Looming the Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11
The Boy Spies
Mubarak was the president of Egypt when the events introduced in the chapter took place. Zawahiri who has been also referred to as the ‘brains of Al Qaeda’ had a plan to kill Mubarak together with the Egyptian radicals during his visit to Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), to the Organization of the African Unity meeting. The attempt of assassins was prevented, though two bodyguards of Mubarak were still killed, and a lot of people suspected in terror activities were jailed after this event.
So, the agents of Egyptian intelligence used the information they had concerning the members of al-Jihad and Al Qaeda to trace them and prevent other casualties planned by this terrorist organization under the aegis of Mubarak’s anti-terror law. In this respect, two boys who were the sons of al-Jihad core members were accused of the espionage activities by Egyptian intelligence, and were blackmailed that their photographs of a homosexual content might be passed to their fathers.
The boys were later used as carriers of the bombs when bombing the buildings where “Zawahiri and his companions would be meeting. The boys got out of the agent’s car, both Sudanese intelligence and Jihad security were waiting for him” (Wright 216), the attempts were not successful and the boys were later prosecuted and killed as spies. After that, the al-Jihad led by Zawahiri began the destruction activity in the East; in the same period, the justifications of bombings were invented by Zawahiri who claimed that the bombs were aimed at people who represented the Egyptian regime that ruined the Islam in Egypt and prosecuted many fundamentalists. After that, the author tells about the role of Bin Laden in the terrorist activities of Sudanese assassins and financial part of the issue where Bin Laden was attempted to be removed hence leaving the Sudanese terrorists without financial support.
Bin Laden moved with his family and a few bodyguards out of Sudan and came to Afghanistan where a Taliban movement was performing guerrilla activities. The Taliban regime grew from a group of students into a powerful organization that had a nation-wide nature, “the agents taught the boys how to plant microphones in their own homes and photograph documents. A number of arrests followed because of the information produced” (Wright 213).
The group demanded the president’s resignation whereas the movement became strong enough to be spread into the neighboring countries of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan that found that the Taliban regime was a good alternative to the mujahideen rule. The ruler Omar was the leader of the Taliban movement as he was its founder. The organizers of the movement were 53 students of local madrasses (schools). The story of establishment of the regime roots back in the time when lawlessness was the primary feature, even for civil population. So, Omar decided to stop those killings and rapes and gathered the bravest students to fight the existing regime.
The schools were the main source of soldiers where students were obliged to go to the war. The primary source of investments was Afghanistan as the place where poppy crops were cultivated and drug dealers had to pay taxes so that the roads remained safe. Thus, Omar managed to gather the army that was the primary source of power in the country, while all people expected the Islamist religions would be united under the leadership of a single person. The rules under Taliban regime denied the access of the female population to such spheres as healthcare, primary education, and other activities, as well as imposed limitations on all people to have access to some items propagating sex, music, pictures, and other things that could be somehow related to the Western culture. Bin Laden was the one to come back to Al Qaeda and initiate the terror activities by declaring the war to Americans.
In this chapter, the author puts an emphasis on the importance of intelligence as a major tool for identifying terrorists and preventing their plans. The explosion in Dhahran military-complex encouraged American special agencies, such as CIA and FBI, to find some ways to cooperate with the Saudi organizations that could help them in finding out the perpetrators of the terror, as well as the reasons for bombing, ” John O’Neil arranged a private retreat for FBI and CIA agents at the bureau’s training” (Wright 237). So, O’Neill was supposed to negotiate with police organizations of Saudis whether they could help the Americans or not. Saudis were unlikely to cooperate with the American agencies. The final investigation showed that the perpetrators could be from Iran, though the Americans had no reasons for bombing Iranian cities. O’Neill became the agent of the National Security Division in New York and started checking all people that were in his list of potential threats.
The I-49 squad was the organization that included ordinary people who prevented immigrants and people of various national minorities from joining the terrorist organizations and different suspicious groups. As the squad was busy with the crash of the TWA Flight 8oo in 1996, O’Neill had to investigate this issue by himself; he got the squad back and start investigating Bin Laden’s case. Coleman, as an FBI agent, was to collect information on Bin Laden, whereas Scheuer believed that the only way to deal with bin Laden was to kill him. The agents decided to try and enroll the secretary of Bin Laden to whom the most frequent phone calls were traced. Though Hage was unlikely to spy for the FBI, his home was searched with the warrant when he was away on the trip to Afghanistan. The agents found some information on guns bought for Bin Laden but no plans or other evidence of terror activity were detected.
The chapter under consideration provides a brief historic overview of the advent of Islam on the contemporary territory of the Middle East. The author describes the gradual development of the Islam and the military expansion of the Muslim people. Finally, the presented passages analyze the main pillars of Arabic culture and religion.
The chapter begins with citation which provides the analysis of the historic events that had taken place on the lands of the Middle East, beginning with the explanation of this term and identifying historic borders of the national territory. The development of this civilization burst out with the development of agriculture in the waters of Nile and Euphrates. According to the author, this was also the birth place of monotheism that arose among the Hebrew tribes keeping them “from drowning under a continuous flow of more powerful invaders from the south (Egyptians), East (Assyrians, Babylonians), north (Hittites, Phoenicians), and west (Philistines, Greeks, Romans)” (Atran 78). The author pays a great attention to the description of the ascent of the Islam and the Arab culture.
Further on, the chapter traces the establishment of Islam on the lands of Persia for enhancing the power of the East and expanding their authority on the Eastern Roman Empire territory. In order to prove their strength, Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, strived to take control over the Western world in order to demonstrate the power of Arab people and Islam. Islamic opposition to the West is revealed through the rapid emergence of monotheism which emphasizes the conflict between divine and human. While describing the key elements of Muslim rituals, the author intends to emphasize the peculiarities of Islam religion in order to understand their values and major philosophical concepts. He resorts on explaining such concepts as jihad (holy war) and mujahedin (holy warriors) to highlight the differences between Islam and Christendom.
In the next passage of the chapter, Atran sheds light on the scientific development of Arab culture in the times of Islam expansion. However, in the course of their invasions, the Muslim people were trying to prosper in the intellectual development by cognizing the Greek philosophy and other manuscripts translating work of great philosophers and thinkers. This was one of the most effective ways for enabling communication the ideas of great minds of India, Greece, and Spain to people. Once again, the author wants to emphasize that Arab philosophy consisted of recognizing and accumulating other knowledge irrespective of sources and origins. What is more interesting is that the author maps out the main philosophic concepts of the Arab culture to provide a better understanding of the Islamic religions and outlook.
Regarding the ideas and historic overview presented in the chapter, they outline the main cultural, religious, and philosophic concepts cultivated and developed in the Middle East throughout the centuries. In such a way, the author tries to understand these people and reasons for them committing such abhorrent acts. Using unconventional approach to studying the origins of terrorism, Atran argues the necessity to pursue the main historic events in order to find out the nature of terrorist acts. Therefore, the chapter explains some of the ideas related to Islam religion that teaches to be loyal to each other and defend native country and traditions. The monotheism is, perhaps, one of the reasons of the people’s strength and invincibility.
The Tides of Terror
The chapter under consideration provides a brief historic overview of the advent of Islam on a present-day territory of the Middle East. The author describes the gradual development of Islam and military expansion of the Muslim people. Finally, the presented passages analyze the main pillars of Arabic culture and religion, as well as analyze the connection between the philosophy of the Islam religion and the basis of terrorism. The author states that ” the tipping point came with the 1st “War of Terror” around the turn of the last century. Historian David Rapoport argues, with some justification, that anarchism represents the first wave of the modern tide of terrorism” (Atran 93).
The chapter begins with citation analyzing historic events which took place on the lands of Middle East. The development of this civilization burst out with the development of agriculture in the waters of Nile and Euphrates. According to the author, this was also the birth place of monotheism that arose among the Hebrew tribes (Atran 98).
The author gives great importance to describing the ascent of the Islam and the Arab culture. Further on, the chapter traces the establishment of Islam on the lands of Persia for enhancing the power of the East and expanding their authority on the Eastern Roman Empire territory. In order to prove their strength, Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, strived to take control over the Western to demonstrate the power of Arab people and Islam.
Islamic opposition to the West is revealed through the rapid emergence of monotheism which is based on the conflict between divine and human. While describing the key elements of Muslim rituals, the author intends to emphasize the peculiarities of Islam religion in order to understand their values and major philosophical concepts. He resorts to explaining such concepts as jihad (holy war) and mujahedin (holy warriors) to highlight the differences between Islam and Christendom. According to the author, these concepts are the capstones of the Islamic ideology which lie in the basis of the philosophy of terrorism.
Using unconventional approach to studying the origins of terrorism, Atran argues the necessity to pursue the main historic events in order to find out the nature of terrorist acts. Therefore, the chapter explains some of ideas related to Islam religion that teaches to be loyal to each other in defending their country and traditions. The monotheism is, perhaps, one of the reasons of the people’s strength and invincibility.
A Parallel Universe: The 9/11 Hamburg Group and the Three Waves of Jihad
In the passage of the 7th chapter entitled “A Parallel Universe: The 9/11 Hamburg Group”, Atran sheds light on the scientific development of Arab culture in the times of Islam expansion. The author characterizes them as the ones who “weren’t integrated into the community but withdrew from it to live in a parallel universe of jihad and emerged from their cocoon wanting action” (Atran 111). However, in the course of their invasions, the Muslim people were trying to prosper in the intellectual development by cognizing the Greek philosophy and other manuscripts through translations. This was one of the effective ways for enabling communication among the great minds of India, Greece, and Spain.
The chapter also provides a narration about the four hijackers initiating the attacks on September 11, 2001. The author presents the story of four friends, Muhammad Atta, Marwan Al-Shehhi, Ziad Jarrah, and Ramzi Binalshibh whose parents were rejecting their participation in those horrible acts. By portraying the hijackers who belonged to the Hamburg Cell and who were the initiators of the attacks in 2001, the author tries to understand the thresholds for this act and Islamic ideology.
By portraying the terrorist, the author attempts to identify what factors triggered young and talented people to commit such destructive and shocking atrocities. However, the author’s detailed depiction of those characters is aimed at identifying the reasons and origins for their struggle for jihad, which was strict ideology and fanatic faith in the rightness of their actions.
The author describes hijackers’ lives that seemed to be ordinary and right until the doom day when all their ideological principles came to the fore, although most of them had families. Their love for cause and comrades prevailed over their love for their relatives and friends. The author wants to emphasize that the tragedy was the result of strong faith in their struggle for jihad.
Following the narrations, the author outlines the potential reasons for the al-Qaida’s intrusion and for the rise of the holy war. One of them alleges that America provides support to Israel and to “the World Jewish Conspiracy”. Investigating the lives of the four hijackers, the author comes to a conclusion that the world of Al-Qaida is unpredictable, concealed, and chaotic. He opens the fourth dimension that includes Islamic radicalism based on a social-movement and, therefore, it is a direct outcome of al-Qaida ideology proliferation, a newly developed subculture that has emerged since the time of 9/11 attack.
After having provided the social sketch of the four followers of the Hamburg Group, the author tries to explain the triggering powers of the terror acts using his own approach. In this chapter, he makes an attempt to portray a person living in accordance with Islamic ideology, but fails to do this because all their actions were not subjected to reason and morale, but spiritual laws created by their ringleader.
Finally, the chapter also discloses another interpretation of facts about radical Islamist, particularly about the events on September 11, 2001 that are marked as the second wave of jihad. At the current moment, the third wave of jihad is presented as being leaderless consisted of low class groups.
In the end of the chapter, the author reaches a conclusion that terrorists kill for each other, but not for a cause because each act committed by hijackers cannot be explained or subjected to some reason. Therefore, it is often hard to understand the origins of prejudices, faith, and the power of religion leading to human reconciliation and death.
Tht Great Train Bombing: Madrid, March 11, 2004
It is not surprisingly that the author starts the chapter with Socrates’ saying about human beings and their limited outlook on what is going on in the world. In this chapter, Atran reveals the truth and important facts about train bombing in Madrid, March 11, 2004, “the bomb, that killed nearly two hundred people and injured almost two thousands” (Atran 173). The author attempts to shed light on the events happened during the mass trial, the biggest trial for terrorism since the times of the Second World War. He has greatly contributed to the analysis of the case to inform the public about human tragedy.
The chapter begins with a detailed description of the judges, the defendants, and the lawyers. According to the author, the trial looked like a confrontation of the two parties before the elections, where each side accuses the Spanish government, particularly the Euzkadi Ta Azkatasuna, a separatist organization. The lawyers did not even find it necessary to include the possibility that the terrorist act was committed by jihadists.
This trial was perceived as ridiculous because it was not aimed at defining the truth but at blaming each other and expelling from the fight for the power in the country.
Further on, the author provides a description of the cross-examination as a proof that a trial was nothing more than a political act where even witnesses were not able to adequately testify. They could hardly answer the questions because they faced a language barrier.
In the next passage, the author gives a detailed depiction of the defendants where an emphasis is made on the fact that the accused did not look like terrorists. Although there was no obvious evidence that the act was committed by al-Qaida, the evidence presented against the Spaniard organization was also ambiguous because they were based on unimportant details. In particular, due to the fact that the bombs were located in satchels, but not in backpacks, the lawyers were assured that the terrorist act was initiated by the Spaniard, but not by Islamic extremists.
The author gives importance to describing the trial and giving all its details to publicity. He pays attention to the truth hidden behind these tides of terror. In particular, the anthropologist completely disagrees with the statement that the act was committed by the Spaniard government, but by the jihadists.
The judge convicted traffickers of the bombing, as he was inspired by the Internet and remotely linked to the al-Qaida cell, he believed that they bought dynamite for this terror act. He did not even presume that the terrorist act could be connected with the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group that, in its turn, was connected to al-Qaida.
At the end of the chapter, the author places an emphasis on the fact that the trial was initiated by the election campaign and, therefore, it was not aimed at discovering the truth and eliminating the terror act.
As a result, several days after the act, the Socialist Party won the election. The government used train bombing to change the course of the elections, but not to contribute to the welfare of humanity. The government and the party neglected the terrorist events for the sake of a successful political campaign.
Looking for Al Qaeda
The chapter is aimed at explaining the roots of Al Qaeda and sources of perpetrators, their motivations and the way they enroll others in their terror activities. So, the story begins with the narration about the two North African immigrants who planned and performed the bombing in Spain. The Tunisian got a job and performed effectively though he was upset because he could not help his compatriots that lived in Iraq and were killed during the invasion by American military men.
When he shared his thoughts with his friend, their relations became tensed because his friend did not support those radical and terror-stemmed beliefs that they should kill innocent people all over the world because their compatriots being killed in Iraq. Another person was Zougam; the Tunisian had accused him of being too tolerant to the enemies of their religion. As a result, Zougam was witnessed to have left his knapsack in a train in Spain right before the explosion.
Thus, one more friend of the Tunisian was Ghalyoun; the agents did not find evidence of him being in an operational role though he was prosecuted of being a member of the terrorist organization. The final role was performed by the Chinaman who returned from the prison and shaped their roles and the plan as it was to be performed. As the Tunisian was not really powerful in terms of financing and people, he provoked his friends and other people he knew to act radically hence enrolling them in the organization activities.
One of the reasons for bombing the places in Spain was the information retrieved from the official website by Zarqawi who can be considered to be the one to inspire young terrorists to plan explosions in Spain during the 2004 elections. Though Zarqawi did not give direct instructions on what to do, Tunisian and Chinaman were logging on a systematic basis and retrieved information that might be useful to them. The Chinaman became radicalized to the movement of jihad while being in prison for different crimes. When the special agents had found the computer of Chinaman, there were a lot of claims from Zarqawi and favorable words about the activity of young terrorists.
The source of money was the debt received from a drug dealer to finance the jihad in Spain. The Chinaman had a girlfriend who was a Christian and the Tunisian encouraged him to leave her as she was infidel and had not right to be a woman of the Islamist. So, the story continues with the description of the situation when the Chinaman demanded for the debt from the drug dealer and advised him to pay up because he had a pistol. Though the Tunisian was the first one to think about the plan, the Chinaman had power for enrolling other petty-criminals into the organization.
The whole organization consisted of men only, and only men were allowed to come into the farmhouse where all preparations to the explosion took place. The weapons, necessary components for explosive devices, and other things were acquired and collected in the farmhouse where no women and children were received in. In other words, all people that were engaged into the preparation of the explosion in Spain were prosecuted and jailed due to their operational roles and membership in a terrorist organization.
The Ordinariness of Terror
The chapter begins with the story told by a young man who explains the reasons of him and his friends to come to Tetuan, Morocco. So, the author focuses on the origins and initial messages that the Spain train suicide bombers were trying to convey. Also, the author describes the environment and the neighborhood where the narrator and his friends find themselves.
The traditions and the way people are dressed help to conclude about the freedoms given to women as ‘fewer women (who) were completely veiled’ (Atran 211). These people came to Morocco because five of seven suicide bombers were from there. The narrator reports about some young men who were bombers in Iraq and an imam who used the money given for charity to transport those suicide bombers to Iraq.
The next episode enlarges on the narrator and his friend going to the mosque where they were stopped by the police. Though police officers did not get any information from them, the narrator was enabled to talk to two children that were playing. They were dressed in t-shirts with names of famous soccer players from Brasilia and Cameroon.
So, an elder that was standing behind told those children not to lie to the narrator and respect him as the one from the neighborhood. A teenager that came over later had a hashish cigarette and asked one of the children to offer some to the narrator though the narrator refused as he did not smoke. Thus, the teenager seemed to be a kind of a supervisor who told children how to beg hence earning money for bringing some tea to a stranger and other things.
Lack of job opportunities and inability of authorities to provide all children with elementary education led to those crowds of young men in the streets: they did nothing and had no goals. So, they were easy to enroll into jihad and suicide bombings aimed at involving young men in religious and terroristic activities. The author claims that it is useless to create profiles of terrorists and expect that the terror activities would decrease in number and cruelty of explosions, bombings, and mass killings of ordinary people that are considered infidel.
The author also focuses on the terrorist attacks that cannot be prevented by profiling the terrorists because they can take an ordinary person and radicalize him/her into jihad. “Indeed, studies show that smoking, happiness, and even loneliness are also like viruses that spread best among friends” (Atran 223). In other words, the author tries to explain that people are able to enroll their friends in various activities though this should be prevented.
To conclude, the ordinariness of terror lies in the natural cruelty of people who are usually considered to be the closest friends though they accept the rules and laws of jihad and enroll their friends into terrorist activities and suicide bombing. Thus, at least the children should be kept from the collective violence spread with the help of live examples who provide young men with the information on bomb constructions and the best places for suicide bombing.
Atran, Scott. Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood, and the (Un)Making of Terrorists. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2010. Print.
Wright, Lawrence. Looming the Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. New York: Vintage Books, 2007. Print.
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