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

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

3.8 16
by Gore Vidal

ISBN-10: 156025405X

ISBN-13: 9781560254058

Pub. Date: 04/01/2002

Publisher: Nation Books

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…  See more details below


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.

Product Details

Nation Books
Publication date:
Nation Books
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Product dimensions:
7.68(w) x 10.88(h) x 0.49(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Table of Contents

September 11, 2001 (A Tuesday)1
How I Became Interested in Timothy McVeigh and Vice Versa43
Shredding the Bill of Rights49
The Meaning of Timothy McVeigh83
The New Theocrats137
A Letter to Be Delivered147

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Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to Be So Hated 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.