- Term Papers and Free Essays

A Critical Book Report On Lawrence Wright'S The Looming Tower.

Essay by   •  April 2, 2011  •  2,924 Words (12 Pages)  •  1,565 Views

Essay Preview: A Critical Book Report On Lawrence Wright'S The Looming Tower.

Report this essay
Page 1 of 12

A critical book report on Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower.


The September 11th terrorist hijackings and attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon caught the United States largely by surprise. Once the dust had settled, and the shock and horror of such an unprecedented event had waned, the American public began to ask questions. Names such as Osama bin Laden, countries such as Afghanistan, and organizations such as Al-Qaeda were brought into the public's consciousness for the first time. Through newspapers, talkback radio and television programs the nation asked 'why do they hate us so much?' Others, such as those in the government and public service, asked 'what could we have done to have prevented this?' It is these two burnings questions that Lawrence Wright attempts to answer in The Looming Tower. In his incredibly detailed account of the events leading up to 9/11, Wright narrates the development of Al-Qaeda and it's anti-American philosophy, as well as the efforts of various personalities of the US law enforcement bureaus who attempted to prevent these attacks from occurring. Wright concludes his book by placing the blame for 9/11 on the organizational structure of the law enforcement agencies in the US, as well as on certain individuals within the CIA. While Wright presents some highly persuasive and well researched arguments as to the causes of 9/11, his bias and one-sided approach to certain issues detracts from the readers overall understanding of these events.


Wright's account takes on the form of a biography, narrating the lives of a series of seemingly unconnected individuals to illustrate how Al-Qaeda came to be, and why September 11 occurred. He outlines why the United States were attacked, stringing together events that he believed were crucial in the development of Al-Qaeda's desire to attack America. While Wright develops his argument through the medium of storytelling, his book is fact-checked against hundreds of exhaustingly researched sources, from official intelligence documents to eyewitness statements from those close to bin Laden, some of which the author dedicatedly tracked down himself. One of the great strengths of The Looming Tower is Wright's ability to condense such an immense quantity of information into a story that is not only readable and thrilling, but greatly enhances the readers understanding of the road to 9/11.

Wright's personality driven account begins with a biography of Sayyid Qutb, who he contends founded the Al-Qaeda stream of modern Islamic fundamentalism. It is interesting to learn that Qutb's extremist philosophy, made famous in his manifesto Milestones that would later motivate hundreds of Islamic militants, was born not in Egypt or Saudi Arabia, but in America. After the execution of Qutb, Wright concentrates on two characters heavily influenced by the Muslim scholar, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian doctor who became Al Qaeda's planner of operations, and Osama bin Laden, the son of a billionaire Saudi construction magnate and future leader of Al-Qaeda. His book follows these characters from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to Afghanistan, Sudan and Pakistan, as they lay the groundwork for September 11th. Wright identifies events such as the Afghan resistance to the Soviet invasion, the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, the American embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, and the suicide bombing of the USS Cole as the key milestones on the road to 9/11. Amid this background of events, Wright paints a picture of the inner workings of the FBI, NSA and CIA anti-terrorism groups, concentrating on John O-Neill, the FBI counterterrorism specialist. The author portrays a horrifying series of miscommunications, errors and deliberate withholdings of information that he contends lay at the foundation of the US's failure to prevent 9/11. He interweaves this with a parallel narrative of the equally ineffective Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi Arabian director of intelligence, who also sought to neutralize Al-Qaeda's brand of Islamic terrorism.

While The Looming Tower does not break any major new ground on this much published subject matter, his book possess an unrivaled degree of detail that broadens and deepens the readers knowledge of these events. Wright is unmatched in his intimate insights into the lives of the key players, from bin Laden's relationships with his wives, to O'Neal's turbulent personal life. It is with this immense detail, that the author persuasively argues his two main contentions.

Why did Al-Qaeda attack the United States?

Wright offers a rather complex answer to the burning question of why such a horrific terrorist attack occurred. He seems to draw certain elements from Samuel Huntington's influential 'Clash of Civilizations' thesis. Huntington contends that the cultural distinctions between people lie at the root of most conflict in the post-cold war world. Therefore, the West is despised by the Islamic world, not because of ideological, political or economic factors, but for cultural reasons. Wright also draws heavily from Barber's 'Jihad vs. Mcworld' theory, which argues that the widespread Western belief in the universality of its own values and political system, combined with the unstoppable force of globalization, antagonizes the Islamic civilization and spawns tribal forces of resistance, spurred on by their own fierce religious convictions.

Wright illustrates the 'Civilization Clash' through the experiences of Sayyid Qutb. He portrays Qutb as being overwhelmed by the materialism and godlessness of America. Exerts are taken from Qutb's writing to demonstrate his disgust for Western cultural values. Repulsed by the sexual freedom of American women, he writes, "A girl looks at you... but as she approaches, you see only the screaming instinct inside her, and you can smell her burning body". It is this hatred of modernity and American cultural hegemony that Wrights identifies as a root cause of the conflict. Wright describes how this rejection of modernity is manifested in bin Laden, conveying the Saudi's passionate insistence at living well below his means. Wright contrasts bin Laden's lifestyle with graphic descriptions of the decadence and corruption of the Saudi Arabian royal family, brought on by the unprecedented influx of petrodollars, demonstrating the role that globalization plays in this conflict.

Wright continues with a 'Clash of Civilization'



Download as:   txt (18.2 Kb)   pdf (189.4 Kb)   docx (16.1 Kb)  
Continue for 11 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2011, 04). A Critical Book Report On Lawrence Wright'S The Looming Tower.. Retrieved 04, 2011, from'S-The/41242.html

"A Critical Book Report On Lawrence Wright'S The Looming Tower." 04 2011. 2011. 04 2011 <'S-The/41242.html>.

"A Critical Book Report On Lawrence Wright'S The Looming Tower..", 04 2011. Web. 04 2011. <'S-The/41242.html>.

"A Critical Book Report On Lawrence Wright'S The Looming Tower.." 04, 2011. Accessed 04, 2011.'S-The/41242.html.