Book Review: ‘American Jihad,’ ‘Holy War, Inc.’

Reprinted from The Atlantic
By K. Daniel Glover

Tragedy has inspired many a publishing frenzy throughout history, and so it has been with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Publishers eager to capitalize on public interest in every aspect of the most deadly strike on U.S. soil are rushing an array of books onto shelves everywhere.

Just type the keywords “September 11” or “terrorism” into the search engine at for a foretaste of the terrorism-related tomes to come. The choices there include everything from compilations of heroic stories, photographs and even newspapers’ Sept. 12 front pages, to collections of post-attack poetry by teens and policy essays by intellectuals. Many of the books are new; some are older titles that have been updated to reflect last year’s attack.

The sheer number of books about terrorists already in print or coming to a bookstore near you soon presents a challenge for the discriminating reader. But those in search of comprehensive reads on the evil that saturates America and the world should have at least two books on their lists: “American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us,” by Steven Emerson, and “Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden,” by Peter L. Bergen.

Emerson’s treatise, as its title indicates, details the success that the new enemies of the United States have had in infiltrating American society. Bergen’s book is narrower in the sense that it focuses on the world’s most-wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, and his al Qaeda network. But “Holy War, Inc.” actually takes a more in-depth look at terrorism on a global scale than does “American Jihad.”

Together, the books effectively detail a threat that will influence public policy for years.

The two works have much in common, including their casts of characters and their plot lines. Both, for example, tell the unsettling tale of Ali Mohammed, a former officer in the U.S. Army’s Special Forces at Fort Bragg, N.C., who helped bin Laden move his terrorist operations from Afghanistan to Sudan in the early 1990s. Yet the authors take different approaches to telling similar stories.