Monday, April 20, 2015

Real terror occurred two decades (and a day) ago in Oklahoma City

Perhaps it was the sight of the former World Trade Towers collapsing into rubble after being hit square-on by two aircraft that elevated the 14-year-old attack to its level of prominence over what happened at the one-time Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

But I still have to say that what happened two decades ago in Oklahoma City strikes me as being so much worse than what occurred in New York – perhaps because the perpetrator is someone who on the surface appeared to be the “ideal” American.

IT WAS TWENTY years ago Sunday that a truck loaded with explosive substances was detonated; taking down the federal government building in Oklahoma City and killing some 168 people.

By pure dumb luck, the man believed to be the ringleader of the plot to strike at the U.S. government was arrested that very day – and law enforcement authorities were able to connect the dots quickly enough before Timothy McVeigh was able to post bond for the offense of driving a vehicle without a valid license plate and possession of a loaded firearm.

That resulted in the criminal proceedings that ultimately wound up with McVeigh’s execution at the federal prison near Terre Haute, Ind., and accomplice Terry McNichols remaining in prison to this day.

I can recall the paranoia in the early moments following word of the explosion spreading. Way too many people were convinced that this had to be some sort of Arab thing. Some foreign plot to strike at the heart of our nation.

IT WAS A plot to undermine our society. But it came from within, and from an individual who on the surface would have had many of the credentials that would have caused the conservative ideologues of our society to think he was an upstanding citizen.

McVeigh wasn’t a genius. After finishing high school, he went the military route.

He was a combat veteran – having been among the U.S. troops sent to Kuwait to support the efforts to drive Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein out of that country. He failed in his efforts to become a part of Army Special Forces, but he did receive a Bronze Star, a National Defense Service Medal, a Southwest Asia Service Medal, an Army Service Ribbon and the Kuwaiti Liberation Medal before being honorably discharged near the end of 1991.

I can think of a lot of people with those same credentials who would be regarded as promising young men and women, and whom some would be willing to claim deserve some sort of privilege in our society.

I’M SURE EVEN McVeigh felt the same say about himself, probably thinking he and people like him were the only “true” Americans. But as we now know, he had his own contempt for the ideals upon which our society was based.

Even his military record included a reprimand for having purchased a “White Power” t-shirt that he considered a response to black soldiers who chose to wear “Black Power” shirts around the army base.

Perhaps that was a clue that should have received more attention. For McVeigh went on to become one of the people who became grossly offended when an FBI siege at a cult compound resulted in an explosion and fire that killed all the occupants inside.

I recall that incident near Waco, Texas as being one where religious radicals chose death at their own hand rather than surrender to FBI agents who were concerned about the level of firepower those people were packing. Twisted logic on their part!

HECK, EVEN ACTOR Chuck Norris (never known as liberal) had some agreement – I recently stumbled across the “Walker, Texas Ranger” episode in reruns where his character had to take down a David Koresh-like character who believed himself to be Messiah-like.

Instead, McVeigh plotted an attack on the U.S. government that occurred two years to the day after Waco – and some 220 years to the day after the start of the American Revolution.

It took a serious amount of delusion to think of oneself as a revolutionary for driving a Ryder rental truck loaded with explosives, then triggering them off as a truck-sized bomb.

Even though McVeigh himself is gone, what can be scary is the idea that his ideals were not solitary – there are others amongst us delusional enough to think him a martyr. Making him more terrifying than any Middle Eastern buffoon who thinks Allah would reward their own violent actions.


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