DOASKDOTELL BOOK REVIEWs of (Michel and Herbeck) American Terrorist, (Voller) Lone Wolf; (Roy) No Right to Remain Silent; film Nazi America

Author (or Editor):  Michel, Lou and Herbeck, Dan

Title: American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing,

Fiction? Anthology?  

Publisher:  Regan (Harper Collins)

Date: 2001

ISBN:  ISBN 0060394072

Series Name:

Physical description: hardbound  426 pages, incl. Notes and index

Relevance to doaskdotell:  terrorism, security v. liberties

Review:

The authors note that McVeigh (no connection to the other Timothy McVeigh discussed at this site in relation to the military gay ban)  became the 169th “casualty” of the Oklahoma City bombing with his execution by lethal injection in Terra Haute, Ind. On June 11, 2001.  Indeed, for perhaps one second, as the sodium penathol started, he may have known he was experiencing his last moment, then blackness—no chance for recollections or a near death experience or a longer shutdown.  General anesthesia works that way.  8 minutes later, just after potassium chloride had stopped his heart, he was pronounced dead. Some of the bombing victims experienced similar sudden annihilation, including many children.  Others suffered in agony for hours.  

 McVeigh have wanted to “write a book” and the two official authors are established journalists, working essentially for hire.  This is not necessarily creative writing, nor should it be.  But it is useful to try to understand what made McVeigh tick, his “reasoning” to rationalize what he did. 

 One could claim the bombing the ultimate act not of cowardice (as Janet Reno says) but of sociopathic arrogance. In one brief moment, a private citizen would equal the state, and wage an act of war to make a name for oneself. A quick end to his life thereafter was desired.  In fact, it appears that he wanted to get caught when he drove the getaway car north on April 19, 1995 without a license plate.

 At best, his “reasoning” sounds capricious.  At first, he seemed focused on the somewhat “collective” firearms rights of putatively extremist groups (whether Waco Branch Davidian, Rany Weaver, Aryan Nation) where the “freedom” is to sequester oneself in an autonomous “soverign” tribe, to protect one’s identity as a member of a chosen group (perhaps as defined by religion or folk), immune from the attempts by democratic government to force some general conformity to society’s rules (like discrimination law or even wealth redistribution). Yes, a group like that night believe it needs an arms cache, even weapons of mass destruction.  Later, McVeigh seemed a little more focused on the individual scenario, that the government might gradually track gun owners and spy on them, some day taking away the right to self-defense, and make other encroachments.  The individual could not allow any collective compromise with the democratically calculated common good.  To some extent, I identify with this feeling, even though I certainly condemn what he did.

 But what is particularly interesting is his drifting once he left the Army after 43 months of service, more or less voluntarily (despite other stories to the contrary).  In fact, he would have been allowed to try out for Special Forces (the Green Berets) again. He did well in life when an external discipline (the military) was imposed on him and in which he could shine relative to others.  He needed an Army to join.  He needed another war, so he created one.

 So we get back to McVeigh’s character.  He was reportedly introverted and miserly, with difficult relations with women, but he was heterosexual; there is no evidence that he was gay.  He bonded with some Army buddies in the COHORT program, and they later participated in the planning.  He seemed to lack any direction unless given by others, whether the Army or potentially later by marriage (which would never happen).  He regarded himself as a “warrior” and not just a soldier.

 There is an interesting side story about properly Republican defense lawyer Stephen Jones, whom the government paid all of $125 an hour for McVeigh’s defense.  Jones refused to go along with the inane “necessity defense” and would be the target of McVeigh’s death row tirades.  Jones even defended himself on CNN (literally, as I was in an airport waiting lounge ready to take off to Europe).

 I have mixed feelings on the Waco incident.  I visited it on March 21, 1993 and was asked to turn back by agents, which I did without question.  I visited the site in a thunderstorm in April 1998 and also visited Oklahoma City on the same trip. The evidence is mixed, varying from the 1996 documentary The Road to Waco to the Nightline report that David Koresh probably started the fire.

On January 10, 2004 The History Channel broadcast the documentary film Nazi America: A Secret History (Sony Pictures Classics) which presented the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and even the 1999 Columbine shootings as manifestations of the Neo Nazi movement in the United States, as inspired by the 1978 novel by William L. Pierce (pseudonym Andrew Macdonald), The Turner Diaries. The film presented the tension between the First Amendment and socially dangerous propaganda (which legally exceeds the First Amendment only when it presents the threat of imminent lawless action; European countries, especially Germany, have a much lower legal tolerance for hate or Nazi-oriented speech). The Turner Diaries had depicted an explosion of the FBI building in Washington, but this also happens in the 1999 film from Sony Screen Gems, Arlington Road. This documentary also shows how neo Nazis have tried to merge Nazi ideology with Christianity, a connection that as a purely intellectual paradigm seems clumsy when compared, say, to fundamentalist Islam. When I was writing DADT in the mid 1990s, I had considered the neo-Nazi threat among the main terrorist threats in our country, and I had myself underestimated radical Islam. The History Channel preceded this presentation with an hour long account of a near miss in 1941 of a Nazi terrorist plot, Nazi Spies in America.

In late 2004 the History Channel presented another show, a one-hour special, in which the idea that Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden might have worked with neo-Nazi elements in this country to recruit Timothy McVeigh, and the show presented convincing evidence that there are unapprehended co-conspirators. McVeight’s attorney Stephen Jones from Enid, OK, who says he is a proper Republican, supported this theory.

Maryanne Vollers: Lone Wolf: Eric Rudolf: Murder, Myth and the Pursuit of the American Outlaw. Harper Collins, 2006, ISBN 006059862X hardcover, 356 pages.  This is a journalist's biography, much of it based on interviews in the supermax prison (where he is "buried alive") in Pubelo, Colorado, of Eric Rudolph, who perpetrated the Olympic Park bombing at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, as well as bombings of abortion clinics and gay discos (the Otherside Lounge).

Much of the book traces his "Army of God" (an "idea", not an "organization"), his life on the lam, his survival skills and simple life in hiding in Appalachia, as well as his bust by a 21-year-old cop. The book also carefully reviews other theories before he was a suspect, and carefully reviews this erroneous suspicion of Richard Jewell; that episode shows how easily law enforcement can jump on and misread superficial appearances. There are interesting anecdotes about extreme splinter groups and survivalists, such as SPIKE (Specially Prepared Individuals for Key Events), a concept that I have worked into a couple of my fiction screenplays (of a rightwing group recruiting and almost "kidnapping" people into its clutches). There is a lot of background detail about Rudolph's family, its authoritarian parental style and its experiments with "primitive" Christian communal living.

The book is quite interesting in its characterization of the "loner" personality that depends upon its own intellect for moral control rather than the social feedback of others. Such persons have feeling but lack empathy for others, and may have trouble judging the appropriateness or reasonableness of their views and the application of their ideas. The book explains Rudolf as believing that government in America had forfeited moral authority, but he had very strong moral views about the unborn, and about the cultural "poisoning" of homosexuality on society, although he said he was willing to respect privacy of homosexuals. As such, his views admitted to a certain collectivism, and he actually supported some social welfare (like health care) and control programs even if he opposed Marxism, feminism and liberalism.  Ironically, there is a chapter called "Manifesto." Despite the emphasis on intellect and self-determined thinking, Rudolph's ideology sounds fairly pat and derived from the extreme "Christian" right wing.

Lucinda Roy. No Right to Remain Silent: The Tragedy at Virginia Tech. New York: Harmony, 2009. 326 pages, indexed, hardcover. ISBN 978-0-307-40963-8. The former chair of VPI's Department of English describes her interaction with Seung-Hui Cho before the VA tech massacre in April 2007. The most challenging parts of the book deal with the motives of writers, and when writing needs to be taken as indicative of possible future behavior. Blogger.

Related: Graham Allison: Nuclear Terrorism   Peter Bergen: Holy War. Inc.

 

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