I picked up a copy of Lawrence Wright’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Vintage) this weekend in Santa Fe. Started reading it just to fill in a few minutes, then couldn’t stop reading it. Apologies to all those who’s earlier recommendations of this book to me went unheeded until now. You were all correct. The Looming Tower is an amazing, revolting, fascinating and terrifying recounting of the life of Osama bin Laden, the history of al-Qaeda, the consequences of the broader Middle East Conflict and the tragically inefficient efforts of the U.S. intelligence community.
For me, aside from the detailed explanations of exactly how the repeated lack of inter-agency cooperation made the U.S. blind to first bin Laden, then to al-Qaeda, then to their plans, the main benefit of the book was gained from understanding part of the life of bin Laden. To see how he started off in life, where he went, how he reacted to events in his life, who he listened to, how he changed and how he changed al-Qaeda was amazing. The book would have been great in that sense even if it had stopped prior to 9/11.
Other than some Truthers who claim the USG destroyed the World Trade Center, the book is very favorably reviewed. I, too, highly recommend it for anyone looking for an accessible explanation of bin Laden and al-Qaeda.