Unlike, say, Hezbollah, I do not believe "Al-Qaeda" to be an actual organization, and I am skeptical of terrorist attacks that take place in countries like Iraq which target civilians specifically and which only seem to benefit the occupier by fomenting sectarian violence and dividing the resistance. I'm not saying there aren't fanatics who commit such atrocities, but I am always skeptical.
I think it more likely that "Al-Qaeda" is a modern variant of the "pseudo-team": individuals who are organized to impersonate enemy forces. Lawrence Kline of the US Army War College discusses the tactic in a paper for the Revolution in Military Affairs. Citing examples from the Huk insurection in the Philippines, the Mau Mau in Kenya, the French in Indochina, and other conflicts, Kline stresses their utility in intelligence gathering.
An even more candid view is offered by a leaked counter-insurgency manual published in 2008. The manual, Foreign Internal Defense Tactics Techniques and Procedures for Special Forces, explains the use of pseudo teams and "doppelganger" operations, whereby individuals posing as insurgents or even specific individuals can be used to tarnish the image of the enemy. Obviously the manual does not explicitly refer to setting off bombs, but there are indeed candid admissions of such. Kermit Roosevelt during Operation Ajax, CIA whistleblower Philip Agee in Uruguay, and many bombings/atrocities under Gladio and Operation Phoenix.
It's not one or the other -- "organic" terrorism or false flag operation. During the Cold War you had leftist radicals carry out terrorist attacks entirely of their own volition; you also had groups like the Baader Meinhoff in Germany that were infiltrated and steered into carrying out terrorist attacks; you had terrorist attacks for which no responsibility was taken (eg in Belgium -- the "Supermarket massacres") designed to create a "strategy of tension", and you had pseudo teams carrying out bombings in the name of the left.
So it's all very complex. In Iraq, there was a period where the Shia and Sunni were uniting to fight the occupation. Then a series of sectarian bombings began. The British SAS were caught in flagrante delicto, while the bombing of the Golden Dome Mosque was almost certainly a false flag operation. Who would call their organization "Al-Qaeda in Iraq" when the term itself was concocted by some guy at the Pentagon?
The various bombings attributed to Al-Qaeda always seem to have some sort of intelligence link, whether MI6, CIA or even FBI. This fact alone is enough to cast suspicion on the entire enterprise.
Anyway, regarding Bin Laden, I agree with you that it is not prudent to simply assume it was a hoax, even with the destruction of evidence, staged photo ops, implausible (and ever changing) accounts, fortuitous timing (election campaign time!) and the highly dubious history of Bin Laden himself. By the same token, I don't think it prudent to simply assume the US government is telling the truth (if they were, the event would be remarkable in more ways than one). I lean towards the view that Bin Laden died many years ago, for reasons I've stated many times, but I have no problem changing my mind in light of new evidence. I did so re the Pentagon, largely due to your own posts.
One of the problems is that when you have a 50 billion dollar a year "black budget" it is not all that difficult to fabricate evidence and pay or coerce people to say one thing or another. It happens all the time in minor legal trials; it must also happen when dealing with events of major geopolitical import. This is the problem -- we end up pouring over minutiae and lose site of the over-arching issues.
In his "comments on the society of the spectacle", Guy Debord wrote:
"At the moment when almost every aspect of international political life and a growing number of those aspects that count in internal politics are conducted and displayed in the style of the secret services, with decoys, disinformation and double explanations (one might conceal another, or may only seem to), the spectacle confines itself to making known a wearisome world of obligatory incomprehensibility, a boring series of lifeless, inconclusive crime novels."
It is perhaps for this reason that we should remind ourselves that Bin Laden could not have organized war games on 911, nor imploded B7. In many ways, Bin Laden himself is just one giant distraction.