American journalist, author and think tank executive, who interviewed Osama Bin Laden shared his experience about meeting the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, war reporting, and his future endeavours. Speaking on the sidelines of the just concluded Jaipur Literature Festival, Peter Bergen, said, “The first thing that struck me was Bin laden was very tall. I was expecting a table thumping revolutionary but his looks were calm, like that of Prophet Mohammad. He was calm and composed and people around him hung on his every word and called him ‘Sheikh’.”
The author further explained, “He spoke English but he communicated with us in Arabic. He wanted to be very precise about what he was saying and people in Al Qaeda had no idea what an interview was. They were very suspicious of us but we said we were there to give him fair hearing like anyone else.”
“I came back thinking,” said Bergen, “that this guy is serious but staying in a mud hut in Afghanistan how would he attack the US? The answer came when he attacked the United States twice.”
Bergen has authored various books on terrorism and his current book The Exile: The Stunning Inside story of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda in Flight, co-authored with Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark, is on Bin Laden, who formed al Qaeda in 1988.
He went on to say, “I heard Bin Laden’s name for the first time in 1996. I went to my boss and she had never heard of him before obviously. But she said go ahead and do it. I am really grateful that she gave me that big break.” He then went to Afghanistan and interviewed Bin Laden.
“He declared war with the US for the first time and explained why he was declaring war in that interview,” informed Bergen. “Then 9/11 happened.
I honestly knew nothing about the military before 9/11. Later on, I spent a lot of time with the US military because a lot of these wars are extremely dangerous.” Speaking about the danger, he opined, “It’s a real phenomenon but it’s also important to understand that it’s not the world’s most important problem. Issues like climate change and nuclear war are real problems.”
His upcoming book on Trump National Security team will be out in 2019.