The Looming Tower

The Shakespeare Project has gotten delayed because I’ve been immersed in several other books. The Millenium Trilogy consumed a few weeks. It’s good, but not great. Larsson is skilled at building tension and drama, but the Gary Stuish nature of the protagonist threw me off as did the wallowing in sexual depravity (and moral color-coding of same: all the bad guys are sexual perverts; none of the good guys are).

But I just finished a great non-fiction book called The Looming Tower. Here’s the review I just posted to Goodreads.

Even though it’s five years old, this is probably the most important book you will ever read about 9/11. It only has a small section on the actual attack. The bulk of the book is about the rise of Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and the frustrating bureaucratic rules that kept key information away from the people who might have prevented the attack. The CIA does not come off well in this portrayal.

Having read it, I feel I have a good read on Osama bin Laden. Without him, the Jihadists would probably still be killing each other and blowing up their own countries. It was he who united them and pointed their guns at the West. Even though it was ten years too late, his death was a critical blow to Islamic terrorism.

But it also paints a broad picture of him that demonstrates what he really was: a charismatic ideology-addled rich kid who devoted himself to a radical ideal even he could not live up to but persuaded stupid young men to sacrifice themselves for. bin Laden believed in a system that reduced women to little more that possessions and forbad any pleasures, especially Western ones. But he married educated women, one of whom had a doctorate, he educated his daughters, played video games with his sons and listened to Western music. His beliefs were so absurd, even he rejected them in his life. It’s astonishing that only a few people realized just how dangerous and evil he was.

The most frustrating part of the book is the prelude to 9/11, when the CIA had the information that could have spoiled the plot, but refused to share it with the FBI because of “the wall” and their pathological secrecy. Why on Earth Ali Soufan was not made head of our anti-terrorism efforts boggles the mind.