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We have met the enemy, and he is us

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At the same time, bin Laden and his No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, are alive and regularly issuing audiotapes. Moreover, officials say Al Qaeda is at least as dangerous - or more so - today, and that another, perhaps more catastrophic, attack on the US is highly probable.

The author, whom I have interviewed, claims that America's war on terror strengthens rather than weakens bin Laden. "The US invasion of Iraq is Osama bin Laden's gift from America," he writes, "one he has long and ardently desired, but never realistically expected."

Rather than "on the run," as US officials portray him, bin Laden is comfortably and appreciatively watching US actions and growing his organization - particularly with younger, savvier, computer-literate recruits.

The author devotes one chapter to Afghanistan and what the US should have prepared for leading up to the invasion. He follows with a stinging critique of that effort, claiming that the way the war was fought - with most members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban regime fading into the countryside - will not lead to a long-term victory.

Citing the current resurgence of fighting there and on the Afghan-Pakistani border, he predicts that the country is perilously close to a return of Taliban-style rule.

He is equally pessimistic about Iraq, the second holiest Islamic land, claiming the situation there is now even more exploitable than Afghanistan for terrorists. Moreover, America's support of Israel continues to confirm bin Laden's claim that the US is interested only in occupying and exploiting Muslim lands.

There is a small window of hope amid the pessimism at the end of the book. He offers up several guidelines for policymakers to debate and consider:

• Think less about frenetic activity, and more about measurable progress in the battle against terrorist organizations.

• Move away from the nonstop memorializing of the 9/11 defeat and start confirming our resolve to destroy the killers.

• Accept that the US is hated, not merely misunderstood, by radical Muslims because of America's policies and actions.

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