attacks and you are saying some rather small numbers of leftists lethal attacks. the big problem is a a right-g extremist attacks and also jihadist terrorist attacks. the jihadi terrorist attacks tend to be obviously omar mateen killed a hundred nine people in orlando on behalf of isis. they are often more lethal bite anyway, the fbi, i think there's a narrative the only came up to this recently. i don't really buy that. anybody and law enforcement has been grayken center right-wing extremism because the people, theyhe often try and kill as he saw january 6th insurrection are police officers.
that goes back a really long way because in the right-wing sort of the totally like crazy world of the zionist occupation government and all that, they are enemies of the state and their legitimate targets. law-enforcement has been concerned about this for a long time because it's a real issue. >> peter, there are some who argue, i know, i have read the book, a book that is connecting the process of fighting the war on terror and its impact on our domestic civil discourse, sort undermine our own political norms. do you see -- what is the impact of our dedication and focus over the last 20 years in perpetual war fighting? does it have an impact on who we are and how we talk to each
other? >> yeah, i mean, i think it does. i have read the manuscript. spencer is really smart guy. i don't agree with everything he says but i do say in my book that is hard to explain the rise of trump, absence the war on terror. because if youum go back to 2015-2016 americans were polled on the issue of terrorism and they were asked a question are you worried that you will be a victim of terrorism or a family member? it was the highest number since just after 9/11 during that .15-2016 15-2016 time because of isis, the attack in orlando, i mentioned the attack at the office party in california by the married couple. isis killed 103 people in paris. there was a lot of coverage, isis beheaded american journalists like jim foley and
others. trump came up with the idea of a travel ban which made no sense from a factual point of view but was quite popular come have americans thought it was ahr god idea. i'm not including half of republicans. if you ask for republicans and there was like 80%. so the point is trump was able to use that. he didn't really talk about it as the threat receded. i thinkn he could've made more f an issue. he was involved in the end of isis and is one of his few foreign policy kind of pluses. but he really, it's hard to put yourself back in the pre-2016 presidential campaign, but terrorism but terrorism was a big issue and trump can to do that on the issue than hillary clinton because he had what appeared to be a reasonable answer which had no impact.
travel ban stop under joe biden. it's not like something with times the terrorist attacks. the saudi military officer described to killed three american sailors at pensacola, the saudi which, saudi military officer carried out the attack and he was not subject to the travel ban. the point is this wasra a solutn in search of a problem that didn't exist but it was politically useful for trump. i do think everything has second, third or consequences. trump claimed he saw a bunch of arabs shearing 9/11. that's untrue but it playedac wl with the basee so he was able to tap into this fear of terrorism that was very a real in 2015-206 and i think it was a political train. >> i want to come back, we'll have a few minutes left by want to come back to this notion of this sort of whole picture of osama bin laden as both a
terrorist mastermind but also a family man. in abbottabad he was very living with several of his wives, kids, some bodyguards. tell us about his life there and explain what, you know, american intelligence analysis special ol forces operators are kind of forgot how to attack this compound. what considerations did they have to go through as they are thinking about an assault on the compound with 25 25 people ot including a bunch of children? >> the seals were in with a little laminated card with anybody expected to see, and they didn't know how many people, you sit 25. there were ultimately 27. they couldn't have known that bin laden had two of the kids who like under the age of three with his much younger wife. they probably did know some of his grandkids were living there. the point is that they look at
one of the tells and this is interesting picked up by the near post when it took an excerpt from the book. the tell was there was too much longer on thede lines for just e one guard, and the families, 11 members of the bodyguards and families and 16 of bin laden is. when he saw the amount of laundry being processed there like there's a family through the seams have a lot of kids and adults and that sort of fit with bin laden. family man, "new york i times" n the headline was, or the review, a lot of like attacks from the right that kind of portraying such was bad and i think to change the headline to something of land like like a fullerf bin laden. the point is hitler was nice to his dog. it doesn't mean he was a nice guy. hitler was someone nice to his girlfriend, eva braun. that doesn't mean he was great guy either. the idea that somehow the mass
murder, bin laden, couldn't also be nice to his family and actually hold his wives in some high regard because of their educational attainment and there were advising him. the fact is the idea that these are, can't be compatible it's crazy because we know from anyone who studies historyd knos that wars or acts of mass murder i carried out by humans with human kind of emotions and human stories. i'm not attempting to do a sort of two-part, if you understand everything you forgive everything. that's not my intent with this book but bin laden has in history and i think, one of the few people in recent decades was change the course of history, i think we are owed an explanation of who he was and doesn't pretend he didn't have his three wives and his dozen kids and grandkids or five years when he is living in the combat in
abbottabad. that's part of then story. >> undoubtably the intelligence analyst putting together that targeting package, that is central to the story that they were -- >> the fact this guy come to people who knew ined the best ad when i say knew him the intelligence community, the fact most don't take kids and grandkids along for the ride. but people really following bin laden, that's a a tell that ts is bin laden because this is exactly the way he lived in sudan with multiple lives with her own apartments come multiple kids exact the same way he lived in afghanistan and here he is replicating it in abbottabad. so for them this as evidence. it was bin laden because the case was entirely circumstantial. they saw the large family as evidence for being bin laden being there, not evidence of in not being there. >> after bin laden was killed his body was dumped into the arabian sea. there was sort of a moment of almost disbelief in washington,
and decision-makingin by presidt obama about when and how to pronounce that he had been killed. talk to the process. i think in decision-making, because i think it's important, it was one of her only chances as the united states to shape the final legacy, to shape the understanding of how he went out. what was that process like? >> well, you know, when thing we learned from the documents in abbottabad is president obama really got the timing right because bin laden had agreed with his bodyguard -- he was paying him 100 bucks a month. they were both rebuilding saying this is a very dangerous job, you are paying us very little, we want to leave. we are leaving. the relationship gusseted bin laden wrote them a letter on january 15, 2011, saying i know had of that argument, let's get that right and what our agreement is. they agreed the bodyguards would leave as early as july 2011.
one of the reasons obama made the decision he did, what is a man leaves? it turns out he was going to be forced to leave because the house wasn't in his name. it was in the bodyguards name. the bodyguards were leaving. they were fed up. the process of obama getting to the decision, i won't come i can't get into it because it takes too longrm because is very comforted a process over a year but it is one of the classic, i mean look at kennedy's process during the cuban missile crisis. obviously the stakes were high, nuclear war, but elect presidents to make decisions with imperfect information, not perfect information. whether it was a cuban missile crisis for kennedy or it was the bin laden raid for obama, they both make decisions without knowing all the facts for sure, not least in obama's case
whether or not that was osama bin laden there. one of the scenes in the book is, there's a big discussion with people that you know in the white house situation room, mike leiter, nicholas rasmussen. wednesday 40% there, 60% the? obama cuts it offff and says its 50-50. obama made the decision. it'sd bin laden 0% there are 10% there. discussion of percentages falls since of mathematical rigor, smart people kind of put odds on and something. he made a decision without -- that's what president are supposed to do, which is you are not making difficult decisions with perfect information to your making difficult decisions with imperfect information, and that was of these cases. i think it's a textbook case of how a real process works and how busy the president the right decision.
of course biden was against>> i. >> we have less than two minutes left. let me, you in the book talking about -- [inaudible] and what happens when terrorists fade into history. is that going to happen to osama bin laden? >> i think it will. there's a scene i say, gina bennett, first on the case, attached to the characters and center, a young colleague said to her the day bin laden died, great victory. she said the worst day is still ahead for them. the young colleague said what is that? she said have you heard of the -- and the young colleague said no. which of course wasn't infamous terrorist group in 1970s of germany. ginad said the worst day is when people in a cantors and center just don't know who these people are anymore. but any to sing it for a fact, and but i think he will just
kind of received and received and received. his influence on history he didn't get what he wanted. i think he will fade over time. he will not disappear but he certainly not the figure that he was. >> c-span offers a variety of podcasts and has something for every listener. weekdays washington today give s you the latest from the nation's capital. every week booknotes+ has in-depth interviews with writers about the latest works while the we can use audio from our immense archive to look at how issues of the day -- talked with features extensive conversation with historians about their
lives and work. many of our television programs are also available as podcasts. you can find them all on the c-span now mobile app or whatever you get your podcasts. >> at least six presidents record conversations while in office. here many of those conversations on c-span's new podcast, presidential recordings. >> season one focus of the presidency of lyndon johnson. you heard about the 1964 civil rights act, the 19 safety for president to campaign, the gulf of talking incident, the march on selma and the war in vietnam. not everyone knew they were being recorded. >> certainly johnson's secretaries new because they were tasked with transcribing many of those conversations. in fact, they were the ones who make sure that the conversations were taped as johnson with signal to them through an open door between his office and there's.