American Morning



'Washington Post' Editor Discusses French Book That Implicates Government in 9/11

Aired April 24, 2002 - 08:23   ET

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, you want your outrage for the day? We've got it for you. It's about a book that certainly would not make Oprah's most must read list. The Pentagon calls it a real offense to the American people, but it has become a runaway best seller in France. It makes the unbelievable claim that the September 11 attacks were staged by the American government and says the Pentagon was attacked using a truck bomb.

The author of "The Appalling Deception," Thierry Meyssan, has suggested on French talk shows and his Web site that the CIA and rogue U.S. military officers were behind the attacks in both Washington and New York.

Max Berley is the assistant foreign editor of the "Washington Post" and has just written about the book in the "New Republic" magazine. He joins us now from Washington.

Good to see you, Max.


ZAHN: Who is the man who wrote this book, Thierry Meyssan?

BERLEY: Well, he's a leftist activist. He didn't have a reputation as a kook until this book came out. He had done some fairly worthy work on the National Front, the extreme rightist group, and on the Free Masons and Opus Day. He's -- and some of his work had been picked up by mainstream newspapers and media.

ZAHN: Let's share with our audience for a moment some of the theories he advances in this best selling book in France. He writes -- and we've shortened this quite a bit because otherwise we'd be here for about four hours -- but he, among other things, he writes, "Professional pilots interviewed definitely rule out the possibility this operation could have been carried out by amateur pilots. However, there is a way to achieve this goal that cannot go wrong, using beacons. A signal sent from the target attracts the plane and guides it automatically."

And then he goes on to say, "The terrorists had logistical support from on the ground teams. They activated one of two beacons, warned the towers' occupants in order to limit the number of human casualties and blew up three buildings, all under the eyes of intelligence services."

So he is essentially saying the U.S. government was behind these attacks, Max?

BERLEY: That's right. That's his, he never actually comes out and says that directly. What he does is he strings together a bunch of truncated quotes and bits of misinformation and leads you to the assumption that that's what he's saying. For example, he dug up some document from the Bay of Pigs era and says look, they had a blueprint for committing acts of terror on their own soil and that's exactly what they're doing now so that they can hijack the government.

ZAHN: All right, our own Barbara Starr was on the ground shortly after the attack on the Pentagon. She saw pieces of the fuselage. In this book he also argues that the reason, part of the reason for his theory, was that they never found pieces of the plane.

BERLEY: Well, that's just nonsense.

ZAHN: So he's lying here, isn't he?

BERLEY: He's out and out lying. It's just nonsense. This is a, what the French would call a Google Yahoo! investigation. It's entirely based on what he saw in photographs that came out in the, say, 12 hours after the crash.

ZAHN: So can you explain to me why this book is selling so well in France? It's number four on the Amazon list in that country at the moment.

BERLEY: Well, it did very well. It was number one on the list for a while. It sold more than 100,000 copies. I think the reason is that France is at a very fragile time right now as we saw in the first round of the presidential election when the far right candidate, Jean- Marie Le Pen, took first place. I think there's a feeling of insecurity and there's a feeling of almost irrelevance. So they're willing to believe the worst about us, about the United States.

ZAHN: They really believe this stuff? They really believe what they're reading in this book?

BERLEY: That's hard to tell. But I think they do believe that the most powerful nation on Earth would not have been caught unaware like that or that the most powerful nation on earth would have some control over all events.

ZAHN: Have you read the book in its entirety, Max?

BERLEY: I have, yes.

ZAHN: As an American, what did you think when you put it down?

BERLEY: I was revolted, frankly. I was amused and I was disappointed because if the French have one thing going for them it's their Cartesian minds, their rational mind. And this is just so shoddily put together that I can't believe anyone would take it seriously.

ZAHN: All right, well...

BERLEY: It's a cut-and-paste job of the, you know, of the lowest standard. Even by the standards of conspiracy theories it's pretty poor stuff.

ZAHN: Well, Max Berley, we appreciate your shedding some light on this this morning.

Thank you very much for dropping by A.M.

BERLEY: Thank you.

ZAHN: Take care.

But unfortunately it's not just France. Particularly over the past few weeks, as seen in demonstrations against U.S. Mideast policy, against -- all across Europe, it is clear that the U.S. has some P.R. problems all over Western Europe. They are our allies and supposed to be our friends. But why do they love to hate us so much?

Well, joining us right now is CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield -- good morning.


ZAHN: So you just heard Max Berley talk about this outrageous new book that's out. He's talked about the success of Jean-Marie Le Pen coming in second in the runoff elections in France. This is a guy who, what, preaches anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism. He's just about against everything, right?


ZAHN: Why does a candidate -- why are these candidates and an author like this flourishing in France?

GREENFIELD: Let's first put something in perspective. Jean- Marie Le Pen got very, he got almost the same percentage of the vote that he's gotten the last times. The reason he made the runoff was because a lot of people moved to the extremes. That is, the normal liberal left alliance that would go for the socialists, who were supposed to come in first or second, they went to the Trotskyite left and gave them 10 percent of the vote and Jean-Marie Le Pen squeezed in.

Nonetheless, it is an alarm bell because this guy, this guy has to be thought of not as a kind of traditional conservative, but as a kind of populist rightist, a man whose fundamental appeal is to resentment and suspicion. The same kind of appeal that made this lunatic book a best seller in France, also helped Jean-Marie Le Pen get, I think it was 16 percent of the vote. It's resentment against them.

ZAHN: And we happen to be part of them? GREENFIELD: The United States is definitely part of that. The European Alliance is them. The immigrants in France, who Jean-Marie Le Pen says are getting the crime rate up, is them. You know, we've seen it in America. I mean the George Wallace appeal in 1968, he got 13 percent of the vote, was based on a kind of resentment against everybody from big fat cat foundations to the blacks in the cities and what they were up to, to outsiders. Anti-Semitism is often a component of this. To some extent Pat Buchanan in 2000 had this appeal. Nativist, anti-immigration, don't trust the World Trade Organization. And parts of this come to appeal to the left, as well, you know, the anti-globalization movement. So it's around.

ZAHN: And then add into that mix all of the demonstrations that have been spawned by U.S. policy in the Middle East.

GREENFIELD: That's right. And that, to me that has a lot of different components. One, sadly, but you have to put this on the table, there has been a dishonorable tradition of anti-Semitism. France has had it. You go back to the Dreyfus affair.

ZAHN: Oh, sure.

GREENFIELD: You go back to the fact that despite the fact that the French now tell us that in WWII they were all behind DeGaulle's resistance...

ZAHN: Yes, right.

GREENFIELD: ... a lot of the French lined up behind the Vichy government that was pro-Nazi. Israel has been seen in a lot of European intellectual circles as a colonial outpost in the Middle East and there's a kind of reflexive anti-Israeli belief that spills over anti-Semitism.

And then there's the United States, the lone superpower. I mean how many times has the United States gone over to Europe and bailed their chestnuts to of the fire and...

ZAHN: Well, sure, and then get slapped, you know, two weeks later.

GREENFIELD: So you have all of those things in this mix and it's produced a pretty combustible element, I think.

ZAHN: And what can the United States do about any of this?

GREENFIELD: Well, we can just...

ZAHN: We're not going to change our policy in the Middle East.

GREENFIELD: No. We're not going to pull out of NATO and we're not going to boycott...

ZAHN: We're not going to take away our McDonald's and our Disney's and...

GREENFIELD: We just have to make a better point of selling the, of saying fellahs, let's look at this in a broader context.

ZAHN: All right, thanks for the voice of reason this morning. We give the French credit for liberty, equality and fraternity.


ZAHN: I'm going to credit Jeff Greenfield with that this morning.

GREENFIELD: And good red wine. So we've got to be careful.

ZAHN: All right.


Implicates Government in 9/11





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