Gore Vidal is A Disgrace to Historians Everywhere

by | Mar 3, 2003

Gore Vidal, famous historian and author, has a new book out. Its title explains not only everything that is wrong with Gore Vidal, but also everything that is wrong with the field of history today. The title is, Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta. I expect things like this from communists on […]

Gore Vidal, famous historian and author, has a new book out. Its title explains not only everything that is wrong with Gore Vidal, but also everything that is wrong with the field of history today. The title is, Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta.

I expect things like this from communists on the streets whose memory only goes back a year and a half, except when it comes to selected instances in Latin American history. But Gore Vidal is supposedly a historian of some repute, what is he doing?

However, it seems that my own knowledge of Gore Vidal is incomplete. After all it was Gore Vidal who once said, “In writing and politicking, it’s best not to think about it, just do it.” And it is clear that Mr. Vidal has not put any thought into his new book.

To quote from this enlightening book (it enlightens the dark space in between Mr. Vidal’s ears), he says, “[The government] plays off Americans’ relative innocence, or ignorance to be more precise. This is probably why geography has not really been taught since World War II — to keep people in the dark as to where we are blowing things up. Because Enron wants to blow them up. Or Unocal, the great pipeline company, wants a war going some place.” (pg. 186) This quote sounds entirely rational, if one lives in a parallel universe perhaps. Geography is taught in schools, I went to public schools almost my entire life and I can easily point out most countries on the map (except the small ones like Liechtenstein). And why does Enron want things blown up? Enron was just trying to inflate their stock price, what possible interest could they have had in seeing things half a world away blown up?

Vidal appeared on the CNN program “Crossfire” on the 26th of February, where he said, in response to a question from Tucker Carlson, “Unocal, Union Oil of California, had a contract when the Taliban were governing there, and we had put them there originally to fight the Russians. They then went crazy on us and it was impossible for Unocal to build a pipeline to get the Caspian oil out of all those little countries that end in the word “stan” — Uzbekistan and so on.” We put the Taliban in place? The Taliban was a faction that emerged after the United States abandoned the country when the Soviets pulled out. Leftists like Vidal had been slamming the US government for leaving a power vacuum in Afghanistan, which the Taliban filled. Now the criticism is that the US government actually put the Taliban in place, and they “went crazy” on us? I’m starting to think that the Taliban aren’t the only ones that went crazy.

As a history major this kind of crummy scholarship and irrational thought is insulting not only to my own reasoning faculties, but also to the entire profession I wish to enter. That could all change of course if historians point out to Mr. Vidal that he should perhaps try using a little logic and maybe (and this is just a possibility) a few facts, and perhaps (and I know this is asking a lot) a little historical knowledge. But the whole profession has seemingly slipped into the same abyss that now resides within Mr. Vidal’s cranium.

Now to this assertion that the war on terrorism is being used to screen for an oil grab. Never have I heard such a ridiculous claim so seriously proposed. There are over 100,000 troops in or around Kuwait, a country with vast oil reserves and relatively no army, certainly nothing that could contend with even a fraction of what is already in the country. Why aren’t we taking this oil? Or how about its repressive neighbor to the Southwest; Saudi Arabia (HAHA! I know my geography Mr. Vidal; now if you can learn your history all will be right with the world)? That country has more oil that any other in the region and a military not worth mentioning (I’ve seen it by the way, having lived there.) So why don’t we just conquer Saudi Arabia? It would certainly be much less risky than attacking Iraq, a country with Weapons of Mass Destruction, which Iraq could use on our troops. Or, here’s a weird option, perhaps we could drill our own oil. There is plenty of oil in the United States that is being unconstitutionally restricted from use, it would be less pricey to get such restrictions lifted than invade a country and get people killed.

To buy the “Blood for Oil” theory (as some of my colleagues on the opinion page have) you have to ignore the inconvenient facts that Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Yemen, and Oman could be taken over for much less cost than Iraq (especially because they are surrounded by water) and yield much more oil than Iraq. Ignoring this and then attributing the worst of humanity to George W. Bush and everyone else in the administration, not to mention the 60+ percent of people who agree with them. Then and only then this theory may start to make sense. I’m not a giant fan of Bush, but I in no way think he is willing to get thousands of people killed for oil, a non-problem for the United States anyway since we get most of our oil from countries not in the Middle East. Plus, seeing as Bush is a politician, would he risk a serious backlash (which would occur if the war was run poorly or it was discovered he did it for oil) for something no one would attribute to him anyway? When’s the last time you voted on a candidate because of what you were paying at the pump? Will the pro-choice people vote for Bush if they pay less than a dollar at the pump? Will the environmentalists vote for Bush if their Hippie-vans don’t cost as much to fill up? I seriously doubt it.

The real questions should be, “Is the black hole in Gore Vidal’s head a clear and present danger to the rest of us? If so, should we bomb it?” I’m leaning towards “Yes” on both counts.

Alexander Marriott is currently a graduate student of the early republic at Clark University in Worcester, MA. He earned his B.A. in history in 2004 from the University of Nevada - Las Vegas, where he was an Op-Ed columnist for the UNLV Rebel Yell. Marriott grew up in Chicago and lived in Saudi Arabia for four and a half years and has resided in Las Vegas since 1996.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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