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  1. World
  2. Middle East
2 May 2011

An Osama Bin Laden reader

Ten #OBL pieces from the New Statesman archive.

By Jon Bernstein

1. Great games and proxy wars (July 2001)

Should we fear the Taliban as harbingers of world destruction? Or are they merely simple young men with stylish turbans and grand delusions? Pankaj Mishra visits a ravaged land.

2. The beginning of a virtual revolution (September 2001)

The US arouses in billions of people the kind of murderous fury that led to the French and Russian Revolutions. But this time, it’s on TV. By John Lloyd.

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3. Why terrorism is unbeatable (February 2002)

Revolutionary nihilism of the kind embodied by al-Qaeda is not a throwback to the past but part of what it means to be modern. John Gray reviews the reaction to 11 September 2001 and argues that Americans, like the rest of us, must learn to live with such shocks.

4. Reflections on a war of ghosts (February 2002)

America, once more, is fighting in a country that it barely understands. Pankaj Mishra on a conflict where very little is as it seems.

5. Who really downed the twin towers? (April 2002)

Were the 11 September 2001 attacks actually the work of the CIA? Why is no plane visible on photos taken seconds before the Pentagon was hit? Johann Hari reports on the vogue for conspiracy theories.

6. Beyond belief (July 2003)

Al-Qaeda’s apocalyptic brand of religion runs counter to the secular myths of the west. As a result, we fail to understand its essential modernity, argues John Gray.

7. The man who believes in nothing (February 2006)

Even if they disagree about what he stands for, most people assume that Osama Bin Laden is a man of conviction. Yet his statements show him to be a shameless chancer who steals most of his ideas from the west, writes Brendan O’Neill.

8. Can Obama woo the Muslim world? (June 2009)

Barack Obama went to Cairo to woo the Muslim world. But one lofty speech won’t stop America from being loathed, writes Mehdi Hasan.

9. The NS Interview: Omar Bin Laden (November 2009)

An interview with one of Osama’s son’s. Questions included: “Do you have problems trying to get on a plane?” “What was life like in the Bin Laden household?” And “Where is your father?”

10. Why the Taliban are winning in Afghanistan (June 2010)

As Washington and London struggle to prop up a puppet government over which Hamid Karzai has no control, they risk repeating the blood-soaked 19th-century history of Britain’s imperial defeat, writes William Dalrymple.