BOOK REVIEW – GORE VIDAL PERPETUAL WAR FOR PERPETUAL PEACE 2002 Clairview Press.
Post 9/11 the American government and media simply dismissed Osama Bin Laden as evil, and fanatical. They had done similar with Timothy McVie when he had destroyed the FBI headquarters in Oklahoma in 1995, dismissing him as a madman acting alone. Vidal argues that the events are far more complicated than that and the motivations that led Bin Laden, and McVie to such desperate and brutal action should not be dismissed so easily, as an excuse to take away more and more of the rights of American citizens and people abroad.
Vidal, a controversial but highly respected American author for many years, found himself vilified as a ‘terrorist lover’ and several essays in the book were not available in the States until their popularity abroad created enough demand from the US public for them to be issued on home soil too. In giving radio interviews on the issues raised, he frequently found himself unplugged as soon as the shocked interviewers realized that he was not just going to denounce the committers of the atrocities out of hand with easy comforting labels as others were doing.
Vidal in no way condones the perpetrators of the atrocities. He dares to understand their motives. He sees Bin laden as a successor to Saladin, (the man who defeated Richard The Lionheart during the Crusades) driving unwelcome invaders from the Near east, and painstakingly shows how America had led him to believe that they would use his forces to drive out Saddam after his attacks on Kurdistan, given Bin Laden’s successes in driving the Russians out of Afghanistan. Instead, the Americans invaded themselves, and maintained a stranglehold on the Near East that left many followers of Islam decidedly uncomfortable (more so since 9/11 of course when Saddam has been seen as merely another evil terrorist on the list to be attacked regardless of cost). Vidal focuses on how the Americans are making enemies for themselves through their colonial gung-ho practices.
More telling is his investigation of the Timothy McVie case, with its striking similarities to the JFK assassination. McVie was largely seen as having acted alone (as was Oswald), though forensic evidence indicates that there had to be more than one bomb involved in the case, and many people named as co-conspirators received little if any attention from the FBI. McVie’s motive was anger at America’s FDA & FBI attack’s on the religious cult group led by David Koresh at Waco, where many believe that the police use of army tanks and tear gas against a small commune, resulting in a fire that killed many women and children, was a major atrocity in its own right. While his action was undoubtedly wrong, Vidal makes no excuses for the anger and passion that drove him to such protest. Vidal had a great deal of correspondence with McVie, who comes across as sane and rational, even presenting suggestions of amendments to the rapidly eroding US Bill Of Rights. Vidal was invited to be a witness at McVie’s execution (by lethal injection), but he was purposely kept from being able to attend the final execution
Vidal sees the US as at war with its own citizens, creating a bogeyman from terrorists and exaggerating the extent to which paedophilia is rife in order to increase police powers over the people. It’s clear hat more mavericks will arise willing to take drastic steps against increasingly draconian, martial law. Fortunately, Vidal chooses to present his anger through the eloquence of his very powerful writing instead.
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