Russia, 2003
Netherlands, 2003
Lebanon, 2004
Norway, 2002
Sweden, 2004
Foreign-language editions of Gore Vidal's Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace

The World Trade Center Attack
And Vidal's Writing on the Subject

In the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, destruction of the World Trade Center, Gore Vidal has written two best-selling books on the subject. Each book contains an original lead essay on the attack and a few other previously published essays on related topics. Together they make up Vidal's controversial - even incendiary - canon on a day that changed American culture and, Vidal claims, brought home to roost a set of historic tides and circumstances that he claims to have foreseen for decades.

FEATURED PAGE: A slide show of book covers

The first of these books, Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got To Be So Hated, appeared in the U.S. in April 2002 and quickly became a bestseller. Less than a year later, Vidal published a second book: Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and The Cheney-Bush Junta. That book, too, became a bestseller. Interestingly, the lead essay in each book first appeared in Italian before their American publications.

Italy, 2001
France, 2002

Although these books are available for sale, virtually all of their original, Sept. 11-related content is available on the internet. A shortened version of the first Sept. 11 essay appears in England's Guardian newspaper, which reprinted it to mark the essay's full publication in Filling the Silence, the 30th anniversary edition of Index on Censorship, a quarterly British journal.

Brazil, 2003
Bulgaria, 2003

Vidal wrote the lead essay for Dreaming War in October 2002. In it, he speculates on whether the Bush administration knew about the attack in advance and let it happen anyway. It's now available, in U.S. and U.K. editions, in Vidal's book Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta. The book's anchor essay - which naturally has its critics - first appeared in the Oct. 27, 2002, issue of the U.K. newspaper The Observer under the title The Enemy Within, and it was illustrated on the British newspaper's front page (see graphic, below left). Shortly before its U.K. publication, it appeared in the 2002 Italian book Le menzogne dell'impero e altre tristi veritą, another small collection of Vidal's writings, opening with the Observer essay. That book - its title means "the mendacities of empire and other sad truths" - explores "why the Bush-Cheney petroleum junta wants war with Iraq." It contains 10 political essays selected from The Last Empire, a diverse hardcover essay collection published in May 2001, along with the essay on Sept. 11 from The Observer. The lead essay in Dreaming War has also been translated into Swedish and published in a magazine by the same company that issued a Swedish translation of Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace and Dreaming War, together in one volume, early in 2004. A joint Bulgarian translation was published in 2003. (And here's another place to read The Enemy Within in English, with footnotes and annotations.)

For Dreaming War, Vidal retitles the Observer essay "Goat Song: Unanswered Questions - Before, During, and After 9/11" and follows it with another original piece: a short jeremiad against Louis Menand and his October 2002 piece in The New Yorker in which Menand dissected and criticized Vidal's and Noam Chomsky's books on the Sept. 11 attacks. Naturally, Vidal sets Menand straight and charges that Menand misrepresented and misunderstood his position. The rest of Dreaming War reprints seven political essays from The Last Empire and three essays published in journals since The Last Empire appeared in 2001. It closes with a 15-page interview with Vidal conducted by Marc Cooper.

Spain, 2003
Greece, 2003
Much of Vidal's viewpoint on Sept. 11, and the subsequent war in Iraq, spring from his long-held views that America should not interfere in the affairs of other nations. His long-dead grandfather, Sen. Thomas Gore, D-Okla., was just such an isolationist (in Vidal view, anti-imperialist), and so the grandson carried on a family ideological tradition that, one might say, skipped a generation (Vidal's father worked in the Roosevelt administration).

On a Feb. 6, 2003, appearance on CNN, Vidal quoted John Adams to explain his view of international affairs and his opposition to the brewing war in Iraq. In the 1820s, Adams was asked whether the United States should join with some European powers in getting the Turks to free the Greeks. According to Vidal, the then-former president replied: "The United States goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is a well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. If the United States took up all foreign affairs, it would become entangled in all the wars of interest and intrigue, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own soul."

In a brief "Note" at the start of Dreaming War, Vidal declares himself to be trading in a literary form that's new to him: the pamphlet, which he calls "the oldest form of American political discourse." Thus he dedicates the book to Publius - the pseudonym under which Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay published the numerous Federalist papers - and he even includes Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace in the genre, along with two short collections of related essays he had published earlier: The Decline and Fall of the American Empire (1992), and The American Presidency (1998). His latest pamphlet - actually, it's a full-fledged original book - is Inventing a Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, a look at the creation of our republic, published in 2003 by Yale University Press.

FEATURED PAGE: A slide show of book covers

Vidal's provocative 2001 essay on Sept. 11 - the essay that leads Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace - has a now-storied history in the U.S. and the publishing world. He wrote the piece for Vanity Fair in the weeks after the attack, and it immediately created even more controversy for him than his involvement with Timothy McVeigh. After the magazine declined to print it, Vidal's Italian publisher, Fazi Editore, issued La fine della libertą: Verso un nuovo totalitarismo?, a collection of four essays - including the essay on Sept. 11 - that reflect upon what Vidal sees as America's loss of basic liberties and constitutional freedoms. The Italian title means "the end of liberty: toward a new totalitarianism." The material in this book, and a bit more, eventually morphed into Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace - a trade paperback, issued by a small independent publishing firm, that became a surprise bestseller across the U.S. and sold more than 100,000 copies, despite a dearth of press attention and numerous damning reviews.

U.S., 2002
U.K., 2002
The Italian book was subsequently translated into French as La Fin de la liberté: Vers un nouveau totalitarisme?, into German as Ewiger Krieg für ewigen Frieden, and into Norwegian as Evig krig for Evig fred - in all case with some material from Perpetual War added. The essays on Sept. 11 and McVeigh also appear in El Śltimo Imperio: Ensayos 1992-2001, a Spanish translation of The Last Empire. The Norwegian, translation, by the way, is Vidal's first publication in that langauge since 1947. There are also Greek, Bulgarian, Russian, Croatian, Swedish, Arabic, Spanish, Brazilian and Dutch translations of either Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace or Dreaming War.

Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, published in March 2002 by Nation Books, is an expanded version of La fine della libertą that contains all of the essays from the Italian book along with a few other short pieces of related writing and an introduction that reflects on post-Sept. 11 censorship. Its title comes from a term coined in 1947 by the American historian Charles A. Beard.

Italy, 2002
Germany, 2003
After publishing the book, Vidal made a limited speaking tour, with stops in San Francisco and Los Angeles, to discuss his views. One such appearance, sponsored by the Independent Institute of San Francisco, was well received by a sold-out audience. The Institute is selling full transcripts as well as audio and video tapes of the event, which took place on the evening of April 18, 2002. Around the time of this appearance, Vidal also wrote an op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle discussing the ideas he presents in the book.

"We consumers don't need to be told the why of anything," Vidal writes in the book. "Certainly those of us who are in the why-business have a difficult time in getting through the corporate-sponsored American media, so I thought it useful to describe here the various provocations on our side that drove both bin Laden and McVeigh to such terrible acts." And he adds: "The awesome physical damage Osama and company did us is as nothing compared to the knock-out blow to our vanishing liberties."

U.S., 2001
U.K., 2002

Here's what you'll find in Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace:

In his five-page introduction, Vidal discusses the history of his unpublished Vanity Fair piece and quotes from a piece by Arno J. Mayer that The Nation declined to publish. The Mayer essay speaks of the United States' history of "preemptive state terror" in the Third World since World War II.

Next comes the essay September 11, 2001 (A Tuesday), the piece originally written for Vanity Fair. Here Vidal discusses at length the implications of what happened to the World Trade Center on the 21st Century's first day of infamy. The essay ends with a 20-page chart detailing American military operations around the world from 1949 to the present. This essay is the full version of the one printed in The Guardian.

Vidal calls the second section of the book How I Became Interested in Timothy McVeigh and Vice Versa. This begins with a brief introduction about his relationship with McVeigh and then presents two essays: The Shredding of the Bill of Rights, which appeared in the November 1998 issue of Vanity Fair under the title The War at Home; and The Meaning Timothy McVeigh, which appeared in the September 2001 issue of the magazine.

A conservative organization issued the "Deck of Weasels" playing cards, with images of people who opposed the war. Vidal, the king of clubs, is quoted as saying, "I don't see us winning the war. We have made enemies of 1 billion Muslims."

The book's third section, Fallout, contains a very brief introduction to a copy of Vidal's Aug. 27, 2001, letter to FBI director-designate Robert S. Mueller III. The letter chides Mueller with evidence that Timothy McVeigh did not act alone in bombing the Murrah building in Oklahoma City. "Now that McVeigh has already been injected into a better world," he writes in the letter, "I am sure that the bureau's choice of explanation to my inquiry will be a difficult one." He goes on to ask whether the FBI merely conducted an incompetent investigation, or whether the bureau knowingly withheld evidence. He then presents a 10-point Bill of Rights written by McVeigh on May 28, 2001.

The last two sections of the book present two more of Vidal's previously published essays: The New Theocrats, reprinted from a 1997 issue of The Nation, in which he discusses a moralizing conservatism that breeds an "old-fashioned American stupidity where a religion-besotted majority is cynically egged on by a ruling establishment"; and A Letter To Be Delivered - reprinted from Vanity Fair, and written on Nov. 7, 2000 - in which he writes an open letter to the soon-to-be-elected president. To this final piece he adds a preface and a footnote - written "a dozen days before the inauguration of the loser of the 2000 presidential election" - that sees the Bush-Cheney presidency as one of "a powerless Mikado ruled by a shogun vice president and his Pentagon counselors."

Much of the material in Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace appears in The Last Empire, Vidal's 2001 essay collection. So there's really very little new Vidalian content in Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace or La fine della libertą that you couldn't already get at a library, although the publication of the essay about Sept. 11 in Perpetual War, and the material relating to it, is clearly very significant.

U.K., 2002
Spain, 2002
In mid-September 2001, as Vidal was writing what would become the book's lead essay, an early version of it appeared in an on-line publication in Brazil, and that Portuguese-language piece was subsequently translated into Spanish and published on the internet by a Mexican newspaper. Below are links to both of those pieces (in Portuguese and Spanish, of course).

In addition to its presence in Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, Vidal's Sept. 11 essay appears in a British paperback edition of The Last Empire. The British book, which also contains a few other essays that didn't appear in the U.S. Last Empire, retitles the Sept. 11 essay Black Tuesday and also includes Vidal's September 2001 Vanity Fair essay on McVeigh. American readers can order this book from any of a number of online U.K. internet booksellers. And a small British press has even issued the whole of Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace in a handsome U.K. edition, even though all of its essays appear in the U.K. edition of The Last Empire.

You can read about La fine della libertą in Italian at the site of its publisher, Fazi Editore. And if your computer has Adobe Acrobat Reader, you can read a portion of the first chapter of the book in Italian in the PDF format.

Finally, in addition to the links above, here are some further internet resources I can offer in which Vidal shares his views on the Sept. 11 attack and related matters:

This February 2003 interview appeared in a Spanish newspaper and was reprinted in newspapers in Cuba and Venezuela.

An Egyptian literary magazine, Al-Kotob Weghat Nazar, has published an Arabic translation of the primary essay in Dreaming War. The magazine's web site displays the cover of the issue as well as a teaser about the translation, which the site allows you to view or order if you register.

FEATURED PAGE: A slide show of book covers

Vidal wrote We Are the Patriots for The Nation in June 2003. This site also reprints the essay. And here is the piece in PDF format.

Did Bush know the attack would happen? Vidal published his incendiary essay The Enemy Within in the Oct. 27, 2002, issue of The Observer. Here's another site that has reprinted the essay. Here's an article in The Guardian about the essay. And here's a piece from the The New York Observer by a conservative writer who dissects and criticizes Vidal's essay.

Listen to a May 2003 interview in which Vidal discusses Iraq and Korea, as well as his two books related to Sept. 11. Here's the same intereview, just slightly longer, on a site run by The Nation.

Here is my own essay on Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace.

In this long interview from Salon, Vidal discusses Sept. 11 matters.

If you have RealPlayer technology, you can listen to Vidal discuss his book on Sept. 11 (click on "listen to the entire program")

Here are links to two Sept. 11 discussions between Vidal, Dinesh D'Souza and Robert Higgins (with video clips).

This web site reviews the book and examines Vidal's point of view.

On a relatred matter, Vidal discusses Inventing a Nation, his new book on the Founding Father, in a November 2003 interview on NPR. And here's a print interview on the book from L.A. Weekly

Vidal's comments on the World Trade Center attacks appeared in Portuguese a few days after the event when he shared his views with a Brazilian publication. Those comments were then translated into Spanish and published in the Mexican newspaper La Jornada. Vidal later revised and expanded these early remarks for the Vanity Fair piece. The remarks now appear as the first chapter of both Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace and La fine della libertą.

An Indian scholar, Jayanto Ghosh, has translated Vidal's 2001 essay on the World Trade Center attack into Bengali and hopes to publish it soon in an Indian journal. In the meantime, he has provided The Gore Vidal Index with the first 100 words of his translation. This is the first known translation of Vidal into Bengali.

Here's Vidal's Sept. 11 essay in Russian

This is Vidal's essay We Are the Patriots in Russian

Read Paul McLeary's review of the book.

Here's a September 2002 piece from La Repubblica magazine, in Italian, in which Vidal reviews The War on Freedom by Nafeez Ahmed.

Vidal joined 120 other people, including Howard Zinn, Alan Sokal and Helen Caldicott, in writing and signing a letter "To Our Friends in Europe." The letter discusses their views on Sept. 11 and U.S. foreign policy. You can read the letter in French at this site. It also appeared in a German newspaper. And here's an article in English about the letter.

Vidal discusses issues related to Sept. 11 in this July 2002 interview from L.A. Weekly.

See and hear Vidal discuss Sept. 11 on Norwegian television.

Vidal gave an interview to Australian TV on March 12, 2003. You can also watch the entire 17-minute interview in Real Player format.

Vidal discusses Sept. 11 in these three clips from a BBC interview.

In February 2003, Vidal gave an interview to a Boston radio station on the impending war.

Another short interview piece in the U.K.'s Guardian includes comments on Sept. 11.

In a piece from Reuters, Vidal blasts the U.S. for its international policies.

If you have RealPlayer, here's an interview on Italian radio in English and Italian.

Another RealPlayer clip - this one in English - of an interview on the BBC.

On a related matter, here's a list of articles that examine Vidal's involvement in the Timothy McVeigh case. His views on McVeigh were almost as controversial as his views on Sept. 11.

Finally, I would appreciating hearing from anyone who can offer links to any more of Vidal's comments on the World Trade Center attack or its aftermath. And if you came directly to this page, please visit The Gore Vidal Index.

©Copyright 2005 by
Harry Kloman
University of Pittsburgh