4 November 2018
It could have happened to any federal building in the United States but it fell like wrath upon the state, county and city of Oklahoma. The “IT” I am referring to was a Ryder truck packed with two tons of homemade explosives that detonated in front of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building on April 19th1995. The death toll was 168 men, women and children. This unconscionable act of wanton violence was committed by an American, Timothy James McVeigh. The date of April 19thwas not random. The Oklahoma City bombing occurred on the two-year anniversary of the Waco, Texas massacre, where David Koresh and 80 followers burned to death in their home/church after a 51-day siege by federal agents. Only one year prior to Koresh’s last stand in Waco, federal agents again imposed their might against another man, Randy Weaver, and his family in Ruby Ridge, Idaho. F.B.I. agents attempted to serve him an arrest warrant, but instead murdered his wife, son and dog. In the mind of McVeigh, these were illustrations of the state’s rancor descending upon citizens who refused to be coerced or intimidated. These two events combined with a fiery book, “The Turner Diaries”, a racist novel about overthrowing the federal government, would be the precipitating causes to the worst act of domestic terrorism our country had ever seen. Timothy McVeigh viewed the federal government as a tyrannical bully. The bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City was not terrorism to him, it was reciprocity.
Timothy James McVeigh was born on April 23rd1968 in Lockport, New York. An only child from a divorced home McVeigh suffered from abandonment issues when his mother completely disappeared from his life. He had an interest in guns from a young age often target shooting with his grandfather. Growing up Timothy was very bright but he was tall, lanky and skinny, his appearance and social awkwardness would make him a target for bullying in school. McVeigh was very much a ghost to those that met him growing up. His feelings of inadequacy and suppressed emotional nature would be contributing factors towards his inevitable act of mass murder. Author John Kilfer explored these attributes in his article, (McVeigh’s Mind) where he stated; “He was so withdrawn that his classmates sarcastically voted him “mosttalkative” in the yearbook, also former teachers did not remember him. Everybody who met him described him the same: quiet, polite, neat. Yet, as commonplace as this seems, criminologists say, these traits are often the stuff of serial killers, terrorists and other solitary murderers.” Disturbingly enough, McVeigh definitely fit this profile.
It was about this time Tim began reading “The Turner Diaries”.Tim would eventually use this book as a blueprint of sorts for how to start a revolution. Often considered the bible of the racist right, this book is explicitly anti-Semitic. It depicts an underground guerilla style revolution of white citizens opposing “The System” known in the book as “The Jewish Government”. In the book the government begins repealing the 2ndamendment-the right to bear arms, as a result, one of the first acts of the revolution is the bombing of a federal building. An eerie forecast of what was yet to come.McVeigh ended up joining the Army in 1988 and was awarded the Bronze Star for bravery in The Persian Gulf war. An excellent soldier he was invited to try out for the elite branch of the army special forces. Tim washed out and quit after only two days of Green Beret training, he was discharged honorably in 1991. Disillusioned and distrustful McVeigh lived a transient lifestyle from this point on. “Unable to find a home in the military McVeigh lived a peripatetic lifestyle, following the gun show circuit and selling copies of The Turner Diarieswherever he went” (“Timothy McVeigh” Biography). Feeling displaced he began to drift towards the radical right militia minded gun freaks from the shows he frequented and followed. The year following his military discharge one of the reciprocal causes of the OKC bombing occurred, the incident at Ruby Ridge.
August 21st1992, Randy Weaver, an Army veteran, witnessed his wife Vicki, son Sammy and dog Degan killed on their property in Ruby Ridge, Idaho by F.B.I. sharpshooters. While attending a meeting of the Aryan nation Weaver was entrapped when undercover agents asked him to illegally convert some shotguns to sawed off shotguns. “When Weaver refused to become an informant for the ATF, federal agents pursued a weapons charge against him. He was arrested and released with a trial set for February 19, 1991” (Ruby Ridge, History). A warrant was put out on Weaver after he did not show up for his arraignment, this would lead to an eventual 11-day stand-off where all of his family barring his infant daughter, were killed. This remote cause of the Oklahoma City bombing was being closely monitored by McVeigh and others like him of the far radical right. To them this was a perfect example of the government infringing on private citizens rights. In McVeigh’s mind this was the prophesy of the “The Turner Diaries”coming to fruition.
Only six months later the beginning of a 51-day stand-off at the Mt Carmel, Branch Davidian complex located in Waco, Texas would happen. David Koresh and his followers would meet a catastrophic demise at the hands of the F.B.I. and A.T.F. agencies that laid siege against them. Over 800 federal, state and local officers were present outside the Branch Davidian complex accompanied by 12 tanks and 4 combat engineered vehicles. “The A.T.F. believed that the Branch Davidians-who ran a small business selling weapons at gun shows-had converted a batch of firearms from semiautomatic to automatic without proper permits” (Sacred). The A.T.F. made the bizarre decision to serve a warrant on Koresh by force rather than simply arresting him on the many occasions he ventured into town (Sacred). An undercover A.T.F. agent, Gonzalez, was tasked with infiltration of the Davidians complex to search out these illegal firearms, he could find none. Information was being fed to the then Attorney General, Janet Reno, that Koresh was molesting children and keeping people there against their will. Word came out that Koresh was a cult leader and was quickly categorized as another Jim Jones by the media reporting the event. The story disseminated by the feds was there would be another mass suicide just like Jones Town in Guyana. After 51 days on April 19th1992, Reno gave the go ahead to invade the compound by force and end the siege. “The F.B.I. used deadly gas, set fire to the building then bulldozed it with tanks on the scene”, (Meaning). 80 members of the Branch Davidians, 27 of them children were killed that day. Several years later on the news program 60 Minutes, Janet Reno said, “seeing what happened I would not have done it again” (Meaning).
All the while, during the siege of Mt Carmel, Timothy McVeigh was there, parked along the police barricades several miles away from the Davidian compound. He was selling bumper stickers and of course, copies of The Turner Diaries to the other on-lookers. Two years later, to the day, McVeigh would begin his own private revolution.
The notorious act committed by Tim McVeigh has no excuse in the rational mind. But, rather looking at it from his perspective he was a patriot in the truest sense. The way McVeigh saw the government relates to Cohens Monster Thesis V: The Monster Polices the Borders of the Possible. McVeigh saw the real monster as the federal government. The government is, “The monster that prevents mobility (intellectual, geographic, or sexual), delimiting the social spaces through which private bodies may move. To step outside this official geography is to risk attack by the monstrous border patrol or (worse) to become the monstrous oneself” (Cohen). To Timothy, The State is the monster that lingers outside the border of the world map. It warns anyone who would defy cross it that ultimate demise awaits you should you dare. True to Cohens thesis Timothy McVeigh dared, and as result, became the monster himself.
Feelings of inadequacy and abandonment coupled with disillusionment from his inability to stand out in the Army could be considered precipitating causes for his monstrous act. But, it would be the injustices he saw committed by the United States government in the cases of Waco, Texas and Ruby Ridge, Idaho that most likely were the sufficient causes for the OKC bombing. These specific events along with the prejudiced handbook of an imaginary revolution portrayed in The Turner Diaries led him to become the worst domestic terrorist our country had ever seen. When asked how he felt about the deaths of the 168 people from the Oklahoma City bombing he was responsible for he simply answered, “they were collateral damage” (McVeigh’s Mind). Acquaintances noted Tim’s favorite T-shirt, which he constantly wore, had a quote by Thomas Jefferson, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Timothy James McVeigh was executed by lethal injection at 7:14 a.m. June 11th2001. His final words were a hand-written note read by the guard. It was the poem, Invictus by William Ernest Henley:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome, (1996) “Monster culture (seven theses)” from Cohen, Jeffrey
Jerome (ed.), Monster theory: reading culture pp.3- 25, Minneapolis, Minn.: University of Minnesota Press ©
Gladwell, Malcolm. “Sacred And Profane.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 19 June 2017, www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/03/31/sacred-and-profane-4.
Henley, William Ernest. Book of Verses. Nabu Press, 2010.
Kifner, John. “McVEIGH’S MIND: A Special Report.;Oklahoma Bombing Suspect: Unraveling of a Frayed Life.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 31 Dec. 1995,www.nytimes.com/1995/12/31/us/mcveigh-s-mind-special-report-oklahoma-bombing-suspect-unraveling-frayed-life.html
“Timothy McVeigh.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 3 Sept. 2017,
“Ruby Ridge.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 19 Jan. 2018,
Vidal, Gore. “The Meaning of Timothy McVeigh.” The Hive, Vanity Fair, 17 Oct. 2017,