The talented novelist revealed himself as a first-rank crank. Vidal capitalized in the wake of 9/11 by penning a series of quickie books. In 2002’s Perpetual Peace for Perpetual War: How We Got to Be So Hated, he imagined Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh—whose execution Vidal had missed despite an invitation by the guest of dishonor—as a patsy at worst and a patriot at best. “Evidence, however, is overwhelming that there was a plot involving militia types and government infiltrators—who knows?—as prime movers to create panic in order to get Clinton to sign that infamous Anti-Terrorism Act,” he claimed. The FBI’s disinterest in these alternative scenarios, Vidal reasoned, “smacks of treason.”
In 2002’s follow-up Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta, the author cast doubt on Osama bin Laden’s role in planning the World Trade Center/Pentagon attacks and portrayed the events of 9/11 as a whodunit mystery. He was not agnostic on all things 9/11. “As it proved, the conquest of Afghanistan had nothing to do with Osama,” the septuagenarian scribe contended. “He was simply a pretext for replacing the Taliban with a relatively stable government that would allow Union Oil of California to lay its pipeline for the profit of, among others, the Cheney-Bush junta.” More than a decade after the U.S. invasion, neither a pipeline nor the plans for one exists.
As demonstrated by Burr, Lincoln, and 1876, Vidal excelled at recasting historical events in the novel form. He faltered when he tried to pass off his active imagination as nonfiction. The failed politician’s critique of his country came from a place of snobbery rather than envy. Unlike, say, a Howard Zinn or a Michael Moore, whose anti-Americanism came reflexively as a result of ideology, Vidal professed so much love for the Old Republic that it left him with so little for the actual America before him. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
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