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

( 16 )


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 cataloged nearly 200 military incursions since 1945 in which the United States has been the aggressor. In a series of penetrating and alarming essays, whose centerpiece is a commentary on the events of September 11, 2001 (deemed too controversial to publish in this country until now) Gore Vidal challenges the comforting consensus following September ...
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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 cataloged nearly 200 military incursions since 1945 in which the United States has been the aggressor. In a series of penetrating and alarming essays, whose centerpiece is a commentary on the events of September 11, 2001 (deemed too controversial to publish in this country until now) Gore Vidal challenges the comforting consensus following September 11th and goes back and draws connections to Timothy McVeigh's bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. He asks were these simply the acts of "evil-doers?" Gore Vidal is the master essayist of our age. - Washington Post Our greatest living man of letters. - Boston Globe Vidal's imagination of American politics is so powerful as to compel awe. - Harold Bloom, The New York Review of Books.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
In a response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that is sure to raise eyebrows (not to mention blood pressure), novelist and historian Gore Vidal raises the little-asked question, "Did we get a taste of our own medicine?"

Vidal's position is that the U.S. has often done to other countries what Osama bin Laden is suspected of doing to us on 9/11:

…Since 1947 America has been the chief and pioneering perpetrator of "pre-emptive" state terror, exclusively in the Third World and thus widely dissembled…Washington has resorted to political assassinations, surrogate death squads, and unseemly freedom fighters (e.g. bin Laden).
As evidence for his claim that we've been doing what we claim our "evil" enemies have done to us (Vidal criticizes George W. Bush for what he calls simplistic "We are good, they are evil" statements), Vidal includes an eye-opening ten-page list of U.S. actions against what he terms the "enemy of the month club," ranging all the way from the Cold War to the recent actions in Kosovo and Bosnia.

Lest one think Vidal is merely anti-GOP, he also laces into former president Bill Clinton for signing the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which he says effectively gives the government unprecedented power to use the U.S. armed forces against the civilian population. At length, he criticizes the Branch Dividian raid in Waco by Clinton attorney general Janet Reno as government-sponsored murder of a group "living peaceably in their own compound."

A large part of the book is devoted to Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing. Vidal clearly feels that there was a rush to judgment by the government; it's his opinion that McVeigh is a scapegoat of sorts, a fall guy swiftly executed without a thorough enough investigation as to whether anyone else was involved. (Vidal corresponded with the convicted domestic terrorist for a brief period; McVeigh had written him a fan letter after reading one of his magazine pieces.)

No matter how one feels about terrorism, foreign or domestic, this is a book guaranteed to add to the noisy debate surrounding what is undoubtedly the most pressing issue of the day. (Nicholas Sinisi)

Nicholas Sinisi is the Barnes & Current Events editor.

Publishers Weekly
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. (May) Forecast: Vidal's piece on September 11 appeared in a book that became a bestseller in Italy. Will it do the same here? Not likely, but the success of Noam Chomsky's 9-11 makes it clear that at least some readers are ready for an alternate view. They may also welcome A Just Response (reviewed on p. 69), a collection from the Nation. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
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" inhis 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."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560254058
  • Publisher: Nation Books
  • Publication date: 4/1/2002
  • Series: Nation Books
  • Pages: 168
  • Sales rank: 682,619
  • Product dimensions: 7.68 (w) x 10.88 (h) x 0.49 (d)

Meet the Author

Gore Vidal
Gore Vidal
Unafraid to point fingers and assassinate characters, Gore Vidal has always been provocative, if not universally liked. A prolific essayist and acclaimed author of historical novels such as 1984's Lincoln, his talent for positioning history within a modern context is one thing about Vidal that remains undisputed.


As a prominent post-WWII novelist, socialite and public figure, Gore Vidal has lived a life of incredible variety. Throughout his career, he has rubbed shoulders and crossed swords with many of the foremost cultural and political figures of our century: from Jack Kennedy to Jack Kerouac, Truman Capote to William F. Buckley.

From his early arrival on the literary scene, Vidal's fascinations with politics, power and public figures have informed his writing. He takes his first name from his maternal grandfather, Thomas Pryor Gore, a populist Senator from Oklahoma for whom neither blindness nor feuds with FDR could prevent a long, distinguished career (Incidentally, T.P. Gore belonged to the same political dynasty into which Al Gore was born). Vidal's best-received historical fictions, like Julian, Burr, and Lincoln, re-imagine the personal and political lives of powerful figures in history. In his essays, he frequently chooses political subjects, as he did with his damaging assessment of Robert Kennedy-for-President in an Esquire article in 1963.

At the same time, Vidal's assets as a writer have made him a dangerous public figure in his own right. His sharp wit has discomposed the unrufflable (William F. Buckley) and the frequently ruffled (Norman Mailer) alike, and did so terrify his congressional campaign opponent J. Ernest Wharton that the latter refused to engage Vidal in debate. Even since he's left his aspirations as a politician behind, Vidal's attraction to controversial political issues continues in his provocative essays and public appearances.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Edgar Box (mysteries), Eugene Luther Gore Vidal (full name)
      Gore Vidal
    2. Hometown:
      La Rondinaia, a villa in Ravello, Italy; and Los Angeles, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 3, 1925
    2. Place of Birth:
      West Point, New York
    1. Education:
      Attended St. Albans. Graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy, 1943. No college.

Table of Contents

September 11, 2001 (A Tuesday) 1
How I Became Interested in Timothy McVeigh and Vice Versa 43
Shredding the Bill of Rights 49
The Meaning of Timothy McVeigh 83
Fallout 123
The New Theocrats 137
A Letter to Be Delivered 147
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It is a law of physics (still on the books when I last looked) that in nature there is no action without reaction. The same appears to be true in human nature ­ that is, history. In the last six years, two dates are apt to be remembered for longer than usual in the United States of Amnesia: April 19, 1995, when a much-decorated infantry soldier called Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 innocent men, women, and children. Why? McVeigh told us at eloquent length, but our rulers and their media preferred to depict him as a sadistic, crazed monster ­ not a good person like the rest of us ­ who had done it just for kicks. On September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden and his Islamic terrorist organization struck at Manhattan and the Pentagon. The Pentagon Junta in charge of our affairs programmed the president to tell us that Bin Laden was an "evildoer" who envied our goodness and wealth and freedom. None of these explanations made much sense, but our rulers for more than half a century have made sure that we are never to be told the truth about anything that our government has done to other people, not to mention, in McVeigh¹s case, our own. All we are left with are blurred covers of Time and Newsweek where monstrous figures from Hieronymous Bosch stare out at us, hellfire in their eyes, while the New York Times and its chorus of imitators spin complicated stories about mad Osama and cowardly McVeigh, thus convincing most Americans that only a couple of freaks would ever dare strike at a nation that sees itself as close to perfection as any human society can come. That our ruling junta might have seriously provoked McVeigh (a heartland American hero of the Gulf War) and Osama, a would-be Muslim Defender of the Faith, was never dealt with. Things just happen out there in the American media, and we consumers don¹t need to be told the why of anything. Certainly those of us who are in the why-business have a difficult time getting through the corporate-sponsored American media, as I discovered when I tried to explain McVeigh in Vanity Fair, or when, since September 11, my attempts to get published have met with failure. My own September 11 piece was subsequently published in Italian, in a book like this one. To everyone¹s astonishment it was an instant bestseller, and then translated into a dozen other languages. With both bin Laden and McVeigh, I thought it useful to describe the various provocations on our side that drove them to such terrible acts.
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Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Gore Vidal

Barnes & How difficult was it to get this book published?

Gore Vidal: Very easy. But it was difficult in the post-9/11 hysteria to get a newspaper to publish a piece suggesting that both Timothy McVeigh and Osama bin Laden (if either did what we have said he did) might have had what they considered, rightly or wrongly, good reasons for what they did. What kept my "Black Tuesday" piece from publication in the U.S. or U.K. press was the list that I give of several hundred unilateral military strikes we had made at Second and Third World countries in the last 50 years. As a result, we are widely hated both abroad and at home (by the so-called "patriot movement"). The sort of public domain information that I was releasing was like a clove of garlic to Dracula.

B& What's the basic message you're trying to get across?

GV: That the first law of physics has not been annulled; there is no action without reaction. You cannot attack other countries because they might one day prove hostile, or go Communist, or sell us drugs, and then not expect them to strike back. That is what a Moslem gang did on 9/11. They sent out a list of particulars as to why they did this, but our media and educational system are dedicated to never explaining to us why things happen other than "We are Good, they are Evil." This is simple-minded to the point of lunacy.

B& You criticize George W. Bush for his use of the word "evil" to categorize America's enemies. Many people would agree with that assessment, considering what they saw on 9/11. What's wrong with using that word?

GV: The Moslem response to our activities in the Middle East was indeed evil, just as our various strikes at them in a half dozen countries were also evil. Evil begets evil. What's wrong with that notion?

B& What do you think of his recent "axis of evil" comment?

GV: A mindless phrase. I was in World War II (my current critics are, for the most part, what we called "draft dodgers" back then, including "W"). Iran and Iraq are old enemies and form no axis. North Korea has nothing to do with either of them and has a good deal to do with its "enemy" South Korea (which was horrified by Bush's primitive war dance in front of Congress).

B& Do you think the American people will ever know the full story behind 9/11?

GV: Of course not. When I was in the Pacific, none of us could figure out why the Japanese attacked us at Pearl Harbor. As I explain in my novel The Golden Age, we now know it was due to deliberate provocations by a hero (to me), FDR, in 1940. Eighty percent of the American people didn't want to fight Hitler, but FDR did -- he set in motion provocations that ended in their attack on Pearl Harbor. Our history books are silent, as always, as to why he did this. No one has yet confided to us why we were in Vietnam. The war's architect, Robert McNamara, not long ago confessed that he hadn't a clue. Why did we invade Panama and kidnap, try, and imprison Noriega? We said he was the master of all drug traffic. But the flow of drugs continues. So it goes.

B& Democrats are starting to criticize Bush on his handling of the war. How do you think a President Al Gore would have handled things?

GV: Sad to say, I don't think Prince Albert would have been much different from Bush. He might, however, have a better knowledge of what we have done to antagonize other nations and so be on his guard. He certainly would have punished the CIA and FBI for negligence in not warning us.

B& You had a correspondence with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. What was your take on him? GV: Very well read in political and constitutional history. He had gone to Waco, where the FBI was breaking every law in the book by using army weapons and methods against civilians (in defiance of the Posse Comitatus Act). This is best described in This Is Not an Assault by D. T. Hardy and Rex Kimball. McVeigh read a piece I wrote on the shredding of the Bill of Rights and started to write me. I include his letters, and my original piece, in the book.

B& Where do you think the war is headed?

GV: First, it is not a war because Bush says it is. A war can only happen between nations, and nothing is war for Americans until Congress has declared it -- which, thus far, has not happened. We should have gone after Al Queda the way that Italy went after the Mafia. Infiltration, bribes, arrests. It was never suggested that Italy bomb the city of Palermo, a Mafia center. But we bombed most of the Afghan cities, killing innocent people and harming very few of those Arabs who served Osama.

B& Do you think there will come a time when "the average American" will be more interested in a peaceful solution to the current crisis than a military one?

GV: I've never met an "average American," nor has anyone else. I do know the power of media to dis-inform and to demonize those the current government hates for reasons good or bad (wiretaps reveal that Nixon spent most of his time conspiring against his enemies and telling lies to the public). Americans, if one must generalize, believe in our minding our own business. We were against entry in WWI and WWII. Harry Truman finessed us into the Korean War, wrapped in a UN police action flag. Truman secretly backed South Vietnam. Eisenhower confessed that we could not allow the Vietnamese to hold nationwide elections because the Communists would win. Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon all kept the war fires burning, and we still don't know why it was fought. Domino effect? Thailand, a next-door neighbor, got rid of its Communists and continued happily as a Buddhist monarchy. Our attempts to wreck them were successfully resisted.

B& Will you be writing any further books on the current military crisis?

GV: If needed.

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Customer Reviews

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( 16 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2008

    a sharply written hodge-podge

    If you are concerned about the United States's current drift towards an 'it can't happen here' police state, you might want to read this book with some attention. Attention is the operative word here because it does ramble around its own point a lot. The book promises to be about the erosion of civil rights in the U.S. since 9/ll, but it turns out to have more material on that intelligent psychotic Timothy McVeigh. I appreciate what Vidal says about civil rights issues as they concern McVeigh, but I can't find it in myself to sympathize with a a mass murderer and a gentleman whose political thoughts were a good deal more confused and dismaying than Vidal seems to intimate. I suspect there was more 'Turner Diaries' than Noam Chomsky in Timothy McVeigh's psyche. Leaving aside whether one identifies with McVeigh or not - freedom of speech is especially for those one disagrees with, after all - I think Vidal's concerns about the civil rights issues surrounding this case are more on the money than not. He is absolutely right about the erosion of civil rights under the reign of that suave pseudo-liberal Bill Clinton - one doesn't need to identify with the screwball religious cults in question to detest the ugly, heavy-handed'and murderous'actions of the American government in those cases. Like it or not, Bush has taken a lot of his cues from the much-hated Clinton. My brother once asked a taxi driver in Ireland if the two major political parties in the country were Labour and Conservative. The taxi driver drily replied,'They're both conservative!' You can surely see the application to the two political parties in the United States. Tweedle-dumb and Tweedle-dee, as it were. Delving back into history, Vidal correctly notes that the bombing of Hiroshima in World War Two was a gratuitous crime-against-humanity. I am, however, surprised Vidal did not point out a little known fact about Hiroshima. Do you know that Americans died in the bombing of Hiroshima? Hiroshima had numerous prisoner-of-war camps and the Americans in those camps died just as surely as the Japanese on that day. When have you ever heard about that? Who were the Americans who died at Hiroshima? No one remembers them at all. Where are the books, the documentaries on this forgotten historical fact? We should all know the names and the faces attached to those names. I know Americans don't give a damn about the Japanese, but it's appalling they don't want to even remember their own casualties on that fateful day. Vidal should have brought that up here. On the whole, I think this book is a bit too confused and off-the-ostensible topic. Still, it is intelligent and witty, and there's precious little you can that about these days. Vidal's opinions will make some of us squirm here and there, but that is as it should be. All those concerned with civil rights issues should read it. Others might check it out for his offhand literary grace. Still, one did expect more from Vidal here, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Let's hope a more comprehensive book on this topic is in the works from Mr. Vidal. Greg Cameron, Surrey, B.C., Canada.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2004

    If Only This Opinion Were More Popular

    Trust someone living outside the U.S. to be truthful about our arrogance and hypocracy. You'll laugh, but hopefully, you'll get mad enough to demand change.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2003

    Recycled thoughts, rehashed themes, retread material cheapen Perpetual Peace

    Webster assures us incitement distinguishes the pamphleteer from the essayist. Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace is a recycled handbill graced with wit, beautiful prose, and occasional wisdom. A retread of the author's most consistent theme--the transformation of America from a republic into an empire, Perpetual War largely consists of old material. There is one notable exception. An essay about September 11th had not been published in the United States. The domestic boycott of this inherently flawed but relatively benign, prototypical Gore Vidal 'screed' (a right-wing buzzword, the author himself assures us) was misplaced. The problem with the September 11th piece wasn't an offensive intent. The actual flaw was the substance. Gore wrote the United States should have sat back, contemplated how this all came to be, and avoided any and all military response. Just as an assault victim does not consider the sociological implications of the crime as he is beaten, the United States certainly was in no position on September 12th to reflect and repent. Perpetual War, despite the above, isn't about September 11th. Osama bin Laden is a bit player. The central figure is Oklahoma City bomber and decorated war veteran Timothy McVeigh. The author draws intriguing parallels between McVeigh and bin Laden. The correspondence between the author and McVeigh--all of which was previously published, of course--makes for a fascinating read. Unfortunately, the author seems to believe everything McVeigh writes save he acted alone. Ever the conspiracy buff, Gore seems unable to accept one person loaded a truck with fertilizer and leveled a building. There is something innately American that refuses to believe one man can kill hundreds of fellow human beings or that a lone, crazed gunman can single-handedly murder the president. The author, who has family ties to Oklahoma, embodies this aspect of the national character. A widespread plot to take out the Murrah Building isn't the only conspiracy theory in this pamphlet. These adventures in Black Helicopter Land detract from the many valid points the author makes. This aged left-wing lion has kept a few sharp teeth, though. Catty zingers and biting social commentary abound. For example, Gore cites the case of a 16-year-old student who was stripped and searched because his teachers believed a certain bulge indicated a drug stash. The educators' rationale was the boy appeared too well-endowed. The author notes that since the youth was not concealing narcotics, '(h)e was let go as there is of yet no law penalizing a teenager for being better hung than his teachers.' 'A Letter To Be Delivered,' an almost sentimental appeal to a then-to-be-decided president (written just before the 2000 election), underscores at book's end an odd romanticism that surfaces throughout Perpetual War. Gore doesn't believe for one second that the undetermined addressee will follow his recommendations to gut the Defense Department, but that doesn't stop the author from offering them. Gratuitous advice, of course, is the coin of the realm for pamphleteers. If Gore Vidal ever decides to force stapled screeds (or fonts of wisdom, depending on one's perspective) on passersby, the writing likely will be hilarious, provocative, insightful, and alternately brilliant and ridiculous. Nonetheless, the tracts should at least be original if the self-proclaimed defender of the American republic wants ten bucks a pop for them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2003

    Alternative to Corporate Media!

    FANTASTIC! Vidal cuts through the hypnotic propaganda waves of corporate media and gives Americans the real story about why others hate us and how our liberties are slowly being stripped away. He connects everything that is wrong with the country, from the squeezing out of American farmers to the mostly preemtive, perpetual strikes America wages against others.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2003

    Great book.

    One of the best contemporary writers, Gore Vidal, writes a provoking book. This book gives a well thought evidence of the current administration as to why 'We' are so hated. I would definitely recommend this book because it gives you perceptiveness to things that the government has executed but yet the mass media has not informed us about.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2003

    Lies,lies and More Lies!!

    I came across the reviews of this book and have not even read it yet but I fully intend to. I think the relevant issue here is the fact that someone of the stature of Vidal has raised so many very frightening questions regarding what the government of America is doing in OUR NAME????Most people are not aware of the fact that there were an incredible number Jews killed BY Jews in the Holocaust and the Poles stood by and watched it happen knowing that they were going to be next. Will we be guilty of the same crime and participate in our own demise as a nation through our own gullibility and blindness? What I want to know is "Why are these scary questions not appearing on the front page of every national newspaper in America today? Why are we not bringing our government "Of the People, By the People, and For the People," to account. How long before we realize that not only does the Emperor not have any clothes but is steadily stealing ours? I salute Mr Vidal for the courage to expose the lies that are fed to us by the government and the media. My great-great-great-great grandfather Patrick Henry had to deal with the same obfuscation and appeasement in his day. " Is life so dear or peace so sweet that it must be purchased with the chains of slavery? May God forbid!" Let us awaken and ask questions now and demand answers. Real answers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2002

    Perpetual War and Perpetual Pieces

    Though I have none of the towering intellect the literati attribute to Gore Vidal, I was able to muddle through this delightful diatribe. Vidal set out to describe the great threats to our society and liberty and our contribution to those threats. Because of a lack of intellectual rigor and an antique bias he succeeds in making only one clear point. This book is a good read if you enjoy a somewhat incoherent rambling that reflects none of the promise of the title. In fact, a better subtitle might have been "How I learned to Stop worrying and love Tim McVeigh." Vidal depicts truth only as an absolute function of the eye of the beholder. Therefore, I make these comments knowing he has the luxury of always being right. Vidal's theme is that terrorism today should be compared as a metaphor to Newton's third law of motion. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Therefore, without Waco there would have been no Oklahoma City. Vidal's one important - his only cogent - point is that our constitutional rights are gradually being abridged. The depredations of the drug war for example, or the ubiquitous encroaching of technology, make privacy a virtual impossibility in today's American landscape. More of us should share Vidal's outrage at our loss of the rights envisioned by our founders. Vidal's gentle caressing of Tim Mcveigh and his ilk unfortunately obscures how frighteningly real his message is for our people. Vidal conversely seems comfortable advocating the abridging of our constitution when it serves his world-view. Vidal dreams of wondrous leftist paradises. He would see our military "junta" torn down. This is the "imperialist" U.S. that may have a recent history of military adventurism, but still remains out of the top forty countries in terms of military spending as a percent of GDP. I get the distinct impression that this monstrous military industrial complex which controls about THREE whole percent of our economy should be replaced by a healthcare junta that would control about fourteen percent of that same economy. Of course there is no danger of graft and corruption and when one point four trillion dollars is at stake. Though the cover of the book purports that Vidal will reveal great wisdom about both our internal terrorists and our billion enemies in Islam (he implies we have made enemies of them all), he only touches lightly on the latter. His touch supports the legend Osama Bin Laden is attempting to create. Vidal draws a comparison between bin Laden and Saladin, the great Muslim Kurd who commanded the Islamic armies around the time of the third Crusade. A more appropriate comparison would be to Sinan ibn Salman ibn Muhammad, the Syrian chief of the cult of Assassins during the same time. The comparison is more apt because the Assassins would kill anyone not aligned with their specific Islamic orthodoxy. Vidal's oversimplification is misleading. If you are buying the book to learn about Islamic terror, put the book down and keep looking. Our diminishing freedom is eroding so discreetly as to go unnoticed. Vidal's one salient point is that we should not submit to any more loss of our liberties in the name of "security". So I hope he bellows on, and may those who say they would surrender their liberties for a little extra security have it actually occur. Vidal only needed about a thousand words to make that point. Next time his editors should have more fortitude.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2002

    A View from the all but Silenced

    This book is a must read for all political affiliations. Vidal presents a side to current events that has been all but silenced by the media. Though many of his conclusions are based on circumstantial evidence, I believe the evidence presented in this book to be compelling. I personally did not agree with many of his conclusions in this book, but believe it is important to hear the "unpopular" opinion during this imporant time period in world history. Approach this book with an open mind, and you will look at information presented by the main stream media and our leaders with quite a different eye. Thank you Vidal for your many years of provactive and insightful inquiry into our world; old and new.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2002

    Vidal says what others won't

    I recommend Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace not because I am a WASP cynic who agrees with everything Vidal says, but instead because the information he offers sheds a certain amount of light on the events we are living through today and their historical background. I have to respect Gore Vidal just for the fact that he will say and write things about the United States government that others would never dare utter. At times he oversimplifies certain events, and it's an historian's nightmare that he does not include footnotes or endnotes for reference when he covers over a half-century of related events in one paragraph. But Vidal does make key points in that the American media has extreme spin control on news coverage (I have mental images of the movie 'Wag the Dog'), and the government is limiting certain 'unalienable' rights of it's citizens - wire taps, writ of habaeus corpus, and so on - while going after the 'Axis of Evil,' or whatever name George W. has decided on for this week. I can see how this book might possibly offend certain people, especially those closely affected by the World Trade Center or Oklahoma City federal building bombings. But it seems that Vidal is not trying to offend, or even to detract from the significance and grief of the events. He instead is giving rational (of course still up for debate) reasons why things like this have happened to the U.S. and why it can be argued they were warranted.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2002

    Vidal wanders too far from reality

    In this book Vidal reveals that he believes McVeigh's bombing of the federal building was part of a wider conspiracy and that Vidal can 'understand' McVeigh's motives for the bombing. While the book does contain some interesting peripheral discussions (about the corporatization of American agriculture and politics) most of the book I strongly disagree with Vidal's assumptions and his conclusions.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2002

    One prevarication makes whole book suspect

    No stars. One of the theories Mr. Vidal advances is that the former head of the FBI (Freeh), Scalia's son who allegedly converted Clarence Thomas to the Catholic Faith, and Pope John Paul II who will canonize the Spanish Priest and founder of Opus Dei, Blessed Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer are all in a secret society, Opus Dei, which is a right wing conspiracy dangerous to the US. (That two Catholics are on the Supreme Court, he says gives weight to his theory). Opus Dei ('The Work of God') is not a secret and is simply about doing your life's work, whatever it may be, for God... Everyone is called to be holy, laborers, office workers, parents, children, doctors, lawyers, canledstick-makers, even authors. Being holy includes not lying, slandering, libeling. Truly holiness in every day situations is a simple concept, but very difficult to do, of course, without prayer, meditation on scriptures, sacrifice, and more prayer. Since Mr. Vidal has reported on this worldwide spiritual movement so erroneously (and so easily checked out), the only conspiracy I see, is in the devil's work of those that enjoy bashing the Catholic Church. Therefore, could there be any truth in any part of the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2002

    Provocative, Sometimes Offensive, Always Intriguing

    I picked this book up on the fly while visiting a bookstore by my job while wandering around with some co-workers during our lunch break. I'm glad I did. While Vidal's opinions seem to be farfetched and largely based on conspiracy theories, no one can deny the little feeling you get inside while reading that makes you think, 'What if he's right?' While I disagree with much of Vidal's opinions, his arguments are solidly backed up and, to the open-minded reader, are soaked in profound possibilities. The only people who would not appreciate this book are the people Vidal talks about. People must stop accepting ridiculous reasons for our nation's most horrendous atrocities, and start looking for the true reasons. If we do not explore other (yes, even extreme) possibilities, we will doom ourselves to repeating our worst mistakes and worst histories. Give the book a chance, unless you are happy living in a bubble of media lies. If you live by the mantra of 'Ignorance is bliss,' you'd probably be better off reading the TV Guide.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2008

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