Review: Perpetual War For Perpetual Peace – How We Got To Be So Hated by Gore Vidal

THIS BOOK is a searing indictment of the US war machine and internal repressive state apparatus. Gore Vidal doesn’t in any way condone the methods of terrorism, but tries to explain why 9/11 occurred and why Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building in Oklahoma killing 168 people.

JOHN REID reviews Perpetual War For Perpetual Peace – How We Got To Be So Hated, by Gore Vidal. Thunder’s Mouth Press/Nation Books

As Vidal states "in nature there is no action without reaction. The same appears to be true in human nature"

He quotes Arno J Meyer, professor emeritus at Princeton: "Since 1947 America has been the chief and pioneering perpetrator of pre-emptive state terror, exclusively in the third world… Washington has resorted to political assassination, surrogate death squads and unseemly freedom fighters (eg Bin Laden).

"It masterminded the killing of Lumumba and Allende… and vetoed all efforts to rein in not only Israel’s violation of international agreements… but also its practice of pre-emptive state terror."

Vidal states: "With both Bin Laden and McVeigh, I thought it useful to describe the various provocations on our side that drove them to such terrible acts."

Vidal outlines how the huge US military machine has been built up at a cost of $7 trillion since 1947. The USA spends 51% of its budget on defence (war) but is the only first world country not to have a national health service.

In 1950 corporate taxes accounted for 25% of federal revenue, in 1999 it accounted for only 10.1%. The USA has waged perpetual war for perpetual peace. He lists the hundred of operations that the USA has been involved in, in dozens of countries. The USA also has troops stationed in over 100 countries.

Gore lists the attacks on civil rights before and after 9/11, including the establishment of a "concentration camp x ray" in Cuba. There are elements of a police state existing within the USA. In 1993 a religious sect was slaughtered at Waco by federal troops, 82 were murdered including 25 children.

McVeigh asserts that his attack on the federal building at Oklahoma City which left 168 dead was a counter attack against a repressive state. "Anti government patriots" number between two and four million and 400,000 are activists in militias.

McVeigh, who was not the far-right racist portrayed by the US press, said in an article shortly before his execution: "The administration has said that Iraq has no right to stockpile chemical or biological weapons…. Mainly because they have used them in the past, well if that’s the standard by which these matters are decided, then the US is the nation that set the precedent."

Ultimately acts of terrorism like 9/11 or the McVeigh bombing do nothing to diminish the power of US imperialism and US global corporate domination, they only strengthen it.

But Vidal’s book is an indictment of the US state. Only the building of a mass workers’ party and a revolutionary party of the mighty US working class will build a force capable of destroying the US military machine and capitalist state and replacing rapacious US capitalism with a democratically planned socialist economy.

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October 2002