The US Soldier behind the Oklahoma City Bombing Has Sympathizers in Today's GOP
April 18, 2015
The Associated Press & The Miami Herald
On the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, most of the US media attention was directed at the shocking damage and the human toll. Little mention was made of the man behind the bombing -- a former Army sergeant and decorated Gulf War veteran radicalized by his anger over the government's mass-murder of 74 men, women and children at Waco, Texas. Even less attention was paid to the similarity between McVeigh's anti-government sentiments and the rhetoric of today's GOP.
McVeigh Regarded Bombing that
Killed 168 People a 'Failure'
The Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (April 17, 2015) -- Timothy McVeigh considered the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building 20 years ago somewhat of a failure, viewed himself as a "Paul Revere-type messenger" and even suggested his defense team should receive $800,000 from the government, according to an archive of documents donated by the convicted bomber's lead attorney.
The estimated 1 million pages of paper documents from Stephen Jones now fill 550 file cabinet-sized boxes at the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas, where the Enid, Oklahoma, attorney received his undergraduate degree. The trove, delivered to the school in three phases since 1998, only became fully organized late last year.
It includes a confidential report from a polygraph examiner, who wrote that McVeigh had wanted to 'take out' the Murrah Building on April 19, 1995. Although the blast killed 168 people, including 19 children, the examiner concluded that "In McVeigh's mind, he believed that he had definitely screwed up because he left the building still standing."
McVeigh was executed by injection in 2001 at age 33. Co-conspirator Terry Nichols was convicted separately and sentenced to life in prison.
Even as he stood accused of orchestrating what until the Sept. 11 attacks was considered the deadliest act of terrorism on U.S. soil, McVeigh appeared to be driven by profit and thought his attorneys should be entitled to "$800,000 (after fees, taxes)."
"If I'm gonna die anyway, I want to make some money. Not for me, but to try to make up for what my family has been put thru, as well as to shell out some 'bonuses' to my legal team.," he wrote in one note to his defense team included in the archive.
In another, he doodled a tank ramming a house and wrote: "This is the FBI! … Send out your women and children. We know you're in there and we know you have Bibles and a copy of the Constitution!"
The collection also includes a copy of a published cartoon showing 11 jurors frowning and one smiling, with an arrow pointing to her and the note: "My choice, potential juror."
Don Carleton, executive director of the museum, said Jones wasn't comfortable putting the material at an Oklahoma institution "because the feelings were so raw" and his fears the collection could be perceived as "almost a shrine" to the convicted bomber.
"It's been a difficult collection to figure out how to let people know we have it available for research," Carleton said. "You don't want to promote it. That's not the right word. You don't want to publicize it without coming across as being somewhat celebratory. It's almost like Holocaust records. You've got a whole bunch of people who are rightly so sensitive to this."
Besides the handwritten notes from McVeigh, the defense case files include reports of investigations, news stories, photos, recordings and trial exhibits.
In 2001, Jones published a book suggesting McVeigh and Nichols could not have been alone in carrying out the bombing, McVeigh denied any knowledge of another collaborator, or presence of an accomplice who became known in the case as John Doe No. 2. But the polygraph examiner, Tim Domgard, wrote there were "indications of deception" in McVeigh's responses related to questions about others involved.
McVeigh provided a first-person account of the bombing during two days of interviews with Jones in September 1995. He talked of lighting the fuse in a rental truck filled with explosive fertilizer, parking it at the building, throwing the key behind the seat, then walking away and trying not to look conspicuous, even after the blast hit.
He told Jones that he didn't have the resources to conduct a "solo war" and was convinced he "could have gotten away clean from this and continued on if I had anywhere to go."
"I determined that the best way would be to continue on as the Paul Revere type messenger instead of the John Brown type revolutionary, that you could accomplish maybe two in one," McVeigh said.
In the polygraph interview, McVeigh said when he was pulled over by an Oklahoma highway trooper shortly after the bombing for not displaying a license plate on his car, he had "several opportunities to kill the trooper, however, did not because he was a state official and not a federal official."
Asked about events leading up to the bombing, McVeigh said "action had to be taken" after the 1994 passage of the assault weapons ban, but said he wasn't certain at that time exactly what kind of action would be appropriate. In other notes, he also points to the outcome of the Branch Davidian siege near Waco as an influence.
The files have numerous references to media coverage and McVeigh's sense that Jones was too cozy with reporters and TV producers.
McVeigh complained to Jones in 1995 that he was granting so many television and newspaper interviews, "I am afraid you are becoming addicted to the 'media bug." Jones responded: "If you want to keep the media on your side, they must be fed."
In one note to Jones marked "Personal," McVeigh told him if anyone ever approached him "to 'lean' on you to 'throw' my case, please confide in me."
"I am a realist, and I know our government," he added. "TDC -- threat, duress, or coercion -- is a standard. Money or muscle can influence all but the most ideological."
In the interview with Jones detailing the bombing and his arrest, he recalled how someone at the jail watching television coverage of the bombing investigation told him he resembled a composite photo of a suspect being sought.
Then a court appearance for his arrest for carrying a concealed gun and knife during the traffic stop, he noticed increased police activity around the courthouse where he was held. After his bond was set at $5,000, a woman in an adjacent cell told him: "They think you're the bomber."
"And I said, 'No way.' And then here is where it becomes a blur, Stephen," McVeigh told Jones.
Timothy McVeigh's Anti-government Resistance
Now Mainstream in Republican Party
Leonard Pitts / Opionion: The Miami Herald
(April 17, 2015) -- On Sunday, it will be 20 years since the morning a bomb destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and took 168 human lives. Nineteen of those lives belonged to children.
Maybe it takes you by surprise that it has been so long. Maybe you wonder where the time went. And maybe you remember. . .
. . . the ghastly pictures of that building, the front of it sheared away.
. . . the firefighter emerging from the rubble, tenderly cradling that dying baby.
. . . the bloody and lacerated people wandering dazedly from the wreckage.
. . . the breathless speculation that surely the culprits had to be Muslims.
And maybe you remember, too, that sense of vertiginous shock some people felt when we got our first look at the man who planted the bomb and discovered him to be, not a swarthy Muslim with a heavy beard and hard-to-pronounce name, but a clean-cut, apple pie-faced young white man named Timothy McVeigh. People could not have been more nonplussed if Richie Cunningham had shot up a shopping mall.
But the tragedy was to contain one last surprise. It came when we learned why McVeigh committed his atrocity. It seems he hated the government.
That revelation was our introduction to a world whose very existence most of us had never suspected. Meaning the so-called patriot movement, the armed, radical right-wing extremists who refuse to recognize the authority of the nation's duly constituted and elected government.
Maybe you remember the news reports of how they spent nights and weekends drilling in the woods, playing soldier in anticipation of the day ZOG -- the Zionist Occupied Government -- ceded the country to the United Nations and soldiers of the New World Order came rappelling down from black helicopters to seize everybody's guns. Maybe you remember how crazy it all sounded.
But that was then. Twenty years ago, the idea of anti-government resistance seemed confined to a lunatic fringe operating in the shadows beyond the mainstream. Twenty years later, it is the mainstream, the beating heart of the Republican Party.
And while certainly no responsible figure on the right advocates or condones what he did, it is just as certain that McVeigh's violent antipathy toward Washington, his conviction that America's government is America's enemy, has bound itself to the very DNA of modern conservatism.
It lives in Grover Norquist's pledge to shrink government down until "we can drown it in the bathtub," in Chuck Norris' musing about the need for "a second American revolution," in Michele Bachmann's fear that the census is an evil conspiracy.
It lives in dozens of right-wing terror plots documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center since the 1995 bombing, including last year's murder of two police officers and a Wal-Mart shopper by two anti-government activists in Las Vegas. It lives in Cliven Bundy's armed standoff with federal officials.
These days, it is an article of faith on the political right that "government" is a faceless, amorphous Other. But this government brought itself into being with three words -- "We the people" -- and they are neither incidental nor insignificant.
Our government may be good, may be bad, may be something in between, but as long as we are a free society, the one thing it always is, is us. Meaning: a manifestation of our common will, a decision a majority of us made. We are allowed to be furious at it, but even in fury, we always have peaceful tools for its overthrow. So there is never a reason to do what McVeigh did.
We all know that, of course. But 20 years after the day they brought babies out of the rubble in pieces would be an excellent time to pause and remind ourselves, just the same.
Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpittsmiamiherald.com.
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