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Why the government's rush to execute Timothy McVeigh?

by Kate Randall Sunday, Jun. 03, 2001 at 1:17 AM

Examining the causes of OKC bombing, and looks at the foolishness of executions.....

Why the government's rush to execute Timothy McVeigh?

By Kate Randall

26 May 2001

The US government has been forced to delay the execution

of Oklahoma City

bomber Timothy McVeigh following the revelation that the

Federal Bureau of

Investigation withheld more than 3,100 pages of

documents from his defense

team. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced on May 11

that McVeigh's

lethal injection, originally set for May 16 in Terre

Haute, Indiana, had

been rescheduled for June 11.

In the aftermath of the announcement, Ashcroft,

President Bush, FBI

Director Louis Freeh and other government officials have


insisted that there is nothing in the documents that

could affect McVeigh's

legal position. Ashcroft and Bush have stated there will

be no further

delays in carrying out his execution. They have

maintained this position

despite the fact that additional documents have been

discovered since

Ashcroft's initial acknowledgment of withheld material.

Only last Thursday Ashcroft announced that a final

search at FBI offices

had turned up an additional 898 pages of documents. But

the attorney

general reiterated that the government would fight any

attempt by McVeigh's

attorneys to seek a delay in the execution.

The government maintains that the documents were

withheld from McVeigh's

defense as a result of an organizational foul-up by the

FBI. There was no

intention to deprive the defense lawyers of the

material, officials insist.

There is no reason to uncritically accept this

explanation as the truth.

But even if the documents were withheld inadvertently,

the fact remains

that federal authorities failed to provide the defense

with a huge volume

of evidence that bears directly on the FBI investigation

into the bombing.

This is a serious violation of a defendant's right to a

fair trial, and the

violation is compounded by the fact that it concerns a

capital case. It

constitutes legal grounds for contesting either

McVeigh's original trial,

the penalty phase, or both.

Given the mass of documents involved, and the fact that

the defendant is

facing the death penalty, limiting the extension to 30

days is a travesty

of due process. There is no way McVeigh's lawyers can

study the documents,

let alone adequately investigate issues arising from

them, in such a short


Furthermore, the repeated public statements of high

government officials,

echoed by the media, that there is nothing of an

exculpatory nature in the

material can only have the effect of prejudicing any

jury that might be

assembled to consider future legal proceedings, should

McVeigh decide to

take that path.

The question arises: why the rush to execute McVeigh?

A number of factors could be involved in the

government's determination to

have done with McVeigh as soon as possible. The

documents may contain

information that conflicts with the government's

official version of the

Oklahoma City bombing, which insists that only two

individuals were

involved: McVeigh and his former army buddy Terry


Does the newly unearthed evidence point to a wider

conspiracy? Much of it

consists of interviews and leads gathered shortly after

the April 1995

blast by 46 FBI field offices concerning "John Doe No.

2," a man witnesses

reported seeing at the scene of the crime.

Federal investigators subsequently dropped their search

for this individual

and prosecuted and convicted McVeigh and Nichols,

contending the two men

acted alone. While McVeigh himself has denied the

existence of a "John Doe

No. 2," his former attorney Stephen Jones contends that

McVeigh was among a

group of conspirators. Lawyers for Terry Nichols, who

have filed a motion

for a new trial on the basis of the withheld documents,

have always claimed

there was such a man and that his existence could cast

doubt on Nichols'

role in the crime.

The withheld evidence might also contain information

damaging to the FBI or

other government agencies. There is good reason to

suspect that FBI

informants knew more about the bombing and the events

leading up to it than

has been revealed.

It is well known that the FBI has many informants in the

militia movement,

among gun lobbyists, the Christian right, the Ku Klux

Klan and other racist

and extreme-right groups. There is a long history of FBI

collusion in

right-wing violence.

One of the most notorious examples involves the

activities of FBI informant

Gary T. Rowe. In 1980 the Justice Department admitted

that the FBI knew of

Rowe's involvement in a series of racially motivated

attacks in the South

during the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. Rowe

admitted to

participating in the attack on the Freedom Riders at the

Birmingham bus

station in 1961, as well as being in the car with the

gunman who in 1965

shot and killed Viola Liuzzo, a 39-year-old civil rights

activist from Detroit.

In the recent trial of former Ku Klux Klansman Thomas

Blanton in Alabama it

was revealed that the FBI for years withheld critical

evidence concerning

the 1963 Birmingham church bombing that resulted in the

death of four young

girls. State prosecutors were not informed until 1997 of

the existence of

FBI tape recordings implicating Blanton in the crime.

Charges had circulated for years that FBI informant Rowe

had failed a lie

detector test about the 1963 blast. If Rowe was not a

direct participant in

the church bombing, it is probable he knew of plans to

carry out the

atrocity, given his association with the KKK in

Birmingham. The FBI may

have withheld the evidence to protect Rowe and other

informants, and to

conceal its own complicity in KKK crimes.

There is another dimension to the Oklahoma City bombing

that the political

establishment has sought to conceal. At the federal,

state and local level

there are numerous political figures with close ties to

the Christian

right, militia groups and racist and anti-Semitic

organizations, the very

circles in which McVeigh moved prior to the bombing. The

Republican Party

in particular has close ties to such right-wing groups,

and a number of

Republican senators, congressmen and governors have

actively solicited

their support.

During the Republican impeachment drive against Clinton,

it was revealed,

for example, that Rep. Bob Barr (R-Georgia)among the

most ferocious

anti-Clinton partisans, and Senate Majority Leader Trent

Lott (R-Miss.) had

ties to the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white

supremacist group.

Beyond these immediate questions are even more

fundamental considerations.

The Oklahoma City bombing raises a whole host of social

and political

issues that the political establishment does not want

discussed. The

bombing was a seminal event, revealing the profound

disaffection felt by

broad sections of the population with the government and

the state of

society in America, an alienation which in Timothy

McVeigh's case took an

extremely reactionary, anti-social form.

The very fact that the first large-scale terrorist

action to take place on

US soil was not carried out by foreign terrorists, but

by an American

active within right-wing extremist circles, points to

the sharp divisions

within American society. Elements like McVeigh, in the

militia movement,

the Christian right, the anti-tax movement, have been

directly fostered by

the political establishment, especially the Republican

Party. In a

political sense, establishment politicians and the media

have a good

measure of culpability in the Oklahoma City atrocity.

Moreover, the violence of the US government itself, both

at home and

abroad, is a factor in the growth of right-wing

terrorist forces. There is

an enormous element of hypocrisy in the sanctimonious

statements of

Ashcroft, Bush and others, who denounce McVeigh's act of

mass murder, but

support no less bloody actions by the American military

and police.

According to McVeigh, two events were pivotal in

convincing him that the US

government was an alien and repressive force: the

Persian Gulf War in 1991

and the 1993 FBI assault on the Branch Davidian compound

in Waco, Texas.

Volunteering as a recruit to the US Army, McVeigh was

shaken by the

savagery of US imperialism's one-sided onslaught against

the Iraqis.

Following his return from the Gulf War, the FBI attack

in Waco, which

resulted in the deaths of at least 85 people, including

21 children, helped

push him over the edge. McVeigh chose the second

anniversary of the Waco

attack for the Oklahoma City bombing.

The WSWS has examined in detail the socio-psychological

processes that led

McVeigh to carry out the most deadly act of domestic

terrorism in American

history. (See "Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh: the

making of a mass


McVeigh is a mass murderer who should be isolated from

society at

large. However, the WSWS opposes his execution. Capital

punishment is a

barbaric practice that has been outlawed in the majority

of the advanced

industrialized countries in the world. The American

people will be no

better protected by putting McVeigh to death than by

locking him up for life.

But the political establishment wants to use the McVeigh

execution, the

first federal execution in 38 years, to rehabilitate the

practice of

capital punishment, which has begun to lose support

among Americans in

recent years, due in part to revelations of wrongful

convictions of death

row inmates.

Attorney General Ashcroft has organized a viewing of the

execution on

closed circuit television for some 300 victims'

relatives and survivors,

who are to watch the grisly procedure from a remote

location in Oklahoma

City. The media plans to assemble a horde of journalists

in Terre Haute to

report live on the execution.

It is ironic that the government's handling of the

Oklahoma City bombing

case, including the revelations of withheld evidence,

has made McVeigh's

execution a focus of opposition to capital punishment.

International human

rights organizations, foreign governments and even the

Pope are calling on

the Bush administration to halt the execution. It should

be noted that a

number of the victims' relatives have themselves come

out against the


The general slant of newspaper and television reports is

that McVeigh's

execution is a precondition for those who survived the

bombing or lost

loved ones to achieve "closure." Precisely what is meant

by "closure" is

never explained. If it means putting an end to the pain

that comes from the

loss of a husband, wife, father, mother, or child, then

the term has little

meaning, because people can never fully put such

feelings behind them.

If it means overcoming the rage and bitterness produced

by an inhuman act

like McVeigh's, especially when a loved one has been

killed, it is

legitimate to question the notion that watching the

perpetrator die is the

most healthy and positive form of therapy. Surely,

society can and should

encourage a more humane means of dealing with such a


In any event, the government's rush to execute McVeigh

has little to do

with compassion for the victims and survivors. It is a

continuation of the

ethos of retribution that has been used by the political

establishment in

recent decades to brutalize society. And the authorities

hope that by

killing McVeigh they will preempt any further

examination of the bombing

and what it revealed about American society.

It is, however, only through an examination of the

social roots of this

terrible event that the survivors, as well as the

American people as a

whole, can begin to come to grips with the tragedy. What

light does

McVeigh's evolution shed on the class divisions in

American society and the

character of the political system?

Only on the basis of an understanding of the objective

social roots of the

Oklahoma City bombing is it possible to make sense of

what otherwise seems

an inexplicable event. And only on such a basis is it

possible to see how

society can be changed for the better to prevent such

events from recurring

in the future.

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That Is Dead On Hieronymous D Sunday, Jun. 03, 2001 at 6:30 AM
Ashcroft's playing to his constitents-fascist Im peach ment Sunday, Jun. 03, 2001 at 6:35 PM

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