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Refreshingly Bitter And Twisted Observations On Life's Passing Parade.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Gore Vidal, The Left's Grand Old Kook


Los Angeles CityBeat has the latest interview with Gore Vidal.

Vidal is constantly sought ought by left-leaning periodicals and radio stations like Pacifica station KPFK and he happily grants them interviews. I’ve been listening to and reading them for years and he does them on autopilot, only adjusting the same spiel slightly to conform to current events. They love Vidal because he speaks for them, albeit better than they ever could. Vidal shouldn’t be taken seriously, let alone embraced. He puts his gifts into the service of a paranoid, alarmist view of history and current politics.

“Little Bush says we are at war, but we are not at war, because, to be at war, Congress has to vote for it,” he fumes.

Right. We’re not at war. Our armies in Afghanistan and Iraq are there on a splendid vacation. Congress never voted a formal declaration of war against North Vietnam, so I suppose the war there was just a figment of the imagination of everybody except the oracular Gore Vidal.

Here's some real history for Vidal. “According to one authority, since the late 18th century, the nation's armed forces -- at the direction of the President -- have been involved in well over 350 incidents, 'police actions,' and other shows of force. Between the close of World War II and the early 1990s, the United States military suffered one-half million battle casualties, even though the nation technically was never at war. Since 1973 and the end of America's participation in the costly and prolonged but undeclared Vietnam War, geographic locales deemed suitable by the nation's chief executive for the application of military force have included Lebanon, Grenada, Libya, the Persian Gulf, Panama, Iraq, Haiti, Somalia, and Bosnia."

"Scholars thus can list hundreds of instances, large and small, protracted and limited in duration, of the application of armed force initiated or directed by the President, beginning even before 1800. The Congress, on the other hand, has had occasion only five times to exercise its authority to declare war under Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution: in 1812 against Britain, 1846 against Mexico, 1898 against Spain, 1917 against Germany and other Central Powers, and in 1941 against Japan, Germany, and other Axis nations.”

Vidal says, “We are in a dictatorship that has been totally militarized.”

There is little if any public dissent in any real dictatorship. If any arises it is rapidly and ruthlessly supressed. Vidal would be imprisoned or executed in a dictatorship.

“[Bush and his cronies] are all sissies. Remember that,” he says. “These are people who’ve never been in an army. The men behind the war in Iraq are cowards who did not fight in Vietnam. They’ve run away like the president, who I refer to as the Yellow Rose of Texas.”

It's time to retire the chickenhawk attack because it's based on the false premise that veterans of combat are more inclined to oppose foreign intervention than "sissies" who avoided combat-a category that also includes people like Bill Clinton, not just the members of the current administration. McCain and Chuck Hagel, for example, are two veterans who vigorously supported the war in Iraq, Hagel only recently withdrawing his support. Kerry and Murtha voted for the war and supported it until recently.

Vidal forfeited the right to be taken seriously after he went completely off the deep end by declaring convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh a hero in a long article in Vanity Fair and a speech at the Edinburgh book festival in 2001.

“The stoic serenity of McVeigh’s last days certainly qualified him as a Henley-style hero. He did not complain about his fate; took responsibility for what he was thought to have done; did not beg for mercy as our always sadistic Media require. Meanwhile, conflicting details about him accumulate – a bewildering mosaic, in fact – and he seems more and more to have stumbled into the wrong American era. Plainly, he needed a self-consuming cause to define him. The abolition of slavery or the preservation of the Union would have been more worthy of his life than anger at the excesses of our corrupt secret police. But he was stuck where he was and so he declared war on a government that he felt had declared war on its own people.”

“CNN gave us bits and pieces of McVeigh’s last morning. Asked why he had not at least said that he was sorry for the murder of innocents, he said that he could ay it but he would not have meant it. He was a soldier in a war, not of his making. This was Henleyesque. One biographer described him as honest to a fault. McVeigh had also noted that Harry Truman had never said that he was sorry about dropping two atomic bombs on an already defeated Japan, killing around 200,000 people, mostly collateral women and children. Media howled that that was wartime. But McVeigh considered himself, rightly or wrongly, at war, too.”

Gore Vidal has a conspiratorial sensibility. As his Vanity Fair article proves, he seems to have no reasonable conception of reality, as he turns a cold blooded mass murderer into a hero. The rationale Vidal comes up with is risable. Along the way, he throws in a lot of nonsense about former FBI director Louis Freeh and Justice Clarence Thomas being members of Opus Dei, as if that, even if true, has anything to do with McVeigh’s guilt. Vidal suggests that McVeigh didn’t act alone, despite the fact that McVeigh himself never once asserted any such claim.

“Many an ‘expert’ and many an expert believe that McVeigh neither built nor detonated the bomb that blew up a large part of the Murrah Federal Building on april 19, 1995. To start backward – rather the way the F.B.I. conducted this case – if McVeigh was not guilty, why did he confess to the murderous deed? I am convinced from his correspondence and what one has learned about him in an ever lengthening row of books that, once found guilty due to what he felt was the slovenly defense of his principal lawyer, Stephen Jones, so unlike the brilliant defense of his 'co-conspirator' Terry Nichol’s lawyer Michael Tigar, McVeigh believed that the only alternative to death by injection was a half-century or more of life in a box.”

Vidal later writes that McVeigh confessed to avoid decades of submitting to anal rape in prison. “A couple of decades fending off Spike is not a Hensley hero’s idea of a good time. Better dead than Spiked. Hence, ‘I bombed the Murrah building.’ "

But Vidal is completely inconsistent. After concluding that McVeigh preferred a quick death to a long confinement while fighting his sentence, Vidal then reverts to the belief that McVeigh was guilty but was either part of a conspiracy or confessed sole responibility in order to protect conspirators. “I believe that by confessing McVeigh was, once again, playing the soldier, attempting to protect his co-conspirators.” Well, make up your mind Mr Vidal. To immunize humself from the criticism that he is defending McVeigh, Vidal sprinkles a few sentences like this throughout the article: “Thus the straight-arrow model soldier unleashed his terrible swift sword and the innocent died.”

Vidal later went further. At the Edinburgh festival, he said, “I am about to drop another shoe. I have been working with a researcher who knows at least five of the people involved in the making of the bomb and its detonation. It may well be that McVeigh did not do it. In fact, I am sure he didn't do it. But when he found out he was going to be the patsy, he did something psychologically very strange. He decided to grab all credit for it himself, because he had no fear of death.”

Five years have gone by and Vidal has yet to reveal the name of even one of the conspirators that he claims his researcher discovered.

The left loves Vidal and always has, no matter how outrageous his pronouncements become. Vidal has a personality and demeanor that comes across very well in radio and TV interviews. He is avuncular if a tad lofty, articulate, dryly witty, and sprinkles his answers with literary and historical references, thus appearing very erudite and learned. Since he employs these attributes to consistently attack conservatives and Republicans, the left continues to embrace him despite indefensible idiocies like his rationalisation of McVeigh’s acts and claims to proof of a conspiracy.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Andrew O'Hara said...

We do have our share of kooks, both left and right, and Vidal excels at being one. I don't know how many mortar shells he's ever had to dodge, but they do tend to care less if a state of war has been declared. Vidal's pontificating aside, I wish we had more control over presidents who send us off on these years-long nightmares. Where we draw the line between "adventures" like Grenada vs. Viet Nam and Iraq, I don't know. Vidal, however, does nothing and has done nothing to make matters any better.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Peter L. Winkler said...

Well, Vidal has felt the impact of war. In his memoir Palimpsest and in the linked interview, he writes about his prep-school lover Jimmy Trimble, who was killed in the war in the Pacific.

"I wish we had more control over presidents who send us off on these years-long nightmares."

Me too, but I don't see how. Congress passed the War Powers Act after Vietnam and subsequent presidents have simply ignored it.

I'm tempted to say that a parliamentary system might be an improvement, but look how Tony Blair has survived the British public's hostility to the Iraq war.

Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

6:45 PM  

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