My Review (5 stars out of 5)
Covering more than five decades, The Looming Tower describes the growth of Islamic fundamentalism, the rise of al-Qaeda, and the communication and other failures within the CIA and other agencies that led to the attacks on the World Trade Centre. Lawrence Wright charts the lives and development of the two main forces behind what became al-Qaeda: Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the path of destruction that culminated in 9/11. The book follows FBI counterterrorism chief John O’Neill (played by Jeff Daniels in the TV series) as he learns of the threats from al-Qaeda, and the difficulties of stopping the plan to destroy the twin towers.
First off, this isn’t anything like the TV series, though a fair number of the scenes I recall are recounted later in the book. Focusing on the growth of Islamist-jihadism from the 1940s onwards, beginning with the writings of Islamic author and thinker Sayyid Qutb, Lawrence details the beliefs – religious and otherwise – of the men who sought to demolish America’s foreign policy (which they alleged had oppressed and killed Muslims in the Middle East). What is almost as scary, is the lack of cooperation between the CIA, FBI and the NSA. If the CIA (in particular) had passed on information about terrorist groups, the attack on the World Trade Centre might have been prevented.
Although it’s a wordy tome by anyone’s standards, this is a fascinating and highly readable book that sheds light on 9/11 and why it happened.