The Looming Tower & The Perfect Storm (I)

OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS, I've read a number of books about 9/11, as well as a few about Islam. I even slogged through the Koran. But after reading Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower, I can save you a great deal of time: if you read any book about Islamofascism, let it be this one.

Instead of writing a review, I'd just like to list the "highlighter worthy" sections of the book, followed by the page number in parenthesis, as well as an occasional comment or clarification of my own.

In short, 9/11 was a "perfect storm" of gross incompetence and petty in-fighting among the U.S. "intelligence" agencies, the numbingly self-assured cosmology of the Koran (which has just three responses to everyone on the planet: convert, subjugate, or kill), the repressive, insular Islamic culture, simple luck, and the hubris of the American people, who see themselves as good and so cannot imagine anyone else in the world being evil. Mix into this stew the modern technology of cell-phone-activated detonators, radioactive payloads, satellite phones, and the fluidity of modern bomb-transportation vehicles, and you've got a very combustible combination, to wit:

  • The beginnings of Islamofascism started in an American college town: Greely, Colorado, in 1949. (23)
  • The first violent jihadists (the Muslim Brotherhood) made their purpose entirely clear: "It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations, and to extend its power to the entire planet." (29)
  • Egyptian president Anwar Sadat had close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, who tried to kill his predecessor, Gamal Abdul Nasser. (31)
  • The Koran prohibits the killing of fellow Muslims. Therefore, death-worthy Islamic foes are termed takfir, ("excommunicants") illegitimate Muslims, and therefore infidels to be treated as such. (34)
  • When Israel won the 6-day war in 1967, Muslims felt God had turned against them. The only way back was to return to the "pure" religion: fundamentalism. (45)
  • "Salafism" is the most backward of all fundamentalist Muslim dogmas. It does not recognize any Islamic traditions after the time of Mohammed. (49)
  • Azzam Zawahiri, bin Ladin's second-in-command, fought with him in Afghanistan against the Russians. When asked why they took aid from America, he said, "Sure, we're taking American help to fight the Russians, but they're equally evil." (54) He was also jailed in connection with the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. (59)
  • The Ayatollah Khomeini, who ousted the Shah of Iran from power in 1979, said, "Islam says: Whatever good there is, exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to paradise, which can be opened only for holy warriors!" Ponder that statement again. Feel that chill running up your spine? That is the man whose followers want to use the sword on you.
  • Shia vs. Sunni: After the death of Mohammed in 632 A.D., a quarrel arose over the line of succession. Sunnis supported the election of caliphs (rulers), but the Shia believed the caliphate should pass through the Prophet's descendants alone. (56)
  • The Sadat plotters were imprisoned in Egypt and tortured by fellow Muslims. Strikingly, this treatment radicalized them against the West, who they saw as responsible for corrupting and humiliating Islamic society. Indeed, the theme of humiliation, which is the essence of torture, is crucial to understanding the Islamist's rage. (61)
  • The "Blind Sheik," Omar Abdul Rahman, who was convicted in America for his part in a plot to destroy NYC landmarks, was previously charged as a conspirator in the Sadat assassination. (65)
  • "Wahhabism" (aka "Salafism") has its origin in the teachings of Abdul Wahhab, an 18th century revivalist who believed Muslims had drifted away from the true religion. The Wahhabi sect is located primarily in Saudi Arabia, bin Ladin's adopted homeland. (72)
  • Osama bin Ladin's father, Mohammed, began his life in Saudi Arabia working for Aramco, the Saudi-American oil cooperative. He became a wealthy man, primarily because of his connection with this company. (74)
  • Mohammed bin Ladin divorced Osama's mother, Alia, when Osama was just four years old. Mohammed then "awarded" her to one of his employees. (84)
  • Though OBL has never traveled to America, his favorite TV shows growing up were Fury and Bonanza.
  • OBL's view of women: "One [wife] is okay, like walking. Two is like riding a bicycle: it's fast but a little unstable. Three is a tricycle, stable but slow. And when we come to four, ah! This is the ideal. Now you can pass everyone!" (94)
  • Prince Turki (head of Saudi security and charged with bringing bin Ladin to justice), was a classmate of Bill Clinton, who coached him on an ethics test. (98)
  • Though OBL and other Arabs often brag about how they ran the Soviets out of Afghanistan, there were never more than 3,000 Arabs involved in the war, and most of them never made it out of Pakistan. (121)
  • "The lure of an illustrious and meaningful death was especially powerful in cases where the pleasures and rewards of life were crushed by government oppression and economic deprivation." (123)
  • Arab countries are incredibly unproductive. If one subtracts the oil revenue from the Gulf countries, 260 million Arabs export less than the 5 million Finns. (123)
  • "Radicalism usually prospers in the gap between rising expectations and declining opportunities. This is especially true where the population is young, idle, and bored; where art is impoverished; where entertainment---movies, theater, music---is policed or absent altogether; and where young men are set apart from the consoling and socializing presence of women. Adult illiteracy remain[s] the norm in many Arab countries. Unemployment [is] among the highest in the developing world. Anger, resentment, and humiliation spur young Arabs to search for dramatic remedies. (123) And when you focus that anger on a large target (America), you have thousands of willing martyrs.
  • Sharia law: "It is only when the rule of man has been eradicated and Sharia imposed that there will be no compulsion in religion, because there is only one choice: Islam. (125) George Orwell would be proud.
NEXT: More highlights from The Looming Tower.

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