Writer, critic, actor, activist, politician. Gore Vidal, one of America’s last great intellects, a man of profound ability and caustic wit, died Wednesday at age 86. Arguably as famous for his acerbic tongue as for his writing, Vidal was not known for pulling his punches when it came to politics, writing, sex, America… well just about anything.
American foreign policy was no exception. Vidal would deliver critiques on topics including the War on Terror, American imperialism, and the Bush administration that were both biting and wise, not to mention very funny. The following are 12 of his best on issues of foreign policy. Like his acuity, the list is exhaustive.
On freedom and democracy
"In almost every case [where the United States has fought wars] our overwhelming commitment to freedom, democracy and human rights has required us to support those regimes that would deny freedom, democracy and human rights to their own people.”
"Didn't George Washington say, 'He who controls Afghanistan will carry New Jersey?'''
On US memory
“We are permanently the United States of Amnesia. We learn nothing because we remember nothing.”
On the War on Terror
“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 says we are at war on terror, but that is a metaphor, though I doubt if he knows what that means. It's like having a war on dandruff, it's endless and pointless.”
“Now you have people in Washington who have no interest in the country at all. They're interested in their companies, their corporations grabbing Caspian oil.”
“On 16 September 1985, when the Commerce Department announced that the United States had become a debtor nation, the American Empire died.”
On US leadership
“The average ‘educated’ American has been made to believe that, somehow, the United States must lead the world even though hardly anyone has any information at all about those countries we are meant to lead. Worse, we have very little information about our own country and its past.”
On the Earth
“Think of the earth as a living organism that is being attacked by billions of bacteria whose numbers double every forty years. Either the host dies, or the virus does, or both die.”
On US democracy
“We should stop going around babbling about how we're the greatest democracy on earth, when we're not even a democracy. We are a sort of militarised republic.”
"When the white race broke out of Europe years ago, it did many astounding things all over the globe. Inspired by a raging sky-god, the whites were able to pretend that their conquests were in order to bring the One God to everyone, particularly those with older and subtler religions."
On Muslim relations
“I don’t see us winning the war. We have made enemies of one billion Muslims.”
On government secrecy
"Our rulers for more than half a century have made sure that we are never to he told the truth about anything that our government has done to other people."