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The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to…

The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Vintage) (edition 2007)

by Lawrence Wright

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2,017513,325 (4.31)59
Title:The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Vintage)
Authors:Lawrence Wright
Info:Vintage (2007), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 576 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Pima County Public Library, pcpl, 9/11, terrorism,

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The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright

  1. 40
    102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers by Jim Dwyer (peacemover)
    peacemover: Now that you have read who is behind 9/11 and why they did it, now read about the people in the towers- where they came from, and their struggles to survive.

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Well, I finally found my notes and got this review finished - long overdue.

For all the energy, lives and treasure we have devoted to Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s important to remember that they had nothing to do with 9/11 which became the excuse for our actions rather than the proximate rationale. We are now in a war that would appear to have literally no end, this “war of terror,” one that any sane person who recently traveled on an airplane can see the terrorists have won as we meekly surrender our civil rights to government agencies who now can tap phones, examine library records, collect data, cavity search, etc., in the name of some illusionary sense of safety, a theater of the absurd. In addition they convinced us , this tiny group of delusionary men (no women), to send thousands of troops to a hostile land and environment where they could be more easily picked off.

Wright traces the rise of anti-semitism in the MIddle East to the influence of Naziism during WW II and especially afterwards when many Nazis fled to Egypt for sanctuary from the victorious allies. For centuries Jews had lived quite peacefully with their Muslim neighbors, but several events fueled a return to a fundamentalist, Islamicist view. The Six-Day war was used by these in a rather tortured logic to validate their position, i.e. that God had favored the Jews because Muslims had wandered away from the true Islam and the Caliphate. (This kind of perverted thinking is not unique to Islamists. It’s rampant among fundamentalist Christian groups such as the Westboro Baptists who insist that US military deaths are caused by God’s displeasure with current U.S. policies with regard to homosexuality. Other examples abound.) The war, which an overwhelming victory for Israel, humiliated Egypt, where, following Nassar’s death, Sadat needed to appeal to the fundamentalists to strengthen his government; so he released many who had been jailed from prison. Not a smart move.

The actions of the Egyptians, following the assassination of Sadat, solidified a diverse, incoherent movement. He flatly states that 9/11 was born in the torture chambers of the Egyptian government which created an appetite for revenge and turned moderates into extremists, not to mention destroyed any notion that western society actually practiced the ideals of freedom and human rights they espoused. Communism, Zionism, and Imperialism were all lumped together as the great western enemy of Islam and the only solution was to use violence to try to create an Islamic theocracy. By throwing all of the anti-government groups together in prison, many individuals and groups which had been unaware of the other’s existence were now thrown together and molded into a more coherent movement. Torture was an instrument of humiliation, revenge and punishment as well as information gathering and Ayman Zawahiri emerged as the new leader of the group.

I was astonished how intertwined the Bin Laden family, wealthy beyond measure from lucrative construction contracts, was with Saudi government and culture. That said, Osama comes across as a pathetic little man whom, for some bizarre reason, we have inflated to mythic proportions. He left a long trail of words that Wright has used effectively to build a comprehensive picture of the man that Afghans, in the fight against the Russians, thought was rather pathetic, but who was adopted by the United States and supported. Another example of how certain actions taken for a variety of reasons can have long-range negative effects. How one might ever develop the perspicuity to avoid making such mistakes remains a mystery to me.

If there are any heroes in this book, it’s the field officers of the FBI and one John O’Neill (who tragically died in the World Trade Center.) They had been concerned that the Islamic fundamentalists would try something spectacular but got little support from Washington. One Minneapolis supervisor, admonished for his reports and concerns, simply said back to the bosses in DC that he was simply “ “trying to keep someone from taking a plane and crashing into the World Trade Center.” This in August of 2001

Wright has done a magnificent job of melding detail and the broader picture to present a better understanding of why we are where we are today.The title, drawn from the Koran is ironic in light of Osama’s killing by American troops: ““Wherever you are, death will find you, Even in the looming tower,” a quote from one of Osama’s many videos.

After-note: Read a couple of the one-star reviews on Amazon to get a feel for psychotic thinking.

Previously written: "Therefore when you induce others to construct a formation while you yourself are formless, then you are concentrated while the opponent is divided... Therefore the consummation of forming an army is to arrive at formlessness. When you have no form, undercover espionage cannot find out anything, intelligence cannot form a strategy." Sun Tzu, 500 B.C.

For some reason, I failed to get very far into this book and was reminded of it when I read an excellent column recently at Salon (http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2010/11/30/oversized_security_hurts_america/in...) regarding the costs of our obsessiveness with regard to airline security. I was reminded that Wright discussed Al Qaeda strategy at some length. It was quite simple. Bin Laden knew he couldn't maintain an attack on U.S. soil so he needed to get us to come to him. And he has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. We send troops and treasure over to him to be whittled away at. His first attempt to draw us in was the U.S.S. Cole; Clinton failed to fall into the trap as did Reagan after the 200 Marines were killed in Lebanon. Bush swallowed the bait hook, line and sinker. Iraq and Afghanistan have cost more than a trillion dollars of borroweded money in the first unfunded war in our history. And we spend more hundreds of billions searching for the latest object in someone's crotch for the illusion of security. Wait till someone detonates a small bomb in a TSA security line or at a McDonald's. We will then lose all our freedoms in the name of maintaining an empire we cannot afford.
( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
"Wherever you are, death will find you, even in the looming tower."
-The Qu'ran, Sura 4:78

Hiraba (حفEرابة), the Arabic word for terror, piracy, or unlawful warfare. To be punished with the strictest penalties.

SEE the young men in their white tunics go out, and charge from the trenches against Soviet tanks, and the suited FBI and CIA men squabble on matters of 'jurisdiction' and 'sensitive information', and self-appointed holy men and saviors meditate in caves on how to save the words of prophets, and their followers drink in action movies and dream of being holy ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
I would need to read this twice to let everything really sink in; to Americans, this book presents the same problem with names that Crime and Punishment does. More so, because of all the aliases.

It contains a quick history of al Qaeda that places it in its context of 60 years of radical Islamic fundamentalist thought, from World War II up to the days immediately after the September 11 attacks. Thoroughly researched and footnoted, this is an essential reference to understanding the nightly news.

This book also explains, much more clearly than the 9/11 Commission Report did, exactly how the United States law enforcement and intelligence communities missed all the signs that an attack was coming. We had people in the FBI who were motivated and capable of stopping the attack, but they didn't have crucial information at a critical time -- information that the CIA had. but wouldn't share because of bureaucratic infighting and misinterpreted rules. Infuriating. ( )
1 vote Brian.McGovney | Mar 29, 2013 |
The Looming Tower (2006) has won so many awards it appears to be the defacto account of the events that lead to 9/11. The sequence of events is complex and I probably won't remember much of it over time, but I did learn a little about the Islamist movement and how they see the world, a rejection of modernity, extreme reactionaries. Wright places a ton of blame with the CIA however I understand there have been more recent books that tell a different story, so who to blame (if anyone) is still being worked out. Like most people, I was moved by the story of John O’Neill, the foil of bin Laden and the martyr for America's sin of too much bureaucracy. I also have a better understanding of Ayman al-Zawari, the tortured doctor from Cairo who is still alive and operating; and Sayyid Qutb, whose manifesto, Milestones, is what motivated so many to take up arms against the west. ( )
  Stbalbach | Jan 25, 2013 |
Well-paced, well-told story of some of the key players and events leading up to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Excellent reporting and a great example of why journalism is the "first draft" of History. The book also confirmed my long ago notion that the entire leadership of the United States' intelligence apparatus ought to have tendered their resignations within days due to their catastrophic failures, esp. CIA director Tenet and FBI director Freeh. ( )
  namfos | Jul 9, 2012 |
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A narrator doesn’t just tell a story; he keeps the listener company. Alan Sklar is good company—with a voice so distinctive that a blind man could pick him out from across the room.
added by readysetgo | editAudiofile Magazine (Feb 1, 2007)
Wright, a New Yorker writer, brings exhaustive research and delightful prose to one of the best books yet on the history of terrorism.
added by readysetgo | editPublishers Weekly (Aug 6, 2006)
In the nearly five years since the attacks, we’ve heard oceans of commentary on the whys and how-comes and what-it-means and what’s nexts. Wright, a staff writer for The New Yorker — where portions of this book have appeared — has put his boots on the ground in the hard places, conducted the interviews and done the sleuthing. Others talked, he listened. And so he has unearthed an astonishing amount of detail about Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mullah Muhammad Omar and all the rest of them. They come alive.
Mr. Wright’s book, based on more than 500 interviews — ranging from Mr. bin Laden’s best friend in college, Jamal Khalifa, to Yosri Fouda, a reporter for Al Jazeera, to Richard A. Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism chief — gives the reader a searing view of the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, a view that is at once wrenchingly intimate and boldly sweeping in its historical perspective.
added by readysetgo | editNew York Times, Michiko Kakutani (Aug 1, 2006)
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Full title (2006): The looming tower : Al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11 / Lawrence Wright; Danish edition has title: Al-Qaida : Vejen til 11.september
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 037541486X, Hardcover)

A sweeping narrative history of the events leading to 9/11, a groundbreaking look at the people and ideas, the terrorist plans and the Western intelligence failures that culminated in the assault on America. Lawrence Wright’s remarkable book is based on five years of research and hundreds of interviews that he conducted in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, England, France, Germany, Spain, and the United States.

The Looming Tower achieves an unprecedented level of intimacy and insight by telling the story through the interweaving lives of four men: the two leaders of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri; the FBI’s counterterrorism chief, John O’Neill; and the former head of Saudi intelligence, Prince Turki al-Faisal.

As these lives unfold, we see revealed: the crosscurrents of modern Islam that helped to radicalize Zawahiri and bin Laden . . . the birth of al-Qaeda and its unsteady development into an organization capable of the American embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania and the attack on the USS Cole . . . O’Neill’s heroic efforts to track al-Qaeda before 9/11, and his tragic death in the World Trade towers . . . Prince Turki’s transformation from bin Laden’s ally to his enemy . . . the failures of the FBI, CIA, and NSA to share intelligence that might have prevented the 9/11 attacks.

The Looming Tower broadens and deepens our knowledge of these signal events by taking us behind the scenes. Here is Sayyid Qutb, founder of the modern Islamist movement, lonely and despairing as he meets Western culture up close in 1940s America; the privileged childhoods of bin Laden and Zawahiri; family life in the al-Qaeda compounds of Sudan and Afghanistan; O’Neill’s high-wire act in balancing his all-consuming career with his equally entangling personal life—he was living with three women, each of them unaware of the others’ existence—and the nitty-gritty of turf battles among U.S. intelligence agencies.

Brilliantly conceived and written, The Looming Tower draws all elements of the story into a galvanizing narrative that adds immeasurably to our understanding of how we arrived at September 11, 2001. The richness of its new information, and the depth of its perceptions, can help us deal more wisely and effectively with the continuing terrorist threat.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:30:47 -0400)

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Explores both the American and Arab sides of the September 11th terrorist attacks in an account of the people, ideas, events, and intelligence failures that led to the attacks.

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