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Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing, Fifteen Years Later

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"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." Thomas Jefferson-Timothy McVeigh was wearing a T-shirt with this quote on the back when he was arrested, April 19, 1995.

THE INSTANT OF THE BOMBING

A yellow Ryder truck pulls up in front of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City at 9:00 AM on April 19, 1995. A thin man with a military-style crew cut gets out of the driver's side of the truck. He bends down and picks up something, then casually exits the frame. A darker, huskier man wearing a ball cap gets out of the passenger side and escapes the surveillance frame only briefly. He then comes back into frame and returns to the passenger side of the truck. A moment later he departs the scene. At 9:01 AM the Murrah Federal Building explodes.

OK City Bombing
Could this massive hole in the front of the Murrah Federal Building have been caused by a mere Ryder truck, loaded down with 5,000 pounds of explosives?

MY PERSONAL CONTEXT

I was teaching an American history class at a Dallas Middle School on that day, April 19, 1995. I was in a portable classroom behind the main building when I heard the terrible news. TVs were set up in the cafeteria so that we could watch the sequence of events from Oklahoma City. There were fears of further acts of terrorism all around us. This looked like a sophisticated and well enacted plan. I had lost a good friend to cancer just a few days before. Further despair came over me. As 1995 progressed, the gloom was so great, that I packed up all my belongings and left Dallas for good. The negativity may have been derived from the national news, but I blamed Dallas anyway.

MCVEIGH'S MOTIVES

Fifteen years after this horrific crime, we have had much time to consider Timothy McVeigh's motivation in doing something so crazy as this. And let me just say, I believe more people were involved in this bombing than just McVeigh, Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier. McVeigh took the fall because he believed this act would cement a place for him in history. Tim also knew that conspiracy theories would continue to thrive, and this is exactly what he wanted. In this atmosphere, a seed of rage would only grow. Hatred for the federal government would reach a fevered pitch and he would be an object of adoration for future generations of patriots.

Tim was a very complex person and the range of his anti-government contempt was vast. I will simply outline the major reasons why he decided to bomb the Murrah Federal Building. Therefore, I'll briefly look at Tim's role in the Gulf War, Ruby Ridge, The Turner Diaries, the film Red Dawn and the siege on Mount Carmel in Waco. I will not cover (but will hint at) McVeigh's actual psychology, possible defects in his character, but I do believe his make-up played a pertinent role in the bombing.

THE GULF WAR

In 1992 McVeigh served as a gunner in the Gulf War. Tim earned both a Combat Infantry Badge and a Bronze Star. He excelled at war. It was in the army that he learned how to compartmentalize, and to be a good soldier. To be a good soldier one must turn off their feelings or emotions. Tim was good at this. Did he kill any Iraqis?

The record shows he killed an Iraqi tank commander with his favorite weapon, a small cannon. He admitted to killing two other Iraqis also. And he may have even executed surrendering prisoners on the road leaving Kuwait City. The government had programmed him to kill the innocent. The guilt associated with these killings contributed to his motive in Oklahoma. He had been duped!

RUBY RIDGE

To McVeigh, what happened at Ruby Ridge was cold-blooded murder of freedom loving Americans by the FBI. Even today, that doesn't seem to be too far off the mark. Ruby Ridge is complex, so you need to take a careful look at the whole case. To summarize, I believe the FBI used excessive force in an assault on Randy Weaver's cabin in Idaho.

On August 21st there was a firefight that resulted in the death of the Weaver's dog Striker, the son Samuel Weaver and DUSM Bill Degan. On August 22nd an FBI sharpshooter Lon Horiuchi shot and killed Vicki Weaver and wounded Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris.

Afterwards this incident was mythologized by Survivalists and Patriot groups as an aggressive assault on freedom-loving Americans. It was in this context, while touring the country and attending so many gun shows, McVeigh interpreted this critical event that we now call Ruby Ridge. I recommend that you read a 22 chapter online book for clarification on this pivotal event. It's called: Randy Weaver: Siege At Ruby Ridge by David Lohr (will link below).

THE TURNER DIARIES AND RED DAWN

The Turner Diaries, called "the bible of the racist right" by the FBI, is a 1978 novel by William Luther Pierce, that portrays a violent revolution in the U.S. where separatists overtake the federal government in a guerilla war. There is nuclear war in here then a race war which leads to the extermination of all Jews and non-whites. McVeigh was enamored with this white supremacist novel, but claimed he never was a racist himself (one wonders why he so adored this novel then?). Xerox copies of pages 61 and 62 were found in an envelope of the 1977 Yellow Mercury Marquis that he was arrested in.

Mercury car of Tim McVeigh
The 1977 Yellow Mercury Marquis had lost its license plate. This got Timothy McVeigh arrested! photo by John Kays

Tim loved the 1984 movie Red Dawn starring Patrick Swayze, about a Soviet Invasion that was countered by a cache of resourceful high school students turned into rebels by cosmic events. I remember being struck by the camaraderie of these young patriots, who called themselves The Wolverines. They reminded me of rag-tag Colonial soldiers of the American Revolutionary Era. One can easily understand why McVeigh was attracted to this film. Its combination of rebel warfare and patriot zeal was just his cup of tea.

INCIDENT AT MOUNT CARMEL

Waco played out in real time for Tim McVeigh. That is, he was preoccupied with the 51 day siege of the Branch Davidians by the FBI. The dates for this incident at Mount Carmel are: February 28, 1993-April 19, 1993. The April 19th date may ring a bell.

McVeigh actually went to Waco and was interviewed by an SMU journalist student, Michelle Rauch, on March 30, 1993. Tim was selling bumper stickers and distributing pamphlets. Here are a few of those titles: Politicians Love Gun Control, Fear the Government that Fears Your Gun and A Man Without a Gun is a Subject. Here's a telling quote of TM from Michelle's Rauch's interview.

"The government is afraid of the guns people have because they have to have control of the people at all times. Once you take away the guns, you can do anything to the people. The government is continually growing bigger and more powerful, and the people need to prepare to defend themselves from government control."

I recommend a video for understanding about Waco. I have viewed Waco: The Rules of Engagement half a dozen times. The final siege shows tanks ramming the compound and pumping CS gas inside. Snipers were pelting Mount Carmel with automatic fire and pyrotechnic devices were shot into the compound with grenade launchers. The place burst out in flames shortly thereafter. No one got out alive!

Waco is the strongest motivator on an already seething McVeigh, when we look at dynamics, the spectrum of cause and effect. Tim was oozing with frustration and hostility towards the government after Waco. He was not alone. Millions of Americans were outraged by this blatant act of genocide by the Feds. The argument and evidence is consummately presented in the above referenced video. Waco certainly was the straw that broke the camel's back for Timothy. Two years of planning, then he commits his brazen act.

From the Gulf War to Ruby Ridge and onward to Waco; these are so many dominoes falling, the path to Oklahoma City is but a short one in this pageant of history, a panorama of cataclysmic events, one tumbling down on the other, that culminates in the death of 168 innocent Americans. Now Tim sees the War beginning. The ATF and the FBI are the Russians in Red Dawn; in McVeigh's fantasy world Waco was "Remember the Alamo" or 'The Shot that was Heard Around the World'. No turning back now!

JOHN DOE NO. 2-OR DID MCVEIGH ACT ALONE?

A witness, Charles Farley, saw John Doe No. 2 near the door of the Ryder truck on that fatal day. Farley had seen this same man a few days before at the Fort Riley Outdoor Recreation Center. He saw a Ryder truck there too and saw the same man. "It looked like it was completely weighted down"- with ammonium nitrate fertilizer supposedly.

John Doe No. 2
Who was John Doe No.2? Why did the FBI cover-up his role in the OK bombing? Was he an activist member of a militia group from Kansas? Photo by John Kays

Some people recognized the sketch of John Doe No. 2. A Shawnee County, Kansas, sheriff's deputy Jake Mauck recognized the drawing as a known anti-government activist in his area. Witnesses had seen McVeigh with a man other than Terry Nichols. When Barbara Whittenberg saw a photo of John Doe No. 2, she said, "I'd almost swear that was the guy." The FBI failed to follow up on these important leads. Russell Roe, an assistant county attorney for Geary County, Kansas, reported this man to the FBI as well. This John Doe No. 2 look alike had been involved in anti-government activity and had been exploding fertilizer bombs on a Kansas farm prior to Murrah.

A good case can be made that McVeigh did not act alone. Oklahoma City TV stations reported immediately after the bombing that other bombs were found in the building. Experts, such as retired air-force brigadier general Benton K. Partin, believed that it was impossible for the truck bomb to have caused the kind of damage to the Federal Building that it sustained. He believes that supplemental demolition charges were placed on the concrete column bases. This was how it was reported just minutes after the blast (watch the video linked below).

I'm going to link Gore Vidal's Vanity Fair piece for you, The Meaning of Timothy McVeigh, which was actually published before Nine-Eleven. It's controversial, quite an eye-opener and very entertaining as well. Vidal and McVeigh exchanged many letters while Tim floundered in a federal prison. Vidal empathizes with McVeigh, and weaves a portrait of a patriotic TM who was doing what he only could do: defying a tyrannical federal government who was hell-bent on oppressing its own citizens.

Gore argues that the media portrayed TM as an evil lone bomber, and was in cahoots with the feds to frame TM as a domestic terrorist who acted alone. Vidal provides a narrative of conspiracy matters related to John Doe No. 2 that is rather convincing. Vidal lays out TM's rational argument for going to war with the government, as if he were Karl Marx or Vladimir Lenin. Yea, he shows that kind of respect for him, as if he were an important political philosopher for our times. Don't think I agree, but it's a good read and just as persuasive as a Sam Adams pamphlet.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT FIFTEEN YEARS LATER

The McVeigh Tapes: Confessions of an American Terrorist will air on MSNBC on the 19th and is hosted by Rachel Maddow. These are interviews done by Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck with TM while in he was in prison. Their book, American Terrorist, is a vital reference for serious OKBomber-Philes. I anxiously anticipate this special and will definitely record it.

Fifteen years later, here are my impressions, for what it's worth. TM was daydreamer, lived in a fantasy world of Soldier of Fortune, was a Gun Nut, an extremist case of a Gun Nut. Never seen one this crazy, except maybe Charles Whitman, who got up on the UT tower in 1966 and target-practiced on human beings. On the exterior TM was cool, calm and collect. Inside he was 'oozing with hostility' (just like Charlie) and programmed to kill (just like in the Manchurian Candidate), a robot of a death-wish.

Timothy McVeigh arrested
Tim McVeigh's mug shot-note the radical T-shirt with an image of Abraham Lincoln and a John Wilkes Booth motto: Sic Semper Tyrannis. photo by John Kays

It was the army that taught him how to kill. He never denied this. He witnessed the hypocrisy of the Gulf War and was a troubled man upon returning to the states. A walking time bomb really. Ruby Ridge and Waco were ammonium nitrate in the soul of TM. He worked with many confederates to fulfill his destiny in OK-4/19/'95. Some confederates may have been Iraqis, just as Jayna Davis has been saying for many years. John Doe No. 2 was native militia, I believe. These solid leads must be pursued by serious researchers if we ever hope for the truth to be known.

Finally, in recent days anti-government sentiment only grows. The Tea-Party movement is moving further to the right. Could be that they are being infiltrated with militia and Patriot groups, or that the venom of Sarah Palin, a mouthpiece for extremists, is just naturally unifying all the multitudinous factions of the right. Worship of TM is just over the horizon for these disparate groups who righteously spew hatred for the government no matter what! A day of reckoning is near at hand-Red Dawn on the shores of the Potomac...

Oklahoma City Bombing Federal Surveillance Tapes Coverup

Randy Weaver: Siege At Ruby Ridge by David Lohr

The Meaning of Timothy McVeigh by Gore Vidal-Vanity Fair-September 2001

Domestic Terrorism 101-Timothy James McVeigh (The Boy Next Door) by Nicole Nichols.

John Kays identifies timeless remnants from our past that will endure, or be admired by future generations.

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