Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon began working on this book shortly after leaving the National Security Council, where, as director and senior director for counterterrorism, they watched the rise of al-Qaeda and helped coordinate America's fight against Usama bin Laden and his organization. They warned in articles and interviews about the appearance of a new breed of terrorists who were determined to kill on the grand scale. More than a year before September 11, 2001, they began writing The Age of Sacred Terror to sound the alarm for a nation that had not recognized the gravest threat of our time. One of their book's original goals has remained: to provide the insights to understand an enemy unlike any seen in living memory-one with an extraordinary ability to detect weakness and exploit it, one with a determination to inflict catastrophic damage, one that will not be deterred. But after September 11, a second, equally crucial goal was added: to understand how America let its defenses down, how warnings went unheeded, and how key parts of the government failed at vital tasks.
Benjamin, the National Security Council's director for counterterrorism during the Clinton administration, and Simon, its first senior director of counterterrorism, here argue that Osama bin Laden is not the root of terrorist evil but merely a branch. Chillingly, the authors signed the contract for this book before September 11. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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June 30, 2003
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Excerpt from The Age of Sacred Terror by Daniel K. Benjamin
The first killing of the Terror was carried out by an Egyptian in Manhattan. The weapon was not a Boeing 767 but a chrome-plated .357 Magnum, and the attack happened in the conference room of a midtown hotel. One man was killed; two others were injured. Years would pass before anyone realized that the event was more than the solitary act of a deranged man.
On November 5, 1990, El-Sayyid Nosair rushed toward the podium in the Morgan D Room of the Marriott East Side Hotel. Just to the side of the microphone, Meir Kahane was signing books and greeting members of the audience for the speech he had just finished. As he neared the front of the room, Nosair aimed his gun and fired. The bullet tore into Kahane's neck and exited through his cheek. As blood poured from his mouth, Kahane raised his hands to his head and fell backward. The shooter spun and ran toward the exit, but just before the door, he was grabbed by a seventy-three-year-old man named Irving Franklin. Nosair kept moving and dragged Franklin a couple of yards before shooting him in the leg to get free. He sprinted from the hotel and jumped in a cab, thinking it was the getaway car he had arranged. It wasn't. Nosair jammed the gun into the back of the cabbie's head and screamed at him to drive. But traffic was moving slowly, and when a student who had been at Kahane's lecture and chased after Nosair jumped in front of the cab, the driver slid out the door and took off. Nosair abandoned the car, too, but he ran into the path of a Postal Service policeman. Nosair shot and wounded the officer, who returned fire, dropping the Egyptian with a neck wound.
As he lay bleeding on the sidewalk, El-Sayyid Nosair was sure he had changed the course of history.
He believed this because of his bizarre reading of Israeli politics. Kahane was a Brooklyn rabbi who founded the Jewish Defense League and then immigrated to Israel and established the Kach party, which was banned from his country's parliament in 1988 because of its blatant racism-the group advocated, for example, the expulsion of Arabs from Israel and the Occupied Territories. Yet Nosair was convinced that Kahane was destined to be the leader of the Jewish state and a force in global affairs: "They were preparing him to dominate, to be the prime minister someday," he would later say. "They were preparing him despite their assertion that they reject his agenda and that he is a racist."
A thirty-four-year-old from the northeastern Egyptian city of Port Said, Nosair had moved to the United States in 1981 with a university degree in engineering in hand. He was not a happy immigrant. His sister in Egypt later related that he disliked America, saying, "He didn't like the morality there."1 Nonetheless, he stayed, married an American woman, and moved to New Jersey, bouncing from job to job and winding up as a heating and air-conditioning repairman for the City of New York.