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Author Dissects People, Politics Prior to 9/11 Attacks

Lawrence Wright, author of "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11," discusses his book which describes the people, politics and roiling theology behind Islamic terrorism and the terror attacks leading up to and including Sept. 11, 2001.

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    Now, two post-9/11 stories, beginning with a new book conversation about the people and events behind the attacks, and to Jeffrey Brown.


    Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian writer who visited the United States, before penning a manifesto that would galvanize several generations of Muslims to turn toward a more militant Islam.

  • AYMAN AL-ZAWAHRI, Muslim Leader:

    We are Muslims. We are Muslims!


    Ayman al-Zawahri, an Egyptian doctor who railed against his own government in a Cairo jail…


    We tried our best to establish this Islamic state and Islamic society.


    … and later became the number two in Al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden. Raised amid privilege and wealth in Saudi Arabia, he liked to quote poetry and verses from the Koran, like this one: "Wherever you are, death will find you, even in the looming tower."

    Their stories and much more are told in a new book called "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaida and the Road to 9/11."

    Its author is Lawrence Wright, a staff writer with "The New Yorker" magazine.

    Lawrence Wright, welcome.

    LAWRENCE WRIGHT, Author, "The Looming Tower": Thanks for having me, Jeff.


    One way of looking at 9/11 is the big picture…




    … clash of civilizations. You write about big shifts, but you have decided to focus and tell the story through individuals. Why?


    Well, there are two reasons.

    One is, it's an easier story to tell, when you're following the biographies of individuals, because they're interesting in themselves. And characters like that are — are great for a writer, because they can carry the information.

    But the second is that there were individual decisions that made al-Qaida. It wouldn't be what it is if it weren't for a few men, Ayman al-Zawahri and bin Laden being two of them. Al-Qaida, in its present form, is the creation of individuals. It's not just a historical phenomenon.