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Physically, there was a feminine quality to his bearing: He was “elegant” and “delicate,” so that his sexual orientation — however unexpressed — was difficult to read… Atta constantly demonstrated an aversion to women, who in his mind were like Jews in their powerfulness and corruption. [His] will states: “No pregnant woman or disbelievers should walk in my funeral or ever visit my grave. No woman should ask forgiveness of me. Those who will wash my body should wear gloves so that they do not touch my genitals.” The anger that this statement directs at women and its horror of sexual contact invites the thought that Atta’s turn to terror had as much to do with his own conflicted sexuality as it did with the clash of civilizations.br> Beyond that, what glares through the pages of The Looming Tower (the title is taken from the Koran) is the ad hoc, improvisational way in which al Qaeda settled into its war against America. Al-Zawahiri, who contributed as much to the organization as bin Laden, was still dreaming of taking over Egypt in the late 1990s. With no colonial tradition, America often held a soft spot in the heart of early recruits. Even as they trained for war in Afghanistan, they were fond of watching Arnold Schwarzenegger movies.
In the end, however, the David-versus-Goliath imagery won out. As Wright observes, Osama bin Laden is much more a public relations specialist than a warrior. It was the image of a single man living in a cave in the remotest corner of the world bringing down two of the world’s tallest buildings that eventually won Muslim hearts. Meanwhile, Bin Laden expected American society to collapse with the fall of the Twin Towers. So much for his understanding of the world.
And what about things on this side of the ocean? It is grueling to read about the missed opportunities, the forgotten phone calls, the wadded up memos thrown in the wastebasket that could have uncovered the plot. The failure of the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Administration to communicate with one another is dismaying.
Where Wright falls down is in his failure to analyze how this happened. “The Wall” erected between the FBI and CIA is mentioned but never illuminated. Completely missing from these pages are the names of Janet Reno and Jamie Gorelick, those Justice Department stalwarts who decided to erect The Wall even “beyond what the statute required.” ABC-TV’s efforts to cast a little aspersion this week on Madeleine Albright and Sandy Berger — a stunning development in the history of television — will pale to insignificance if the networks ever get around to telling the story of how Reno and Gorelick turned America into home base for terrorists by refusing to allow the CIA to inform the FBI when known conspirators arrived in this country.
Still, the ultimate message that emerges from Wright’s brilliant recounting is that, while we face a long, long conflict against a civilization that literally wants to move backward in time, the situation is not completely hopeless. For one thing, American security is healed. Until and unless the Democrats get back in and mess it up again, we will probably not repeat the mistakes of the 1990s.
More important, our conflict with Islam is not a war against a whole civilization. The jihadists are despised as much in their own countries as they are in the West. Egyptians are sick to death of the Muslim Brotherhood and its casual slaughter. The war between Fundamentalists and secular authorities in Algeria cost 100,000 lives.
What we are at war with is a Muslim intelligentsia — basically the same people who brought us the horrors of the French Revolution and 20th century Communism. With their obsession for moral purity and their rational hatred that goes beyond all irrationality, these “warrior-intellectuals” are wreaking the same havoc in the Middle East as they did in Jacobin France and Mao Tse-tung’s China.
Western and Eastern societies eventually emerged from this reign of terror. Maybe Islamic societies can do the same.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?