Working for the CIA, James A. Mitchell spent thousands of hours speaking with al-Qaeda leaders in American custody, especially Khaled Sheikh Mohammed (in shorthand, KSM), mastermind of the September 11 attacks. In his new memoir, Mitchell describes the experience and explains what he and his colleagues learned. Marc Thiessen writes in his review:
[P]erhaps the most riveting part of the book is what KSM told Mitchell about what inspired al-Qaeda to attack the United States—and the U.S. response he expected. Today, some on both the left and the right argue that al-Qaeda wanted to draw us into a quagmire in Afghanistan—and now Islamic State wants to do the same in Iraq and Syria. KSM said this is dead wrong. Far from trying to draw us in, KSM said that al-Qaeda expected the United States to respond to 9/11 as we had to the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut—when, KSM told Mitchell, the United States “turned tail and ran.” He also said he thought we would treat 9/11 as a law-enforcement matter, just as we had the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and of the USS Cole in Yemen—arresting some operatives and firing a few missiles into empty tents, but otherwise leaving him free to plan the next attack. . . .
But KSM said something else that was prophetic. In the end, he told Mitchell, “We will win because Americans don’t realize [that] we do not need to defeat you militarily; we only need to fight long enough for you to defeat yourself by quitting.”
KSM was right. For the past eight years, our leaders have told us that we are weary of war and need to focus on “nation-building at home.” We have been defeating ourselves by quitting—just as KSM predicted. But quitting will not bring us peace, KSM told Mitchell, explaining that “it does not matter that we [Americans] do not want to fight them.”