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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: June 2012

Introduction: The Road to September 11 and After


The Semiofficial Narrative of September 11

The final report of the U.S. commission investigating the September 11 attacks offered a vivid portrait and dramatic details of how Osama bin Laden, leader of a transnationalist jihadi group, and a few of his close lieutenants painstakingly plotted and coordinated the multiple, spectacular suicide bombings on New York and Washington. The independent commission presented a riveting account of the various phases of the menacing plot, the leading characters and villains who led it, the ups and downs of operational planning, and the last horrific moments of its execution. Bin Laden emerges as the indisputable leader and mastermind who gave Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a terrorist operator-entrepreneur, the green light for the September 11 operation in the late 1990s. In mid-1996 the latter reportedly met with bin Laden in Tora Bora, a mountainous redoubt from the Afghan war days, and presented a proposal for an operation that would train pilots to crash planes into buildings in the United States. The proposal would eventually become the September 11 operation.

Bin Laden is portrayed as playing the most vital role in all stages of the plot, from selecting individuals to serve as suicide bombers to developing an initial list of targets. He reportedly wanted to destroy the White House and the Pentagon, and he was very anxious to strike hard inside the United States.