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Local Rag Editorial 5: Timothy McVeigh and The Military Mindset

(First draft published on cnn )

Relevent Songs: 10,000 Miles Away (Unless it's happening to you)


Timothy McVeigh and The Oklahoma Bombing was a disaster waiting to happen.

Spawned by 'the culture of weaponry' which is peculiarly strong in, but by no means indigenous to the U.S.; trained by the American military, and profoundly alienated by his government he was, however, a weapon destined to explode in the face of his own creators.

In the aftermath of the events in Waco, Texas and at Ruby Ridge he began to view himself as a patriot at war with a ruthless and despotic administration. He may well have been paranoid or evil; but what is sobering for us all is this.

McVeigh was a trained military officer, a decorated veteran of the Gulf War who set out with military precision to eliminate what he perceived to be a miltary target; and there is no doubt that, in his own insane terms, he was successful. An awful lot of FBI personnel died.

What is truly appaling, however, was that, along with these officers, he brutally murdered, maimed and disfigured an enormous number of 'innocent bystanders' including preschool children; and that he was prepared to do this in order to achieve his objective.

His only statement of concern about those deaths (which he viewed to be, in military terminology, "collatoral damage") was that they were a "a public relations nightmare".

As people around the globe began to ask how such a truly evil and twisted mindset could possibly exist, I began to wonder where I had heard something like that before.

It took a little while, but it came. It was Madelaine Albright, then US Secretary of State, who was quoted after the first Gulf War as saying that the reported 50,000 Iraqi children who died as a result of that conflict were 'a tragic but acceptable price to pay for the destruction of Saddam Hussein's war machine'. The public weren't told about those deaths during the War. From a media perspective it was all very tightly and efficiently managed. No doubt the US Miltary knew that such a disclosure would be "a public relations nightmare" also.

The awful truth of the matter is that the innocent men, women and children who died in Oklahoma were essentially no different from those who died in Hiroshima, Belfast, Dresden, Lockerbee or London.

Most of them did not know why they died. Most of them were civilians. Most of them were unarmed. Most of them had no connection to the real centres of power which started the conflicts that led to their deaths.

All of them were slaughtered by men who, through some twisted sense of patriotism or duty, were prepared to suspend their own decency and humanity in the service of some greater 'patriotic' cause. Slaughtered by men who were able to bring themselves to think of defenceless human beings not as flesh and blood; dreams and bone, but as 'collateral damage' 'strategic targets' and 'kill ratios'; whose human rights were somehow subordinate to the wider aims of the policy of the day.

Timothy McVeigh was not an accident or an abberation; he was actually given the training and the mindset to inflict such appalling carnage on a civilian target; and he was given it by the American military. He had been trained to kill without remorse; trained to kill defenceless people, if ordered, (though admittedly in other countries, not his own); but make no mistake, he was trained to do just that.

Yes, he was a traitor and a rogue but, as a cold blooded killer, he was essentially no different to the men who flew the Enola Gaye above Hiroshima; no different to the men who fired V2 rockets into London; no different to the men who armed the militia in East Timor; no different to the men who carried out the bombing raids on Dresden or Hanoi. and no different at all from the man who emptied the lethal chemicals into his body; or the man who ordered it.

They were, and are, all murderers whose victims had no power at the time to defend themselves. Murderers whose atrocities were committed in the name of Duty. Timothy McVeigh, I have seen it argued, was no loss; but his brutal execution at the hands of a democratic government was a loss for all humanity.

I hope, however, that some good may come of it yet. Perhaps the Oklahoma bombing and that appalling execution might finally cause people, in the US and elsewhere, to realise what people in China, Serbia, Russia, Burma and Britain and Germany have known for years. And it is this.

You cannot fund organisations that train cold blooded killers and expect that they will not one day turn, or be ordered to turn, on you, their fellows citizens. That day will come. In Tiananmen Square, In Dachau or in Oklahoma City.. that day will surely come.

International Arms manufacturers and military institutions worldwide remain a grave threat to us all; but in the final analysis, in Terra Haute as in Nuremburg, any man who is prepared without question or rebellion to terminate the life of a defenceless human being, and who justifies it in the name of Patriotism or Duty, is always, and ever, the enemy.



Pat Drummond


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