Gore and Peace | Literary Arts | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Gore and Peace 

An interview with Gore Vidal



It's been a long time since Gore Vidal had a friendly game of backgammon with an American president, as he did with his stepbrother-in-law John F. Kennedy in the 1960s. 


He was, as Newsweek once gushed, "the best all-around man of letters since Edmund Wilson," who in addition to plays, screenplays and hundreds of essays has published 22 novels.Yet instead of settling into the quieter role of elderly sage, the 79-year-old author has become an even more contentious figure in the past five years.


Detractors characterize Vidal's three post-Sept. 11 political books as a primer for the strangest theories of the "loony" left, while admirers see them as a devastating attack on imperialism by one of the few real defenders of the republic. For a bestselling political author, he's received scant attention from mainstream media outlets, perhaps due to his unsparing criticism of bastions such as The New York Times and Newsweek, let alone the television networks.


His first two volumes after the attacks (he calls them "pamphlets") were 2001's Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to Be So Hated and, a year later, Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta. Both scaled the Times' bestseller list. This year he published the essay collection Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia.


One interesting quote of yours is "... thus began the latest chapter in the death struggle between the American republic ... and the American Global Empire, our old republic's enemy." Is the Bush administration's so-called "fight against terrorism" and the pre-emptive invasion of Iraq the worst-case realization for defenders of the American republic?

The so-called war on terrorism is as meaningless as a phrase as it is as a fact. Where is terror's homeland? Master plan? A terrorist event tends to be a random affair. Despite the best efforts of clueless phrase-makers who chatter about the odd axis of evil, there remains no connection between the IRA, Saddam Hussein or Palestinian terrorists versus Zionist terrorists, and so, lacking connections, how can there be a concerted, concentrated attack on so much random evil? Much less a war which requires at least a country to devastate; hence, no doubt, the endless lies about Iraq's culpability in the events of 9/11, which led to the pre-emptive assaults on both Afghanistan and Iraq, two acts of brute savagery not witnessed on our planet since the 1930s, when Hitler was pre-emptively attacking one state after another.


I am told the Cheney-Bush team dislikes their junta being compared to the Nazis. If they ceased behaving like Nazis no comparison would come to mind. The junta certainly has no great interest in fighting terrorism as such and every interest in promoting their own brand of terrorism against weaker countries with significant oil reserves.


Supreme Court Justice Brandeis said, "Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or ill, it teaches the whole people by its example."

What did the American pubic learn from the Iraq invasion?

Since there was no outcry at the doctrine of pre-emptive war (possibly because the word "pre-emptive" is not part of the average American's think vocabulary?), American consumers accepted the fact that the Constitution's Article 1, Section 8 (only Congress may declare war) had been superseded by a new presidential power to make war if he suspects that terrorists are lurking anywhere in other lands.


Were you surprised at how the mainstream media criticized your post-9/11 comments? Has that changed so far?

I was hardly surprised by the relative blackout that I have enjoyed in the U.S. media since my suggestion that 9/11 might have resulted from misdeeds on our part. We are the essence of good, I now concede, hand on heart.


We have no mainstream press. We have the federal megaphone voices like The New York Times, The Washington Post, reflective only of corporate America. Then there is the Murdoch clown media and other far from the mainstream dispensers of myth and malice.


What would four more years of Bush mean to the country?

Four more years of Cheney-Bush could bring on World War III, which our neocons are so eager for others to fight. Kerry, like Bush, is of the imperial party. But, where Cheney-Bush are well below average in knowledge and in intelligence, Kerry is well above.


What long- and short-term consequences do you think the United States and the rest of the world will face because of the invasion of Iraq?

More of the same until the U.S. runs out of money or some sort of mystery plague removes us all from this vale of tears.



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