Timothy McVeigh's Death Row Essay

Artist's conceptualisation of the Oklahoma City Bombing
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Attention Readers: The following article originally appeared in Think #17, and was sent to us by Tim McVeigh after we asked him if he would like to write something for us. Excerpts of this article have appeared in other publications since then.

On May 16th, Mr. McVeigh, will undergo "state-assisted suicide" (as he calls it) when the federal government injects a lethal chemical cocktail into his body. The question of whether McVeigh is quilty, or not, aside, and the fact that there was no conclusive evidence that he actually did it, we have to ask ourselves, "Is this justice?" America was established under the principles of "Justice for All", and there can be no justice after an execution takes place. For, if the individual is found by later evidence to have been innocent, no amount of financial compensation can undo this injustice. So then it's just "Justice for Some" and that's not justice at all.

"Thanks for your letter, I don't want to talk about the bombing, but something more which needs to be said. The administration has said that Iraq has no right to stockpile chemical or biological weapons ("weapons of mass destruction") - mainly because they have used them in the past. 

Well, if that's the standard by which these matters are decided, then the U.S. is the nation that set the precedent. The U.S. has stockpiled these same weapons (and more) for over 40 years. 

The U.S. claims that this was done for deterrent purposes during its "Cold War" with the Soviet Union.

Why, then, is it invalid for Iraq to claim the same reason (deterrence) - with respect to Iraq's (real) war with, and the continued threat of, its neighbor Iran?

The administration claims that Iraq has used these weapons in the past. We've all seen the pictures that show a Kurdish woman and child frozen to death from the use of chemical weapons.

But, have you ever seen these photos juxtaposed next to pictures from Hiroshima or Nagasaki?

I suggest that one study the histories of World War I, World War II and other "regional conflicts" that the U.S. has been involved in to familiarize themselves with the use of "weapons of mass destruction."

Remember Dresden? How about Hanoi? Tripoli? Baghdad? What about the big ones - Hiroshima and Nagasaki? (At these two locations, the U.S. killed at least 150,000 non-combatants - mostly women and children - in the blink of an eye. Thousands more took hours, days, weeks, or months to die.)

If Saddam is such a demon, and people are calling for war crimes charges against him and his nation, why do we not hear the same cry for blood directed at those responsible for even greater amounts of "mass destruction" - like those responsible and involved in dropping bombs on the cities mentioned above? Is there hypocrisy when it comes to the death of children?

In Oklahoma City, it was "family convenience" that explained the presence of a daycare center placed between street level and the law enforcement agencies which occupied the upper floors of the building. Yet when discussion shifts to Iraq, any daycare center in a government building instantly becomes "a human shield."

Think about that.

(Actually, there is a difference here. The administration has admitted to knowledge of the presence of children in or near Iraqi government buildings, yet they still proceeded with their plans to bomb, saying that they cannot be held responsible if children die. There is no such proof, however, that knowledge of the presence of children existed in relation to the Oklahoma City bombing.)

When considering morality and mens rea (criminal intent) in light of these facts, I ask: Who are the true barbarians? Yet another example of America's blatant hypocrisy is revealed by the polls which suggest that this nation is greatly in favor of bombing Iraq.

In this instance, the people of the nation approve of bombing government employees because they are "guilty by association" - they are Iraqi government employees. In regard to the bombing in Oklahoma City, however, such logic is condemned.

What motivates these seemingly contradictory positions? Do people think that government workers in Iraq are any less human than those in Oklahoma City? Do they think that Iraqis don't have families who will grieve and mourn the loss of their loved ones? In this context, do people come to believe that the killing of foreigners is somehow different than the killing of Americans?

I recently read of an arrest in New York City where possession of a mere pipe bomb was charged as possession of a "weapon of mass destruction." If a two-pound pipe bomb is a "weapon of mass destruction," then what do people think that a 2,000-pound steel-encased bomb is?

I find it ironic, to say the least, that one of the aircraft that could be used to drop such a bomb on Iraq is dubbed "The Spirit of Oklahoma." This leads me to a final, and unspoken, moral hypocrisy regarding the use of weapons of mass destruction.

When a U.S. plane or cruise missile is used to bring destruction to a foreign people, this nation rewards the bombers with applause and praise. What a convenient way to absolve these killers of any responsibility for the destruction they leave in their wake. Unfortunately, the morality of killing is not so superficial. The truth is, the use of a truck, a plane, or a missile for the delivery of a weapon of mass destruction does not alter the nature of the act itself.

These are weapons of mass destruction - and the method of delivery matters little to those on the receiving end of such weapons. Whether you wish to admit it or not, when you approve, morally, of the bombing of foreign targets by the U.S. military, you are approving of acts morally equivalent to the bombing in Oklahoma City. The only difference is that this nation is not going to see any foreign casualties appear on the cover of Newsweek Magazine

It seems ironic and hypocritical that an act as viciously condemned in Oklahoma City is now a "justified" response to a problem in a foreign land. Then again, the history of United States policy over the last century, when examined fully, tends to exemplify hypocrisy. 

When considering the use of weapons of mass destruction against Iraq as a means to an end, it would be wise to reflect on the words of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. His words are as true in the context of Olmstead as they are when they stand alone: 

"Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or ill, it teaches the whole people by its example." 

-Sincerely, Timothy J. McVeigh

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