In the wake of its war with Georgia, Russia (as represented by Medvedev, Putin, and the Russian foreign ministry) has repeatedly made noises about wanting nothing but friendship and partnership with the West, including the United States, and having no interest in a “new Cold War.”
In light of these protestations, it’s interesting to note that on September 12, Russia’s state-owned Channel One broadcast the “documentary” Zero by Italian journalist Giulietto Chiesa (who served as the Moscow correspondent for the Italian Communist newspaper Unita in the 1970s) and leading French 9/11 conspirologist Thierry Meyssan, which advances the idea that the World Trade Center bombing was an inside job and that no plane ever hit the Pentagon. The broadcast, in the prime-time program ironically titled “Closed Screening,” went largely unnoticed in the West except by 9/11 “truther” sites.
The showing of the film was followed by a panel discussion before a live studio audience (which included both Chiesa, who speaks Russian, and Meyssan). The host, Alexander Gordon, made no secret of his sympathy for Chiesa’s viewpoint, though he politely noted that the documentary could have used more objectivity. Several other pro-“truther” panelists, including the rabidly anti-American TV host Mikhail Leontiev, spoke at length in praise of the film, complimenting its makers on their courage and insight, ridiculing the official version of the attacks as absurd (in Leontiev’s words, “the ravings of a gray mare” — a Russian colloquialism that means something like “total nonsense”). TV anchor Alexei Pushkov categorically asserted that while we cannot be sure who engineered the attacks, the idea of “19 Arabs directed by Osama bin Laden in a cave” is completely discredited. He and co-panelist Geidar Jemal, the chairman of Russia’s Islamic Committee, also lamented “the death of information” in the Western media and its replacement by “manipulation” — thankfully, with heroes like Chiesa and Meyssan on hand to resist it. Toward the end of the discussion, explicit parallels were drawn between the Western media’s obedient parroting of official lies about 9/11 and their collusion in the “official version” of the Russia/Georgia war.
A couple of guests briefly and sheepishly offered opposing viewpoints. Irina Zvyagelskaya, analyst at the Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow, said that she was “unconvinced” by the film and added that if its premise was true and such a cynical act not only toward one’s own citizens but also toward world opinion could have been perpetrated, “you don’t want to live in this world.” Gordon then sarcastically suggested that, in order to be able to go on living, she was going to “shut out” inconvenient truths such as Chiesa’s film (to which Zvyagelskaya replied that she would question all versions). TV journalist Vladimir Sukhoi, former Channel One Bureau chief in the US, said — looking visibly nervous — that a good journalist should not pursue an agenda or “string facts onto the skewer of his theory,” and criticized Chiesa for doing exactly that. His comment went unanswered. When Gordon turned to the studio audience and asked those who believed in the official “19 Arabs” version of 9/11 to raise their hands, not one hand went up.
Toward the end, Meyssan launched into an impassioned diatribe against brutal U.S. dominance all over the world and noted that Russia, no longer weak as in 2001, was the world’s last, best hope. “Who can stop this huge predator which is ravaging the planet? We expect a great deal from you, from Russia. Only you can stop all this!” he exclaimed, to raucous audience applause.
It is estimated that the program was watched by 30 million people.
Ironically, on the same day, at a three-hour meeting with the Valdai Club mostly made up of Western political experts, Russian President (or is it Puppet-in-Chief?) Dmitry Medvedev declared Georgia’s military action against South Ossetia on August 8 to be Russia’s 9/11. The similarity, apparently, is that “Russian citizens” (i.e. South Ossetians to whom Russia started issuing Russian passports a few years ago while still formally recognizing South Ossetia as Georgian territory) were attacked on August 8 just as U.S. citizens were on 9/11. On the website Grani.ru, commentator Andrei Piontkovsky caustically noted that when Russian state TV embraces the notion that 9/11 was cooked up by U.S. imperialists as a pretext for war, “our 9/11” sounds “rather ambiguous” coming from the President of Russia.
There are other dangers for Russia in peddling 9/11 conspirology for domestic consumption. Many Russians still have questions about the explosions of two Moscow apartment buildings in 1999, blamed on Chechen terrorists but viewed as an FSB inside job by a number of critics. (Unlike the 9/11 attacks, these bombings were never properly investigated.)
That aside, Condoleezza Rice might want to bring up this disgraceful broadcast — clearly meant to fan the flames of anti-Americanism in the Russian public — next time she has a chat with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.