Award-winning journalist Roy Gutman weaves a narrative that exposes how and why the U.S. government, the United Nations, and the Western media "missed the story" in the leadup to 9/11. 

In HOW WE MISSED THE STORY: Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, and the Hijacking of Afghanistan (January 2008, United States Institute of Peace Press; $26.00), award-winning journalist Roy Gutman weaves a narrative that exposes how and why the U.S. government, the United Nations, and the Western media "missed the story" in the leadup to 9/11.

Focusing principally on events in Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s, Gutman argues that U.S. foreign policy had essentially died. According to Gutman, the U.S. government categorization of bin Laden’s murderous assaults prior to 9/11 as "terrorism" was not so much an intelligence or military failure but rather a strategic failure of U.S. foreign policy—a failure that penetrated every level of the U.S. foreign affairs hierarchy. Two presidents, greater law enforcement including the CIA and the FBI, upper level political appointees, experts, and skilled civil servants relied on quick-fix, counter-terrorism tactics to end the threats from Osama bin Laden. Assuming that the public would not support a long-term, broad spectrum approach, the government opted to develop a counter-terror policy—when a more comprehensive foreign policy was needed—and inadvertently fueled the very fire it was trying to fight.

"When government believes military power and law enforcement can destroy a movement based on purported political grievance, it underestimates the task and gives new sustenance to the movement. Underestimating the task is the characteristic of this story," writes Gutman. Gutman critically reviews the media’s role, or lack thereof, during this period. He writes: "The news media’s absence from the scene prior to 9/11 is one of the great lapses in the modern history of the profession. The principle of watchdog journalism is that if the door is closed or a government restricts the media, ‘That is where I want to be.’" The lesson for the media is to report in depth from far-flung places where the United States does not have an active policy as well as from those places where it does.

Drawing on his own original research and extensive interviews with key players, Gutman offers the inside perspective of a member of the media with comprehensive, journalistic coverage and style.

 

 

 

 

Related Publications

Belquis Ahmadi on the Afghan Peace Process

Belquis Ahmadi on the Afghan Peace Process

Thursday, May 16, 2019

By: Belquis Ahmadi

Reflecting on recent conversations in Doha and Kabul, USIP’s Belquis Ahmadi says that Afghans told her they want peace, but are not willing to sacrifice the hard-won gains of the last 18 years to get there. As U.S.-Taliban talks move forward, the extent of the Taliban’s evolution on issues like women’s rights remains in question. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” says Ahmadi.

Gender; Peace Processes

Afghanistan Cannot Afford Another Government Breakdown

Afghanistan Cannot Afford Another Government Breakdown

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

By: William Byrd

Afghanistan is on uncertain terrain this year. Along with scheduled presidential and other elections and a nascent peace process, the possibility of withdrawal of international troops, worsening security, and an economic downturn loom heavily over the country. In this critical moment, government failure would make peace and political stability even harder to achieve let alone sustain. How can basic government functioning be maintained during this challenging period?

Democracy & Governance; Economics & Environment

The Current Situation in Afghanistan

The Current Situation in Afghanistan

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Afghanistan has entered a pivotal but highly uncertain time. As all parties recognize that a military solution is not achievable, increased war fatigue has shifted Afghan and international attention toward a possible political settlement to the ongoing 18-year war. Grassroots peace movements and a three-day cease-fire between the Afghan government and the Taliban in June 2018 demonstrate Afghans’ widespread desire for sustainable peace. Despite some promising developments, many issues lay ahead that must be resolved before a sustainable peace process can be undertaken, and numerous spoilers could possibly derail this process. 

Options for Reintegrating Taliban Fighters in an Afghan Peace Process

Options for Reintegrating Taliban Fighters in an Afghan Peace Process

Monday, April 29, 2019

By: Deedee Derksen

A central issue for Afghanistan in achieving stability is making long-lasting peace with the Taliban. The success of any such agreement will depend in large part on whether Taliban commanders and fighters can assume new roles in Afghan politics, the security forces, or civilian life. This report explores that question, drawing on lessons from how similar situations unfolded in Burundi, Tajikistan, and Nepal.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Peace Processes; Violent Extremism

View All Publications