You have read this before: the news story or opinion column that surveys the European scene and emphasizes the spooky number of Europeans who believe that 9/11 was a set-up. And you�ve read this before: the news story or opinion column that surveys the Middle Eastern scene and emphasizes the spooky number of Muslims who believe that 9/11 was the work of the Jews, or was planned by the Bush administration. Such exposes of mass gullibility have become a fixture in the American press, one answer to the perennial question: why do they hate us? Answer: they are cretins. A good example of this kind of thing is linked here: Anne Applebaum�s column about the Frankfurt Book fair for the Washington Post. She knits together the two popular motifs, moving from the claim that a German translation of Thierry Meyssan�s L�effroyable imposture, the most famous of the conspiracy books, had mounted to best seller status in Germany, to a news story about some German group that was demanding a victim status for the German dead in World War II and the period afterwards equal to the status of the Jews.
It is odd that Applebaum, who is as conversant with contemporary Russian history as any American journalist, should take for granted the sufficiency of this news story type. We feel there is something missing here. For surely the willingness to see conspiracy in the events of 9/11 is conditioned, in the European and Arab world, by a set of attacks that happened between September 3rd and 13th in 1999. This set of attacks has sunk into the background for most Americans. The attacks consisted of explosives planted at various apartment buildings in Moscow and Volgodonsk along with a string of explosions outside of Moscow, resulting in more than 300 deaths. These attacks are still used today to justify that second Chechnian war. The outrage that followed them allowed Putin to outdistance any electoral rival, thus providing Boris Yeltsin�s court with a loyal successor who, it turned out, went along with his part of the deal: none of the Yeltsin family, for instance, is in jail for massive peculation. The butchers, one might say, have covered the thieves.
The odd thing about these bombings is that there is very good reason to think they were not planted by Chechen terrorists at all. There�s very good reason to think that there was a conspiracy, directed by Russian security forces, to create a reason to go to war in Chechnya and � killing two birds with one sugar sack full of explosives � also creating an air of hysteria that would ensure the selection of Putin to the presidency. That very good reason isn�t hidden from Europe, or the Muslim world. The use of Chechens as a useful ethnic bait, the cynical manipulation of extreme Islamicists by forces close to Yeltsin in order to split Chechen nationalism, or at least discredit it, and the subsequent slaughter in Chechnya � which goes on, by the way; the latest reports say that the casualty figures for the Russians in the last year in Chechnya are the highest since the war began in 1999 � have not been obscured behind some veil.
The bombings of September, 99, were, from the start, rather murky affairs. Especially odd was the fact that the FSB, the Russian successor to the KGB, seemed so clueless about catching the perps. That did not prevent the wholesale arrest and deportation of the Chechen community in Moscow. But as to the evidence at the explosion sites � well, that was treated with an almost criminal negligence.
Rumors soon began to fly that FSB incompetence was motivated, to say the least. And they concentrated on an incident that happened in Ryazan. This incident is explained by an ex FSB officer, Aleksandr Litvinenko in a book entitled The FSB is blowing up Russia. The book is the most detailed account of the curious incidents of September 22-23. On that night, two men and a woman in a track suit planted a sugar sack in the basement of an apartment in Ryazan. The sugar sack almost surely contained an explosive, hexogene. Luckily, the men were spotted. The apartment building was evacuated. The sacks were taken out of the basement. They were tested and found to have hexogen. Then the men who planted the sacks were found. Here�s where things get interesting � the men were FSB men. Suddenly, the FSB gets involved in the investigation. The first thing that it finds is that the sacks contained sugar alone. How about the tests that showed hexogen? That came from the hands of the investigator, who, it was claimed, a week before, had somehow touched hexogen. And apparently not washed his hands in a week. What were the FSB men doing? It was an �exercise.� A preparedness drill.
The FSB cover story is so weak that it was surely compounded as an afterthought. That the security forces could be so sure of impunity that they created a story that wouldn�t fool a moron indicates the astonishing level of cynicism here. Who, after all, is going to tell?
There was a reason for that cynicism beyond the mere accretion of power on the part of the FSB. The people who knew about the explosives at a higher level knew � and were part of -- the whole web of connections that tied Yeltsin�s court to various factions in Chechnya. Most notoriously, there was a seemingly inscrutable connection between oligarch Boris Berezovsky and various Chechen Islamicist groups. The group that launched the raid on Daghestan from Chechnya in 1999 was headed by a group who seemed to be entirely funded by Berezovsky. Since 99, Berezovsky has fallen out with Putin � who, it turns out, is the kind of godfather who doesn�t tolerate competing oligarchs. Berezovsky�s various lootings are now on the docket in the Moscow judiciary, while the man himself is on the lam, claiming that he has evidence of the link between the FSB and the bombings in Moscow.
How has the Russian govenment responded to these accusations? By condemning Litvinenko as a traitor in court -- an old and familiar gesture. This is an excerpt from an interview with Litvinenko:
�In an unexpected development, an official Russian government newspaper, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, in its March 30 issue, published a lengthy interview with Aleksandr Litvinenko, a former lieutenant colonel in the FSB, who recently received political asylum in Great Britain. Some excerpts:
Interviewer: "You took part in preparing the film 'Assassination [Attempt] against Russia,' in which the participation of the FSB in the explosions of the [apartment] houses in Moscow and Volgodonsk and the preparing of an explosion in Ryazan' are discussed. Do you seriously believe that?"
Litvinenko: "I have direct proof in relation to the attempt to blow up an [apartment] house in Ryazan. I am in possession of facts that not sugar, as the FSB maintains, but [the explosive] hexogen was placed under that house, and that it was employees of Patrushev [the director of the FSB] who placed it there."
Interviewer: "Are you prepared to present this proof?"
Litvinenko: "I am prepared. Not to the [Russian] procuracy--that is, a criminal organization. And not to the FSB--that is a terrorist organization. When the public commission which is presently being formed by [Duma deputy] Sergei Yushenkov has been created, then under the condition that honest people make up that commission I will give them all the materials which I have in my hands concerning the crimes committed by the leadership of the FSB.... Yesterday through the Internet I appealed to all officers of the FSB who participated in the 1999 explosions to come forward and admit it."
For us, the interesting thing is that hints of most of this information had leaked out by 2000. It didn�t take long. And yet, in the West, Putin, like Yeltsin before him, was treated as an ally. The tepid condemnations of Russia�s moves against Chechnya � moves that were every bit as savage as Milosovic�s moves against Bosnia � was a liner note to the more important harmony between the Russian regime and the American. That harmony has been strengthened, even, during the Bush period. Oddly enough, an administration that seems to want, not so subconsciously, to bomb Paris, is incredibly chummy with Putin, who is as anti-war as any major leader.
What does this say to the Arabs, the Germans, the Indonesians, etc.?
This is my guess: it says that the West will condone a high degree of fraud, even amounting to the creating atrocities against one�s own citizens, in order to perpetrate foreign policies that are directed, by some coincidence, against mainly Islamic ethnic groups.
The fraud in the system of governance that is continually generating references to itself as democratic can�t help but be ultimately crippling. I have yet to see any connection made between the Muslim reception of 9/11 and the Muslim reception of the war in Chechnya. I would, however, guess that the frauds of September, 99, have had a strong bearing on the idea that the attack in September, 2001 was of an all too familiar shape and form. This isn�t to discount overt anti-semitism. It isn�t to discount anti-Americanism. But to dwell on these as the sole generators of the belief in super-power fraudulence is to blind yourself to a significant, although underinvestigated, piece of recent history.