A wonderful book, a must read. Every now and then I come in contact with a book that is the product of an incredibly impressive amount of research, conducted with diligence and perseverance over an extended period of time, written by a person with an astonishingly encyclopedic grasp of important events and concepts, and written by an author with a graceful and enjoyable grasp of the language. Wow! If you want "Shock and Awe" this is it! Good to be reminded again how wonderful non-fiction can be.
Most of those who have read this book have lived through much of the times described, particularly the later periods, and I am sure that these folks, like me, will have learned an enormous amount about the development of the variety of religious outlooks and cultures, modified by the historical development of many different countries, that have led to 9/11, that was new to me.
There are many very enjoyable and worthwhile reviews of this work already in place here at Goodreads, one by Jessica, on February 6th, 2012, popped up at the top of the list when I looked for The Looming Tower, and it makes many very interesting points, but it apologizes for slipping into a 'boring moronically political rant' and I take exception to this, its not really a rant, but to the extent that it might seem to be one, it is needed.
In this context, it is interesting to look back at the definition of "idiotic", sometimes a synonym for moronic, here from Wikipedia: An idiot in Athenian democracy was someone who was characterized by self-centeredness and concerned almost exclusively with private—as opposed to public—affairs. Idiocy was the natural state of ignorance into which all persons were born and its opposite, citizenship, was effected through formalized education. In Athenian democracy, idiots were born and citizens were made through education (although citizenship was also largely hereditary). "Idiot" originally referred to "layman, person lacking professional skill", "person so mentally deficient as to be incapable of ordinary reasoning". Declining to take part in public life, such as democratic government of the polis (city state), was considered dishonorable.
Our response as a country and as citizens to the facts presented by The Looming Tower require that we be educated in these facts, and this wonderful book can and should be a large part of that education. Our response after that education may well require that we vigorously become involved in the politics of our country. Lawrence Wright provides the education, it is up to us to respond, and rant if we must.
I have heard the "failure to connect the dots" meme offered as an explanation over and over again in the last 12 years, and the interagency conflicts and operations at cross purposes described here are tragic. In the midst of incredible sacrifice by many brave and astonishingly competent Americans, the bureaucratic infighting enabled this disastrous attack, the book is replete with near misses, where bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, and others were almost stopped, all the way to the point where the one of the lead FBI agents involved in counterterrorism had requested photos from a CIA monitored meeting of conspirators, and finally got them hours after the Twin Towers fell (provided, too late, only by the impetus of this disaster), saw faces he recognized, and knew as he retched in the bathroom that he could have stopped this conspiracy if he only had been shown this evidence. The NSA, the FBI, and the CIA all come in for deserved blame. The book comes to a conclusion as the Towers have fallen, but the tears inspired are all the more bitter for the organizational failures that led to this result.