On the sixth anniversary of 9/11, Hugh Hewitt, host of the nationally syndicated “Hugh Hewitt Show,” interviewed Pulitzer Prize winning author of “The Looming Tower: al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11” Lawrence Wright about General Petraeus’s report on the Iraq war, the new bin Laden videotape and the global threat of al Qaeda.
Hugh Hewitt: We’re talking on the 6th anniversary of 9/11. In the six years since they launched the successful attack on America, Lawrence Wright, how is al Qaeda faring in the world?
Lawrence Wright: Well, it’s a mixed report. You know, al Qaeda central has been, to some extent, reduced, isolated. It’s been unable to accomplish many of its major goals, especially capturing a Muslim country, and restoring the caliphate and creating a kind of theocratic law. That it’s failed to do. But on the other hand, essentially after November/December, 2001, after the Tora Bora battle, al Qaeda was pretty much a zombie. It was over. The war on terror was at an end, and it’s been amazing to see how that organization has been able to reconstitute itself. It’s now deeply rooted in a lot of countries where it wasn’t present before. The banner of al Qaeda has been taken up by a lot of disaffected young Muslims around the world who hadn’t been interested in it before. So on balance, I think it’s as dangerous as it was before 9/11, but in different ways.
Hewitt: What does the new bin Laden transcript tell you—the videotape that he released last week?
Wright: Well, it’s a peculiar document. For one thing, I’m always amused by his kind of commentary on American politics, and you know, averting to the Kyoto treaty and stuff like that where he does this kind of second-rate commentary on the American political scene. I think that the message that he wants to get out is that he’s still a threat, he’s still relevant. I think he’s probably not capable of carrying out the high-scale attacks that he has accomplished in the past, but he wants us to think that [he is]. And so by rattling the cages periodically, he accomplishes at least keeping us unnerved.
Hewitt: There is some concern that he signals awakening of sleeper cells with this. Does that still concern intelligence agencies that you stay in touch with, Lawrence Wright?