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Timothy McVeigh

2001-06-11 20:22:30+00 by Dan Lyke 10 comments

As you've undoubtedly heard the United States has created a martyr, and I'd surmise has caused more wounds than it helped heal. Not that I can in any way condone his actions, although I believe more Americans than anyone thinks can understand some of his motivations, and I think the terms of his conviction were fair, but I think playing up the children killed in the day-care center as the reason for his death, when he was sentenced to death for the murder of federal agents, only adds moral ambiguity to the situation. My own philosophies on this matter have mellowed over the years since the bombing, I now think that his death sentence is wrong for largely pragmatic reasons, but no matter what his death heals little. And perhaps it's just been people smarter than him managing his public image, but I daresay he put quite a bit of thought into his actions and acted from convictions. Even if you, like me, disagree with his actions, that should cause fear over and above the fear of disorder. That CNN story links to a scanned GIF of his final statement, a quote of some or all of William Ernest Henley's Invictus, which I'm reproducing here because I don't like the way everyone's quoting two lines out of context. Capitalization as best I can puzzle it out from his handwriting:

Final Written Statement of Timothy McVeigh

Out of the night that covers me,
  Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
  For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
  I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
  my head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
  Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
  Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
  How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
  I am the captain of my soul.

[ related topics: Politics Objectivism Ethics ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:47+00 by: TC

....long sigh... ok Dan, you and I agree on a good many things but not this. I am sorry this is getting press on flutterby as it is far overexposed as it is, buuuuut, since it's out on the carpet. here goes

I am glad this butcher of 168 is dead. His life extingished and voice squelched and this is why.

  1. It gives closure to some of the victims. Not all, I know but some. If I lost someone I would want more than Justice, I would want Vengance. I don't mean to say this with bravado as I actually find it to be a human frailty but If my <fill in blank> loved one was dead while he was alive it would be madening EVERY DAY UNTIL HE WAS DEAD. I realize not all people think this way but if even one does thats enough to forfeit his life.
  2. It permantly silences his voice. You say he is a Martyr? a Martyr to what? He had no cause except to say the Goverment is bad? yes he acted from strong convictions but as a terrorist. Do we as a society allow the ends to justify the means? The punishment is to silence him for all time.
  3. Justice. we as a society have decided that bad things will happen to you if you break certain taboos like murder. It may not be big enough disincentive for most fanatical terrorist but if it filters out a few then society benifits.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:47+00 by: Dylan

I have really mixed feelings on this.

I think he deserved to die. But I think he will become/has become a martyr to those who think like him, and it is naive to think that there aren't a lot of them. Try most of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and a good section of the American Southwest.

What he did was despicable and he earned his death. But his execution may just serve as an excuse for future acts, just as he used the death of Koresh and others in Waco as an excuse for his own.

Martyrs don't have to be right. They just have to represent the views of some tiny faction that agrees with them. See: Christianity. The vast majority of Christ's peers thought of him as an insane heretic and no better than a thief. Think about that.

I won't mention my feelings on certain European island nations condemning execution as barbaric. At least McVeigh got a trial. 'Nuff said.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:47+00 by: Girard Joseph

Flawed theory: McVeigh says his actions revolved around government actions at Waco and Ruby Ridge.

Randy Weaver has come out and delivered a mea culpa on his responsibility in the Ruby Ridge fiasco (even though the FBI was out of line and one agent is still to be tried for manslaughter).

As for Waco...even if you buy into McVeigh's claim that the ATF started the fire, Koresh had plenty of time to get the innocents out of the way, yet he didn't. Why?

If you believe his mouthpiece Daivd Thibodeaux (and I don't), Koresh was "threatened" by calls from the ATF implying an upcoming fire. Okay, let's play "what if". Say you're holed up in your house, unjustly surrounded by federal agents, who call you up and imply maybe you should pay up your "fire insurance". Wouldn't you work out a deal where your wife and kids could walk? I would. Koresh was hiding something, and isn't worth McVeigh's misguided efforts.

Death is too easy a way out. McVeigh should have been available to any of the 168 victims families at any time for public ridicule. Each family should have one weekend where he would be forced to go over to their house and see what his bomb had wrought. And then they could dress him up like a clown and put him in stockades in the public square, where people could come buy and spit on him. He could yell his theories out in return, and people could sit down and demonstrate to him how f-ed up they are. I think that would be a deterrent: you have to prove and justify your point of view in long conversations with real, working people you are too busy providing for their families to give a flying fuck.


#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:48+00 by: Dan Lyke

Todd, I think that you're missing that I think the execution is a pragmatically[Wiki] bad idea. There are plenty of people out there asking "Did Timothy McVeigh have the right idea?" The point is that in the U.S. there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, who think that McVeigh should have been charged with war crimes for the deaths and injury to civilians, not, as he was, for the deaths of the government agents.

Bush's statement today was actually a step in the right direction because, unlike the rest of the public management of this case, it didn't present the issue as a war crimes issue. He didn't single out the civilians.

Did McVeigh deserve to die? It really doesn't matter, because he got what he wanted, and his execution will boost, not lessen, his myth among those who affiliate with his ideals in this country. And at its core, that is the point, that the execution of Timothy McVeigh will cause more violence, not less.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:48+00 by: TheSHAD0W

Photos from the Oklahoma City bombing: http://www.efaubion.com/bomb/bomb.html

I've heard some theories that the truck bomb couldn't have caused the building to collapse, unless there were a secondary explosion, or more bombs severing the building's supports -- or unless the building wasn't constructed properly in the first place.

Take a look at those photos; does the damage look a little too "clean" to you? Like the building broke apart under its own weight? It does to me...

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:48+00 by: Pete

And where is your degree in structural engineering from?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:48+00 by: Larry Burton

The building did break apart under its own weight. The support pillars were sheared off by the explosion and the weight of the building that was unsupported just dropped.

As far as the clean look of the damage, a lot of rubble was cleared away while they were searching for survivors and recovering bodies. I'm sure these photos are from after the recovery effort.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:48+00 by: topspin

Remember, McVeigh blew up the Murrah on the anniversary of the death of David Koresh. Given that, Dan's exactly right about it being pragmatically wrong to execute him.

McVeigh gains martyr status like Koresh. Now we ALL have another "terrorist anniversary" to worry about. That's not a good trade off so that those who lost loved ones in Oklahoma can have closure.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:48+00 by: Dylan

Topspin just put my point better than I did...I didn't say McVeigh's feelings about what happened at Ruby Ridge or Waco were *accurate*...I said they were his feelings and that they are shared by many many people in this country. And everyone who dies for a cause, no matter how ugly or stupid that cause, attracts followers and copycats. I am deeply sorry for the families in Oklahoma, but their closure comes at much too high a cost.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:49+00 by: Mars Saxman

Thanks for posting the link to the page of photos. I'd only seen one photo

of the damaged building before, which didn't give much sense for the

strength of the bomb. I hadn't realized how close it came to destroying the

entire structure.

Executing McVeigh was a mistake. I don't care much about the martyr

factor, because that feels like bargaining with the terrorists, thereby letting

them win a bit more. It was a mistake because it validated McVeigh's

actions. He blew up the Murrah building because 80 people died in the

Branch Davidian fiasco, and he believed someone needed to die to pay

for it. Well, 168 people died in his fiasco, and the United States believed

that someone needed to die to pay for that.

Does death demand vengeance, in the form of more death? If the answer

is yes, then McVeigh was fundamentally correct, and this whole thing is a

quibbling over details.

My answer is no: murder is a tragedy, and more death makes it no less