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10 Best Quotes From "The Looming Tower" by Lawrence Wright


A gripping narrative that spans five decades, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 explains in unprecedented detail the growth of Islamic fundamentalism, the rise of al-Qaeda, and the intelligence failures that culminated in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Lawrence Wright re-creates firsthand the transformation of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri from incompetent and idealistic soldiers in Afghanistan to leaders of the most successful terrorist group in history. He follows FBI counterterrorism Chief John O’Neill as he uncovers the emerging danger from al-Qaeda in the 1990s and struggles to track this new threat. Packed with new information and a deep historical perspective, The Looming Tower is the definitive history of the long road to September 11.



  1. “The pageant of martyrdom that Azzam limned before his worldwide audience created the death cult that would one day form the core of al-Qaeda.”

  2. “The only thing they had in common was the grandeur of their vision.”

  3. “but a powerful current of anger was also directed toward the West, which they saw as an enabling force behind the repressive regime.”

  4. “The Trade Center dead formed a kind of universal parliament.”

  5. “After the war Cairo became a sanctuary for Nazis, who advised the military and the government. The rise of the Islamist movement coincided with the decline of fascism, but they overlapped in Egypt, and the germ passed into a new carrier.”

  6. “By declaring war on the United States from a cave in Afghanistan, bin Laden assumed the role of an uncorrupted, indomitable primitive standing against the awesome power of the secular, scientific, technological Goliath; he was fighting modernity itself.”

  7. “Al-Qaeda was conceived in the marriage of these assumptions: Faith is stronger than weapons or nations, and the ticket to enter the sacred zone where such miracles occur is the willingness to die.”

  8. “Radicalism usually prospers in the gap between rising expectations and declining opportunities.”

  9. “God had turned against the Muslims. The only way back to Him was to return to the pure religion. The voice answered despair with a simple formulation: Islam is the solution."

  10. “The acrid stench penetrated the office of the FBI, a sickening reminder of their failure to stop the attack”