PNAC (Project for a New American Century) published a "grand strategy" in 2000 calling for the US to maintain its unrivaled superpower status, though this might require a "new Pearl Harbor" to justify launching pre-emptive wars against suspect nations. 9/11 happened as if on cue the next year, suggesting to many not so much a "grand strategy' as a 'grand conspiracy'. As Bush told the 9/11 Commission, to justify invading Afghanistan and get Bin Laden, it was necessary to await "another attack on America".
So who 'did' 9/11?
As the West invaded the Muslim world in the 19th--20th cc, local Muslims naturally resisted the occupation--both physical and cultural--of their world. One can only admire the heroic resistance in Aceh (present-day Indonesia) to the Portuguese in the 16th century and Abd al-Qadir's guerrilla movement against the French in Algeria in the 19th century. Even the Saudi tribe's Wahhab-inspired resistance to the distant Ottoman court, already decadent and aping the imperialists, deserves respect, though the Saudi Bedouin were notorious for their cruelty and killing of captives. The PLO hijackings of the late 1960s--early 1970s (recall Leila Khaled) and the ongoing intifadas by Palestinian youth are cl assic jihad: individual duty (fard ayn) in defense of one's home and religion, heroic and justified given Israeli aggression and unwillingness to negotiate the return of Palestinian lands.
From the 1970s, however, there arose a very different movement of resistance--terrorists, who use indiscriminate violence intended to provoke the imperialists and their local Muslim representatives into even greater repression, in the hope of sparking revolutionary war. They are the product of the imperial times, aping 19th European anarchists who threw bombs at monarchs, eventually launching WWI, and 20th century groups such as Baader Meinhof who robbed banks and bombed buildings to protest the Vietnam war. Now it was the humiliation of the Arab defeat by Israel in 1967, and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
Most of the terrorists were/are understandably Saudis, rich on oil wealth, educated at western universities (or unemployed), and disgusted by the Saudi alliance with imperialism (and by implication, Israel). Either you're Osama Bin Laden or his brother Bakr Bin Laden (current head of the world's largest construction firm and "the true ruler of Jeddah" according to Der Spiegel).
As such, these terrorists have been dubbed neo-Wahhabis by Seyyed Nasr, author of Islam in the Modern World: Challenged by the West, Threatened by Fundamentalism, Keeping Faith with Tradition (2010). They are the bitter fruits (for us all, Muslim and non-Muslim) now being reaped in the so-called Global War on Terror. The problem is that this "war' targets all Islamists, including teenage Palestinian rock-throwers, Hizbullah resistance fighters, elected Hamas, Iranian and Egyptian politicans, conveniently lumping them all together with the neo-Wahhabi terrorists.
The culmination of this terrorism, the high point (or low point, depending on your point of view) is 9/11, though it is still not clear who carried it out and how. Officially, it was by 19 Arab youth (15 of them Saudi), operating under their al-Qaeda mentors (notably, Osama bin Laden, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh).
The 9/11 Commission Report has been widely criticized as having gaping holes and ignoring or suppressing important evidence. However, it carefully documents the movements of the 19 highjackers leading up to their suicide missions, and hard evidence pointing at real conspirators other than the 19 highjackers remains elusive.
Whistleblowers point to ignored FBI and CIA warnings, but this evidence, and memoirs by such as CIA head George Tenet and White House counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, tend to undermine claims of wilful conspiracy by US government leaders.
The Pakistani general
The one clear thread from the start suggesting higher level involvement pointed not to US officials, but to Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Director General Mahmud Ahmed. He was "retired' on 8 October 2001 by Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf, and the next day, The Times of India reported that, "US authorities [FBI] sought his removal after confirming the fact that $100,000 were wired to WTC hijacker Mohamed Atta from Pakistan [in fact, the UAE] by Ahmed Omar Sheikh at the insistence of General Mahmud". He is now a missionary with the Tablighi Jamaat society.
Ahmed Omar Sheikh was arrested by Pakistani police in February 2002 for the Daniel Pearl kidnapping, sentenced to death, and has spent the subsequent 11 years incommunicado. Pakistan refuses to extradite him to the US.
Saudi intelligence agents
The legendary "28 redacted pages" have been the object of attention ever since they were redacted. In 2003, 46 senators demanded that Bush declassify them. Ex-Senator Bob Graham, who chaired the Joint Inquiry in 2002, told IBTimes: "The Saudi government without question was supporting the hijackers who lived in San Diego. You can't have 19 people living in the United States for, in some cases, almost two years, taking flight lessons and other preparations, without someone paying for it. But I think it goes much broader than that. The agencies from CIA and FBI have suppressed that information so American people don't have the facts."
Two of the Saudi men in question are Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Basnan. Bayoumi worked for the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation, moved to the US in 1994, and in 2000--after a visit to the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles--invited two of the hijackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, to San Diego. Bayoumi found the two future hijackers an apartment and paid their first and last months rent ($1,500). Bayoumi left the US in July 2001, was briefly interviewed in Britain by the FBI after 9/11, but released and never brought back to the US for questioning.