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Justice for the American terrorist

By Vision Reporter

Added 14th May 2001 03:00 AM

BORROWING a page from American foreign policy, I decided to send a message to a government that was becoming increasingly hostile," wrote mass murderer Timothy McVeigh in a recent letter to the British newspaper 'The Observer'.

BORROWING a page from American foreign policy, I decided to send a message to a government that was becoming increasingly hostile," wrote mass murderer Timothy McVeigh in a recent letter to the British newspaper 'The Observer'.

BORROWING a page from American foreign policy, I decided to send a message to a government that was becoming increasingly hostile," wrote mass murderer Timothy McVeigh in a recent letter to the British newspaper 'The Observer'. "Bombing the Murrah federal building (in Oklahoma City in 1995) was morally and strategically the equivalent to the US hitting a government building in Serbia, Iraq or other nations." Timothy McVeigh is no longer scheduled to die this month, as the Federal Bureau of Investigation forgot to give his defence lawyers 3,000 pages of documents pertaining to the possible existence of an accomplice -- 'John Doe 2' -- from the early months of the investigation, before the FBI settled on the 'lone lunatic' theory of the bombing. At the moment, he's scheduled to be executed on 11 June, but by then the whole federal case could be unravelling. McVeigh was responsible for the deaths of 168 people, including 19 children, in the Oklahoma City bombing. He freely admits it, and the polygraph (lie detector) test that his own defence team gave him confirms it. Alas, when they asked him if he had acted alone, and he echoed the government line that he had, the polygraph said he was lying. At McVeigh's trial the US government did not call a single one of the eye-witnesses who had seen him in the days before the bombing, and even then people wondered if that was because every one of them said they had seen him in the company of someone else. So cynics now suspect that the FBI's forgetfulness about the 'John Doe 2' documents may have something to do with the fact that the prosecution never had quite enough evidence to make a case for conspiracy hang together. In the Anglo-Saxon judicial system, if you don't have solid evidence that Crime A (conspiracy, in this case) occurred, then you are better off not mentioning it at all. Just produce the evidence connecting the suspect with Crime B (bombing the Murrah Building, in this case), and bury the rest. Until, perhaps, some request under the Freedom of Information Act puts you on the spot, and you face the choice between handing the relevant documents over or deliberately concealing them in a capital case. The FBI has had a bad time recently, from the Wen Ho Lee case (government scientist held without trial for nine months in solitary confinement, then released for lack of evidence of espionage) to Robert Hanssen (FBI agent arrested in February on suspicion of being a Russian spy). After the Hanssen episode Louis Freeh, the director of the FBI, offered President George W. Bush his resignation, only to have it rejected. But this time, Freeh may actually have to fall on his sword. And you know what? None of it matters. McVeigh did it, and shows no signs of repentance, and certainly deserves punishment. Maybe not the death penalty, which has been abandoned by the other developed countries, but if it's good enough for Afghanistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq, then it's probably good enough for the USA. If there was a conspiracy involving other right-wing, anti-government fanatics who were involved with McVeigh in the 'Aryan Republican Army', that doesn't matter much either. Most of his alleged co-conspirators are already dead or in jail too. It doesn't matter that the FBI is having a bad time. It doesn't matter that the 1,600-strong media circus outside the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana and the 30 invited guests who were going to watch the execution first-hand (including Gore Vidal, the fashion victim's Truman Capote) must wait another month for the show. It matters only a bit that the 3,000 relatives of the dead who were going to see McVeigh killed live on a closed-circuit satellite link must wait another month for 'closure', a concept that is the purest psycho-babble. What does matter, strangely enough, is what McVeigh said: "Bombing the Murrah federal building was morally and strategically equivalent to the US hitting a government building in Serbia, Iraq, or other nations." If you don't like what they're doing, to hell with the law. Whack them. The moral distinction between a truckload of fertilizer-based explosives and a cruise missile or other instrument of high-tech death was not immediately obvious to the innocent people who have been killed in unilateral, mostly illegal US attacks from Grenada, Panama and Libya to Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan. They were, in McVeigh's phrase, 'collateral damage' as Washington used its almost limitless military power to swat some irritating fly, but they really died. This sort of behaviour by the British was called 'gunboat diplomacy' when Britain was the world's greatest power in the 19th century. No country other than the United States, sole superpower of the age, goes in for it nowadays. Perhaps it is a complete coincidence that some Americans feel their government has the same cavalier attitude towards its own citizens (as in the 1993 federal siege of the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas that so upset McVeigh, in which over 80 people were killed). They certainly have no right to take unilateral revenge against it, and hurt innocent people in the process. But like their government, they see themselves as above the law. Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist

Justice for the American terrorist

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