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Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to Be So Hated Paperback – April 10, 2002

4.1 out of 5 stars 118 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From 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.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Vidal couldn't find an English-language publisher for the first essay in this collection, his response to September 11, until it became a best-seller in Italy. He argues that Osama bin Laden's attack on America pales in comparison to the government's attack on American civil liberties since September 11. Vidal views the unwinnable wars on terrorism and drugs as the government's excuse to implement a police state, which he repeatedly compares to Nazi Germany. With his trademark wit and imposing intellect, he attacks everything about the Bush administration's response to 9/11, from the president's characterization of terrorists as "evil" to the war in Afghanistan. The clever, thoughtful diatribe is sometimes overwhelmed by tangents (at one point, Vidal ridicules Barbara Bush as a George Washington look-alike, which hardly seems relevant), but the essay is compulsively readable. The remaining essays in this slim volume have been published before and address Timothy McVeigh and the bombing in Oklahoma City. In a surprisingly convincing argument that McVeigh might not have been behind the bombing, Vidal weaves conspiracies from the Opus Dei order of the Catholic Church to Waco. These essays are held together by Vidal's belief that we must take the McVeighs and the bin Ladens of the world seriously and not dismiss their actions as simply "evil." Vidal fans will find everything they love here: these essays are witty, often convincing, and pull no punches. John Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 174 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books (April 10, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156025405X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560254058
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.1 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #239,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gore Vidal has received the National Book Award, written numerous novels, short stories, plays and essays. He has been a political activist and as Democratic candidate for Congress from upstate New York, he received the most votes of any Democrat in a half-century.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Gore Vidal has been a pain in the establishment's keester for fifty-odd years, and his gadflying has gotten sharper, pithier, and more valuable with the passing of each year. In this latest collection of essays, he dares to say something that many Americans are uneasily beginning to suspect but haven't yet dared to utter out loud: the reason "they"--the terrorists--hate us "so much" is at least partly because we're sometimes...well...hateable.
Vidal's *Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace* collects a handful of his recent essays ranging on topics from the presidential election of 2000, to homegrown terrorism a la Timothy McVeigh, to the moralizing conservatism of mainstream America, to an open letter to the FBI on whether McVeigh was acting alone. All of these pieces have been published previously, and indeed, some of them appeared in Vidal's last collection of essays, *The Last Empire* (2001). What's truly new and exciting about this book is its lead essay, hauntingly entitled "September 11, 2001 (A Tuesday)". Vidal tells us in his Introduction that the piece was originally commissioned by "Vanity Fair," but was refused publication because the editors thought it too inflammatory.
Inflammatory it unquestionably is, because in it Vidal argues for a thesis that is unpopular at the moment but just may make more sense as time goes on: that horrible as the terrorist attacks on the Trade Towers was, the Bush administration's high-handed wrestling to the ground of civil liberties in the attack's wake is worse. Vidal argues that the waging of war by the "Pentagon junta" is but another example of the U.S.
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I saw Gore Vidal talking about this book a while back and realized a good deal of what he is saying mirrored my own thoughts about our country and its government, in particular. I'd wager a lot of Americans feel the same way but we seem to have lost our voice and our willingness to question our government. A recent interview I saw with Studs Terkel on Phil Donhue's show commented directly on that very subject. He said he felt that until a major voice comes out and addresses an issue, we are prone to sit quietly. Vidal's voice needs to be heard and wouldn't have been if American publishers had any thing to say about it. After this collection of essays became a best seller in Italy, he was then approached about an American publication and voila!---we can read what some might call an unpatriotic and ungrateful voice about America. A fundamental right we have as Americans is the privilege to question our government's decisions yet we seem to sit around quietly and compliantly while our presidents act aggressively toward other nations, deeming our country the international policeman for the world community. These opinions are called unpatriotic especially after the events of 9-11 but there is nothing unpatriotic about what Mr. Vidal is saying. The people who have blinders on and think that we, these United States of America, are never wrong should read this book. We, like any other nation, have flaws. It is time to look at those flaws, address the issues and hold our government responsible for its actions. This government represents the people and we should have our say. Unfortunately, with good ole Dubya and his cowboy mentality, we have four years that should inspire us to speak out against injustice. I highly recommend this book to anyone who cares about the direction our nation is taking.
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What has made America a great nation in the eyes of the world over the last two hundred years, is not its major technological advances, it competent military or its advances in all the arts, but its original pure ideals on what constitutes a free society, and the inalienable rights of the individual living in that society. The founding fathers of the United States knew all too well the corruptive nature of power. The creation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights would ensure that those within its government seeking absolute power could be kept in check. In this ideal society, the state has limited power over its citizens, but just enough power to maintain peace within its borders. What is shocking about this short collection of essays by Gore Vidal, is he soberly illustrates with hard fact examples, particularly since the Oklahoma bombing and the events of 9/11, that the Bill of Rights and the important principles it states, protecting the rights of all citizens, is being manipulated to serve a small elite. The people are slowly, over time, losing their rights, because it is said, for their own protection.
As a child growing up in the United States, there were three things I was taught, and that was always to respect the rights of others, always say please and thank you, and Governments always lie. "Never believe a politician, son. Because no matter what they say, there is always a hidden agenda." Time and again, this simple statement has turned out to be true. Sometimes their lies are found out. As a people, however, we have a tendency to forgetfulness, a kind of in-built amnesia, to then blindly vote our dubious leaders back into office.
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