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Fries With That, Mr. McVeigh?

we still need to hear the why for Waco and Ruby Ridge

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, March 19, 1997.

We get closer to the most important sports season in Denver, by which of course you realize it is soon to be time to hear the opening bell for the great Oklahoma City bombing trial, which will, apparently, convict Timothy McVeigh and sentence him to death. Terry Nichols, his wimpish associate, will get thirty to life. We know this, or think we know this, because the press tells us. Not directly, but in the hope of being able to say we heard it from their specific outlet. There is a great deal of attention, since the OJ Simpson trial and Rodney King, being directed to how supposed, ethereal justice is affected by such mundane and seemingly trivial matters as newspaper reports and television news, and whether it adversely affects either the prosecution or the defense. Certainly Stephen Jones, McVeigh's attorney, has been trying to plant the seeds of public doubt by calling the FBI's competence and the government's interest into question. Thus far, the assigned judge isn't buying it and that long lonesome whistle you here is the Doppler Effect attaching itself to the life of Timothy McVeigh.

If Newsweek Magazine is to be believed, and it has been pretty restrained and substantial in its reporting, the government's case, while not airtight, is sufficiently tight to float a trial balloon with a lot of weight. They have security cameras that place McVeigh in all the right places in the correct time frames. They have chemical analysis of his clothing that associates him with the particular bomb blast that destroyed the Murrah Federal Building. They have witnesses to his statements and his actions. They have him renting the truck that carried the bomb. Worse, the whistleblower that called the FBI's lab into question, Frederick Whitehurst, has examined much of the government's evidence and declared its work brilliant. That pretty much kicks the stool out from under Stephen Jones' one possible argument.

Essentially nobody in the United States is visibly upset that McVeigh may fry on this, but it does raise some troubling issues that need to be resolved. Many of the recent militia-type incidents, like Oklahoma and like the ridiculous and now forgotten Freemen of Montana, and perhaps others like the Olympic bombings, are said to be in revenge for Ruby Ridge, where an anarchist had his wife and child shot and killed, and for Waco, where a bunch of religious nitwits were killed when the FBI went in to clear the place. To this day, nobody has given a reason why, all of a sudden, David Koresh became such a threat. Yes, he had guns, yes he was a charismatic doofus, but to equate his with a threat to the federal government is less than compelling. Everything that is said about him may be true, but there are drug gangs within spitting distance of the White House that are far more dangerous and threatening than he ever was. I don't, and most people do not, think for a moment that McVeigh had any particular reason to avenge Ruby Ridge or Waco, they were just convenient incidents that are, in effect, emotional cover stories for long, vaguely premeditated actions. If you hated the government, the correct combination of incident and booze - or incident and unemployment - gave you time and incentive to make something of yourself.

While it is fairly easily conceded that Waco and Ruby Ridge were the stigmata of incompetence, much needs to be clearly explained as motivating factors for both government and their opponents in this. It will be unfortunate if we get through the OK trial and nothing is revealed about how government prioritizes its domestic enemies. Surely, that is a fair thing to ask and surely it is a question demanding a coherent answer. Because no matter how you define Waco and Ruby Ridge, there are others just as accessible and far more dangerous that receive no attention, much less armed assaults.