The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 Summary & Study Guide

Lawrence Wright
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The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 Summary & Study Guide Description

The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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The Looming Tower: al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright describes the events leading to the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States. The book traces two major narratives, the development of Islamist extremist ideology culminating in the creation of al-Qaeda and the failed efforts of U.S. national security officials to prevent the 9/11 attacks.

The main portion of the book begins with Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian from whom the radical Islamist movement originated. Qutb develops intensely anti-American views while living in the United States and influences later generations of extremist thinkers. The narrative then shifts to Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor, and Osama bin Laden, a Saudi businessman. These two men were born into conservative but non-radical families and communities and eventually develop into the leaders of al-Qaeda, the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. Wright explains how each man separately became involved in the resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, then shifted to targeting Middle Eastern governments and eventually the United States with terrorist attacks. Simultaneously, thousands of young men are drawn to these leaders and their extreme views, training to become terrorist operatives. Throughout this section, Wright advances his argument that extremism is a combination of religious and anti-Western ideology and frustration with one’s individual circumstances.

In the United States, Wright describes a country that is overconfident and blinded by its victory in the Cold War and thus ignorant of the threat al-Qaeda poses. Despite numerous smaller attacks on American interests and information that the group is planning a larger attack on the United States itself, only a few agents at the FBI and CIA recognize this danger and work to respond to it. In particular, Wright follows the experiences of John O’Neill, the FBI counterterrorism chief, whose efforts are hampered by bureaucratic hurdles and infighting exacerbated by O’Neill’s abrasive personality. Overall, the author demonstrates that the FBI and CIA could have prevented the 9/11 attacks but refused to adequately share information between themselves.

The book ends with the 9/11 attacks, which killed thousands of Americans, and the subsequent U.S. invasion of Afghanistan that largely destroyed al-Qaeda. Bin Laden remained at large until 2011 when he was killed by U.S. special forces.

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This section contains 371 words
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Buy The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 Study Guide
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