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Thrilling reading - but possibly fatally flawed
on 2 July 2008
This exhaustively-researched book is essential reading for anyone interested in the build-up to the 9/11 outrage, especially if you are looking for a sometimes dramatised version of the - I strongly suspect - official side of the story.
But beware - there are very different views on what happened, if you take the trouble to investigate the alternative evidence available.
The prime example is the name of the dark global shadow permeating the whole book - al Quaeda.
According to Wright, al-Qaeda (meaning the base) was named on August 11, 1988, at a meeting in Peshawar attended by Osama Bin Laden and called by Sheikh Abdullah Azzam to discuss the future of jihad and the danger of an Afghan civil war.
According to the BBC's Adam Curtis documentary The Power of Nightmares (DVDs of this are available but difficult to find), the name is largely an invention of the Americans.
In the third of the BBC's brilliant three-part series by Adam Curtis, we learn that the name al-Quaeda emerged in 2001 during the FBI's trial in Manhatten of four men accused of the East African embassy bombings.
A key witness Jamal al-Fadl, who had stolen money from Bin Laden and was given US taxpayers' cash to stay in the country, said Bin Laden headed a well-organised international organisation he called al Quaeda.
Actually, the documentary claimed, Bin Laden did not use the term until after 9/11 when he realised the Americans was referring to his organisation by that name.
There are many contradictions too in the work - Bin Laden is said to live his life very closely in line with the Koran, opposing the harming of innocents, as did the Prophet. He is portrayed as generous, weakly, almost gentle. Yet he is credited with numerous horrors in which thousands of innocent people were slaughtered.
Something doesn't add up.
Then there are the conversations between various secretive and much sought after terrorists - and several other major players on both sides - reported in direct speech. Good for dramatic effect. Bad for authenticity surely?
But I thoroughly enjoyed the this truly unputdownable mine of information.
Make up your own mind.