December 2000, Gore Vidal, termed America's
master essayist by The Washington Post, told
"irregularly elected" President-elect George
W. Bush to "rein in the warlords who were
seeking $30 billion a year over and above
the 51 percent of the budget that now already
goes for war."
years later -- after Sept. 11, Afghanistan
and Osama bin Laden's disappearance, Iraq
and Saddam Hussein's vanishing act -- Vidal
summarized what the Bush "warlords" have achieved
in occupying Iraq: "Chaos."
Vidal told NCR by fax, "until we either come
to our senses and leave -- not likely any
time soon -- or complete the neocon plan so
boldly stated by their youthful 'warriors,'
by annexing as much of the Mideast oil states
seems at least farseeing, if not prophetic,
in his assessment of more than a month ago,
as the United States finds the footing in
Iraq increasingly unsteady and dangerous.
an occupying power in Iraq, U.S. civilian
administrators backed by U.S. soldiers are
"downsizing" the national bureaucracy, handing
out a half million pink slips to former officials
and military. Iraqi soldiers are demanding
their pay and pensions. It is an uneasy peace.
There is gunfire.
there and here are paying a price.
to now, said Vidal, while the Bush administration's
"down payment" for Iraqi oil "has been cheap
-- the Bill of Rights," the cost has not been
light "for the people -- there or here." The
U.S. cost has been to its civil liberties.
Vidal said, "USA Patriot Acts 1 and 2, the
second leaked but not yet sent to Congress,
neatly folds the republic. What next?" he
asked rhetorically, "Franklin predicted despotism."
is accustomed to delivering chilling predictions.
He does not lack a penchant for going on the
attack. Even so, it took guts, post 9/11 and
throughout the Iraq war, to criticize the
commander-in-chief. After 9/11 he was the
rare writer who did an analytical commentary
on the background to both the Oklahoma City
and World Trade Center bombings -- commentary
that his customary U.S. outlets refused to
this and more was made available late last
year in Perpetual Peace for Perpetual War:
How We Got To Be So Hated and Dreaming War:
Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta (Nation
Books, 2002). They are collections of his
Vanity Fair and Nation columns with added
introductions and commentary.
sees the country in the grip of a corporate-oil
patch-military oligarchy. Asked if the Iraq
war was an oil patch-White House deal so huge
Americans can't stand back far enough to see
it, Vidal replied, "Kindly Dr. Goebbels used
to say that the greater the lie a government
tells (and repeats loudly), the more it will
be believed. Yes, it is -- was -- about oil
and, of course, giving the Cheney-Bush junta's
friends like Halliburton vast contracts to
rebuild what we have carefully knocked down."
told NCR, "No one will ever see all the details
but the [current] crookedness is unique in
our history. Enron was the first storm warning
but no one realized how easily accepted that
cluster of capers would be by a polity marinated
in corruption -- as Ben Franklin predicted,
in 1789, as our eventual fate."
has become a scourge of the Bush dynasty.
The books reprise writings on what he sees
as the Bush family usurpation of the 2000
presidential election, Bush family business
connections to the bin Laden family, the Texas
oil patch's pipeline dealings with the Taliban
in Afghanistan and the subsequent war there,
why bin Laden was not pursued, and how the
focus shifted to Saddam Hussein and Iraq.
a scourge he is a wry one.
politics is essentially a family affair, as
are most oligarchies," he wrote. And he should
know. He grew up in the home of his grandfather,
Oklahoma Sen. Thomas P. Gore, in Washington,
D.C., and was close to the Kennedy clan because
he was related to Jacqueline Kennedy. He is
distantly related to former Vice President
Al Gore, whose father was a U.S. senator,
and Gore Vidal himself was an unsuccessful
liberal candidate for Congress in 1960 in
New York and the U.S. Senate in California
knows about corruption in politics and oligarchic
before George W. Bush was irregularly ushered
into the White House due to the "Supreme Court's
purloining" of the 2000 election, writes Gore,
the nation had "previously enjoyed a number
of quietly corrupt elections decently kept
from public view."
referred to 1888, when Grover Cleveland's
plurality was canceled by the Electoral College's
maneuverings, and 1876 when Democrat Samuel
Tilden had a quarter-million more votes than
the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, but a
Congressionally selected commission gave the
victory to Hayes by a single vote.
(Eugene Luther) Vidal, who lives in Italy
but was contacted by NCR when he was recently
in the United States, was born in 1925 at
West Point, where his father was an instructor.
He graduated from Philips Exeter Academy,
served on an Army supply ship in Alaska in
World War II, and published his first novel,
Willawaw, to quote one account, "at 19 while
still in U.S. Army uniform."
grew up with the Army and served in the military,
yet he unabashedly regards war as "the ultimate
no-win, all-lose option."
writes, "Fifty years ago [Feb. 27, 1947],
Republican Sen. Arthur Vandenberg told [President
Harry S.] Truman he could have his militarized
economy only if he first 'scared the hell
out of the American people that the Russians
were coming.' Truman obliged. The perpetual
continues, "We are now faced with a Japanese
seventh-century-style arrangement: a powerless
Mikado ruled by a shogun vice president and
his Pentagon warrior counselors. Do they dream,
as did the shoguns of yore, of the conquest
11, Vidal writes, "transformed [Bush] into
the cheerleader he had been in prep school.
He promised us not only 'a new war' but 'a
secret war' and, best of all, according to
the twinkle in his eye, 'a very long war.'"
Vidal, "[President James] Madison warned us
at the dawn of our republic, 'Of all enemies
to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most
to be dreaded because it comprises and develops
germs of every other.'"
sees other comparisons with the past.
[founding] fathers had such a fear and loathing
of democracy that they invented the Electoral
College so the popular voice of the people
could be throttled, much as the Supreme Court
throttled Floridians on Dec. 12  where
Bush was entrusting his endangered Florida
vote to the state's governor, his brother,
Vidal was asked if there was a point in U.S.
history when the democracy functioned. He
replied, "Before Polk's 1846 war with Mexico
in order to acquire California. General --
then Lieutenant -- Grant said that the Civil
War was the vengeance of God upon us for what
we had done to Mexico."
two books signal more than Vidal at the top
of his form as a thunderer, however. In listing
his collected writings, Vidal refers to the
slim volumes as "pamphlets." It is a distinction
with a subtle warning.
pamphleteer is the point on the shaft of political
dissent; the sharp art of a political tradition
the established order never takes kindly to.
were the spark that helped ignite the American
Revolution. Tom Paine, with his famous pamphlet,
Common Sense, could "electrify the whole of
colonial life," wrote John M. Robertson in
his 1915 introduction to Paine's The Age of
who sees both rights and democracy fast ebbing,
seeks to electrify, too. But the populace,
comfortably uninformed and occupied with its
daily self, is inert.
Jones is NCR editor-at-large. His e-mail address
the Introduction to Perpetual War:
the last six years two dates are 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 [who may have committed mass murder
to avenge the government slaughter of the
religious cult at Waco] told us at eloquent
length, but our rulers and their media preferred
to depict him as a sadistic, crazed monster.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden and his
Islamic terrorist organization struck at Manhattan
and the Pentagon.
Pentagon Junta in charge of our affairs programmed
their president to tell us that bin Laden
was an 'evildoer' who envied us our goodness
and wealth and freedom.
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 McVeigh's
case, our own.
we are left with are blurred covers of Time
and Newsweek where monstrous figures from
Hieronymous Bosch stare out of 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
as close to perfection as any human society
U.S. government policies and actions "might
have seriously provoked McVeigh and bin Laden
was never dealt with. Things just happen out
there in the American media and we consumers
don't need to be told the why of anything."
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