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Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia (Nation Books) Hardcover – May 7, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
The commercial success of Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace and Dreaming War shows that Vidal's Jeffersonian anti-imperialism is fashionable again with the left wing of the book-buying public. In time for the election season, Vidal has dashed off three rambling anti-Bush diatribes and collected eight articles from the Nation, Esquire and other magazines, written from 1975 to 2004. Many of the selections take the form of mock State of the Union addresses, and while Vidal's consistency over the years is admirable, reading 11 variants of the same stump speech becomes monotonous. Vidal typically includes denunciations of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Truman for their part in constructing America's "National Security State." He believes that the Cold Warriors invented a phony Communist bogeyman and that "Israeli fifth columnists" such as Norman Podhoretz control America's policy in the Middle East. Vidal would end the war on drugs and nationalize health care and natural resources. And he would change the Constitution to make America a parliamentary democracy and break the monopoly of what he calls the "Property party," with "its two wings: Republican and Democrat." Vidal is at his most convincing and entertaining when he's jeering at democratic pieties about America, which he believes is actually an oligarchy run by a military-industrial-financial elite that he calls "the bank." Vidal may be in tune with the zeitgeist again because his polemical writing resembles the new blogger punditry: conversational, tart, fervent, digressive, susceptible to idiosyncratic theories but capable of worthwhile provocations.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Like Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace (2002) and Dreaming War (2003), this final volume in Vidal's trilogy attacking the "Cheney-Bush junta" contains some new analysis padded out by previously published essays (most of these are from the 1980s). This time, Vidal tackles the American imperial impulse, placing the Cheney-Bush wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the context of America's 1846 seizure of California and the later annexation of colonies in the Pacific. Vidal's vast knowledge of American history and his blazing wit set him apart from the other Bush bashers, and even his old stuff will be fun to read for those sharing his point of view. Some of the material is dated, though, such as an analysis from 1985 of Reagan's Christian apocalypticism, which never really gets connected to imperial America or its current leaders. And the book's organization leaves something to be desired; some observations are repeated almost verbatim 100 pages apart. Still, Vidal's fierce, vitriolic voice remains relevant. The highlight of the book is the opening essay, a scathing critique of what Vidal calls Cheney-Bush's "hijacking" of the election and their subsequent administration, and so it's a bit disappointing that most of the material here is older. Vidal's historical analysis is often fascinating, but fellow Bush-bashers will wish for more current intelligence. John Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
He is critical of its bad government.
He is angry at injustices, power-mongering, greed and stupidity.
In the old days, Vidal would be like John the Baptist or some sage trying to make people listen and change.
But in today's human realm, perhaps his voice is not taken seriously.
Vidal cites historical anecdotes and comments from the Founding Fathers about the perils of political power. According to Vidal, American drive toward imperial power and central power began with the Civil War or the War of Southern Secession or the War of Southern Independence. The basic synamic of this war was that Northern Bankers made considerale money and have ever since became more greedy and powerful.
Vidal's description of the Spanish-American War includes the bloody suppression of the people of the Phillipines who were promised independence in 1898 only to have such promises and oaths revoked. The subsequent war of suppression which probably lasted from 1898 to 1902 costing over 200,000 lives.
Vidal's description of the Cold War is as clear a presentation of trends and events as this reviewer has read. What U.S. authorities could have gained by policy, they tried to get by military force. Vidal explains that the reasons for this use of force was/is to enhance arms executives, oil executives, and bankers at the expense of U.S. taxpayers.
Many times U.S. citizens are not alert to the "Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace" trends because journalists and yes, historians repeat the same distortions and lies. Due to corportate executives controlling newpapers and other media sources, journalists, and academicians have "sold their soul" to please corporate masters and bankers. If one reflects on sensationalist news stories for the past 60 years, he/she will discover that most of these stories were lies, exaggerations, and distoritions. When some honest historians corrected any of these distoritions, the corrections got little or no attention. Or, anyone who made such an honest effort was badly smeared by "offical panals" of liars in the absence of the person in question. In fact, this is exactly what happened to Vidal himself. The montior of the panal was Roger Mudd (Mud?) who made all sorts of accusations against Vidal when Vidal was not on the panal to defend himself. The fact is Roger Mudd is a coward.
Vidal gives clear evidence of unbridled power and hypocrisy. He also suggests means of ending the corrpution of a centralized police state. He suggests a return to the concept of federalism and uses the examle of the Swiss. Notice the Swiss stay out of war and have high living standards. Vidal suggests that U.S. citizens could locate in areas that satisfy their cultural and social preferences.
One feature of Vidal's essays that should catch readers' attention is his criticism of the U.S. Supreme Court justices whom Vidal accuses of giving legal sanction to what is otherwise illegal and unconstitutional. This trend has only accelerated since the 1980s, and Vidal presents brief but concise explanations of these Supreme Court decisions.
While some may think some of these essays are redundant, they need to be. Those with short memories need repeated reminders of serious problems or, as the subtitle of the book reads REFLCETIONS ON THE UNITED STATES OF AMNESIA. Vidals depth of knowledge and writing style make these essays well worth reading.
This book expresses an intelligent and insightful perspective of our state of American governance. To ignore this message because we do not agree with all it says or how it says it does us a disservice. Even though three quarters of the book is composed of articles published during the eighties, I feel collectively that they are no less relevant today then they were then. Reading this book has broadened my perspective and I encourage everyone to read it.