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The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda's Road to 9/11 Paperback – 6 Sep 2007


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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (6 Sept. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141029358
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141029351
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 23,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Wright's brilliantly constructed narrative is head and shoulders above the rest. He knows important parts of the Muslim world (including Saudi Arabia) at first hand, he understands the motors of Islamist militancy ... Moreover, he is a fine writer with an eye for the telling detail. Even those who think they know the story intimately will feel they are reading it anew (New Statesman)

One of the best and most important books of recent years. A masterful combination of reporting and writing (Dan Rather)

Lawrence Wright's integrity and diligence as a reporter shine through every page of this riveting narrative (Robert Caro)

From the Publisher

THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
Chosen as book of the year by The Times, Evening Standard, Economist, Sunday Times, Daily Mail, Sunday Telegraph, The Herald, Observer, Guardian and New Statesman.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By The Guardian TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 28 Feb. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Before reading Lawrence Wright's excellent `The Looming Tower' I held the mistaken idea that its primary focus might be the 19 hijackers in the September 2001 `planes operation'. But the book is not about that; it has a more ambitious reach with a narrative deeper, broader and more enlightening.

At the heart of the book is the story of Islamist-jihadism since the 1940s: the revolutionary `Moslem Brotherhood' whose primary goal was the violent overthrow of Arab secular-nationalist governments starting with Egypt; the 18th-century Wahhabi tradition predominant in Saudi Arabia, and the Taliban movement jointly financed and supported by the Pakistani ISI & Saudi Intelligence. These detailed stories replete with revealing personal testimony (the author interviewed more than 1,000 people all over the Middle East & Af-Pak region whilst researching his material) are progressively interwoven with those of the key players in the US Government, in particular the clever but mildly eccentric Richard Clarke; the CIA and the FBI's John O'Neill, a larger-than-life cigar-smoking polygamist highly respected and popular with his staff who prophetically foresaw the Salafi-Islamist attack on the USA in 2001 and worked tirelessly to forestall it before tragically meeting his death in the World Trade Centre on 11th September.

The book starts with a chapter devoted to the austere Egyptian anti-Semitic academic Sayyid Qutb, the pious and sexually-repressed father of modern theocratic Islamism whose time spent in the USA in the late 1940s convinced him the West was irredeemably decadent and deserved to be destroyed. Qutb eventually welcomed execution by the Egyptian government in 1966 as a `martyr for Allah.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell TOP 500 REVIEWER on 24 May 2007
Format: Hardcover
What sets this apart from some other books I've read on the roots, history and methods of Al-Qaeda is Lawrence Wright's impressive research and his sparkling prose. He is a journalist with the reach of a historian and the narrative skills of a best-selling novelist.

There are really two stories here: one, the history of Al-Qaeda, and two, that of the American intelligence agencies that failed to prevent 9/11.

Wright begins with Sayyid Qutb, the Islamist writer who inspired the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian terrorist organization which may be seen as a precursor to Al-Qaeda. When Qutb was hanged by Nasser in 1966 it marked perhaps the essential martyrdom for the Islamic terrorists mainly because Qutb was considered the intellectual godfather of the modern jihadist movement. Another good book that examines the roots of Al-Qaeda and emphasizes the importance of Qutb is Dilip Hiro's lengthy War without End: The Rise of Islamist Terrorism and Global Response (2002). (See my review at Amazon.)

This history is important because it provides the rationale for modern jihadists who ignore the teachings of the Qu'ran (and human decency) by using suicide bombers to murder people in the name of God. Qutb is quoted in Hiro's book as saying that "once the Brothers had declared someone to be jahil (infidel), they had the right to attack this person or property, a right granted in Islam." (p. 67, op. cit.) Intensifying this rationale are the words of 13th-century Wahhabi philosopher Ibn Tamiyyah who justified killing bystanders with this logic: "If he is a good Muslim, he will go to Paradise; if he is bad, he will go to hell, and good riddance. Thus the dead tourist and the hotel worker would find their proper reward." (p.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By david on 28 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An amazing amount of research, well written, hard to put down. If you need any more confirmation that U.S. "intelligence" was truly, shockingly arrogant and boneheaded, this book makes it clear as day. Bush and others could state this and that about wanting to get Bin Laden, but their appointed friends or directors were incompentant; the lack of insider knowledge in Pakistan is perhaps most irritating, and the almost complete lack of info exchange between the FBI and CIA meant 1000's died needlessly.

This book is not really about THE day, 9/11, but the people and events that created the desire to do such an evil deed. Yes, sometimes the names can be confusing, or hard to place in the timeline of events, but the narrative is clear and well written.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The story of how Muslim Fundamentalism grew, and how it led to 9/11. Both could have been avoided, but events spiralled out of control. The US intelligence services come out of it very badly...the rivalry between the FBI and the CIA, and both agencies refusing to share info with each other conspiring to lead to the most brutally tragic event in modrn American history. An excellent conpanion to Ghost Wars.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M.B. on 12 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback
This is a very readable and generally very reliable account of the long build-up to 9/11. Its most original aspect is the way it describes the gradual development over several decades of Bin Laden's jihad on the USA, an anger which shifts focus from the rulers of his native Saudi Arabia to what he sees as the broader Western sources of their decadence. The early chapters in particular are very interesting in emphasising the importance of the writings of Sayyid Qutb (hanged by Nasser in 1966) and other events in Egypt as formative influences on Bin Laden and his followers.

It reads like a dramatised version of the 9/11 Commission report, covering in some detail the major Islamic terrorist events that preceeded 9/11. As such, a word of caution: despite its title (a well-chosen quotation from the Koran), only the last two chapters out of the twenty in the book are directly about 9/11. There is very little about the planning and execution of the attack itself. Rather, this is a history of its motivation.

As at least one other reviewer notes, Wright accepts the term "Al Qaeda" without question and uses it rather liberally. Jason Burke is a much more reliable author in terms of stressing the looseness and diversity of this supposedly official grouping which was never in any absolute sense directed or organised solely by Bin Laden.

Obviously, the absurd conspiracy theorists should be dismissed out of hand - it is inconceivable that the U.S. authorities would not have prevented 9/11 if they could, and this book is quite open about the reasons why they failed, mainly the tragically ineffective communications between the CIA and FBI. There are occasional moments, however, when The Looming Tower does lapse into blind patriotism.
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