Who Is this man?

Mohamed Atta al Sayed (Arabic: محمد عطا السيد) (September 1, 1968 – September 11, 2001) was named by the FBI as the suicide pilot of the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He is now believed to have been the leader of the attacks.

Egyptian born, he held a Saudi passport.
A new book, Perfect Soldiers, The Hijackers: Who They Were, Why They Did it, by Terry Mcdermott joins others, including “Ghost Wars” by Steve Coll and the official 9/11 Commission report. I have not read the book, this diary is based on the book review by Wesley Wark a professor of history at the University of Toronto. It was published in The Globe and Mail, Books, June 18, 2005.

This is the most haunting image we have of Atta.

This is where Atta passes through gate security, at Portland, Maine Jetport. Whenever I have looked at this image, in anguish, I have thought  ‘if only, if only, if only he could have been stopped here, right here.’ I hate the way he strolls through so confidently living out his plan for the murder of thousands of people.

The grim visage of Mohamed Atta, the ringleader of the 9/11 hijackers, stares out from the front cover of Perfect Soldiers,. Atta haunts its pages, as well: a jihadist who sought and found martyrdom, inflicted a terrible toll on Sept. 11, 2001, and changed the course of history, and whose innner mentality remains utterly mysterious.

The author Terry McDermott, a senior LA Times reporter travelled the world for three years researching this book and Atta.

Atta was a man of fervid commitment and determination. He may have been an imperfect ringleader, imperfect in the matter of security […]
But in the end, commitment and determination were the qualities that mattered.

Atta’s metamorphosis into a jihad warrior is both inscrutable and chllingly cold-blooded. It occurred during his student days in Hamburg […][where he] found himself drawn to an extremist Hamburg mosque.[…] [His cell] were steeped in hatred of the West, the United States in particular, steeped in hatred of Israel, convinced that Islam’s woes were a product of a great conspiracy.

In Atta’s case, his Hamburg days had also burnished a personality stripped of compassion, without any social compass. His passion for jihad was monstrous, unchecked by any compunction or self-doubt. Atta was routinely described as cold, aggressively insular, hectoring. He became a man without humanity.

[my emphasis]

His will is a testament to his hatred of unbelievers, women, the ignorant, those without purity. McDermott’s book describes the key conspirators in their broader context.

That the 9/11 plot proceeded without major hindrance remains an astounding part of the story. The conspiracy was not uncovered in any part of the global terrain in which it was brewed.[…] None of the hijackers was caught though the 20th foot soldier was turned back by an alert Florida immigration officer […] who didn’t like his attitude. […] A U.S. intelligence system on high alert neither tightened its security nor, fundamentally, believed the import of its own message.
The unknowable Mohamed Atta, architecture student and lover of straight lines, fanatical devotee of a straight and straightened life, drove his giant plane straight into the north tower of the World Trade Center. This man will occupy a place in history as one of life’s terrible simplifiers. […]Atta will be forever locked in the cold freeze of his act of murder and terror.

Mohamed Atta’s ‘inner mentality’ may remain mysterious but the descriptions in the book review give some shape to his thinking, to what kind of a person could accomplish such mass murder. His is one of ‘life’s terrible simplifiers.’ It puts me on guard for those simplifiers, those who are convinced they are absolutely right and see the world in the simple terms of black/white – good/evil.

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