Wright has a special way of explaining things. When reading this book, a reader need not have a background knowledge on terrorism, Wright crafts the book in such a way that it consists of a ten page list of the main characters, fifty pages of notes, a list of interviews held, a bibliography and a clear bibliography for those who would love research the topic more. He also uses pictures of the main characters in the book, so that a reader can see the person being discussed.
The book can be divided into two major parts with the first part focusing on giving the reader a comprehensive background and beginnings of militant Islam and the terror group Al Qaeda. In the book’s first three chapters, the writer writes bibliographies of three important persons. He writes about an Egyptian named Qutb who is seen as the father of militant Islam, he also writes about Zawahri who also is an Egyptian and a co founder of Al Qaeda. The last character in the three chapters he talks about is Bin Laden who is the central character of the book.
After reading the first three chapters a reader gets to learn about the internal politics of two most important countries in the history of Al Qaeda: Saudi Arabia and Egypt (Wright, 2006). The author tries to explain how the governments of both countries might have influenced the rise of radical Islam movement. This is helpful for the reader to understand why Al Qaeda is against everything represented by the West. Through the book, a reader can visit the towns and cities where these men grew up. After writing the bibliographies, the author then looks at the bigger picture and writes two chapters on Saudi Arabia.
In these two chapters the writer talks of a spy master, Turki, who is instrumental in the search of bin Laden. The chapters also discusses the political and social structures of the Saudi Kingdom, the Soviet-Afghan war, the Afghanistan – Pakistan border jihadist movement and lastly how jihadism has spread around the world. Wright at this point builds a strong groundwork so that when he starts to discuss about the Al Qaeda attacks a reader can understand the context. Wright then takes 200 hundred pages of the book to discuss the American Security and Intelligence agencies, The FBI and CIA.
He tells of how the agencies reacted to the first cases of jihadists. This section of the book ends with a chapter dedicated on Osama’s life in Sudan (Bergen, 2010). The second part of the book looks at the Al Qaeda’s activities in the rest of the world. He begins by writing about how, in 1995, the Al Qaeda raided and bombed a building in Saudi Arabia that was housing Americans in the town of Riyadh. The chapters in this second part of the book are not very detailed and the writer talks of various key players. It is also in this second part we learn of the gruesome murder of tourist by Zawalhri.
The author describes how Zawalhri stormed the Queen Hatchupset temple located in Egypt and killed all the tourists that were there. Wright then looks at the evolution of the terror group Al Qaeda on how they recruit, leadership, and their use of suicide bombers in carrying out their attacks. He looks and blames the actions of the CIA who had no right to with hold crucial information from the sole mandated agency, the FBI, to carry surveillance on the people who later committed the attacks. The last two chapters the author talks of the aftermath after the attacks.
He explains in heart-wrenching details about the fear and desperation after the attacks. Wright in this book can be praised for his making it compelling and emotional. Discussion Al Qaeda is a terrorist group that has been behind many terrorist attacks. The book investigates some of their attacks especially the September 11 carried out in the United States. The author of the book, Lawrence Wright, is a famous writer and for his work Al Qaeda the Road to 9/11 won him a Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction. The book largely focuses on the persons involved in the attack.
It covers things like, who they are, reasons that drove them to undertake the attack, and the people they associated with closely. The book begins with Sayyid Qutb who is an Egyptian religious intellect. Sayyid visited the U. S during the 1940’s, upon return to his homeland, he became an anti-West activist, and in the end, he became a martyr for his beliefs. The book also portrays Ayman al-Zawahiri, it looks at his story from childhood in Egypt and follows his life up to the time he participated and became the leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.
The Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the book states was later to merge with the Al Qaeda. The author in his book writes the story of head of Al Qaeda, Osama bins Laden. He traces Osama’s childhood in Saudi Arabia where he was born and brought up in a rich family. The book continues to give a detailed account of how Osama participated in the war between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. It writes of his role as a financier to terrorist groups, his life in Sudan, his stay in Afghanistan upon his return and his association with the Taliban.
The book also covers on the 1998 terrorist attacks, which were done in Kenya and Tanzania as well as the bombing done on the USS Cole in the year 2000 (Wright, 2006). The author also writes of famous American who were involved, particularly Richard A. Clarke who at the time of 9/11 attack was the chief counter terrorism adviser sitting on the U. S National Security Council. The other personality featured in the book is John P. O’Neill who was the assistant Deputy Director of Investigation in the FBI.
Until his retire in August 2001, he was actively involved in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. After his retire from the FBI he headed the security of the World Trade Center where he was later to die in the 9/11 attacks (Bergen, 2010). The book covers some of the problems faced in the fight against terrorism, especially the lack of cooperation between the American Security Agencies, the CIA, and the FBI, which are blamed for not preventing the attacks. The Looming Tower is a story mostly based on the lives of the people involved in the 9/11 attacks rather than the attack.
It focuses on the background and situations that led the perpetrators to plan and stage the attacks. The title “the Looming Tower” is described as appearing in the Quran and according to the author Osama had uttered the words before the 9/11 attacks during a wedding he attended. The line is quoted from the fourth Sura of the Holy Quran and Osama is claimed to have said, “Wherever you are, death will find you, even in the looming tower. ” When Mohamed Atta and his accomplices hijacked a Boeing 767 and flew the plane into the World Trade Center, a tragic story ensued.
This attack was so gruesome that years down the line people still cringe at the mention of the events that took place that day. The events of 9/11 are in many ways a start of a tale or maybe the climax of a story that began years ago in different locations such as Cairo, mosques in Hamburg, streets of Jordan and the town of Greeley. This is a story of how few individuals from impoverished places planned and carried attacks on a world super power. It is also a story of how some individuals desperately tried to convince the government security agencies of an imminent attack.
Many years after the attack questions were still being asked about the why and how a super power like America could fail to prevent it (“The Plot against America”, 2006). The Looming Tower is full of details of how the Al Qaeda had once abandoned plans to stage an attack on American soil owing to the lack of foot soldiers that could pass credibly as westernized Muslims. Later the Al Qaeda found the credible persons to facilitate the attack in Atta, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ziad al-Jarrah and Marwan al-Shehhi, who had been attended schools in the United States.
Wright gives accounts of Islamic Militancy in his book and looks at it from the intellectual, religious, and economic situation of the places where the attackers came from. Wright portrays a picture of Sayyid Qutb the man credited with the rise of modern day Islamist Fundamentalism. He shows Sayyid as a frail, middle-aged scholar who visited the United States and as a student in the university town of Greeley in the 1940’s (Bolton, 2008). Sayyid is overwhelmed at the unrestrained luxuries and godlessness of the American culture. He was disgusted with the American women and how the women freely they expressed their sexuality.
He writes, “A girl looks at you, appearing as if she were an enchanting nymph or an escaped mermaid, but as she approaches, you sense only the screaming instinct inside her, and you can smell her burning body, not the scent of perfume, but flesh, only flesh. Tasty flesh, truly, but flesh nonetheless. ” Later Sayyid upon returning his country he started to write elaborate reasons why the Muslims should rise and wage war against the West and its rotten culture. Years later, the book writes of how Atta openly expressed his disgust for women especially from the West.
The book is based on many interviews, which the author held with various persons. The interviews range from Osama’s best friend from school, Jamal Khalifa and Yosri Fouda a reporter working for Al Jazeera. He also writes of the interviews he had with Richard A. Clarke who worked in the White House as a counter terrorism chief. In his accounts, the author gives the reader an intense view of the terrible events of 9/11. Though the events the author writes in his book have been told many times before, Mr. Wright tells the story with myriad new details.
He gives accounts and describes them in the context of politics and culture. He focuses on the lives and occupation of the key players involved in the attacks while succeeding in writing a historical story that possesses all the propinquity and poignant power of a novel (Wright, 2006). The author writes that, “The charisma and vision of a few individuals shaped the nature of the contest between Islam and the West. ” He further asserts, “While the tectonic plates of history were certainly shifting, promoting a period of conflict between those two cultures.
The emergence of Al Qaeda depended on a unique conjunction of personalities most notably Mr. Zawahri, who promoted the apocalyptic idea that only violence could change history, and Mr. bin Laden, whose global vision and leadership held together an organization that had been bankrupted and thrown into exile” (Wright, 2006). The author suggests that the events of 9/11 were evitable. Unfortunately, through bad luck, indecisiveness of American officials and war between the CIA and FBI contributed to the success of the attack by Al Qaeda. Compared to other writers like Peter L.
Bergen who authored Holy War: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden as well as Jonathan Randal the author of Osama: the Making of a Terrorist, Lawrence in his book does not concentrate on the role played by the Soviet- Afghan war in influencing Osama’s jihadist cause. Rather, he draws his stories from documents written in Arabic and carries interviews with jihad activists who offer chronicles of the many things that influence Al Qaeda and the long road against America Osama took. The book gives a very detailed account of the Al Qaeda’s way of life, motivations, and doubts.
It also goes further to give what each individual member wanted to achieve politically. The author captures certain events that are claimed to have influenced the Islamist Movement such as the execution of Sayyid Qutb by Gamal Abdel Nasser’s regime in 1966. In the eyes of the Islamist Movement Sayyid was a martyr and hero, this did not wane but increased their faith in the war against the West. Wright then goes on to describe how Osama, the heir of one the largest family fortune in Arabia, grows from a timid child into a religious adolescent.
He says one of the most influential people in Laden’s life was a charismatic gym teacher. This teacher was the one who introduced Osama to the Muslim Brothers Organization. Another person who influences Osama was Mr. Zawahri, who became acquainted with Osama in Peshawar in the early 1980’s. Mr. Zawahri was a doctor from Egypt and in the book; he is drawn as the evil mentor who transformed the political view of the Young Saudi. The author argues that before Osama met Mr. Zawahri, he was “not much of a political thinker,”. The author goes to take a quote from Essam Deraz who was the first biographer of Osama.
He says that he once thought Osama had the potential of becoming “another Eisenhower,” who could turn his celebrity status he had got after fighting in the Afghan- Soviet war into a serene political life(“The Plot against America”, 2006). This is can be seen was not the plan Mr. Zawahiri had for Osama. The writer notes that as a young man, Mr. Zawahri was tortured in the Egyptian prisons and this powered his resolve to fight the Westernized culture. He is credited as pioneering the use of suicide bombers was seen from the start very keen to use biological and chemical weapons (Bolton, 2008)..
For Osama, it took him a long time after leaving the war in Afghanistan to settle on a plan of action. In the time, he was exiled from Saudi Arabia and leaving in Sudan the author says that Osama “was wavering the lure of peace being as strong as the battle cry of jihad. Agriculture captivated his imagination. ” It is further reported he was contemplated of quitting Al Qaeda and going into farming. The author tells of how after the first Gulf war the continued stay of the American troops in Saudi Arabia gnawed on Osama. He was also aggravated by the invasion of Somalia by American troops who were on a humanitarian relief mission.
The Al Qaeda in 1992 the book claims met and “turned from being the anti-communist Islamic army that bin Laden originally envisioned into a terrorist organization bent on attacking the United States” (Bolton, 2008). The book traces not only the evolution of Al Qaeda first as a resistance group to the Soviet and Saddam Hussein and then a sworn enemy of the United States, but also gives the reader a clear picture of life at an Al Qaeda training camp. The author’s description of Osama bin Laden concurs with that made by security experts such as former CIA official Michael Scheuer.
He states that Osama was not opposed to the American culture rather he was angry at the American political and military actions it was carrying out in Muslim countries(Bergen, 2010).. The author observes that Osama occasionally allowed his young sons to play Nintendo and in the Al Qaeda training camps, recruits would be allowed to watch Hollywood thrillers. Their favorite movies, as the book says, were those done by Arnold Schwarzenegger and tried to gather tips on being American from them. One of the many wives Osama had was known to love “brand-name cosmetics and lingerie, preferring American products.
” He also had a wife who had graduated with a doctorate in child psychology (“The Plot against America”, 2006). Wright is categorical in his book blaming former and present administrations for failing to prevent the 9/11. He writes of the failures in the CIA, FBI, and NSA refusal to share information with each other as the main reason the attackers were successful. If the agencies had cooperated, they might have foreseen the entering of two known terrorist in America. He blames the Bush and Bill Clinton administration of laxity in tackling problem of terrorism in the world.
He notes that when Bush entered office terrorism was a low priority to his administration. Like other authors on the issue of terrorism, he criticizes the actions that the Clinton administration took after the 1998 bombing in East Africa. The administration of the day launched missiles at one of the Al Qaeda training camp located in Afghanistan and desperately failed to kill Osama. The writer notes helped turn Mr. Laden into a global celebrity and this allowed the terrorist to mythologize himself (Bergen, 2010).
Wright writes, “ Mr. bin Laden’s goal in striking the American embassies and bombing the American destroyer Cole in 2000, was to lure America into the same trap the Soviets had fallen into: Afghanistan. His strategy was to continually attack until the U. S. forces invaded; then the mujahedeen would swarm upon them and bleed them until the entire American empire fell from its wounds. It had happened to Great Britain and to the Soviet Union. He was certain it would happen to America. When neither the embassy bombings nor the Cole bombing was enough to provoke a massive retaliation, Mr. Bin Laden decided he would have to create an irresistible outrage.
” The outrage in this case happens to be the 9/11 attack. The author continues to write that Laden had gotten what he wanted and cites the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and the 2003 attack of Iraq as his wins. In both this invasions, the American Army has seen deaths of more than 2500 soldiers, just the thing that Osama fervently wanted (Bolton, 2008). In the book, the writer portrays what has caused the Islamic militancy. He says at the heart of Islamic militancy lays anger, hatred of modernization, and feeling of humiliation which terrorist group cite as reason for killing.
The author looks at failure of autocratic governments to offer their citizens reasons to face the future as the reasons why some of this terrorists turn to Islam, which offers dignity and hope more so in death. He says that these “theological amateur,” will turn to be religion extremist and join terror groups(Bergen, 2010).. Atta and the hijackers felt this as the author writes, “Their motivations varied, but they had in common a belief that Islam — pure and primitive, unmitigated by modernity and uncompromised by politics — would cure the wounds that socialism or Arab nationalism had failed to heal.
They were angry but powerless in their own countries. They did not see themselves as terrorists but as revolutionaries who, like all such men throughout history, had been pushed into action by the simple human need for justice. Some had experienced brutal repression; some were simply drawn to bloody chaos. From the beginning of Al Qaeda, there were reformers and there were nihilists. The dynamic between them was irreconcilable and self-destructive, but events were moving so quickly that it was almost impossible to tell the philosophers from the sociopaths.
They were glued together by the charismatic personality of Osama bin Laden, which contained strands, idealism, and nihilism, in a potent mix. ” Before there was proof of an imminent attack as the book talks of John O’Neill who was a supervisor for the FBI in their offices in New York. John O’Neill and the team he headed were assigned to trace and find information about Al Qaeda operatives in America. O’Neill had the hunch that the Al Qaeda was preparing to stage an attack on the American soil. He was an ardent investigator and when he saw the agency was not taking him seriously, he quit.
After quitting, he said he could not work for a government bureaucracy that did not intend to move quickly to avert an attack as he did desperately trying to do. It is unfortunate that O’Neill was among the people who died during the 9/11 he had foreseen. Other agents in the bureau had premonitions of the Al Qaeda being successful in making attack on America. The supervisor posted in the Minneapolis office was cautioned in the month of August for raising his fears of an attack happening. He expressed fear that a known Islamic radical was attending a flight school could have been as well planning an attack.
When being admonished he retorted, “I am trying to keep someone from taking a plane and crashing into the World Trade Center. ” Astonishing you might say (“The Plot against America”, 2006). The Author talks of how the CIA had information of high level Al Qaeda members had attended a meeting in Malaysia in the early months of 2000. He says they also knew of two of those who attended the meetings had entered America. This two would later play a role and implement the attack as was later uncovered. The CIA had failed to avail this information the FBI, which is mandated to carry out internal surveillance of known and suspected terrorists.
The struggle between the two agencies is highlighted in the book as the author writes of a meeting held prior to the attack. In the meeting CIA analysts are claimed to have dangled pictures of would be attackers at the faces of FBI agents. When the CIA agents refused to give the information they had on the two, the FBI agents realized they were the same persons they were pursuing and the tension between the two agencies increased. Three months prior to the attack, both agencies held a meeting, which ended in both the FBI and CIA agents shouting at each other.
In the book, the author illustrates a scene where an FBI agent named Ali Soufan reacts after being shown the pictures of the terrorists. Ali Soufan was working on the Al Qaeda case and when on September 12 he was shown the names and pictures of the hijackers, he just rushed into the bathroom and threw up. These people the CIA had information about their activities but refused to share with the FBI (Bergen, 2010). The writer has covered many things in his book, though it seems he left out some important things such as the hijackings. There is no chapter that the writer explicitly discusses the hijacking as he has on so many things.
He takes the reader straight to the moments of the burning towers. This maybe he did thinking that many other authors had covered it and wanted to be different. The other thing about the book is the way the author draws up verbatim reconstruction of various conversations. He travels a lot in such of this information and writes of conversations that had taken place more than a decade before. This brings the question of how true and detailed the conversations are because it is hard to believe people have such good memories. The book ends with Zawahri or someone else riding a horse on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
This person disappears into the mountains and the book lacks a definitive end. This is a point the author tries to put that the story about the Al Qaeda is still not over (“The Plot against America”, 2006). Conclusion and Recommendation The book focuses on the lives of two men who have shaped the Al Qaeda. He tells of the Egyptian doctor al- Zawahiri and the life of Osama bin Laden. Wright skillfully dissects the relationship the two have. He gives on one hand the story of the ideologist al-Zawihiri, who is a skilled combatant and on the other hand, he tells the story of the determined and charming Osama bin Laden.
From their first interaction in the 1980s, the author follows how they join to form Al Qaeda and how al-Zawahiri mentors Osama. Wright gives accounts of how the attack affected the United States and the most depressing scene is that of Ali an FBI agent throwing up after realizing the CIA had knowledge of the people responsible. The book as seen is a magnificent read and ay person looking to learn about the rise of the Al Qaeda should look for this book. The book gives detailed accounts of occurrence that happened before the 9/11 attack.
It also looks into the lives of those people who are seen as instrumental in the rise and growth of the terror group. Wright in his unique intelligent way delivers the occurrences and reasons of the attack on American soil with emotion. The strengths of this book in informing about the road to 9/11 lies in the deep research the writer carried out and the way he reconstructs conversations that had been taken more than a decade ago. This is also the greatest weakness of the book owing to questions of how true these conversations are because people are not known to have search kind of memory.
References Bergen. P. , (2010). The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and Al-Qaeda. New York: Simon and Schuster Bolton, M. , (2008). U. S. national security and foreign policymaking after 9/11 present at the recreation. Lanham : Rowman & Littlefield. The Plot against America. (2006). Retrieved September 16, 2011, from http://www. nytimes. com/2006/08/06/books/review/06filkins. html Wright, L. , (2006). The looming tower: Al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11. New York : Vintage Books.