Subject- History 1302 (17323 Lecture 016)
Instructor: Owen L. Roberts
1. General Information:
A. Book Title:
The Looming Tower: Al- Qaeda and the Road to 9/11
Alfred A. Knopf, 2006
D. General Content:
The Looming Tower is an in-depth study of the factors leading to 9/11. It brings to life the characters which have created jihadist movement and explains why their ideas had such a violent force. The Looming Tower shows purported lack of seriousness by American Intelligence regarding Bin Laden, who played an important role in the 9/11 assault on America.
2. Prologue: In the prologue of the Looming Tower, Wright gives the readers glimpses of American Intelligence system, marked by bureaucratic red-tape and squabbling. Dan Coleman was the only FBI agent who was put behind the Bin Laden threat prior to the 9/11 attacks. Before the attack, America considered terrorism just as a nuisance and not a threat. Very few people in the intelligence cared or even knew about Bin Laden. Even when they had an informant who gave out chilling accounts about Al-Qaeda including information about training camps, sleeper cells and organizational charts, FBI failed to understand the gravity of the issue. Wright notes that the lack of concern about terrorism was frightening and shocking at some level but not entirely surprising since there were more pressing investigations.
3. Thesis: In the Looming Tower, Wright tries to portray that contrary to the belief in the power of numbers by some analysts, personalities matter and a small group of people can profoundly change the course of history. He draws on a wealth of information derived from rare documents and interviews with sources that range from the lowest ranks of the jihadist movement to the highest tiers of U.S. government. America paid a huge price for ignoring and under evaluating the presence of Al Qaeda.
4. Analysis of Individual Chapters:
Analysis of Chapter One
A. Chapter 1: “The Martyr”
Wright starts his narrative by introducing Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian rebel educationist who was forced into exile to United States in 1948. With time, Qutb got convinced that western world is a materialistic and immorally distorted world. He was convinced that contemporary Islam was deviating from its path and it was his duty to restore the moral guidelines of Islam. Wright discusses his attitude as the ‘paradise lost’ syndrome. Qutb returned to Egypt and immediately started voicing anti-western world sentiments. In 1954, Qutb became the editor of the Muslim Brother Magazine and started writing articles calling for jihad against the Britain. This put him on the radar of secular Egyptian government of Gamal Abdul Nasser as he was negotiating a treaty which called for an end to the British occupation. Though Qutb was convicted and executed in 1966, he was an inspiration for al-Qaeda terrorists in the years to come. His legacy lived on.
C. Main Idea: In this chapter, Wright tries to show that the ideas and radical thoughts of Sayyid Qutb inspired and motivated Islamic terrorist groups like Al- Qaeda for jihad.
D. Supporting Facts: Wright aptly named the chapter ‘The Martyr’ since it shows that the death of Sayyid Qutb, the subject of this chapter, was a sacrifice that inspired the future generations for jihad. He discusses how Nasser quickly realized that he had made a mistake by executing Qutb. Due to his radical teachings and followers, Qutb was more dangerous after death than being alive. Nasser tried to lure Qutb to accept his mistakes in return for his freedom but Qutb rejected the offer and goes on to became an inspiration for future generation of Islamic terrorists.
E. More Convincing: If the author had included some first-hand accounts of opinions of the officials in Nasser government about Qutb, it would have helped the readers in understanding the gravity of displeasure of Nasser government better. Also, if Wright could…