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Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia (Nation Books) Hardcover – May 7, 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.

From Booklist

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

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Product Details

  • Series: Nation Books
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books; 1St Edition edition (May 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560255854
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560255857
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #975,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Raymond F. Gillis on June 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I would urge those concerned with the future to read Mr. Vidals newest book, Imperial America. In it you'll learn things of value. The False Statement Statute (Title 18: Section 1001) which should allow not only for Bush's impeachment but a possible jail sentence is one. Another is the HAVA (Help America Vote Act) which could allow some very suspect machinery to influnence this next election...or rather after 2000, the selection. One should be more concerned with Letting America Vote.

Yet please do not feel this is a slow, technical read...far from it. It moves briskly and unlike many offerings always shows where quotes came from and who said them. Mr. Vidal, along with Ms.Roy and Mr.Chomsky continue to be very meticulous here. Their knowledge greatly expands each book...allowing for greater thought, bringing us into area's not reported or covered.
For those who won't read this book...don't...you will not get anything from it. For those who respect knowledge and truth, you'll undoubtedly read it. My concern (and hope) is for those not quite sure. It is for you to grow and become (far) more knowledable. Put down the sports page, stop worrying about some millionaire, who will not hit his weight...and get involved.
Time is running out...The French Foreign Legion had a motto, 'March or Die.' For 2004 may I suggest, 'Learn or Die.' Thank you for taking the time to read this...and please read this book...Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful collection of essays; some current, and all timely despite a few redundancies and dated comments about the Japanese economy. There is more wisdom and truth here than in the dry high school textbooks that were the last history that many have read (neither rates 100% but Vidal is MUCH better).
The first and last essays alone are well worth the price of the book. Unlike certain policy makers today (almost all 'Chickenhawks') Vidal served in the military; unlike most (including a certain 'gentleman C student and-proud-of-it) Vidal knows his history. You may not agree but you should always find him thought provoking.
When the US is something like 25th in reading (despite the benefits of great English literature and many choices) this should be first on the list before the military history and heroes of myth. Unlike many books today it is the truth here that will both disturb and enchant.
It is a thoughtless, uninformed, superficial reading that would dismiss the some arguments as anti-Semitic or ideological and it is the early democratic spirit of the country not Marxism that informs his judgments. Thinking about the comments of Franklin, Jefferson, Adams quoted herein should make that clear. If people read it otherwise perhaps the Hollywood producer, quoted by Vidal in another context, assessing the general public as walking with its knuckles scrapping the ground was right?
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Format: Hardcover
Superb. As timely as Revere's midnight ride. If Ronald Reagan was America's neo-Julius Caesar, his adopted "son" was the first George Bush (just as J.C. adopted Augustus). And look what THAT progeny wrought. I fully expect that over the next century, no fewer than seven Bushes will have run or become president (mimicking the Roman Caesarian line). Goodbye, American Republic. I, too, am a republican with a small 'r'. I have long feared what this corporatist Disneyland culture we laughingly still call a nation has been doing and NOW will do to the world in a Christian Evangelical/Viagara/Prozac-induced frenzy. Vidal is right: Americans don't know anything about the wider world or themselves because they don't remember anything. Nothing. As I see U.S. domestic culture now, it is all pointed in the direction of turning evry last one of us into a hamfisted, flat footed, grasping, thrusting, huckleberry foot soldier for Empire. Just as in ancient Rome. And there ain't a jesus-bleepin' thing we can do about it now. It's too damn late. We're all screwed. Welcome to your Empire, America. There's just one thing: having built it, now you gotta run it. Have fun watching your sons and daughters die in even farther away places than Iraq - but don't worry - by then you'll be more than used to it. Death in the Empire will be so common place, it'll be like breathing. Natural. In your short-term memories, don't say nobody didn't warn you.
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Format: Hardcover

By Gore Vidal

If you were already feeling that the task of reforming even one part of our federal government is too overwhelming, IMPERIAL AMERICA will only give you more data to confirm your skepticism. In a collection of articles written over the past 30 years, Vidal traces the imperialistic tendencies of the U. S. from the Founders but says that our current self-styled "war-time President" and his evil concept of pre-emptive war fulfills Ben Franklin's prediction at the Constitutional Convention that government, after a course of years, "can only end in Despotism". He does not mask his contempt for Bush's lies ("lies repeated often enough become truth") and abuse of language that serves to "disguise, not illuminate" ("Healthy Forest Initiative", etc.). Vidal the historian tells us that Imperialist attitudes were present in some degree from the nation's beginnings (Native Americans, slaves, Mexican war, Louisiana Purchase) but that real empire-building began with McKinley and T. Roosevelt. Imperial Presidential powers expanded --- always under the guise of "national security" --- under Lincoln and Wilson and have been used to justify all "hot" and "cold" wars since ---Korea, Vietnam, Panama, and Iraq. (Strangely, he faults poor Carter for NOT using executive privilege to fix the energy crisis.) FDR began rearmament, and Truman further militarized the economy, although he realized that he had to "scare the Hell" out of people to make them go along. Vidal notes that Imperialist governments "gain maximum power" over the people when citizens are in constant terror --- a perfect description of this nation's current status. Also, a permanent wartime footing is good for the economy!
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