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text 2013-11-03 19:08
On Hold for Now
The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda - Ali H. Soufan,Daniel Freedman

I started reading The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda by Ali H. Soufan a few days ago, but after reading a few chapters I couldn't get into it. So, I'm going to put it aside for now. I don't know if I will try reading it again, but for now I am going to read books that I can get into and enjoy. 


The biggest problem that I was having with the book was how much information that was being thrown out that I wasn't familiar with. I am thinking that if I read a few more books about the middle east, al-Qaeda, and Islam and then come back to this book I will enjoy it a lot more. So, in an effort to do this I have put The Looming Tower Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright on my list and I'm searching for other books like this. If you have read and enjoyed a book about these topics then I would love to hear about it. 


I hate giving up on a book, but I think that if I learn more then this book could be very enjoyable. If this book still doesn't capture my attention, then I will at least have learned more than I had known before. 

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review 2013-07-24 00:00
The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 - Lawrence Wright So, did this account of the long wind-up to 9/11 “read like fiction,” as one of the blurbs proclaims? Well, there was a plot and strong narrative. There was intrigue. Far-flung settings, yes, and a list of characters long enough to rival "War and Peace." But at the same time, as engaging as it was, this book was above all informative, and I doubt there’s anyone who turns to fiction to be informed about events and historic developments. In no way to knock it, but “David Copperfield” it ain’t.

I really did appreciate this book, and (unlike fiction) it’s because I learned a lot, without getting bored in the bargain.The author has done some exhaustive homework and smoothly weaved together the story of how al-Qaeda came to be. I'd recommend this to anyone who can read.

Say what you like about motivation, political betrayal, greed, poverty, how religious fundamentalism borders on insanity, I am going to stand firmly on the side that says mass murder is wrong, no matter how justified you think you are and no matter which side you’re on.
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review 2013-07-15 00:00
The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 - Lawrence Wright 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.
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review 2012-01-06 00:00
The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 - Lawrence Wright A 3.75 and I'd possibly have liked it more had I not read it over such an elongated time. I was so fed up by still reading this book after so long I got a little bitter.
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review 2011-09-01 00:00
Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda: A Personal Account by the CIA's Key Field Commander - Gary Berntsen,Ralph Pezzullo This book is about ############ and all the ##### ######## #######. [redacted by censors protecting their ass]. Yes, there are annoying passages blacked out that would have given context to the backstory and some pertinent parallel operations. Agha Gary, as he is known in-country, starts the story with the embassy bombings in Africa and carries through to mid-Dec 2001 in Afghanistan when he is forced out of his position running the ground war there. Along the way, we meet some very dedicated civilian and military personnel called on to serve in tough conditions. A must-read for anyone wanting the whole picture on our astounding victory against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Argh, could he at least give us some decent maps at key points in the operation? And he never gets down to details on some battles and ops that I really wanted to hear more about. Surprising events: the Brits were initially resented by the Afghans because they just showed up in country with no apparent permission or coordination. The hostages held by the Taliban (8 religious personnel) were a key focus of much activity, even while trying to find and pursue the bad guys. Whoever came up with the plan to have the northern Alliance stop outside Kabul to allow the freakin’ UN to negotiate a surrender by the Taliban? That idea went out the window fast. Gary B tears up the bureaucracy, especially the Clinton crowd for timidity and indecision. The story of how we won this battle is partly here but much is left out or for other books.
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