Cover image for Perpetual war for perpetual peace : how we got to be so hated
Perpetual war for perpetual peace : how we got to be so hated
Vidal, Gore, 1925-2012.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Thunder's Mouth Press/Nation Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
xiii, 160 pages ; 20 cm
General Note:
Three of the essays were previously published in The last empire (c2001).
September 11, 2001 (a Tuesday) -- How I became interested in Timothy McVeigh and vice versa -- Shredding the Bill of Rights -- The meaning of Timothy McVeigh -- Fallout -- The new theocrats -- A letter to be delivered.
Personal Subject:
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Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
PS3543.I26 P46 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The United States has been engaged in what the great historian Charles A. Beard called "perpetual war for perpetual peace." The Federation of American Scientists has cataloged nearly 200 military incursions since 1945 in which the United States has been the aggressor. In a series of penetrating and alarming essays, whose centerpiece is a commentary on the events of September 11, 2001 (deemed too controversial to publish in this country until now) Gore Vidal challenges the comforting consensus following September 11th and goes back and draws connections to Timothy McVeigh's bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. He asks were these simply the acts of "evil-doers?" "Gore Vidal is the master essayist of our age." -- Washington Post "Our greatest living man of letters."--Boston Globe "Vidal's imagination of American politics is so powerful as to compel awe."--Harold Bloom, The New York Review of Books

Author Notes

Gore Vidal was born Eugene Luther Gore Vidal Jr. on October 3, 1925 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. He did not go to college but attended St. Albans School in Washington and graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire in 1943. He enlisted in the Army, where he became first mate on a freight supply ship in the Aleutian Islands.

His first novel, Williwaw, was published in 1946 when he was twenty-one years old and working as an associate editor at the publishing company E. P. Dutton. The City and the Pillar was about a handsome, athletic young Virginia man who gradually discovers that he is homosexual, which caused controversy in the publishing world. The New York Times refused to advertise the novel and gave a negative review of it and future novels. He had such trouble getting subsequent novels reviewed that he turned to writing mysteries under the pseudonym Edgar Box and then gave up novel-writing altogether for a time. Once he moved to Hollywood, he wrote television dramas, screenplays, and plays. His films included I Accuse, Suddenly Last Summer with Tennessee Williams, Is Paris Burning? with Francis Ford Coppola, and Ben-Hur. His most successful play was The Best Man, which he also adapted into a film.

He started writing novels again in the 1960's including Julian, Washington, D.C., Myra Breckenridge, Burr, Myron, 1876, Lincoln, Hollywood, Live From Golgotha: The Gospel According to Gore Vidal, and The Golden Age. He also published two collections of essays entitled The Second American Revolution, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism in 1982 and United States: Essays 1952-1992. In 2009, he received the National Book Awards lifetime achievement award. He died from complications of pneumonia on July 31, 2012 at the age of 86.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

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.

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (May) Forecast: Vidal's piece on September 11 appeared in a book that became a bestseller in Italy. Will it do the same here? Not likely, but the success of Noam Chomsky's 9-11 makes it clear that at least some readers are ready for an alternate view. They may also welcome A Just Response (reviewed on p. 69), a collection from the Nation. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved