WITH PAULA ZAHN
'Washington Post' Editor Discusses
French Book That Implicates Government in
Aired April 24, 2002 - 08:23 ET
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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.
MAX BERLEY, "WASHINGTON
POST," ASSISTANT FOREIGN
EDITOR: Good morning.
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
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,
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
So he is essentially saying the U.S.
government was behind these attacks,
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
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
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
ZAHN: Have you read the book in its
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
ZAHN: Well, Max Berley, we
appreciate your shedding some light
on this this morning.
Thank you very much for dropping by
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 --
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT:
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,
anti-Americanism. He's just about
against everything, right?
GREENFIELD: He is...
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
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
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
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
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
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
ZAHN: We're not going to take away
our McDonald's and our Disney's
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.
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Implicates Government in 9/11