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Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to Be So Hated
by Gore Vidal

AVAILABILITY: Usually ships within 2-5 days

Publication Date: 2002
Publisher: Thunder's Mouth Press / Nation Books
Binding: Paperback
Topics: Corporate Rule, Democracy: Theory & Practice, History: Local to Global, Militarism, Race & Civil Rights, Spirituality & Religion, Third World Peoples, United States

Description: The United States has been engaged in what the great historian Charles A. Beard called "perpetual war for perpetual peace." The Federation of American Scientists has catalogued nearly 200 military incursions since 1945 in which the United States has been the aggressor. In a series of passionate and alarming essays, whose centerpiece is a commentary on the events of September 11, 2001, Gore Vidal challenges the comforting consensus that the September 11th attacks and Timothy McVeigh's bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, were simply the work of "evil-doers."

Review(s): In this collection of essays, noted novelist and critic Vidal turns his acerbic wit on the United States. Never shy about expressing his opinion, Vidal questions U.S. assumptions regarding the Oklahoma City and World Trade Center bombings: "That our ruling junta might have seriously provoked McVeigh and Osama was never dealt with." His critique of the coverage of September 11 is slim, mostly centering on already reported truisms about why many in the Muslim world sympathize in some way with Osama bin Laden. Some readers, however, will share his unease with the willingness on the part of the American government and the American people to put concerns for civil liberties on the back burner during the war on terrorism. Vidal's criticisms of McVeigh, with whom he struck up a correspondence and a relationship, is more detailed. In Vidal's view, it is unlikely that McVeigh was solely responsible for Oklahoma City, and he saw himself as a martyr for a libertarian cause that would rescue America. But in this book, the tone is as important as the text. Vidal gleefully skewers American capitalism and the role of the religious right in American politics at every opportunity. Critics of American policy and American life, as well as those prone to conspiracy theories, are likely to find a lot of fodder. Many will not be surprised that Vidal's views have not received a wider hearing. A piece on McVeigh was rejected by Vanity Fair, another by the Nation but even at his most contrarian, Vidal's writing is powerful and graceful. - Publishers Weekly

In a piquant collection (originally published in Italy), Vidal (The Last Empire, 2001, etc.) asks readers to consider the forces that motivated Timothy McVeigh and Osama bin Laden-and perhaps it wouldn't hurt to heed the beating the Bill of Rights has been taking recently. When President Bush ("a powerless Mikado ruled by a shogun vice president and his Pentagon warrior counselors") tells his public that the nation is embarking on a "very long war," a "secret war" against operators like bin Laden, who has been reduced to a Shakespearean motiveless malignity, warning bells should be heard. Citizens ought to wonder, Vidal suggests, how we got in such a fix. Have our actions in the Middle East been not only self-serving, but open to misinterpretation as well? Plain hypocritical? Should we give with one hand, take away with the other: support Saddam Hussein or bin Laden one day, vilify him the next? When "Those to whom evil is done / Do evil in return" (Auden), is self-righteousness an option? As for McVeigh, does he bear witness to rage in the heartland? Is there a reason for the surge of militias? Has the destruction of the family farm anything to do with it? Have the trouncing of the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments, the carte blanche given to the ATF/FBI/DEA/IRS to step on those rights, the abominations of Waco and Ruby Ridge, followed by the government's smug refusal to accept any culpability, at the very least boomeranged on their proclaimed intent? Deserves some thought by anyone with a shred of skepticism, thinks Vidal. He provides plenty of examples to sustain his shimmering abhorrence for current American politics (e.g., his contention that FBI Director Freeh was "placed" in his job by Opus Dei). Challenging as ever, Vidal quotes Justice Brandeis: "If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for laws; it invites every man to become a law unto himself." - Kirkus Reviews



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