Book: Anatomy of Terror by Ali Soufan

In my comments about Joby Warrick’s book, Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS, a 2016 Pulitzer winner for general non-fiction, I said this:

Good but incomplete/one-sided. This is told mostly from the perspective of those (mostly Western powers, and at that, mostly American) who oppose and fought (and still fighting) Zarqawi and later ISIS. If you want to talk about the rise of ISIS at least you attempt to explain or go into the antecedents and causes why, and motivations of thousands of men (and women) from all over the world (including from Malaysia) who went (and is still going) to Syria and Iraq to take up the cause and put themselves in harm’s and death’s way.

In “Anatomy of Terror,” author and former F.B.I. special agent Ali Soufan wrote this in his introduction:

“The key to a more constructive use of our imaginations is empathy – not in the colloquial sense of sharing another person’s perspective, but in the clinical sense of being able to see the world through another person’s eyes. Sadly, after fifteen years of the war on terrorism, we still do not really know our enemy in this deeper sense. In this book, by delving into the personalities of men who mean us harm, I aim not to create sympathy for them – far from it – but to help point the way to a deeper understanding of their worldview, their motivations, and how best to combat the destructive ideology they represent.”

To a certain extent Soufan has achieved his goal. Disappointingly though he has written only a short last chapter on the “how best to combat the destructive ideology they represent.” Even this is skewed towards a Western perspective. It is noteworthy to point out that thousands and thousands more Muslims (compared to Western victims) have died and suffered at and through the hands of ISIS and Al-Qaeda, and their many offshoots in Muslim countries like Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan where they command actual real estate to operate and proliferate.

On this, I think Donald Trump, during his recent speech in Riyadh, touched on a very pertinent and important point when he said:

“It is a choice between two futures. And it is a choice America can not make for you. A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and drive out the extremists…Drive them out. Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy lands. Drive them out of this earth.”


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