Bin Laden is the man who defied America, who gored the only superpower and got away with it. He is now a symbol –Abu Jihad, the father of the holy struggle — and a spiritual leader, an inspiration and a role model to millions. Much as Che Guevara was as important in life as in death to the communist cause in Latin America, bin Laden will be a force for years. In large part, that’s because he founded not only his relatively small jihadist group, al Qaeda, but also created or rebuilt terrorist organizations in the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, the Pacific Rim, South Asia and the Arabian Peninsula. Those organizations took over from the original core of al Qaeda (Arabic for “the base”) when the United States belatedly invaded the sanctuary that bin Laden had created in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. When that base was largely destroyed, its offspring took over the struggle. Al Qaeda-related groups staged twice as many attacks in the 36 months after 9/11 as al Qaeda itself had in the previous 36 months, according to State Department reports. The second stage of jihad that bin Laden seems to have planned is still unfolding today. Son of a Yemeni businessman turned Saudi construction magnate, Osama was among the youngest of the 54 children whom his wealthy father, Mohammed bin Laden, had by multiple wives. Although Osama deeply admired his father, he seldom spent time with him and was raised as much by his stepfather and older brothers as by his beloved sire. The most important of those brothers to Osama may have been Salem bin Laden, who took over the family construction business after Mohammed bin Laden’s death in a 1967 plane crash. But the strong-willed, gregarious Salem, like many of Osama’s other siblings, seemed to love America and might not have tolerated his brother’s eventual loathing for it; Salem spent time with Houston swells and died in Texas while flying his own sports aircraft. Had that Arab pilot not crashed in America in May 1988, one wonders if four others would have on Sept. 11, 2001. Instead, the apparently impressionable Osama fell under more malevolent influences. Among those who shaped bin Laden ideologically, there were three key players: Sayyid Qutb, Abdullah Azzam and Ayman Zawahiri. As a student, Osama read works by Qutb, an Islamist Egyptian firebrand given the death penalty in 1964 by the country’s secular dictator, Gamal Abdel Nasser. His writings and reputation — as well as his updated versions of the “Islam is the answer” political creed espoused since the 1920s by the Muslim Brotherhood — appealed to bin Laden. Bergen flatly states that bin Laden, influenced at university by Qutb’s brother, joined the Brotherhood, a secretive, allegedly nonviolent group whose tentacles reach throughout the Arab world today. It was also at university (although his brothers had attended American or British colleges, Osama studied management and economics at King Abd al-Aziz University in Jedda, Saudi Arabia) that bin Laden met Abdullah Azzam, a radical Palestinian professor of Muslim studies. Following the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Azzam formed the so-called Services Bureau in Peshawar, Pakistan, to recruit, coordinate and assist Arab volunteers rushing to help the Afghan resistance. Bin Laden, who had inherited some money from his father’s estate, helped out and became Azzam’s deputy — and, eventually, his rival. The Services Bureau opened branches throughout the United States but was seen by the U.S. government as a friendly group supporting President Regan’s anti-Soviet policies. By 1987, bin Laden’s all-Arab unit of jihadists had withstood a 22-day siege by Soviet special forces at a camp named al Masada, the Lion’s Den, that he built near the eastern Afghanistan village of Jaji. Showing his skill with propaganda, bin Laden publicized the inconsequential battle of Jaji throughout the Muslim world. He became a hero; Azzam died mysteriously in 1989. During the jihad against the Soviets, bin Laden met an Egyptian doctor named Ayman Zawahiri who had volunteered to patch up wounded Afghan fighters. Zawahiri was well-educated and thoroughly radicalized; he had been tortured by Egyptian authorities in the investigation following President Anwar Sadat’s 1981 assassination by Islamist gunmen. The doctor opened bin Laden’s eyes to the possibilities of using the Services Bureau’s newfound network to help spread jihad not just in Afghanistan but around the globe. Although Zawahiri did not give up his own terrorist organization, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, to become bin Laden’s deputy until the late 1990s, the Egyptian fanatic soon became bin Laden’s key partner. Zawahiri, in turn, was linked to the so-called blind sheik, Omar Abdel Rahman, who was arrested in 1993 for plotting bombings in the New York area, including the 1993 attack on the Twin Towers. Bergen’s sources suggest that the blind sheik’s connection to Zawahiri ultimately led to al Qaeda’s thoughts of even more spectacular attacks in New York.