Monday, May 14, 2001

Week of 05/14/2001

The Making (And Unmaking) Of A Martyr
- by David Matthews 2

"I am very fond of truth, but not at all of martyrdom." - Voltaire

By all rights, Timothy McVeigh should’ve been a dead man this week.

McVeigh was scheduled to die this Wednesday, May 16th, 2001, for the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City, and the hundreds of lives lost that day, some of whom were but children.

McVeigh supposedly did this as payback for the deaths in Ruby Ridge and Waco by federal agents. An eye for an eye, as the old law went.

He even went so far as to admit what he had done, and had asked that his attorneys stop any appeals in his case. He asked, even begged, for an execution date. And the federal government was all-too eager to give him one.

If carried through, it would have been one of the speediest executions in recent American history. Most executions take decades to be carried out, mostly because of the myriad of appeals filed by lawyers. McVeigh put a stop to that, saying that he was ready to accept his punishment and meet his maker.

But that’s not going to happen. Not now anyway. And quite possibly not for a while.

And we can thank our government for that.

That’s right.. OUR government screwed up. It seems in their zeal to convict McVeigh and his buddy Terry Nichols, the Federal Bureau of Investigation forgot to disclose some 3000 pieces of evidence, which they are obligated to give to both the Justice Department and the defense attorneys. They just... forgot! Just slipped their minds. Whoops! Sorry about that!

Because OUR government screwed up, the execution has been postponed for a month.. and quite possibly longer, should McVeigh decide to change his mind and start appealing his conviction.

That certainly is a bummer for anyone eager to see McVeigh die, but until it is determined that the evidence that was withheld couldn’t either validate the conviction, or vindicate McVeigh, we can’t execute him. Goes back to that "rule of law" thing. You remember the rule of law, right? We once tried to oust a US President on that.

Now I’ll be brutally honest with you.. I am certainly NOT a fan of what Timothy McVeigh did. Despite any and all possible disagreements I have with government both large and small, I am not someone who would advocate - never mind initiate - violence against the government for their past crimes. The malicious deaths of a mother and child at Ruby Ridge, and the needless deaths of hundreds of Branch Davidians in Waco are not justifications for ANY kind of like response. If it were up to me, I’d have a hand on that lethal injection, making sure McVeigh gets exactly what he deserves.

Timothy McVeigh and those like him would have us think they stand up for freedom against a tyrannical government. They picture themselves as modern-day patriots and liberators. But instead of fighting FOR freedom, what McVeigh did was strike a huge blow AGAINST freedom.

Because of what happened in Oklahoma City, the federal government went into its stereotypical security overkill mode, wanting restrictions the likes of which would’ve made Josef Stalin proud. They wanted tagging agents put in anything that could conceivably cause an explosion. They wanted to monitor and control all sorts of so-called militia groups, even wanting to ban so-called "cookbooks" that would explain how to make explosives. The public scrutiny ended up destroying much of the militia movement, drying up their ranks, and causing some to re-evaluate why they were there in the first place.

Worse yet, the explosion in Oklahoma City turned public opinion TOWARDS the government, not away from it! As long as it was only the government that was the aggressor, as long as it was only the government that was taking lives, public opinion was against them. All of that changed when the federal building blew up. And it became the perfect forum for anti-freedom politicians like President Bill Clinton to espouse their beliefs that we have "too much freedom".

Nice going, Tim. You actually did your own cause a disservice!

Look, I know we have a government that is at times running out of control, but I seriously do not think we have reached that point of no return where we can’t make peaceful changes to the system. We can shake things up without resorting to violence or acts of terror. But in order for us to do that, we need to get the people not only on our side, but also pissed off enough to take that peaceful course of action. They will not do that if they fear the solution just as much as they fear the problem.

Some people are suggesting that Tim McVeigh wants to die a martyr to his cause. The problem being, though, that his cause died the minute he decided to be like his enemies. Much like the warnings of Friedrich Nietzsche, McVeigh had stared into the abyss, and the abyss became him. He became a freedom fighter alright, but only in the same way that a fire fighter fights fire and a crime fighter fights crime. If that is the way he wishes to be remembered, so be it, for that is the way history will view his actions as.. as those of a terrorist.

As for the FBI’s handling.. or mishandling.. of the case, it’s a good thing that Director Louis Freeh is on the way out. Given the number of scandals that have surfaced in the past few months, this would’ve cost someone their job anyways. But bear one thing in mind.. even if the evidence they withheld does nothing but validate McVeigh’s conviction and support his execution, the fact that it WAS withheld vindicates the mistrust in government that initially created people like Tim McVeigh. That’s something that Freeh’s successor should always keep in mind.

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