How We Missed the Story
Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, and the Hijacking of Afghanistan
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.