The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, by Lawrence Wright

While many of the events leading up to the September 11th attacks are familiar from the 9/11 Commission Report and other accounts, in this book Lawrence Wright, a staff writer for the New Yorker, focuses on the history of Al-Qaeda.  Through an impressive number of interviews and sources, he outlines the philosophical, religious, and political roots of al Qaeda and the relationship between Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri.  On the other side are their pursuers in the CIA and FBI–most notably John O’Neill (who died in the twin towers)–who sensed what could be coming but did not stop it in time.  As a whole, Wright’s book reads so much like a thriller, I found myself forgetting at times that none of it is fiction and like everybody else, I already knew the ending.  And then it gave me nightmares.  So it’s not light beach reading, but I do recommend it, because like it or not, this is the world we live in, we need to understand it, and this book tells the story well.  It comes with extensive notes, bibliography, list of interviews, and a “principal characters” section to help you out.

UPDATE, 4/16/07:  The Looming Tower was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.

Rating:  **** Very, very good
Reviewed by stc

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1 Comment

Filed under Award Winners, Non Fiction, Staff Picks

One response to “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, by Lawrence Wright

  1. Will Carr

    Mr. Wright worked for the US State Department when GHWB was UN Ambassador. He went to Egypt to lean to speak Arabic and Farsi. He is very knowledgable about Al Qaeda’s roots within the Moslem Brotherhood. This puts him in a unique position to share what he knows about the connection between the Moslem Brotherhood and the CIA, yet there is no mention of CIA agent Robert Baer’s revelation (Sleeping With the Enemy 2004…two years before The Looming Tower) that the Brotherhood had been doing the CIA’s dirty work across the Muslim world for decades and that Thomas Tweeton’s son-in-law, Matt Gannon, also CIA, was returning from Europe to press the question…why do rank and file CIA and FBI agent have NOTHING on Al Qaeda and their relationship to the Muslim Brotherhood? Gannon went down on Pan Am 103 before he could make his complaints known.

    John McNeil is painted as an untrustworthy baffoon who just happens to find his way to the head of security at the Twin Towers. No mention is made of Marvin P. Bush, the President’s relative whose company owned the security program at the Towers…Securacom. Nor is Rudy Giuliani’s decision to put the city’s 911 command post in the Towers after the first World Trade Center bombing.

    Neither does Wright mention Rick Rescorla, another high profile American, whose story is told by Joe Galloway in his book and Mel Gibson movie We Were Soldiers Once and Young.

    By his own admission, Lawrence Wright’s mentor was relative of GHWB, Louisianian, Walker Percy. Could this have contributed to the oversights?