My first encounter with Gore Vidal was in 1988, when he spoke to the annual convention of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee. The topic was the American national security state...At the time I wasn’t particularly taken by what he said.
In retrospect, Vidal was ultimately correct about the perverse nature of American power. It could lead to laudable actions, such as the removal from office of a mass murderer like Saddam Hussein, in the face of protests from an international community that never worked up nearly the same outrage when the Iraqi leader slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people. However, more troubling is how the blunt instruments of the American state, as well as of myriad American private institutions, have acquired tremendous authority over the individual, both at home and abroad, repeatedly violating America’s constitutional principles such as due process, the right to privacy, and countless other freedoms.