September 11 conspiracy book to hit US stores

PARIS (Reuters) -- French author Thierry Meyssan has news for Americans preparing to commemorate the first anniversary of September 11: the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon did not involve hijacked airliners.

"9/11, The Big Lie," the English translation of Meyssan's incendiary French-language book is due to hit U.S. bookstores by the end of August. The book alleges that the world has been taken for a ride over what really happened on September 11.

The French have already lapped up Meyssan's theory that a military faction in the U.S. government used remote controls to guide two aircraft into the twin towers and that a U.S. missile -- not an American Airlines jet -- smashed into the Pentagon.

"L'Effroyable Imposture" ("The Appalling Fraud") graced French bestseller lists for months despite ridicule from national media. Meyssan hopes for similar success in the United States.

"What I hope is that there will be a debate on what really happened and that opinion in the United States and the rest of the world is alerted," he said in an interview.

"The U.S. government has chosen its scapegoats," he said of the U.S. war against terrorism launched in Afghanistan, whose deposed Taliban rulers were believed to harbor suspected September 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.

"But we cannot allow those who are really guilty to go unpunished and the innocent to be bombed," said Meyssan, head of the little-known left-leaning think tank Reseau Voltaire.

Meyssan's book sold little until he was invited onto a television chat show in March. His appearance prompted a rush on bookshops as his theories tapped into a mistrust of all things American among some French, particularly on the left.

French media, which had previously ignored the book, poured scorn on his claims in a windfall of media exposure that only served to increase the book's notoriety and help publisher Editions Carnot notch up sales of more than 200,000.

Meyssan, 45, claims there have been sightings of some members of bin Laden's al Qaeda network who were named as hijackers of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center.

He contends that photographs showed the damage at the Pentagon to be incompatible with a Boeing 757 airliner crash, while both witness accounts and official statements of the crash were contradictory and incomplete.

"One can totally reject the official versions of events," he said, suggesting the likely suspects were U.S. military insiders hoping to reap the rewards of a huge boost in defense spending.

Meyssan concedes he lacks concrete proof of such a plot as well as evidence of what happened to American Airlines Flight 77 and its 64 passengers if it did not crash into the Pentagon.

"There are certain questions to which I cannot give you the answer," he said, maintaining that he not have the resources to investigate and verify his theories.

Meyssan says he is prepared to travel to the United States to defend his book -- but only in French, and only on live programs. He alleges that one media interview he gave on his book was edited to distort his comments.

"I have the sense that some of the U.S. media has made up its mind (on my theory)," he said. "There is suspicion at a foreign author questioning the statements of their government."

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