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Book Review - The Right Books

Donna Doyle

Donna Doyle, a retired "civil slave," is a freelance writer in Northeast Florida. According to Don, her long-suffering husband, "I'm so glad she's giving someone else hell for a change, instead of me."

by Donna Doyle
August 30th, 2002


Samuel M. Katz (Forge, 297 pp. $25)

On October 10, 2001, less than one month after the destruction of the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon, and three days after bombing of al-Qaeda sites in Afghanistan began, President George W. Bush and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the Federal Bureau of Investigation's first "Most Wanted Terrorists" list.

As the televised press conference continued, each name read and photograph shown, the specific reason for that individual's inclusion on the list was given. From various Middle East countries, all were members of al-Qaeda or belonged to other Islamic terrorist organizations with ties to it. Many on the list were believed directly involved with September 11th's attacks; others, with previous terrorist actions against the United States.

Some argued that blaming al-Qaeda for 9-11 was a rush to judgment or simply a political ploy. Others recalled previous attacks by al-Qaeda forces on U.S. embassies in Beirut, Nairobi, and Dar es Salaam; the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen; military barracks in Saudi Arabia and within in the United States itself, the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

Also present at the press conference were Federal agents from the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), a small, unheralded arm of the U.S. Department of State. Not only had DSS agents been involved in the investigations that identified the 22 on that list, in many instances they'd been present when these attacks had occurred.

Using information from previously published sources and interviews, some of which were conducted before September 11, Samuel M. Katz [See Sidebar] examines attacks by al-Qaeda or sponsored by it prior to that date, and the trail of evidence that links them. It also explains al-Qaeda's beginnings, growth, widespread support, and why the war against the terrorism will not be a short one.

When the Soviets withdrew from their failed invasion of Afghanistan, they left behind not only a land and people they'd failed to conquer but al-Qaeda's beginnings.

Unlike an army that fights to defend a region or nation, Afghani forces had been filled with Muslims who'd come from around the world not to fight for a country or its freedom, but solely to battle Infidels in defense of Islam itself. When the Soviets left, many of these Muslims returned to their own countries and fundamentalist organizations, spreading al-Qaeda's spawn. Now structured like a multinational corporation, al-Qaeda, "The Base," provides direction, coordination and support for these well-established regional companies: the various worldwide Islamic terrorist groups through which its attacks are orchestrated.

Not all of the al-Qaeda attacks described in Relentless Pursuit have been successful, nor have they been directed just against the United States. Some have been stopped, others abandoned. And some, such as the bombing of Philippine Airlines Flight 434 in 1994, were simply tests conducted to ensure the success of later, larger operations. [See Photo]

Surprisingly, Katz begins not in the Middle East, Africa or Asia, but in midtown Manhattan with the 1990 murder of Meir Kahane, founder of the radical Jewish Defense League, by El Sayyid Nosair. Arrested almost immediately, Nosair was believed to be working alone. No one recognized at the time that the fanatical Islamic material; stolen, classified U.S. military documents and plans for attacks on New York City later found in his New Jersey home, were harbingers of things to come.

Although Katz does not claim Nosair had direct al-Qaeda connections, he begins to show the intricate weave of its historical affiliations and relationships through Nosair's association with other followers of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind Muslim cleric later convicted and still incarcerated for his participation in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Katz writes sparingly, allowing the biographical, historical and political information he provides throughout to speak for itself. The best and clearest examples of how entrenched al-Qaeda's influence is in various countries and governments come directly from his interviews with DSS personnel.

DSS agents stationed overseas have no legal authority except within the embassy or consulate they are assigned to, where, as Katz parallels it a bit too often, each is like a marshal in an Old West town. Totally responsible for the security of the embassy itself and the safety of the diplomatic personnel visiting or assigned to it, the RSO (Regional Security Officer) carefully cultivates relationships with members of that nation's law enforcement agencies. Katz uses their stories especially well to explain al-Qaeda's strength in certain countries, and why some governments that have been acknowledged as partners in the war against terrorism, are probably only playing lip service to that commitment.

I'd never heard of the DSS before and Katz admits he hadn't either until the 1995 capture of Ramzi Yousef, the globetrotting mastermind behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and many other attacks. [See Sidebar] The section on his pursuit and ultimate arrest in Pakistan provides the best example of DSS operations and how their domestic and overseas responsibilities mesh. It is also gives a harsh taste of political realities, some of which involve failures in our own government.

If you're looking for something you can zip through, this is not the book. Relentless Pursuit requires careful reading. Katz attempts to ease the journey he leads through technical jargon concerning fingerprints, triggering devices and the chemical composition of explosive devices used; visas, passports and manifests from arriving and departing flights. Katz's best technique for dealing with this potentially confusing information consists of frequent reminders taking the reader back to where he'd first introduced the information. These reminders can be helpful; they can also be annoying when they become too frequent.

Still, this is a compelling story. It is a very human one with its peeks into the DSS and the experiences and perspectives of its agents. Unlike antiseptic media reports, these personal accounts drive the reader on.

9-11's first anniversary approaches.

Now that the Taliban has been ousted from its governing role in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda's presence there is much less apparent, demands are being made for a specific date when the War on Terrorism will end. There is no need to continue, some say. The battle has been won.

Katz disagrees. It's not one battle, he states, just the first in a long war that the United States only acknowledged after September 11, 2001.

Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, with their support, technical sophistication and financial resources, are confident of their ultimate victory. Among the many weapons at their disposal, they believe one of their best is the U.S. itself and the lack of resolve it has shown in the past.

Al-Qaeda has purposefully spaced its attacks widely apart. The U.S. has occasionally replied with a quick flexing of its military muscle, and they expect the same token response to 9-11. Then once again the United States, weak and decadent, will choose to forget what happened as if nothing ever had.

So it is that al-Qaeda, only temporarily inconvenienced, will continue onward with its unholy vision of by whatever means necessary, converting the world to Islam.

In sh'Allah!
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About Samuel M. Katz (From the book jacket)

Samuel M. Katz is the author of over 20 books and more than a hundred articles on the Middle East, police and military special operations, the history of international terrorism and security issues. The editor in chief of Special Ops, a journal that profiles military and law enforcement special operations units worldwide, his work has appeared in Playboy, Esquire, and Jane's Intelligence Review, and on the Discovery channel, A&E, and the Learning Channel.

The Diplomatic Security Service

The responsibilities of the Diplomatic Security Service include investigations of visa and passport fraud, maintaining the safety of the Secretary of State and foreign dignitaries visiting the United States, and maintaining security for United States diplomatic missions, embassies and consulates worldwide. http://www