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9/11, 2000 election and other
    #1582582 - 05/27/03 09:57 PM (13 years, 5 months ago)

Gore Vidal on the "United States of Amnesia," 9/11, the 2000 Election and the War in Iraq

Gore Vidal is one of America's most prolific and best-known writers. He has written more than 22 books and more than 200 essays -- a collection of his essays won the National Book Award in 1993. Vidal is the author most recently of Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace and Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Bush-Cheney Junta. Taken together, the books constitute a comprehensive attack on America?s imperialist ambitions and the military industrial complex. Writing in the Scotsman, critic Gavin Esler called Perpetual War "the finest serious critique of America's use and abuse of power in the 21st century that I have read."

Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman recently met up with Gore Vidal for an extensive interview. The interview aired on May 13, 2003.


GORE VIDAL:The United States is not a normal country. We are a homeland now under military surveillance and military control. The President asked the Congress right after 9-11 not to conduct a major investigation. "As it might deter our search for terrorism wherever it might be in the world." So Congress obediently rolled over.

There was, I remember, Pearl Harbor. I was a kid then. And within three years of it I enlisted in the army. That's what we did in those days; we did not go off to the Texas Air Force and hide. I realize the country has totally changed, that the government is not responsive to the people. Either in protecting us from something like 9-11, which they should?ve done, could?ve done. Did not do. And then when it did happen, to investigate, investigate, investigate.

So I wrote two little books, one called Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, in which I try to go into the why Osama Bin Laden, if it were he, or whoever it was, why it was done. And I wrote anther one, Dreaming War, on why we were not protected on 9-11, which ordinarily would have led to the impeachment of the President of the United States who had allowed it to happen. They said they had no information. Since then every day the New York Times prints another mountain of people that say they had warned the government, President Putin of Russia, he had warned us, President Mubarek, of Egypt, he had warned us, three members of Mossad claim they had come to the US to warn us that sometime in September something unpleasant might come out of the sky in our direction.

Were we defended? No we were not defended. Has this ever been investigated? No, it hasn't. There was some attempt at the midterm election, there was a pro forma committee in Congress which has done nothing thus far, and we?re three years later. This is shameful. The media, which is controlled by the great conglomerates, which control the political system, has done an atrocious job of reporting, though sometimes good stories get in. I've worn my eyes out studying the Wall Street Journal, which despite its dreadful editorial policies is a pretty good newspaper of record, which the New York Times is not.

If you read the Wall Street Journal very carefully you can pretty much figure out what happened that day. At the time the first hijacking, according to law, FAA, it is mandatory within four minutes of a hijacking, fighter planes from the nearest air military base go up to scramble, that means go up and force the plane down, find out who they are, find out what's happening. One hour and 50 minutes I think it was, no fighter plane went up. During that hour and 20 minutes, we lost the two towers, and one side of the Pentagon. Why didn?t they go up? No description from the government, no excuse, a lot of mumbling stories which were then retracted, new stories replaced them.

That to me was the end of the republic. We no longer had a Congress which would ask questions, which it was in place to do of the executive. We have a commander in chief who likes strutting around in military uniform, which no commander ever did, as they are supposed to be civilians keeping charge of the military. This thing is surrealistic now and it is getting nastier and nastier, as we are more and more kept in the dark about those things which most affect us, which are war and peace, prosperity and poverty. These are the main things that the government should look after. And we the people should be told about them. We have been told nothing. And every voice is silent.

So I wrote two little books, which were then noticed by people who like to look at the Internet, and then a few hundred thousand people have bought them. And I don't come out with conspiracy theories, I never became a journalist, I am a historian. Because journalists give you their opinions. And pretend they?re facts. I don't give you my opinions because they may be valuable to my mother, but they are of no value to anybody else. But I give you the facts as I find them, and I list them and they're quite deadly. This government is culpable of, if nothing less, negligence. Why were we not protected with all the air bases' fighter planes up and down the eastern seaboard? Not one of them went aloft while the hijackings took place. Finally two from Otis Field in Massachusetts arrived at the twin towers I think at the time the second one was hit. If anybody had been thinking, they would have gone on the Washington to try to prevent the attack on the Pentagon. They went back to Otis, back to Massachusetts. So I ask these questions, which Congress should ask, does not ask, which the press should ask, but is too frightened. It's a reign of terror now.

AMY GOODMAN: A recent expose shows that even a Congressional Committee that?s looking into this can't get a hold of documents that are classified, and even public testimony is now being reclassified.

GORE VIDAL: Well isn't it pretty clear that the dictatorship is in place. We?re not supposed to know certain things and we?re not going to know them. They?re doing everything to remove our history, to damage the Freedom of Information Act. Bush managed to have a number of Presidential papers, including those of his father, put out of the reach of historians, or anybody for a great length of time, during which they will probably be shredded, so they will never be available. And what I have always called jokingly the United States of Amnesia will be worse then an amnesiac it will have suffered a lobotomy, there will be no functioning historical memory of our history.

AMY GOODMAN: How has George Bush accrued so much power?

GORE VIDAL: Well, the election of 2000 was the end of the republic. It was the second time that it happened that somebody who got the popular vote did not get the election. 1876, when Governor Tilden, a Democrat of New York, won the election. But they were able -- we still had troops in the south -- they were able to turn the election around, the electoral college, Tilden didn't want another Civil War, so he just withdrew, but there was no sinister group taking charge, it was just a party group of Republicans who wanted to continue the reign of General Grant. That was mildly sleazy. This is major corruption. This is corporate America, as one, putting in place a president who was not elected. Getting the Supreme Court to delay and delay, when under the 10th amendment, every decision about the voting in Florida, should be made by the Florida Supreme Court. Not the U.S. Supreme Court, which the Constitution rules out in matters of election.

AMY GOODMAN: How did that happen? Well isn't he your relative, Al Gore?

GORE VIDAL: That's nothing that I go through the streets boasting of no, but yes, he's my cousin. And very un-Gore. The Gores are known for their belligerence and he is not known for self-defense let us say. He should have asked ? it?s easy to say he should?ve, but it was pretty clear at the time. I would've, and I?ve been in that situation ? to count the total Florida vote. He has every right to demand that, and they couldnt?ve played games, cause it's too big of a vote. Instead he asked I think three counties, Dade and Brower and one other, to do their count over again.

AMY GOODMAN: Concern that he wouldn't win outside of those?

GORE VIDAL: No I think he figured that he had won those, Dade is certainly a large minority vote, which had all voted for him, there's a wonderful book by [John] Nichols, called Jews for Buchanan, and it?s a marvelous shot of four Jewish gentlemen looking terribly alarmed, and you see Dade County goes for Buchanan. And even Buchanan goes 'these are not my votes down there, something's wrong.' And it was stolen by the Secretary of State, that lady who now has been rewarded with a seat in Congress, the president?s brother, the losing president candidate?s brother, was governor, and he took part in it. And the court did by five to four.

Two of the five should have recused themselves, should have just withdrawn from the case when Gore vs. Bush came before the court. Why? One of them, [Anthony] Scalia, had a son, who was working for the Bush team of lawyers before the Supreme Court. Did Justice Scalia recuse himself as he should because his son is arguing? No. He wants to kill Gore. He wants to make sure that the bad guys win. Thomas' wife was busy, getting Curricula Viti of potential people to serve in a Bush administration. Clarence Thomas should have recused himself and withdrawn for the case, in which case it would have been 4 to 3 for Gore, who would now be president. And Iraq and Afghanistan I can guarantee would not have been knocked down, in order to benefit Halliburton and Bechtel.

AMY GOODMAN: Scalia recently went to Cleveland, he spoke at the Cleveland City Club, which is known as the oldest free speech forum in the country, he allowed no press in, and the night before he spoke in the city, and he said that that vote, choosing George Bush, was his proudest moment.

GORE VIDAL: I would impeach him and in a well-run country the Senate should make a move toward the trial of Justice Scalia. And in back of that there?s some interesting organization going on, which is hard to determine, Opus Dei, both Scalia and Thomas have connections with Opus Dei, a secret Catholic order, originally fascist. General Franco is Spain was sort of a Godfather to it, and we don?t know much about it, and it?s all over the place, about 80,000 worldwide, Louis Freeh of the FBI at that time was a member, as was Mr. [Robert] Hanssen, the spy, who had been giving all of our secrets, he was with the CIA, he had been giving our secrets to the Russians for many years. I make no charges, but I simply bring up questions, why not ask questions of these people. Does it suit Opus Dei that Bush is President? Now we're getting into God territory, which I normally would stay away from as any good American should, it?s not my business other people?s religions. But Bush is Born Again, that?s why he used biblical language. (imitating Bush) ?He's evil! He?s an evildoer!? Well that?s theological language. You can say he's a bad man, a dishonest man, a ruthless man. Evildoer? And he believes the end of the world is coming. Born Agains believe in rapture, they don't care about this world. When it ends George W. Bush will be lifted up in a state of rapture into the bosom of our lord.

Also among the born-again category, not that kind of protestant, is Tony Blair, who has become likes his wife, Roman Catholic, which is difficult for a British Prime Minister, since the Prime Minister is supposed to be an Anglican ? what we would call Episcopalian -- as he picks the Bishops of the Anglican Church, so you can?t have a Roman Catholic picking Anglican Bishops, but he is. So now we have two boys who think "Jesus wants them for sunbeams," who are willing to put at risk -- I?m extrapolating on my own just from the evidence at hand. This is mostly humorous. You can judge it as you may -- But two believers in our Lord?s coming, an Armageddon and the end of the world -- this is the way the Reagan used to talk -- and it made him very popular with the southern states, that?s why this big thing was just about South Carolina that's the heart of it ? why? Well those states don?t have much in the way of population, but they have very strong born-again Evangelical Protestants, and they believe in our Lord returning at any moment, and if you can collect them all, by saying you hate abortion and this and that. They have a swing vote in those states because of the Electoral College, they don?t have much population, but they have a lot of electoral votes among them. The Electoral College was devised -- you call yourself democracy, you?re very un-American, the founding fathers did not want democracy in the US ever. They also did not want tyranny, a king or Hitler, they wanted a Republic. And they devised the Electoral College so the majority could never control anything. So you have a popular vote out there and in those days it was just for congress, so there was one electoral vote per congressmen, one per senator and the state, and they get together and decide the election. So what Scalia was doing was going back to the Electoral College in order to put together a majority to put in his candidate who will probably hasten the end of the world. I don?t know where Scalia will be during rapture. He may be [points up and points down.]

AMY GOODMAN: You?re talking about religion, you?ve written about Pat Robertson and John Ashcroft.

GORE VIDAL: Yes I have, they are very religious men. The wall that Thomas Jefferson thought that he had built, as did John Adams who was pretty much an antagonist of Jefferson, but they were both agreed that religion ought not to in any way intrude itself into politics, it was something quite separate, whatever your religion, you obeyed its laws, if you believed in those laws and nobody would stop you. But once you start raising money in tax free institutions, who's tax-free money you use to influence elections, like Mr. Robertson, and Mr. Falwell then you are out of the constitution, and you should be taxed anyway before you use it, but they are free of taxation and with that the whole country began to change and this very small minority of Evangelicals, mostly in the south and southwest, have achieved great power, in states of small population where their electoral college count, state by state, adds up to quite a lot, in fact added up to a Bush "victory."

AMY GOODMAN: Gore Vidal, you've said, I don?t see us winning this war, you?ve also said that this will force Saddam Hussein to use whatever weapons of mass destruction he may have. Maybe you were prophetic, and maybe in fact that was true that if he had them he would have used them, and he didn?t.

GORE VIDAL: Well, it's pretty plain he didn't have them, nobody in Europe thought he did. The Europeans at least have a free press which we don't, or most of the countries there do. I said he probably would, if we pressed him hard enough. You see when you live with nothing but lies being told to you in the media, nothing but lies, and it?s done the way they do advertising, it?s repetition: "Weapons of mass destruction! He?s got weapons of mass destruction! Mass destruction! Mass destruction! Mass destruction!" When you hear that 10,000 times a day, you finally think he must have, they can?t go on like this forever, well he didn?t have them, now I'm sure we?re busy planting them all over the place, and we?ll be: "Oh look what we found! Goodness me! Here?s at Atom Bomb! Made in USA. No, scratch that out, scratch that out. He made that mark." I fully expect us to plant something or other, but as it's the United States of Amnesia, why go to the trouble, it's expensive to have troops going around looking for stuff. I think they think the public will have forgotten it, I think the public is forgetting it, doesn't much care.

I thought when I said that we would lose the war, I still think we will. Afghanistan the fighting is going on, rather rougher then it was during the so-called war. It will keep right on going as long as we have a presence in Iraq. And we will eventually be driven out. Somebody will have a bright idea, one of those neo-conservatives, we know what they?re like, and will decide to kill everybody there, that this would be a very good thing to do. Gotta show force. And all these sissies, all of whom who ran from the idea of going into the army, talk so tough when they get together, we?re gonna show our muscle , you look at Mr. Crystal, and Mr., who?s the sidekick who rides with him? Fat Boys With Asthma, talking tough, it makes their blood run cold. So I think that we haven't a chance of winning in the Middle East, nobody has, nobody except the Turks, with the Ottoman Empire, which Woodrow Wilson, one of the great fools of our history, decided to break up at the end of WWI, so we get Turkey, which turns out to be really quite a formidable country now, and broke up bits and pieces, into Syria, and Jordan, into this into that, which became British and French mandates, and are now countries which are uneasy, with all sorts of warring religious groups.

AMY GOODMAN: Gore Vidal, you developed a relationship with Timothy McVeigh. Can you talk about that?

GORE VIDAL: I never met him, nor did we talk on the telephone, but we did exchange letters, he read a piece I wrote in Vanity Fair, about the shredding of the Bill of Rights, which has been further shredded since his death, and he wrote me a letter, and I wrote him back, and he wrote me some very informative letters about himself, he was very smart, knew the constitution backwards and forwards. I was struck by reading about his trial, at first I had no interest, he was the lone crazed killer, that our public must always have, Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, we all know that, you can get the Warren Commission to say that, he was obviously not alone. But that worked so well that, the people always fall for it every time, so they decided that Timothy McVeigh, a rather slight young man, with no knowledge of explosives, had put together this two ton bomb, which he himself, and this guy called Nichols loaded on a Ryder truck -- it took at least 9 people it?s been figured out, to get that bomb onto that truck, and then a very careful, experienced driver to get that thing without blowing himself up into Oklahoma City in front of the building. He was not alone, and we have a pretty good idea of some of the people he was associated with who might have been in on it. The FBI began quite professionally, they had infiltrated a lot of these Patriot movements out there in the middle-west, people who don?t like the government and others who were as angry, as was McVeigh at what the federal government had done to the Branch Dividians at Waco, for McVeigh this was revenge upon at what he regarded was an odious government, a tyrannical government, he had gone out there and watched them using military, army stuff. And remember he was an army hero of the Gulf War, and he watched them break the law. The Posse Commitus Act of 1876. and in one of the letters to me, these are all reprinted in Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, if you want to read McVeigh's actual words about it. He said ?'You know soldiers are trained to kill. The police are trained to protect persons and property. These are two different functions. The justice dept. called in the army. They wanted tanks and all sorts of things, army material. With which they shot up the buildings that fired oil and people died.' There was once again no proper investigation. In the course of McVeigh's trial, which was a kind of joke, the FBI behaved pretty well, they had a lot of interesting leads, 305s I think they?re called, they take down the evidence that people give them, directions in which to look and so on. They followed up nothing. And I wrote Louis Freeh who was then the head of the FBI, a letter which I include in the little book, a letter which I read aloud on the Today Show, just to make sure that he saw it, no answer, but I said there's certain very interesting leads here, and this is all from evidence at the pre-trials, which anybody can get at, and I said these should have been investigated, but they weren?t, they decided it was McVeigh and that was it. Now a couple of days ago we find out that the FBI was faking it, some anti-McVeigh stuff in their labs, trying to prove that he built the bomb, that he had ammonia on his trousers or something. Well he may well have been in on it, I don?t know, I'm not a prophet, but my impression is that he could not have done it alone. So there were others to follow up, and on television I said you?ve got to start doing your job, at the FBI, at the Justice Department, your job is to protect persons and property. You didn?t follow up there may be 100 McVeighs out there, waiting to take another crack at us. And you did nothing, cause you want to unload Gray?s killer, and you wanted the book shut (SHUTS A BOOK). So what sort of government is this. I'd say a bad one.

AMY GOODMAN: What effect do you thin that the Persian Gulf was had on Timothy McVeigh? It said that he was involved with bulldozing people in the highway of death, as Iraqi soldiers retreated after surrender.

GORE VIDAL: Well he was shocked by it, he also got the Bronze Star, he was a great marksman, and he did his share of shooting soldiers, but he was appalled at the civilians, the children. That?s why it?s so ironic, 'oh, he killed all those children,? as though he got up in the morning to kill all the children in the nursery in that building. He says in one of his statements, he finally says, I did it, because he didn?t want to spend the rest of his life in a box, he could live 30-40 more years and then as he wrote me, I?d rather have federally assisted suicide, which is how he termed the injection in the arm, then a lifetime in a box. Because he saw there was no way out. He could have sung, but he didn?t, he could have said who else was involved in this, but he did not. He was a complex character, and endlessly interesting I thought, and he should have been kept alive, so we could find out who these other people were.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you put Timothy McVeigh in the same category as Mohammed Atta?

GORE VIDAL: No no no. We don?t know that story either. Mohammad Atta was obviously a Muslim zealot. Also in Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace there?s another question that goes unanswered, the head of the Pakistan Secret Service, was in Washington a week or so before 9-11, while he was there, it was just a ceremonial visit with the head of the CIA, they worked together, he sent back word to Islamabad about one of his henchman, to wire $100,000 to Mohammad Atta in the United States, which was duly done. The FBI, I think it was the Wall Street Journal where I got the story from, only said American Secret Services found out about this, they complained to the Pakistani Government. 'What is the head of the Secret Service in Washington telling somebody to send $100,000 to a guy that we now know was the lead bomber, lead hijacker just a week before 9-11.' Times of India published the whole story, Wall Street Journal did a pretty good version for them, now shouldn?t that be examined? Wouldn?t Congress be interested in this guy in Washington meeting with all our top secret people? Says ok, send him $100,000. Not one more word, not one more word. Now in a country with any curiosity, in a public that was informed of anything, there would be a great deal of outcry. I couldn?t imagine this happening in England, maybe questions in Parliament, the papers would be full of it until it was solved. It couldn?t happen in Italy, which dearly loves a conspiracy, or Germany. In the U.S., everybody listens to 19th Century Fox TV News. In which a bunch of loons just scream and scream and scream. And with each scream they tell another lie. How are we ever going to have an informed citizenry? Which means then how can we have an informed election?

AMY GOODMAN: So what?s it like for you, Gore Vidal, to go back and forth between Italy and the United States through this period.

GORE VIDAL: Let?s clear up one thing. The right wing has been desperate to explain to Americans that I live in Italy, that I?m an ex-patriot. "He hates America." Just because I dislike them. I?ve had a house in California for 30 years. I?ve had a house in Southern Italy for 30 years. Sometimes I?m there when I'm working, but I?ve always been involved in American politics, and American history. That's a fact that you can look at a long line of books, to attest to that fact. The idea of geography is very exciting to people, because I think it?s only 7% of the American people have passports, only 7% have been abroad. Not counting the ones who were sent in the military of course, but 7% have voluntarily gone abroad. It's a tiny percent of those in congress who?ve been abroad. Bush had never set foot in Europe before he became President. He had spent 10 minutes in China when his father was Ambassador there, and obviously never went outside of the compound. What I have to do lot of times in Europe is explain to them that Americans are not stupid, when they meet them, they think they?re very stupid because they don't know anything, I have to explain the them that we're not stupid, I think we?re rather brighter then the average, but we?re ignorant, which means not knowing, we have no information because it isn't given to us. Our public schools are a scandal, they stopped teaching geography in 1950 in most of the public schools, by which time we were a global empire, we have a global empire and nobody knows where anything is, nobody knows any languages, so our statesmen go abroad and people laugh at them, because they are so dumb, or seem to be so dumb.

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Re: 9/11, 2000 election and other [Re: ]
    #1584521 - 05/28/03 12:23 PM (13 years, 5 months ago)

EXCELLENT ARTICLE! The last paragraph is brilliant.

"Life has never been weird enough for my liking"

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Re: 9/11, 2000 election and other [Re: Rono]
    #1584850 - 05/28/03 02:07 PM (13 years, 5 months ago)

Nice post. Good writer.

"Know your Body - Know your Mind - Know your Substance - Know your Source.

Lest we forget. "

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