Bart's Reviews > The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright
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Nov 05, 07

Recommended for: Any American
Read in November, 2007

What a great surprise this book was. I first read about The Looming Tower (the title comes from the Koranic verse Osama bin Laden used as a coded message to the 9/11 hijackers) in a number of political op/ed columns. Finally, though, it was conservative writer Jonah Goldberg's heavy reliance on The Looming Tower for an L.A. Times column that sent me looking for the book.

Lawrence Wright's treatment of the jihadist movement is thorough to the point of being almost sympathetic. It goes deeply into what Egyptian interrogation methods created so many Ayman al-Zawahiris. It explores the history of oil wealth in Saudi Arabia and an immigrant construction entrepreneur named Mohammed bin Laden whose seventeenth child, of fifty-four, would grow up to become the world's most ambitious terrorist.

It also walks readers through the tangled relationship between the United States and Afghanistan and the Taliban and al Qaeda and, yes, Saddam Hussein, and the Northern Alliance and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak.

It is fairly merciless in its treatment of the American bureaucracy that created figurative walls between the CIA and the FBI. It makes a somewhat cartoonish hero of an FBI agent named John O'Neill and a level-headed assessment of Richard Clarke.

This was the book that led to the interesting and needlessly controversial two-day miniseries called "The Road to 9/11". That series, like this book, points an accusatory finger at no one American, not Bill Clinton and not George W. Bush.

Why not? Well, because the book is too sophisticated for the mindless, thirty-second shout-a-thons that have passed for political discourse on both the political left and right since 9/11.

Anyone who is interested in an intermediate-level analysis of what made Osama bin Laden so notorious (and his rise has many parallels to that of Ernesto Guevara de la Serna) is well advised to read this book. At 475 pages, it is exhaustive but not exhausting.

Anyone who has "strong" feelings about what caused the rise of al Qaeda (and be warned, the network is a lot smaller than one might think) on the world stage should read this book before the next time he raises his voice for/against a US politician.

The Looming Tower is not "complicated" (the cop-out word self-proclaimed intellectuals use at every turn) but detailed. It is not inciting but insightful. It is also highly recommended to any curious American.
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message 1: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Sirotkin What books would you recommend for a more advanced level analysis of what bin Laden so notorious?


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