Gore Vidal: Iran next, then who?

George Bush's apparent desire to create a state of perpetual war spells disaster

The Independent

23 January 2005

Last week, courtesy of Seymour Hersh and The New Yorker, we learned that a long-held prediction of mine had come true. American forces have been operating inside Iran, thus extending yet further the President's "war on terror".

There is no war, other than the one the President unilaterally is waging against a weak Congress and weak countries with oil. It's true that Congress has given the President certain unusual powers, but as only Congress has the constitutional power to declare war, he is not, as he keeps yapping, a wartime president. Hence his conviction that he can lock anyone up, foreigner or native, and send them off to Guantanamo without due process of law.

This is simply a Bush war. It has nothing to do with the American people. And we were not in danger from weapons of mass destruction. The danger is an Administration that has fallen in love with war because of the special powers war gives the Administration to rid itself of the Bill of Rights and lock up dissenters. We've had some scary times in the past but nothing to compare with this. So what do we have to look forward to?

A disaster, in short. Iran/Persia represents a brilliant culture, one of the greatest the planet has ever known. They do have atomic weapons, and that is why our rulers are pretending that they are longing to blow us up - because we have liberty and freedom and democracy and are so prosperous. (None of these things do we actually have, but this is the official line that we are asked to believe.)

The Iranians have a lot of oil, of course, and a lot of enemies among the neocons, who have pretty much taken over the Pentagon. The President doesn't seem to understand what is happening, but if he does he's seriously culpable. So here we are, in the middle of the unfinished Iraq tragedy, and the President, in his inaugural address, is serenely declaring war on the rest of the world. Instead of talking about how the hell we get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, we are talking about going into Iran.

Here we are headed for absolute disaster, yet the American public has no weapons left, legally. If an American citizen were really in trouble - I ask in all seriousness - to whom would he turn? He can't go to his Congressman, because he's helping out GM or whoever paid for his election. He can't turn to the executive branch, because they now run concentration camps and don't like dissent. The courts are pretty expensive and the higher courts are, shall we say, not on our side.

No one has explained why, if Saddam Hussein had all these weapons - which he did not have - why he would have wanted to blow us up. We know why Osama bin Laden hit us. He sent us a lot of unpleasant letters and wrote a long list of things saying why, for religious reasons. He is a religious zealot. And he was doing a religious job. We're doing a job for the oil and gas business. They're the people who are making a lot of money out of all this. Heaven knows how it will end, but we, the American people, are going to be the losers.

Symbolically, it's interesting that regions of the US are rejecting Darwin and evolution. I can see why. We have a substantial minority in the US that hasn't advanced much beyond the baboon. These ignorant folk are full of hatred, which is why they are currently rejecting evolution and going back to the stone age with torture, killing innocent people, attacking countries that have done us no harm. This is insupportable.

In a recent TV programme that we lucky Americans were shown of previous inaugural addresses, our former President Franklin D Roosevelt spoke of Social Security, something he invented for us. Yet his successor, Harry Truman, starts talking about a terrible enemy. In effect, he is starting the Cold War. Roosevelt had made certain arrangements with Stalin and the USSR, which could have kept the world quite peaceful and avoided the Cold War, but Truman was having none of it. He had been convinced by certain people who had made a lot of money out of the war that we should be forever armed, in order to wage perpetual war for perpetual peace.

So there we are, on top of the world, militarily and economically. We have the atomic bomb, and here is Harry Truman saying in 1948 that we've got to watch out there - there's this godless nation intent on world conquest.

But the Russians didn't want anything very much then, except to recover the 20 million people they had lost in the Second World War. They weren't going anywhere at that time, but we saw to it that over time they became frightened and heavily armed. We made them active enemies, and we've been creating enemies ever since. Now we are going to take on one billion Muslims. Brilliant. One billion people who will really deeply and truly hate us. And it will take several generations for us to bring them around, if possible.

George Bush doesn't compare with previous presidents. He doesn't come from any established system that we've ever tried before. He wasn't elected the first time and perhaps not truly the second time. Certainly, he was not elected on any issues, like the morality of the war or the wisdom of the war, or the techniques that we used in waging that war.

I would have thought that, at the moment since about 56 per cent of the people think we should never have gone to war with Iraq and those numbers were indeed rising as we approached the election, we would have voted against this President. Instead of talking about the war, we were talking about abortion and homosexual marriage. What great topics to be discussing for a great people on the march with atomic weapons! There was so much else to talk about, but neither Bush nor John Kerry were going to do so because they both approved of the war, and their advisers - or certainly Kerry's - had told them to do so. No wonder people don't care to vote. They seldom have much to vote for. But often a lot to vote against.

There was a huge, unrepresented anti-war party at the last election. We, as a people, have generally believed in minding our own business, not in attacking other countries - "enough to do at home" and all that. But we now have a government that is not remotely a democracy but we're trying to export it elsewhere. I suppose that on the ground democracy is a nice word. We treat it like ketchup. Put it on everything. We're bringing it to Iraq, we say.

The result, once more, is perpetual war for perpetual peace. The spirit of Harry Truman marches on. After war with Iran, who's next? Russia? Or someone else? God help us if we make China angry. There are a great many more of them than of us.

This war will end in our defeat, and that is why I want us to get out of it as soon as possible. I want us to try and bring the troops home and try and invent a more realistic education system because I am convinced that democracy, too, may one day come to the US, and I want us to be alive to celebrate it.