Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Looming Tower by David Forsmark

By Aussiegirl

Front Page Magazine has an excellent detailed review of "The Looming Tower". Well worth a read, especially if you aren't planning on reading the whole book.

FrontPage magazine.com :: The Looming Tower by David Forsmark

When Bill Clinton blew up at Chris Wallace and began ranting about the "disinformation campaign" to hold his administration accountable for 9/11, he blasted the credible ABC miniseries that his former cronies had done their best to discredit, jumped on Fox News, and falsely claimed that ex-counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke cleared him of any negligence in the failure to stop Osama bin Laden. But he completely ignored Wallace’s reference to Lawrence Wright's new book, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11.

For good reason – because this may be the most damning book yet about the Clinton administration’s efforts against Islamist terrorists, and there is no way Clinton can tie Wright to the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. Wright comes to the table with impeccable liberal credentials, which include a long term at The New Yorker and serving as co-writer of The Siege, an execrable 1998 movie that posits that the real danger from Islamic terrorism on U.S. soil is it would lead to martial law and the establishment of concentration camps overnight.

The Looming Tower is impeccably sourced but reads like a thriller. With minimal commentary, Wright lets the events speak for themselves with an incredible wealth of detail. As the Sept. 11 attacks near, Wright recounts this damning incident as an FBI counterterror unit known as I-49 hunts for a few Al-Qaeda operatives who are at large in the United States:

"The FBI agents on the I-49 squad asked who was in the pictures, and when and where they were taken. ‘And were there any other photographs?’ one of the agents demanded. The CIA supervisor refused to say. … The meeting became heated; people began yelling at each other. The FBI agents knew that clues were being dangled in front of their eyes, but they couldn’t squeeze any further information from the CIA supervisor. … By withholding the picture of Khallad standing beside the future hijackers, however, the CIA blocked the Bureau’s investigation into the Cole attack and allowed the 9/11 plot to proceed."

Even many conservatives put this sort of non-cooperation down to the longstanding rivalry between the CIA and FBI and to the suicidal "reforms" that came out of the Church Committee’s post-Watergate witch hunts against American intelligence agencies. While those were contributing factors, along with intelligence agencies' tendency to hoard their data, Wright’s analysis goes far beyond the usual suspects:

"The June 11 meeting was the culmination of a bizarre trend in the U.S. government to hide information from the people who most needed it. There had always been certain legal barriers to the sharing of information…But until the second Clinton Administration, information derived from intelligence operations, especially if it might involve a crime, was freely given to criminal investigators. In fact, it was essential." [Emphasis added.]

[...]And where did these fanatics come from? Wright, as did many before him, dismantles the leftist cliché that poverty creates terrorism. In fact, American universities have more to do with creating Al-Qaeda than the fabled "Arab street."

Among the ranks of Al-Qaeda’s major operatives are more American-educated students than the sons of poor Arab families. Even the godfather of the jihadist movement, Sayid Qutb — the man everyone from bin Laden on down looks to for spiritual inspiration — gained his view of the West during his time at the "progressive" Colorado State College of Education.

Wright begins with a mini-biography of Qutb, an Egyptian bureaucrat who became a middle-class revolutionary. Ironically, he was sent to the United States to study by the government whose overthrow he advocated. His manifesto, Milestones, and eventual martyrdom inspired a generation of jihadists. This section is the most effortless introduction into the philosophical roots of Islamist radicals available; and readers will find themselves instantly conversant in everything from Sufi Islam to the Muslim Brotherhood.

In cinematic style, Wright alternates between the stories of two children of privilege who fell under the spell of Qutb — bin Laden and Zawahiri — and their rise to the top of the terrorist heap. Interestingly, Zawahiri was more operationally active and intellectually consistent than bin Laden. Zawahiri came from a family of medical professionals and was himself a talented doctor. He also was committed to the overthrow of the Egyptian government. While he answered the call to anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan, where he met bin Laden, he treated patients across the border in Pakistan.

On the other hand, bin Laden, the son of a self-made billionaire who became the Saudi royal family’s favorite contractor, was more of a drifter intellectually. His one constant conviction seemed to be that he was destined to be the great leader who would lead the Muslim world back to purity and world dominance.

Bin Laden drifted between wanting to be a holy warrior on behalf of the House of Saud to being committed to its overthrow. He flirted with anti-communism in Afghanistan and had favorable impressions of the Americans who funded the Afghan resistance through the Saudis. Bin Laden helped raise money for the jihad in Afghanistan
and was heavily allied with his government.

Contrary to leftists' assertions, bin Laden was not trained by the Americans, nor was he in any way a creation of the CIA. Wright’s account of the Arab jihadis in Afghanistan thoroughly rebuts that claim and many other media myths that have become part of leftist pundits' conventional wisdom.


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