From an award-winning LA Times reporter, a brilliantly researched investigation of the lives of the men responsible for September 11 attacks - how they lived, what they thought, and how they changed into the sort of men who could do what they did.
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the acknowledged mastermind of the September 11 attacks, had been to the United States before; as a bright young man, he had come here from his native Kuwait to study science. He had returned home appalled, telling people Americans hated Muslims, and spent the next 20 years plotting to get even, developing for this purpose an unusual weapon: a group of young men from Hamburg, the agents of a seismic shift in modern history but in many respects utterly normal.
The Sept. 11 attackers have largely been depicted with a series of caricatures that run from evil genius on one end to deluded fanatics on the other, but most of Mohammed's protegees came from apolitical and only mildly religious backgrounds. Under his watch, though, they evolved into devout, pious Muslims who debated endlessly on how best to serve, to fulfil what they came to regard as their religious obligations. In fundamentalist Islam, religion and politics are inseparable; the Hamburg men saw themselves as soldiers of God.