#174 - Lawrence Wright: The 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks: reflections on how they happened, and lessons learned and not learned

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By Peter Attia, MD, Peter Attia, and MD. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Lawrence Wright is the author of The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 which won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction and was named one of Time's top 100 books of all time. In this episode, released just before the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Lawrence and Peter discuss the book and the lasting impact of that day. Lawrence reflects on his personal experiences on that day and how he was first drawn into reporting on the attacks. Lawrence then discusses in detail the history that led up to 9/11 which is really composed of two parallel stories. The first story is of the growing discontent in Muslim countries, the roots of Islamic radicalism, and how two extremists, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, joined forces to create the global terrorist organization Al-Qaeda. The second story is about how interpersonal and institutional conflicts between the FBI and CIA led to a massive failure in intelligence and resulted in multiple missed opportunities to predict and prevent the attacks on September 11th, 2001. Finally, they reflect on what we should have learned from 9/11 and the future of terrorism.

We discuss:

  • Lawrence and Peter recount their personal experiences on September 11th, 2001 [3:30];
  • How 9/11 changed the US into a security state and affected a generation [9:45];
  • Lawrence’s early coverage of 9/11 and how he knew it was going to be “the story of our lifetime” [14:45];
  • Egyptian politics and the foundation of radical Islam [22:45];
  • Anwar Sadat’s presidency, assassination, and the birth of the radical Islamic movement [33:00];
  • Aftermath of the Sadat assassination, and establishment of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan [50:15];
  • Osama bin Laden: Upbringing, involvement in the Soviet–Afghan War, and rise to celebrity status in Saudi Arabia [56:00];
  • How the Western intervention in Saudi Arabia impacted Arab nationalist’s hatred of America [1:15:30];
  • Theorizing on the role of the religion in holding back Islamic states from making progress towards democracy [1:20:30];
  • Bin Laden’s time in Sudan [1:32:30];
  • The CIA vs. the FBI: setting the stage for the failure of US intelligence [1:37:00];
  • The mistake by US intelligence of not taking the bombings of the US embassies and the USS Cole seriously [1:46:00];
  • Al-Qaeda in America: Losing the planners of the 9/11 attacks from our clutches and incompetence at the FBI and CIA [1:56:00];
  • Problematic policies in Europe, and a direct message warning of the 9/11 attacks [2:14:45];
  • The role of political infighting and personality conflicts that helped enable the 9/11 attacks and the lack of accountability [2:22:45];
  • What came of the 9/11 commission, the role of the Saudi government, and the trials of Ali Soufan [2:36:00];
  • Lessons from 9/11 and the future of terrorism [2:46:30]; and
  • More.

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Show notes page for this episode: https://peterattiamd.com/LawrenceWright

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216 episodes