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The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright - A Filmic Bookpdf

The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright - A Filmic Bookpdf

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The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright

The Looming Tower

There really is a filmic quality to Lawrence Wright's masterly "The Looming Tower," his five-year investigation into the birth of Al-Qaeda and the series of events that culminated in the apocalypse that was 9/11. In Wright's narrative, Osama bin Laden's war against America was a desperate marketing tool, employed by two individuals - bin Laden and his Egytian alter-ego Ayman al-Zawahiri - to resusicate a dying cause devoid of funds, soldiers, energy, and vision. Standing in their way was one maverick FBI agent, John O'Neill who would himself become a mary tr. The book is a fascinating read, and it's stunning to see what a powerful factor luck and coincidence played in the birth of the legend that was Osama bin Laden and the organization that was al-Qaeda. Instead of being heroes in Afghanistan, bin Laden and his band of Arabs were adventure tourists who embarrassed themselves in Afghanistan and annoyed the Afghans. But they survived, and in their rendering of the events they single-handedly brought an end to the evil Soviet empire. After this mythic founding of al-Qaeda, bin Laden and al-Zawahiri began a long perpetual descent that tested their resolve - bin Laden's fortune withered away, as did his soldiers, and eventually his cause and purpose. There were many instances when bin Laden should have been killed or captured or just given up, but he survived. Utterly destitute in Afghanistan and rejoined by the equally desperate Zawahiri, bin Laden would re-focus al-Qaeda's attention on attacking America, thereby drawing into his orbit a new generation of Islamic fanatics: men like Mohammed Atta, cosmopolitan and competent and compelled by their self-hatred to destroy the West and all it stood for. Lawrence Wright believes that 9/11 would not have bee n possible without Osama bin Laden, and he is right. But he also believes one man could have stopped 9/11, and on this he is wrong. John O'Neill was a career FBI agent who managed to live three parallel social existences with three different women while at the same time relentlessly tracking al-Qaeda and

angering the American intelligence community. It's clear that Wright believes that if the CIA were more co-operative with O'Neill or if O'Neill were to have replaced Richard Clarke as America's counter-terrorism czar or if the FBI simply respected the man's obsession then 9/11 could have been averted. This is simply nonsense. In the epic struggle between Osama bin Laden and John O'Neill, Osama won because he was totally committed to his cause and he built consensus and was kind and generous to his followers: there was a purity to him that made Osama's charisma so much more powerful. John O'Neill was a pathological liar who sabotaged the careers of his enemies, creating tension and friction between hi s team and everyone else. And so why did Lawrence Wright turn O'Neill into the book's martyr? Wright was a co-writer for the movie "The Seige," and he could hardly be blamed for trying to create a protagonist to bring in dramatic elements into his reportage. Moreover, O'Neill died in the flames of 9/11. Finally, Wright tells us that without the co-operation of O'Neill's FBI counter-terrorism team (the book's arch-villains the CIA refused to be interviewed) the book would not have been possible. The FBI could be loyal to the memory of John O'Neill as well as serve multiple bureaucratic purposes by inflating O'Neill's ability and brilliance, and spinning a narrative that made the CIA (because of their bureaucratic pettiness and obtuseness) the chief culpr its for 9/11. The book's most instructive contrast is not between Osama bin Laden and John O'Neill, but between the Muslim who begins the book and another who ends the book. In the late 1940s the Egyptian educator Sayyid Qutb came to America to study, and he was appalled by its crass materialism, licentiousness, and racism: his self-hatred and contempt for the West would provide the theoretical underpinning for modern Islamic fundamentalism. Then there is Ali Soufan, a Lebanese immigrant who found hope and salvation in America and repaid his adopted homeland by joining the FBI. In the last chapter melodramatically titled "Revelations," Ali Soufan interrogated Abu Jandal, a bin Laden bodyguard who was under Yemeni custody, to discover the identities of the 9/11 hijackers. Instead of torturing or ridiculing or threatening, Ali Soufan confronted Abu Jandal as a fellow Muslim, and it was by appealing to Abu Jandal's humanity that America was able to discover the link between al-Qaeda and 9/11. Thus, it is not John O'Neill's death but Ali Soufan's triumph that reveals the tragedy of 9/11. When America permits its provincial hatred to overwhelm itself it creates people like Sayyid Qutb, and when it permits its generosity and tolerance for diveristy and difference to be let free then it creates people like Ali Soufan, Muslims who believe in America and who are the best ambassadors for America in the Muslim world. After bin Laden declared war on America those who joined al-Qaeda came from all walks of life, but there was one common trait among them: displacement. We live in an age of globalization, and that means people

who have obtained a certain education and socio-economic level are forced everyday to confront difference, diversity, and displacement, and it is how they respond to this ever shifting landscape that will determine if they become a global citizen or a religious fanatic. Society can do much to embrace those who are different and who are displaced, and indeed it is only with openness and tolerance, generosity and kindness that the Ali Soufans will outnumber the Sayyid Qutbs. Unfortunately, after 9/11 America chose to let its provincial hatred overwhelm it, which was Osama bin Laden's dream and goal all along.

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