French far-right candidate courts 9/11 controversy
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Aymeric Chauprade, the National Front’s top candidate for EU parliamentary elections next year, is making headlines in France, but mostly for an essay presenting inflammatory conspiracy theories about the September 11, 2001 attacks.
France’s National Front (FN) claims it has changed its game plan to gain wider legitimacy among ordinary voters, but one of its new faces is courting the kind of controversy that has long made most of the electorate recoil from the far-right party.
Aymeric Chauprade, a former professor at France’s most prestigious military academy, will be the top FN candidate representing Paris in European Parliament elections in May.
The French press has pounced on Chauprade since the party's announcement was made, but not to inquire about his views on monetary policy or allowing Turkey into the EU. Journalists mostly want to know about an essay he first published in 2009, in which he cast doubt on the official version of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
In "Chronicle of the Clash of Civilizations", he develops several alternative theories about the tragic event attributed to al Qaeda, including one that 9/11 was part of a devious American-Israeli conspiracy.
Chauprade has offered several interpretations about the origin of the World Trade Center attacks without picking one in particular, but has also expressed disbelief about the causes given by US authorities for the collapse of 7 World Trade Center, which fell hours after the Twin Towers.
“The shockwave could not have triggered its collapse… Only a controlled demolition with explosives can explain such a quick and perfect collapse,” he wrote. The essay cost him his teaching job shortly after it was released.
Afterwards, he also called into the question the reasons the French government gave for his dismissal. According to Chauprade, he was not ejected for his incendiary comments about 9/11, but because he was a vocal opponent of then-president Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to rejoin the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) central command.
Coming out of the FN closet
Chauprade is part of a handful of experienced bureaucrats and political strategists now touted by the FN as examples of its new professionalism and level-headedness. But unlike the rest of the 'new faces', the bona fide geostrategist is not a recent FN convert; rather he is finally coming out of the closet.
Chauprade previously considered his unofficial but active affiliation to the FN a liability to his promising academic career. Now, with daughter Marine Le Pen at the helm of the party, he can finally claim his rightful place. He met Marine Le Pen in 2009 and is now her official advisor on foreign policy matters and could soon be flying the party’s flag at the European Parliament.
Making up for lost time, he has been busy giving interviews and going on the airwaves to promote the FN brand and his own as-yet unfamiliar name.
Chauprade has expressed some frustration over the constant quizzing about his 9/11 conspiracy theories, complaining to Le Parisien daily on Tuesday that the media was focusing on “only 10 pages” among “over 3,000 published throughout my career.”
However, the next day he told Europe 1 radio that he “welcomed” that line of questioning. “I learned to question things. I am a scientist and when dubious things appear in an official version I ask questions,” he said.
Flirting with controversy
According to Sylvain Crépon, an expert on far-right movements in Europe, Chauprade’s flirting with controversy is completely in line with the party’s method of operation and is a consistent hallmark of the Le Pen family.
“The National Front needs to play both ends of the field. Marine Le Pen has avoided extreme provocation to appeal to more voters, but she can’t go too far in sanitizing the party for fear that it will become mundane,” he told FRANCE 24. “This subtle mix between the two postures is ongoing.”
Chauprade, an advocate of realpolitik, appears to be adapting quickly to his new role. At no time has he disavowed his controversial essay, and may in fact be courting additional drama.
In the latest edition of “Chronicles”, published last month, the FN candidate took aim at WikiLeaks, offering yet another eye-opening interpretation: The online whistleblower group made famous by Julien Assange may be an example of American’s shrinking power, but it is more likely a “secret programme” established by Washington. By creating a “fake opposition”, the US can thus boost its own credibility around the world, Chauprade noted.
The FN candidate provocatively asks why WikiLeaks has never revealed any documents about such an important subject as the September 11, 2001 attacks.