Yossef Bodansky is considered one of the foremost experts on Middle East terrorism in the world. He's been head of a Congressional policy office on terrorism, consults with a number of intelligence think tank organizations, and has written numerous books. He wrote what is considered to be the definitive biography on Osama bin Laden in 1999, and predicted therein what we are now seeing in regard to international terrorism.
Bodansky's books are filled with information you'll never read in the mainstream media; the information tend to give his books a spy-thriller flavor. There is, however, one problem with his books: he never footnotes or references anything he asserts.
In reviews on Amazon.com regarding his book on the Iraq war, there are a couple of lengthy discussions of the book by a Greg Copley. It turns out that Mr. Copley is President of the International Strategic Studies Assoc., and a friend of Bodansky's. I emailed Mr. Copley last week, simply asking him about Bodansky's irritating habit of not citing his sources. Below is my email, and the response I received today:
Mr. Copley,And here's Mr. Copley's response:
I noted the battle of reviews on Amazon.com pertaining to Yossef Bodansky's latest book, The Secret History of the Iraq War. I didn't consider it so much a battle of reviews, as it was your effort to describe the information in the book, and another "reviewer's" effort to snipe at both you and the book. I should let you know that based upon your comments on Amazon.com, I purchased a copy of Mr. Bodansky's book this afternoon.
I read Mr. Bodansky's previous book, The High Cost of Peace, which was quite an eye-opener. It was an eye-opener both in terms of revealing the strategic coordination between Saddam, Iran, and Syria up to and after the 1991 Gulf War, and also an eye-opener in the fact that this strategic partnership has never (to my knowledge) been discussed or reported in the mainstream news media (an eye-opener, but not a surprising one).
I do have two questions about Mr. Bodansky's books which I hope you have time to quickly comment on:
1) Why do Mr. Bodansky's books not contain footnotes for the information contained in them? His information is startling, but as one Amazon reviewer of The High Cost of Peace commented, without footnotes, his book reads as a fascinating, but unverifiable, story -- almost like a Clancyesque thriller. In a world where most people are willing to bury their heads in the sand and deny the truth, blockbuster books like Mr. Bodansky's don't pack the power they should, because of the lack of verifiable sources.
2) With information about the connection between Saddam and al-Qaeda, and about Saddam's WMD program trickling-out, why do you think the Bush Administration hasn't made a high-profile disclosure of what they know about both topics? From information I've read, which is readily available over the Internet, I'm convinced of Saddam's connection with international terrorist groups, and I'm also convinced he was heavily engaged in WMD development (or, as David Kay reported last year, Saddam at least had the infrastructure, the technical and scientific expertise, the growth media and precursor chemicals, and the will, to produce WMDs). So, why hasn't the Administration made a strong and sustained disclosure about what is known about both, but rather has allowed its opponents to continue to hammer away at the "lack" of evidence?
Many thanks to your attention to my email. And thanks again for the "tip" on Mr. Bodansky's latest effort.
Well, thanks for your detailed message which awaited my return from London last night. Sorry, because of that trip, I did not respond earlier.
Seffy Bodansky's latest book does, at least, contain a section on sources and methods, in which he attempts to explain his lack of footnoting. I have also taken this up with him, because, as other reviewers have commented, the lack of footnotes implies, or suggests, a lack of confirmable evidence.
What we have seen in both his latest books, but particularly the Iraq book, is a greater reference in the text itself to sources where they have been in print, or based on personal discussions. That, at least, was a step toward addressing the criticism. However, much of what Bodansky provides is based on direct, first-hand interviews with people within either intelligence communities or within Islamist movements. Clearly, the first task is to protect those sources.
I have, where I have had questions or doubts about some of his material, gone into lengthy and often heated discussions, but have invariably been able to be reassured as to the sources (which, by virtue of the fact that we have worked together for some 20 years and the fact that we share the same security concerns). He has often privately disclosed the details of the sourcing to me, and I have been able to verify or understand the material origins.
Significantly, however, it is the passage of time which best verifies Bodansky's material. His 1999 book, Bin Laden, the Man Who Declared War on America, was absolutely verified by subsequent events. His earlier (1994-5) books on terrorism in the US brought out in detail the plans to use hijacked airliners to attack the World Trade Center and other targets. And so on.
Finally, Seffy has no agenda other than to get out the story. Certainly money is not a motivator, and he has no private life worth talking of, apart from having his dog drag him away from his computer and books when he is (rarely) at home from one of his trips to interesting places. It is because he literally is what he says that a lot of Islamists and Arab leaders talk to him privately. They believe that at least he understands them.
On the WMD, we worked over the past decade on tracking the inflow of ballistic missile research and chemical, bio and nuclear weapons research moved into Libya, along with some 20,000 Iraqi scientists, engineers and workers. There were also Egyptians involved. We went further in this than Seffy did, largely because it seemed, I suppose, periperhal to the publishers who wanted to focus on Iraq per se. So, too, did the Administration; Rice and Powell wanted no focus whatsoever outside the borders of Iraq. This was, in fact, naive in that Saddam knew that the UN "search warrant" was for Iraq itself; as a result, he moved, as he had done in the past, his sensitive materiel to Syria, Sudan and Libya. The big Libya move of stuff and people was in the 1996-98 timeframe. Qadhafi's admission of "Libya's WMD programs" deliberately did not acknowledge the Iraq link, because of Qadhafi's fear of a US assault.
Anyway, suffice it to say that I am satisfied with Seffy's excellent and professional commitment to verifying his material. I know that he has every item of data logged, with its reference sources available, even though most of these cannot be divulged publicly for fear of burning those sources. And the consequences for his sources would, in most instances, be death. We have, in our operations, lost some sources in the past, and don't want any repeats of that.
All the best and, again, many thanks for your note.
Hi, My2Cents. I see there's another book I'll have to order.
Bodansky is one of the guys who actually connects the dots and gets condemned by the leftists for doing so.
Man, what a great exchange. Thanks.