CAMBRIDGE — As part of its Dr. Michael and Joyce Kolligian Distinguished Speaker Series, Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Greater Boston hosted a May 7 lecture by CNN national security analyst and journalist, Peter Bergen, who shared his first-hand experience of meeting al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden.
Bergen, best-selling author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Osama Bin Laden — From 9/11 to Abbottabad, gave a talk titled “The Awakening: The Remaking of the Middle East” to an audience of more than 120 people in the church’s Charles and Nevart Talanian Cultural Hall.
Bergen’s previous books include, Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama Bin Laden (2001), The Osama bin Laden I Know (2006) and The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and al-Qaeda (2011).
Fr. Vasken A. Kouzouian, pastor, provided opening remarks and thanked Bergen for his presence. “Through his work he [Bergen] brings about truth and awareness from places far removed from our everyday life.” Kouzouian then welcomed the daughter of Dr. Michael and Joyce Kolligian, Valerie Kolligian Thayer, to the podium to welcome Bergen. Thayer noted the unexpectedly timely nature of Bergen’s visit to Cambridge, given the recent Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent police chase and manhunt in Cambridge and Watertown. She then introduced Bergen as “one of the few westerners to ever interview Osama Bin Laden.”
Bergen began by recounting his 1997 meeting with Bin Laden in Afghanistan after a long process of negotiations, during which he described Bin Laden as “intelligent” and revered as a cleric by those around him.
Bergen then discussed the inherent weaknesses of al-Qaeda groups, stating that, “Coded in their DNA are the seeds of their own destruction.” These inherent flaws include their willingness to kill Muslim civilians during their terrorist attacks, a tendency to make enemies over allies, a desire to restore a Taliban empire severely restrictive on individual liberties and their unwillingness to engage in politics or elections. Bergen cautioned that although these flaws should reassure the public to a degree, he believed the real legacy of Bin Laden is one of ideas — ideas that occasionally inspire others.