From Publishers Weekly
It's taken three-plus years for a serious study of the hijackers, but the wait was worth it. L.A. Times
reporter McDermott has dug deep, interviewing scores of friends, relatives and officials worldwide and trawling through troves of documents. Engrossing and deeply disturbing from the start, the book begins with two events Americans rarely connect: Russia's retreat from Afghanistan in 1989, followed in 1990 by Western troops pouring into Saudi Arabia after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. McDermott shows victory in Afghanistan electrifying Islamic warriors who hated Christianity as much as communism; a new "infidel" army to fight proved an irresistible challenge. For McDermott, this moment marks the beginning of organized, nonstate-supported terrorism. Not very
organized, he adds, describing half a dozen plots cobbled together by clumsy enthusiasts who were often caught—though often too late. Despite the media attention paid to bin Laden, McDermott paints him not as the führer of terrorism, but as a rich leader with the most aggressive P.R. Bin Laden, for example had nothing to do with the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993—but he was inspired by it. McDermott's detailed biographies of the hijackers go far beyond the characterizations of the 9/11 report, and he is skeptical of accounts that portray them as deeply disturbed: all came from intact families, most were middle-class, few were deeply religious, none were abused or estranged. Recruited for the hijackings and informed they would die, they thought it over and agreed. McDermott's clear rendering of that decision is just one of this book's strengths. (May 3)
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McDermotts background knowledge and exhaustive research inform a well-reasoned explanation of what moves seemingly normal men to undertake monstrous acts of violence. Even though most of the hijackers responsible for 9/11 remain murky figures, the important few whose lives and personalities McDermott carefully examines illustrate just who these people were and why they did what they did, on a level that official government reports never approached. Perfect Soldiers
is an important book for the context it provides, a chilling book for the implications it leaves, and one of the most informative books written about 9/11 to date.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.