The author of a leading book on al-Qaida and the organization’s connection to Sept. 11 spoke about the factors he believes breed terrorism on the sixth anniversary of the nation’s worst terrorist attack.
Lawrence Wright cited the Iraq War and the marginalization of Arabs in Europe as likely causes of terrorism today in the “The Looming Tower: al-Qaida and the Road to 9/11” in his speech at the Elliott School of International Affairs Tuesday.
“The failure of the American project in Iraq will embolden al-Qaida,” he said.
Wright also discussed the history of al-Qaida and Osama bin-Laden’s rise from one of 54 sons to what Wright called “Saudi Arabia’s first celebrity.”
Much of Wright’s expertise is in the recruitment of terrorists to large international organizations. He theories that t he number of al-Qaida recruits increased significantly because of the war in Iraq and spread to “countries it was not present in before 9/11,” Wright said.
“I know, everyone gets depressed when I talk,” Wright said before explaining why al-Qaida will not ultimately succeed. “(Al-Qaida) doesn’t believe in the future . they believe in death.”
He recounted a story where he came upon a group of recruits camping in visible white tents during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and asked them why they didn’t try to hide. ‘We fight to die’ one recruit replied.
Wright presented his case for what should be done with Osama bin-Laden if captured, a theory he, as a playwright, was asked to develop by the FBI.
He said to “take him to Kenya . Tanzania . then America,” while intermittently recounting horrific attacks orchestrated by Bin Laden in those and other countries. Pausing for a moment to regain composure, he said he imagined bin-Laden’s execution in front of families of his victims.
While Wright blamed the U.S. for the increase in terrorism in the Middle East, he said European culture also breeds terrorism in that area.
“These kids are not far from home,” he said. “They are second and third-generation Britons.” He named causes such as humiliation, both “personal and cultural” as a main contributor to a young man’s decision to join an al-Qaida-like group.
“A culture of humiliation leads to a longing for revenge,” he said.
After the lecture, Wright moderated a question and answer period and was asked about the role of women in the Arab world, how to reach out to young Muslims in the United States and other topics.
Michael Brown, dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs, said, “(Wright’s) book presents the definitive history of the run up to 9/11.”
In an interview with The Hatchet, Brown said the author was extremely well informed about al-Qaida and the future.
“Wright is a great journalist and one of the most important thinkers on the international response to al-Qaida.”
Since 2003, The Elliott School of International Affairs has hosted the winner of the Lionel Gelber Prize, an award given to the author who best “seeks to deepen public debate on significant global issues by broadening the readership of important non-fiction books on international affairs,” according to the Web site of the Lionel Gelber Foundation.
Menachme Wecker, a spokesperson for the Elliott School, said, “I thought (asking Lawrence Wright to speak) was very appropriate for the anniversary of 9/11.”