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

The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright
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Aug 21, 2008

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Read in October, 2007

One of the least asked questions about the events leading up to the one of the worst terrorist attacks on U.S. soil was "who the hell are these guys?" A great deal of us took for granted our assumptions on what a terrorist was and who were the people which made up their ranks. We were immersed in a G.I. like fantasy of costumed super villains striking out at us with elaborate plots, like blowing up the world's oceans or unleashing zombie paratroopers from zeppelins, that we failed to take the time to do any research on the backgrounds on those who had declared war on the United States for the past 20 years. The Looming Tower does much to demystify the personalities and people on the other side of the war on terror. The author (a journalist who had spent several years writing and traveling the Middle East and had helped write the screen play for the movie "The Siege") explores the history of violent extremist Islam and its roots in Egypt, starting with the Muslim Brotherhood, which would act as the midwife to what would become Al-Qaeda. He examines the history of its founder and his influence on Osama bin Laden and bin Laden's experience in Afghanistan. While following the rise, fall and rebirth of the terrorist organization responsible for 9/11, the author also examines the lives of the men and women attempting against all hope, to possibly stop them.

What I learned from the book was two major things:

1) The events of 9/11 were preventable and pretty much were able to happen due to the incompetency and entrenched culture of the bureaucracy of the intelligence communities of the United States government.

2) The more you learn about the other side of this war, the more surprised you are that ANYONE of them managed to kill a person. Anywhere.

At its core, The Looming Towers is a well researched narrative of not only the events leading up to the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and the following war on terror, but the personalities behind the event. Somehow, making the whole thing more human, made me significantly less afraid, which for any other reason, I can recommend this book.
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