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Harry Kreisler: From the start, Jihadists came to believe that it would be ideal if American troops would be drawn back into the middle east. The idea was that if they attacked [on 9/11] and we came back at them in Afghanistan, the US would be destroyed in Afghanistan like the USSR had been.

They were wrong about that. But then… the invasion in Iraq.

Lawrence Wright: Iraq looks a lot like what bin Laden had in mind for us in Afghanistan.

If you read the memoirs of the inner-circle and ideologues of al-Qaeda, they confess that al-Qaeda was essentially dead after November, December 2001, when American and coalition forces swept aside the Taliban and pummeled al-Qaeda, accomplishing in a few weeks what the Red Army had failed to do in 10 years.

Eighty-percent of al-Qaeda membership was captured or killed, according to their own figures. And although we didn’t get the leaders, the survivors were scattered, unable to communicate with each other, destitute, and repudiated all over the world.

So this was a movement that was in a kind of zombie-like state.

It was Iraq that set the prairie on fire, that gave them another chance. Ironically, Iraq was never on bin Laden’s list of a likely candidate for Jihad because he knew it was a largely Shia nation, and al-Qaeda of course is an Sunni organization.

So it wasn’t high on his list. But we gave him an opportunity. And he took it.


Messrs. Wright and Kreisler, chatting about Wright’s fantastic chronicle of the origins of the war on terror The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11.

Keep going:

Lawrence Wright