The Looming Documentary: HBO’s My Trip to Al-Qaeda
It isn’t a simple case of “why do they hate us?” as this flawed but engrossing documentary hosted by Pulitzer-winning author Lawrence Wright explains. It’s more about why they hate their own lives and why they think a supposedly noble death as a suicide bomber is their only escape.
September 12, 2010 - 12:03 am
Wright’s observations on the radical Muslim’s mindset are equally chilling. The culture keeps men separated from women, leaving them socially immature.
“It’s not so easy to be a terrorist if your girlfriend won’t let you,” he cracks. The men who follow the most radical brand of Islam “are nearly incapacitated with longing.”
And that hardly begins to describe life in Saudi Arabia, a cauldron for some of today’s most radical minds. Leisure activity doesn’t have a place in society, at least not by the Western world’s standards. Parks and museums are rare, movie houses don’t exist, and the Internet is heavily controlled and monitored.
Shopping offers their only vice, and when a new IKEA opened up in the country 15,000 people lined up to visit — with two people trampled to death in the crush.
That leaves a young population bored, frustrated, and often clinically depressed.
Enter al-Qaeda, a group which “empowers people who have no power,” he notes, a collective with “an engine that runs on the despair of the Muslim world.“
The film’s waning moments spend too much time detailing one FBI agent’s horror over U.S. interrogation techniques, a one-sided cry of rage from Wright that detracts from the main story.
Wright’s on target when he says the U.S. needs to better understand the radical mindset before engaging in a war on terror. But by blasting the Iraq War, excoriating enhanced interrogation techniques, and decrying modest crackdowns on civil liberties, Wright leaves few other tools available to beat back terror cells around the globe.
Anything the Western world does to fight al-Qaeda trips the Muslim “humiliation reflex,” causing them to hate the West even more. But what’s Plan B?
Wright lets loose with platitudes like, “Al Qaeda can’t destroy America. We can only do that to ourselves.” He’s correct — in theory — but a few well placed nuclear suitcases will bring down the country far more quickly than any draconian laws we can put in place to fight terrorism.
My Trip to Al-Qaeda is tough to watch, tougher to turn away from, and an invaluable aid to those who don’t understand the true nature of the enemy we all face.