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Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace (2002)
by Gore Vidal starstarstar

Reviewed 2001-07-24
: Gore Vidal is a semi-permanent resident of Italy, although he maintains a home in Los Angeles and retains US citizenship. Indeed, he claims to be the last defender of the Republic, and his slant on events in the US comes from the foreign press, as an antidote to the corporate-controlled American press. With this background, Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace attempts to explain what it mentions in its subtitle, "How We Got to Be So Hated" that events like 9/11/01 happened. He ties in the 1995 truck bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, but the slim volume is mostly about Timothy McVeigh, the (convicted) culprit behind the first major terrorist attack on American soil. In Vidal's opinion, 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 from its outlaw government. Vidal's deep skepticism about the "national security state" Americans have lived in since the beginning of the Cold War (1947), and the excesses of the imperialist "American Empire," are his chief criticisms of the USA.

Vidal lost a lot of credibility with many in this country when he took up a correspondence with the imprisoned McVeigh and appeared to agree with him. In fact, Vidal only said that he understood why McVeigh did what he did (in retribution for FBI/government excesses at Waco and Ruby Ridge), not that he agreed with McVeigh's actions or methods. I find Gore Vidal's views meritorious, if a bit extreme, which may explain why "Vanity Fair" and "The Nation" rejected some of the writings he included in this book. I am thankful (and hopeful), as Vidal sometimes lets on that he is, that Americans have a healthy distrust of Big Government and a deep suspicion of authority. Even (perhaps especially) elected authority.

Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace is brief and somewhat poorly organized, but the writing is, as always, compelling. Vidal says, and I think it's true, that the corporate-owned media in this country is more concerned with profits than facts, so it filters out anything that might make its corporate masters, or their political sycophants, uncomfortable. In other words, if you want the whole story, he seems to be saying, you won't find it in the American press: as they did at Waco, Ruby Ridge, Oklahoma City, and even 9/11/01, they settle on one version of the truth and stick to it.

I keep thinking of the Soviet Union, about the popular cynicism toward Izvestia (news) and Pravda (truth): there is no truth in The News; there is no news in The Truth. But, even at age 76, there is still Gore Vidal, telling the truth on the news.
Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to Be So Hated by Gore Vidal, 2002. 144pp. New York: Avalon Publishing Group. ISBN: 156025405X

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Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance reviewer.