After the aftermaths of the 11th September, 2001 terrorism attacks, many questions become unanswered as to the mystery behind this act of terrorism. On a mission to solve these mysteries, a commission was formed; The Bipartisan 9/11 Commission to investigate the base of al-Qaida. Countries such as Afghanistan and suspects such as Osama bin Laden became famous to the public. It was because of these events that Lawrence attempted to answer questions about the 9/11 mysteries through a series of investigations.
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With a similar mission like the commission, Lawrence Wright, the American journalist, sought to investigate the reason as to why three thousands Americans lost their lives, who attacked them, why did the attackers hate them, and why did the American government avoided or was unable prevent these attacks. In his investigation, he traced the roots and linage of the al-Qaida. These were the main suspects of the attack as evidence revealed later.
Dozens of writers have written very many books on the 9/11 attacks and the attempts of the United States intelligence to stop them. However, the author of this book having lived in Cairo for two years, he had adequate knowledge about the Islamic environment and that is how easy it was for him to dig deeper in his investigations than the rest by relating his ideas and proving evidence of his data support. He screens and investigates the actions of many of those who were partially and impartially involved in the attacks.
One of his key findings was that all through there has been a crash between the west and the Arabs. The author creates his title from the 9/11 quote in the Quran by Osama bin laden. It occurred at a wedding and the words were ‘death is everywhere and can find you even in the looming tower’ (Wright 9).
The book authored by Wright is based on a research that took five years to complete, with interviews from men such as the counterterrorism chief John O Neil, Osama bin Laden, and Al-Zawahiri. He also based his research on documentary reviews and took into account what was the reason behind the formation of the al-Qaida and what was like in the inner circle of the al-Qaida.
He took interviews with over one thousand Arabs. His project was able to track down former friends of Osama as far as Sudan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.
Behind the scenes, he draws his attention to Sayyid Qutd, the intellectual activist in the Islamic regime. In his findings, the ideologue returns to Egypt after a trip to the US with anti west Islamic movements. The influence was what has typically led to all these terrorist attacks (Wright 24).
The reason is that his two year stay in Colorado collage made him hate the United States due to their modern way of living. He could not understand the reason as to why there was sexual freedom, more enrollments of the girl child in college Judaism, and active Christianity.
He considered this to be secular and colonialism since most people from his native Islamic world were being assimilated into this culture. After his return to Egypt, he became so radical due to his opposition and dislike of the secular regime in his homeland. His plan to overthrow the government fails, which leads to his imprisonment and execution in 1966. The failure is what made him a martyr (Kakutani 1).
He introduces his next character, DR. Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor and an admirer of Mister Sayyid works. He is an evil mentor and goes on forming the jihad. Wright thinks that were it not for Mister Zawari, Osama bin laden would not have turned his mind to jihad.
In his investigations with some of the close friends of Osama bin Laden, he is able to learn that Osama was not more into politics as well as Muslim opposition, but due to the influence of Mister Zawahri. Again, in his wealthy position, he was able to join the fight against the soviets. It was from this military success that Osama and his group gained their roots in religion. He frequently mentions Saudi Arabia which was Osama’s homeland and the country that was responsible for financing the most notorious groups.
Wright emphasizes that Al Qaeda was so limited on its objectives in its early development stages (Madison 12).It was seen as a harmless organization with an aim of fighting communism in Asian countries so as to restore hope to the people. America through the CIA was ignorant and ended up supporting some of the anti communist Muslim groups in order to fight the communists. Little did they know that these groups would take on them later.
Through the different actions, way of thinking, and policies taken by his characters, Wright tries to portray that the base of Islamic militancy is anti-modernly, anger, and pride for murder. He is not against the Islamic religion since it has played its roles in nurturing people to do what is right, but against some of its mentors who negatively interpret the word. They use religion to lie about Islam humiliation and degradation in an attempt to create enmity, militancy and achieve dominance.
However, his blame to the September 11th terrorist attack does not go to Islamist militant alone. He is also concerned about his government’s failure to delegate its duties. He is almost convinced that they undermined the existence of Al-Qaida though they had some basic ideas about them.
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To criticize the fact that the 9/11 commission findings tried to favor the CIA and the FBI, he develops his argument through investing some of the security agents. He shows how ignorant the government was on John O’Neil’s report and how the CIA and the FBI lacked co-operation.
Notably, these are the dominant events and character traits that Wright uses to convince as to how we arrived at the September 11th 2001 booming and other attacks. That is from the rapid and complex growth of the Islam fundamentalism to the rise of the al-Qaeda and finally the failures of the intelligence services. The explanation reveals how he relates his ideas to give us a basic overview of his investigations.
Why al-Qaeda attacked the United States
Wright argues that the attack began in the sixties after Qutb was upset with the western culture. He considered these cultures to have elements of godlessness and materialism. For instance, he does not understand why the girl child exposes most of her body with more priorities for her.
Sexual freedom is allowed to an extent where one could see the inside instinct of screaming in these women with an arousing smell of their feminine bodies. In the Arab countries, it was a taboo for women to expose their bodies or share the same environment with men. It is this hatred of modernization, materialism, Judaism, and culture that became the base of these conflicts (Fouda and Fielding 73).
Wright creates suspense to the reader of whether it would have been possible to have similar attacks were it not for Osama. He is partly convinced but his opinion can be contradicted to Huntington’s thesis, which shows that most conflicts in the post cold war were brought about by cultural differences between people. According to him, it is because of culture that the west is seen to undermine Islam. Other factors could be economical, ideological or political factors.
The theory of MacWorld versus jihad urges that the Islamic civilization and revolution is spurred by their religion, the western beliefs, political systems and values change with globalization, technology, and modernization (Barber and Benjamin 29). However much Osama would have been absent, conflicts could still have risen. They still could have looked for ways of justifying themselves to achieve an end and degrade the secular empire.
Another reason that would have motivated the attacks was failure of the Arabs to defeat the western dominance. Osama had an ambition of creating a Muslim modern world. That is why he used clerics to twist words in the Koran with the aim of recruiting militants for the mission.
The attack on the US would become a break through to victory against their cultural rival forces in Israel and America. Away from cultural rivalry, the September 11th attacks could be more of revenge against the American policies (Gertz 1). Maybe, the US backup policy in support of Israel or the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia or the libel lion against the Iraq sanctions would have triggered the attacks
However, I believe that the way Wright brings out the personalities of these characters and their ways shows an element of degrade that biases the reader. Osama is created as an idealistic, spoilt, and ignorant fellow who is horrifying. Wright goes ahead to explain that the formation of these groups was an escape to jealousness and humiliation to accepting the facts of the real world. However much his story is persuasive, critically it is not easy to believe that such an international conflict can be ruled in favor of one side.
The reason why the United States did not stop the 9/11 attack
Another major finding that Wright developed in his work is that the United States has no one to blame for the attacks. The failure to stop the 9/11 attacks began from the homeland securities to the intelligent services. He mentions the holding of very vital information by the CIA from the FBI (Diamond 150).
He does not understand the reason as to why the CIA was hiding the identity of the hijackers and why they never reported them to have been residing in the USA before the attacks. A fascinating scene is shown in the book through photos of FBI agents having a conversation with two of the men about their identities. Cultural differences, personal conflicts as well as fear of loosing intelligence are some of the reasons Wright puts down that led to the failure of these agencies.
However, there is a major contradiction that lies in this chapter of the novel. Wright is very well convinced that only the FBI and the CIA can deal with terrorism. He argues that the September 11th plots would have been prevented if and only if the United States had weeded out suspects such as Osama bin laden, Al-Zawahiri, and the hijackers.
Evidently, this is rather weak finding for Mister Wright because it is just a short term solution whose investigations do not touch the base of the conflict. Alan Dershowitz contrasts Wright’s ideas by suggesting that even though we would have prevented these attacks, these people who are bound by oaths, beliefs and ready to die would still have continued with their mission.
The act would have continued even with the death of their leaders (Dershowitz and Alan 33). He comments that, “the Al-Qaeda movement is an all rounded movement, very complex and clustered all over the world and has back up to fill any loss of a leader”( Dershowitz and Alan 46).
Dershowitz suggests that effectual dealing with these threats and attacks can only be successful if we stop potential terrorists. The attempt would involve creating international policies that discourage and heavily penalize those who benefit from terrorism. The endeavor would include suppliers of terrorist materials and sympathizers.
He advocated for other strategies such as increasing and creating new agencies that specialize in intelligence over the aAl Qaeda, liberating the Middle East, giving voice to those who need to be heard in the Islam world, and getting hard on nations that sympathize with terrorism. Wright focus on the FBI and the CIA is not a very efficient approach.
It limits the critical thinking of the reader who is led to think of the FBI and the CIA as the core saviors of this situation. It is not fully satisfying to submit his opinion since no intelligence can address these future attacks fully in the US if the Middle East issues are not addressed. The reason is that Islam is a religion that has followers everywhere and Al Qaeda easily uses some of their sympathizers to militate for their war.
Strengths of the book
In an opinion count, Wright can be seen to have a special way of conducting his search. When going over his work, the reader can have a clear background of what terrorism means. Having lived in Cairo in Egypt for two years, he has adequate knowledge on the roots of al Qaeda that developed from Egypt.
He designed his books in such a way that it outlines the main characters in a ten page list, a summary list of interviews, held and a clear bibliography of those in this investigation. He also attaches picture of those addressed so that the reader can have a clear picture of who is being addressed. Another unique aspect is his ability to compress such a bulk of information into a simple narrative that greatly provides the satisfaction of the readers urge to acquire the investigations and events of the 9/11.
Wright creates his work in two sets, the story of Osama and his counterparts, and on the opposite tries to explain the US anti terrorism effort to stop this. As you read along the book, Wright creates a flow of information from learning about the life of the characters such as Osama bin laden. To find the roots of the matter, he takes us back to the understanding of how the ant west policy was developed and the reason behind the birth of al-Qaeda.
On the opposite he is quick to investigate the US counter terrorist squad leader, John O’Neil, whose interest on the activities of Mister Bin laden aroused as early as 1990. However, he finds out that his investigations were greatly ignored by the then president Mister Clinton. He brings out the bureaucracy in the CIA and the FBI which gambled with the lives of many.
The facts in this book are backed up by background materials so as to bring sense to the reader. Reading this book is emotional as you imagine the collapse of the twin towers. It creates a distressing experience as one pictures the cries and loss of loved ones.
People do not see any sense in the al Qaeda tactics and with their counterparts. However, Wright helps his readers to understand the driving forces behind the al Qaeda from the history connections of events which are based on tribal rivalry to the terror attacks. Wright creates an undertone that contrasts and compares the American and Islamic cultures to try and show that these differences are the core to the 9/11 attacks.
Throughout his arguments, Wright places his blames mostly on the failure of the US security, the intelligence agencies and a limited number of individuals. The argument is not a solution to the fight against terror attacks as he puts down. He is so narrow in his thoughts since this is not a long term solution. In addition, he does not clearly explain the cause of these conflicts.
The way he portrays some of his characters really distracts the readers understanding. By always having so many negatives for the al-Qaeda, he is always ruling in favor of the Americans. Hence, he becomes so limited in finding a solution. He sees the counterparts of the al Qaeda group as spoilt, murderous, idealistic, radicals, and ignorant.
However, this is not the solution because these people have their own way of thinking that is created by their own culture and environment that tend to differ with the western values. That is why they see the westerns as seculars, godless and materialistic yet the westerns are God fearing.
Learning about different cultures across generations can help resolve these global conflicts among the upcoming generations. His argument can never allow the readers to appreciate the position of these people in the society. For instance, if the trend was to continue, young Muslims would be born with this or more anti western attitude and easily become assimilated in these militant groups even though they are born in America.
In contrast, their Christian brother would grow with the knowledge that Muslims are horrifying and murderous so they will have to do their best to eliminate them. However much his arguments seem to be highly persuasive, these elements of being one-sided lead to the distraction of the readers understanding of the occurrences.
It would be practically possible to end global conflicts through negotiations. The point is an aspect that Wright left out in his recommendations and failure to stop the 9/11 attracts. Research has shown that only one out of ten negotiations fail (Neumann 254; Bolton 66). The remaining nine either have their grievances fulfilled or moved to dominant level with little violence.
Relevance of Mister Wright’s works in relation to terror threats in the US
The looming tower can be considered to be a deep research on the events of the 9/11 attacks from the numerous eyewitness stories, recommendations, and interviews from different personalities, some of who are close personalities of the suspects of these attacks. Wright was able to expose many of the riddles behind the 9/11 through his artistic portrayal of the main players.
It is from his findings that the government can learn that most of its intelligence and security agencies are not cohesive. They tend to be bureaucratic, non cooperative, divided by politics and culture. According to Wright, if the CIA had been cooperative with the FBI, they would have stopped the hijackers from entering the American soil. However, the CIA knew the existence of the people yet they were adamant.
It explains how easy three thousand lives were lost. Mister Wright is highly persuasive on this matter and goes ahead to show the repercussions of ignorance by Mister Clinton and President Bush on John O’Neil’s report in the 90s. According to Mister Wright, it is relevant to set policies and strategies that promote co-operation and teamwork amongst agencies because division means failure.
Wright shows the effects of religion especially the Islamic religion which the militants use by twisting it in a mission to recruit young militants. He shows how these men fear no death and are determined to do acts of terror with a feeling that they are doing gods work.
To offer answers to Jason’s analysis about centralization of the Al-Qaida, Wright finds out that the Muslim has a lot of cohesion amongst its followers. It is due to this cohesive nature of the Islamic religion that brings about effective co-operation among members even in the US born Muslim citizens. The weakness explains why we have a very complex decentralized network of al-Qaida groups.
Mister Wright’s accounts have very strong back up support which makes him more unique than other writers of the 9/11 attacks. He is able to enhance the reader’s quest by having a detailed narration of the biography of each of his characters and facts about their actions.
However, his bias towards al Qaeda does not respect the position of these men in the society the core reason as to why they are fighting. It would have been fair if he reflected on the western part too. His evidence about the failure by the FBI and the CIA is not fully addressed. It does not offer solutions either.
The reason is that even though they eliminated the Al-Qaida leaders or the plane hijackers, their network is very complex and others would have taken into their foot steps. The finding is very limited as a solution. Inured to create a wider scope of recommendations, he would have widened his investigations by looking at aspects such as culture, race, environmental factors liberation, and international relations.
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Bolton, Kent. U.S. National Security and Foreign Policymaking after 9/11: Present at the Re-Creation, New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008. Print.
Dershowitz, John, and M. Alan. Why Terrorism Works, New haven, US: Yale University Press, 2002 .Print.
Diamond, John. The CIA and the Culture of Failure: Us Intelligence from the End of the Cold War to the Invasion of Iraq, New York, NY: Stanford University Press, 2008. Print.
Fouda, Yolk, and N. Fielding. The truth behind the Most Devastating Terrorist Attack New the World has Ever Seen, New York, NY: Arcade Publishing, 2004. Print.
Gertz, Bill “Inside the Ring: New al Qaeda threat.” The Washington Times. 30 January 2013. washingtontimes.com. Web.
Kakutani, Michiko. “The Evolution of Al Qaeda and the Intertwining Paths Leading to 9/11.” The York Times .1 August 2006. nytimes.com. Web.
Madison, Jonson, 2006. “BOOK REVIEW: Lawrence Wright’s <I>The Looming Tower</I>” New York Review of Books. 19 October 2006: 12 & 14-16. ufppc.org. Web.
Neumann, Peter. Joining Al-Qaeda: Jihadist Recruitment in Europe, London, UK: Routledge, 2008. Print.
Wright, Lawrence. The Looming Tower: Al-Qaida and The Road To 9/11, New York, US: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2007. Print.