Could the US become a police state?
"The USA is a police state today"
Mr. Vidal, did you also take out the atlas and look up where Kosovo is, as President Bill Clinton recommended to your compatriots when he announced the war against Yugoslavia on television?
Gore Vidal: That was really a memorable moment. As a good populist, Bill Clinton hesitated when he came up with the word "atlas" because most Americans have no idea what the word means, much less that they own an atlas. Yugoslavia is the ancient Roman province of Illyria. My novel Julian is set there. In the doctrine later named after him, President Harry Truman defined United States policy in 1947 as the intent to support free peoples who oppose attempted subjugation by armed minorities. Following this doctrine, the USA should immediately rush to the aid of the Serbs oppressed by the KLA. The whole Truman Doctrine was lying. Supposedly we wanted to help every country to have good government, freedom and democracy. But from the start it only served to justify our powerful military establishment. We spend more on armaments than all the countries in the western world put together, and that requires good enemies. This is how the "enemy of the moment" was invented. As with McDonald's, a different one is singled out every month. To do this, we have to keep getting our atlas out. Once it's Noriega, then Gaddhafi, then Saddam Hussein. I don't see what can be objected to this gentleman: He would have sold us the oil at a reasonable price, because that's what he was in business for after all. And this month the enemy happens to be Slobodan Milosevic.
In any case, Milosevic is not known as an ardent supporter of the American constitution.
So what? It would be nice if the whole world lived in peace and everyone behaved properly, but they just don't. The Truman Doctrine clearly states what the US has been about since World War II: Gaining control of the entire earth. But the Americans are reluctant to play the role of world policeman. This terrible ambition only torments the leaders of the state. Americans have been mostly happy isolationists in the past. They don't want to get involved in armed conflicts, but prefer to stay at home, want to earn a lot of money and eat their excess weight in peace. But then it is a mystery to me how this war can be waged against the will of the majority. One of the smartest things the right could do was abolish conscription after the Vietnam War. Such a campaign could not be carried out with conscripts. They may have mothers and fathers who are rich and powerful and who say: My son is not going to fly over Kosovo for you, you idiots! That is why the American army is recruited from the poor, with white and black alike. This mercenary army is well paid. An important clause in the employment contract is: We do not want any wounded or dead. It works really well. Even for this it takes a huge amount of lies, staged as a disinformation campaign by the CIA, so that crises are kept simmering. Television makes things easier: it provides wonderful images of blond, blue-eyed people being tortured and driven from their villages and slaughtered. This creates a wonderfully sentimental climate.
But the refugees really do exist ..
.. and of course Milosevic is angry. But there are many bad guys in the world. There are far worse fellows in Sudan. So why don't we go to war with Sudan? Because the people there don't look so good, and because Americans hate all blacks anyway.
After all, there was a minor military action last year when Bill Clinton bombed this factory in Sudan.
Yes, they wanted to cut off the poor Sudanese from their aspirin supplies.
Where does this American sense of mission come from?
We had shaken off the colonial rule of the British and we had the best and also democratic system. We were the biblical "city on the hill". This vanity finally led us to Vietnam, and it is with the same vanity that we now fly our missions over Kosovo and Belgrade.
You were a soldier yourself. Would you have obeyed a convocation in such a situation?
If my country were attacked, I would of course defend it. Incidentally, I volunteered in World War II, it was a matter of honor. If the order came today to interfere in an uprising in Yugoslavia, I would run off to Canada immediately. During the Vietnam War, I advised thousands of young men to get out of the US as soon as possible and avoid military service.
Did you advise a political science student by the name of William Jefferson Clinton on this matter at the time?
We would have been on the same wavelength. That letter to the conscription office explaining why Clinton was against the Vietnam War was pretty much the only noble act of his life.
Then why is he playing the warlord today?
Out of selfishness, but he doesn't know what he wants. Does anyone even know?
Your father was aviation minister in Franklin D. Roosevelt's cabinet, so perhaps you know more: Who came up with this glorious idea with the air strikes against Yugoslavia?
Of course the whole operation is insane. A consequence of the sad fact that there are no more politics in our country. What is the reason for this war anyway? The military budget has to be justified, that's a good reason. A little war is always good for business. He casually reminds Europeans who the boss is in the company. I am surprised that the Germans are so naive that they don't even notice what we're doing. Do you seriously believe that we hate Milosevic, that he is a villain for us? Well, he's probably a bad guy, but we have our own bad guys. Our rulers attack innocent people from the air. This is just as bad as anything Milosevic does. Yes, Milosevic at least detests the people he kills while we don't even know our victims. Carter's security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote a letter to Washington, the president would like to send ground troops to Kosovo immediately. Then the reservists would have to be called up and suddenly sent from Iowa to Europe to fight in Macedonia. There would be very good reasons for that, and the reservists would not want to go out. A revolt threatened. But there has never been a revolution in the United States. Which doesn't mean there will never be one.
But you yourself say that people are busy earning a lot of money and eating fat and round.
But four fifths of all Americans don't make any real money. They have mini-jobs that no European would be fobbed off with. Americans are always pretended to be doing so well economically. Unfortunately, this is not true: the average American couple in a double-earner household now earns as much as the husband alone in 1973. Only ten percent of all workers are represented by a union, the rest is at the mercy of the employer. So the workers keep falling behind and work in a way that Europeans can no longer imagine. This is why German bankers are so enthusiastic about the American model: there is almost no vacation, the wages are modest, and yet one pays comparatively high taxes. After all, our miracle weapons have their price. I cannot understand the peace of mind with which European workers allow themselves to be cheated of their privileges in the name of supposedly economic needs.
Don't you sometimes regret that you haven't pursued your political career? Perhaps you would be the next Democratic candidate today instead of your cousin Al Gore.
But that would be impossible. Why then? Because I reject the whole system. It's corrupt through and through. An example: The term of office in the Senate is six years. During these six years you have to collect $ 10,000 week after week to have enough money at the end of the election period for the next election campaign. But you only get money from people for whom you are willing to do something. We do not have a representative democracy. Whoever is elected to Congress does not represent California or West Virginia, but General Motors or Boeing. Everyone knows this, and people have gotten used to it. Like the daily war on television. One or the other hero would do well. As soon as ground troops are sent to Europe - and I don't think Clinton would dare do that - many bodies come back. Then a violent tremor would go through the country: Nobody wanted the war, nobody knows what kind of war it is, where it is taking place, what it is actually about. As long as none of our people are injured and the war is limited to throwing bombs at strangers, the people don't really care. But ground troops could finally tear the USA apart. After all, we would then also be rid of our system of government and the system of economic conglomerates as well.
The actor Charlton Heston, for whom you once wrote the film Ben Hur, has not given up politics. As spokesman for the National Rifle Association, he's more successful than you.
The recent successes of his politics were seen in Littleton High School. Heston's no more influence than me, he's just a voice. Charlton Heston sells things, in his case guns. Of course, the sad story of Colorado also has to do with the fact that parents no longer have time for their children because they earn money. No wonder they go nuts. Also at my instigation, Charlton Heston and the National Rifle Association will soon be brought to justice for incitement to violence. But the gun lobby is the most powerful in the United States.
Why is there nothing left of the civil rights movement, of the spirit of the sixties, in the USA?
A not very small part of the population is in prison, which also improves the unemployment statistics. The blacks have been looked after most successfully and they have all been locked in jail. The fun isn't just about finally seeing her behind bars, there are also a few opaque electoral laws that come to the rescue: Anyone who has ever been in prison loses the right to vote. After about half of all black men between fourteen and thirty are in prison or have only been released on parole, an entire section of the population lives without civil rights. So she is also out of the question for the election. Another control option is of course the so-called "war on drugs". So you have the youth under control. And finally there is the secret police. The US is now a police state.
But still harmless compared to the monitoring options offered by mandatory reporting in Germany.
We didn't expect anything else from the Europeans. We Americans have our Bill of Rights to defend or have almost lost. A man who did commercials for General Electric for twenty years one day became President of the United States and did what he did best in his new office - commercials for General Motors. You know who I mean - Ronald Reagan. The presenters may change, but the corporate advertising remains the same. Richard Nixon wasn't stupid when he said that the US didn't need a government for domestic policy. Of course, they urgently need one, if not from his point of view. The country rules itself. Nixon meant that the corporations in the country also run the country's business. And this business is about nothing other than money. You only need the president for foreign policy. A clever Demgoge could easily dismantle this corporate cosa nostra.
If there is an economic cosa nostra in America, then make Bill Clinton capo di capi.
Oh, he's just a small employee. It doesn't depend on the president. They can do some mischief in foreign policy, as they do now in Kosovo, but not internally. The American president may be important to the Serbs, but not to the Americans. Corporate America has its attorneys in charge of their interests in Congress and in government. They are well paid for this; the donations for the election campaign do the rest. The Clintons were naive at first. They believed they could give us something we urgently needed, which was general health insurance. But they were quickly taught otherwise. The conglomerate ITT owns Hartford Life, among others, which do the life insurance business. Hartford Life has absolutely no interest in government health insurance, of course, and that's why we don't have any in the United States. Off, amen. The Clintons, however, were literally destroyed. That didn't quite work out in the elections, but their reputation is permanently damaged. The Clinton impeachment last year was a warning: This is what happens to anyone who does not want to obey.
Southgerman newspaper 02.06.1999
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