Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Timothy McVeigh: American Fundamentalist Warrior

(NB: Please do not cite without author's permission.)

Timothy McVeigh: American Fundamentalist Warrior

A thesis presented to the Faculty of Arts of the University of New England in partial fufilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Letters in History.


Thesis title:

Timothy McVeigh: American Fundamentalist Warrior



Chapter 1: Biographical Overview

Chapter 2: American Fascist?

Chapter 3: American Fundamentalist Warrior


On April 19, 1995, at 9.02 A. M., the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was devastated by the explosion of an oil-and-fertiliser bomb located in a Ryder truck parked outside. This terrible explosion killed one hundred and sixty eight people, including nineteen children. More than five hundred people were injured. It was the deadliest attack on American territory since the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and it still represents the worst act of terrorist violence committed on American soil by its own citizenry. 1

The focus of this paper will be on understanding the motivation of Timothy McVeigh, the historical actor primarily responsible for this horrific event. To date the historiographical context McVeigh has been located within is that of indigenous radical right-wing terrorism. Academics, and other commentators, have sought to explain McVeigh’s actions as representing the latest manifestation of this strand of American history with appropriate historical precursors to McVeigh being indentified as radical right-wing groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Minutemen. Furthermore, many commentators have sought to identify McVeigh as embodying the "paranoid style" mindset defined by the eminent American historican Richard Hofstadter in his seminal 1963 essay.

It will be argued here, through a critical analysis of the existing literature, that this conceptual approach whilst offering some insights into McVeigh is nonetheless fundamentally flawed and represents an inadequate explanation of him. The conventional theoretical strategy conspicuously fails to identify those unique historical developments in the late twentieth-century that helped transform McVeigh from a decorated soldier into a terrorist and mass-murderer. The available literature is ossified in style; locked in past American historical logics and self-referential in tone. What has been forgotten is that history is a process of rearticulation in light of what is happening today. McVeigh was not the product of a bygone era rather he was the dynamic product of post-Vietnam America and globalisation.

1. D. Herbeck & L. Michel, American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh & The Oklahoma City Bombing, New York, 2001, p.237.

Historical analysis in this case is greatly assisted by McVeigh’s legacy including a wealth of primary evidence. This provides the opportunity for closer consideration of his biography and its significance. Unlike Nichols and Fortier, Timothy McVeigh chose to grant media access during his last years on death row. Of most significance, he granted seventy-five hours worth of interviews to two journalists, Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, to provide the basis of their biography of him American Terrorist. He also left behind a considerable body of correspondence; most notably with the left-wing American man-of-letters Gore Vidal. Critical examination of this material helps to reveal that McVeigh was very much a product of his own particular historical epoch; despite his attempts to portray himself as the embodiment of a style of heroic Americanism dating back to the Revolutionary War.

What has not been appreciated, until now, is the extent to which McVeigh was the product of not only historical forces evident in American society but across the world. It has been widely remarked upon that McVeigh was motivated by trauma arising from his experiences as a soldier in the Gulf War and his anger at the actions of U. S. federal law enforcement agents at Ruby Ridge and at Waco without properly appreciating the significance McVeigh attached to these events. Specifically, it needs to be understood that McVeigh felt emasculated and threatened by the historical process of globalisation. He experienced this not only as personal failure but also in his perception that the integrity and independence of the American body politic and way of life had been subverted. McVeigh found evidence of this in the historical events of the Gulf War, Ruby Ridge and Waco. His terrorist actions on April 19, 1995 were intended not only to reassert his American individualism but also to strike a symbolic blow against globalisation. Arriving at this understanding allows us to reach beyond the conceptual confines of American history which McVeigh has been placed in to date and to also locate him into a wider international historical context as a fundamentalist warrior fighting to preserve his beliefs and culture against the demonic, transformative powers of globalisation.


Consideration of his life history prior to the Oklahoma City bombing reveals that Timothy James McVeigh had led an unremarkable American life until that event. He was born at 8:19 A. M. on Tuesday, April 23, 1968 into a middle-class American family in Lockport, in western New York state. 2 He was the second child of Bill and Mickey McVeigh. His father was a second-generation factory worker at the local Harrison Radiator factory; the supplier of car radiators for General Motors. His mother Mickey worked as a travel agent. 3 McVeigh had an older sister Patty and a younger one Jennifer. 4 The closest familial relationship he established was with his grandfather Ed McVeigh which was based around their mutual love of guns. 5 In 1979 his parents obtained a legal separation and his mother and sisters moved to Florida. His parents finally divorced in 1986. 6
McVeigh was recognised as having a high IQ and was an avid reader. He also had the necessary social skills to ensure that he was popular with fellow students at primary and high school and he cultivated a wide network of friends. 7 On June 29, 1986 McVeigh graduated from Starpoint High School. His academic marks were good enough for him to qualify for a modest college scholarship award from New York State. The inscription McVeigh chose for his High School yearbook photo, to indicate his future plans, did not indicate that he was a troubled young man. It read, "take it as it comes, buy a lamborghini, california girls". 8

2. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.12.
3. ibid., p.8.
4. ibid., p.12.
5. ibid., p.21.
6. ibid., p.22.
7. ibid., p.29.
8. ibid., p.35.

At his father’s insistence McVeigh enrolled at Bryant & Stratton business college near Pendleton with the ambition of becoming a computer systems analyst. However, he soon quit college explaining to his father that, "Classes are just too boring…I know more than the teachers." 9 He returned to working for Burger King. After working for Burger King and as a security guard. 10 on May 24, 1988, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. Sergeant McVeigh served with distinction in the Army in the Gulf War winning five medals, including the Army Commendation Medal. 11 He could have enjoyed a long-term career in the Army but chose to resign and accepted an honorable discharge from the Army on 2 January, 1992. 12 After leaving the Army he returned to western New York and his former vocation of security guard. In 1993 he left New York and over the next two years he drifted around the country visiting forty of the fifty states. He worked in a variety of low paying jobs such as on a building site and in a hardware store. His main source of modest income was derived from selling books and survivalist items at gun shows around the country. 13

Four days short of his twenty-seventh birthday, on April 19, 1995, at 9.02 A. M., Timothy McVeigh exploded the bomb at Oklahoma City that would enter him into the annals of American history as being his country’s worst domestic terrorist. 14 Afterwards, he was driving away from the scene of the crime when a state trooper pulled him over sixty miles outside of Oklahoma City. He was arrested on four misdemeanour charges including not having a licence plate on his car and carrying a concealed weapon without a state permit. 15 On August 10, 1995, Timothy McVeigh was charged on eleven counts including using a weapon of mass destruction and killing eight federal law enforcement officers in the explosion. 16 McVeight was convicted of all charges against him on June 2, 1997, and was sentenced to death on June 13, 1997. He was executed on June 12, 2001; the first federal prisoner to be executed since Victor Feguer was hanged in Iowa on March 15, 1963, for kidnapping and murder. 17

9. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.37.
10. ibid., p.37.
11. ibid., p.75.
12. B. M. Stickney, "All-American Monster": The Unauthorized Biography of Timothy McVeigh, New York, 1996, p.126.
13. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.121.
14. ibid., p.237.
15. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.244.
16. ibid., p.292.
17. ibid., p.373.

Two other men were convicted for assisting McVeigh in his preparations for the bombing. Terry Nichols was convicted of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to life in prison. 18 Michael Fortier was convicted of transporting stolen firearms, lying to law enforcement officers and failure to report the bombing and sentenced to twelve years prison. 19 The court records and McVeigh’s own account clarify that the primary responsibility for the bombing rests with him and that he executed the bombing on his own after having to coerce Nichols into assisting him with constructing the bomb. 20

There has been speculation that McVeigh was a participant in a larger conspiracy. Notable examples include his former lawyer Stephen Jones alleging in his book (Others Unknown: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing Conspiracy) that McVeigh had collaborated with Islamic terrorists from the Philippines and Criminologist Mark S. Hamm’s (In Bad Company: America’s Terrorist Underground) postulating that McVeigh had acted in concert with the American radical right terrorist outfit the Aryan Republican Army. Many in the American Patriot movement and Militia groups held the Federal government responsible for the bombing. Linda Thompson, of the Disorganized Militia of the U.S.A, opined, "I definitely believe the government did the bombing. I mean, who’s got a track record of killing children?" 21 Other militia leaders such as Frank Smith of the Georgia Militia 22 and Randy Trochmann of the Militia of Montana 23 echoed these sentiments. Norm Olson, of the Michigan Militia, asserted that the Japanese government had carried out the attack in revenge for the American government being responsible for the poison gas attack in Tokyo earlier in the year. 24

18. ibid., p.365.
19. P. Pantziarka, Lone Wolf: True Stories of Spree Killers, London, 2002, p.210.
20. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.212.
21. N. A. Hamilton, Militias in America: A Reference Handbook, Santa Barbara, 1996, p.44.
22. loc.cit.
23. ibid., p.45.
24. ibid., p.44.

The available historical evidence does not substantiate any of these allegations and leads one to the inevitable conclusion that Timothy McVeigh was responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing. FBI Special Agent Danny Defenbaugh revealed in a media interview that the government investigation of the bombing had cost $82.5 million, had involved checking 43,500 leads and scrutinising 7,156 people as potential accomplices in the bombing. The FBI had eventually concluded that the evidence only supported McVeigh and Nichols being charged with conspiring in the bombing. 25 Furthermore, Timothy McVeigh had admitted his responsibility for the bombing before he died. He granted seventy-five hours worth of interviews to two journalists, Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, to provide the basis of their biography of him American Terrorist. The biography includes his candid admission of guilt and was published in early 2001 prior to his execution. He also wrote a detailed letter to Gore Vidal on April 4, 2001 confirming his guilt (Vidal publised the letter as part of an essay for the September 2001 issue of Vanity Fair and his book The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2001).

The biographical overview of Timothy McVeigh reveals a seemingly ordinary American citizen. Yet this ostensibly ordinary American was responsible for the worst act of terrorism carried out on American soil by one of its own citizens. By virtue of his crime he became "the most hated man in America" 26 There was a public uproar after the Denver Post revealed that McVeigh as the recipient of a Bronze Star qualified for a honourable military burial. President Clinton was moved to take the extraordinary step of signing on 21 November 1997 legislation "barring McVeigh from burial in a national cemetery because of his conviction." 27 The challenge now is understanding how an all-American boy from a middle-class family could graduate from high school a popular student dreaming of a life based on "take it as it comes, buy a lamborghini, california girls", to being a decorated war hero, to being a transient living on the fringes of society, and finally being responsible for a heinous terrorist act making him "the most hated man in America".

25. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.366.
26. Pantziarka, op.cit., p.207.
27. E. T. Linenthal, The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory, New York, 2001, p.20.


In seeking to explain McVeigh’s motives for the bombing many academics and commentators have opted to categorise him as an ideal-type adherent of American Fascism located within the continuum of what David H. Bennett calls "The Party of Fear". It will be argued in this chapter that this analytical approach when applied to McVeigh is fundamentally flawed and does not provide a comprehensive answer to his motivations.

As fascism is a contentious term I will clarify its definition. I utilise the definition of Mark Neocleous:
"It is a form of reactionary modernism: responding to the alienation and exploitation of modern soceity but unwilling to lay down any serious challenge to the structure of private property central to modern capitalism, fascism can only set its compass by the light of reaction, a mythic past to be recaptured within the radically altered conditions of modernity. This politics of reaction constitutes the ideological basis of revolution from the right in which war, nature and the nation become the central terms." 30

I also rely upon the clarification provided by George Lundskow as to its meaning in the context of late twentieth-century America:
"Basically the U.S. creates its own distinctive brand of fascism that merges fundamentalism, racism, and totalitarianism in the unique American cultural context, such that extremism becomes predominately a religious crusade of morality, racial purity, and authoritarian devotion to ultimate and transcendental beliefs. In the American context,…, movements that contain fascistic elements often present them within a rhetoric of freedom, patriotism, local autonomy, individualism, and so on." 31

"Many of the beliefs, such as millenialism, essential racial purity, authoritative organization, absolute moral dictums, total faith and devotion to literal readings of scripture and so on, are not new, but contemporary extremism combines these elements in new and unique ways." 32

30. N. James, ‘Conjuring order: the new world order and conspiracy theories of globalization’, in J. Parish and M. Parker, The Age of Anxiety: Conspiracy Theory and the Human Sciences, Oxford, 2001, p.68.
31. G. Lundskow, ‘The People, The Enemy, and the Vision: A Review Essay’, MARS/Social Thought & Research, Vol.20, No.1 & No.2, 1997, p.188.
32. loc.cit.

The first substantive books placing McVeigh into the context of America’s radical right were written by two liberal political activists rather than academics. Gathering Storm: America’s Militia Threat was principally the work of Morris Dees, veteran activist and chief counsel of the Southern Poverty Law Center (which includes Klanwatch). A Force Upon the Plains: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of Hate was written by Kenneth S. Stern, analyst for the American Jewish Committee on hate groups. Both books are intended to warn the wider public of the dangers posed by the contemporary American militia movement, which Dees and Stern present as fascistic, violent and a threat to American democracy and pluralism. Subsequent books, including Brandon M. Stickney’s "All-American Monster": The Unauthorized Biography of Timothy McVeigh, Richard Abanes’ American Militias: Rebellion, Racism & Religion, Captain Robert L. Snow’s The Militia Threat: Terrorists Among Us, George and Wilcox’s American Extremists: Militias, Supremacists, Klansmen, Communists & Others, Joel Dyer’s Harvest of Rage: Why Oklahoma City is Only the Beginning and Philip Lamy’s Millennium Rage: Survivalists, White Supremacists, and the Doomsday Prophecy have all cited Dees and or Stern, and presented the militia movement in a similar alarmist fashion. This is despite the authors coming from radically different backgrounds (Abanes an expert on cults, Snow a former police officer, Stickney and Dyer are journalists, George a professor of political science and sociology, Wilcox a university archivist and Lamy an anthropologist).
All of these books present McVeigh as an example of the dangers posed by the militia movement and as an exemplar of Richard Hofstadter’s ‘paranoid style’. Stern explains the operation of the militia movement using a funnel metaphor:
"At the front end, it’s picking up lots and lots of people by hitting on issues that have wide appeal, like gun control….Then you go a little bit further into the funnel, and it’s about ideology, about the oppressiveness of the federal government. Then, further in, you get into the belief systems. The conspiracy. The Illuminati. The Freemasons. Then, it’s about the anti-Semitic conspiracy. Finally, at the narrowest end of the funnel, you’ve drawn in the hard core, where you get someone like Tim McVeigh popping out…." 33 Dees presents McVeigh as a "pawn" 34 of the militia movement.

33. K. S. Stern, A Force Upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of Hate, Norman, 1997, p.107.
34. J. Corcoran & M. Dees, Gathering Storm: America’s Militia Threat, New York, 1997, p.168.


Historical developments and evidence that has become available since the publication of these books has shown that the categorisation of both McVeigh and the militia movement by Stern and Dees is seriously flawed. Stern estimated the militia movement in 1996 to have as its peak membership number 40,000 members 35 which seems less impressive when you consider that this membership figure is less than half that boasted by the radical right John Birch Society during the Kennedy administration, 36 or the membership of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s and 1930s as documented by David Chalmers in Hooded Americanism: The History of the Ku Klux Klan.. By 2001 when Stern posted articles on the "The Militia Movement" and "Timothy McVeigh: The Oklahoma City Bomber" on the Anti-Defamation League website he noted that the movement had declined markedly in the time since the Oklahoma City bombing to a current membership "somewhere under 10,000," 37 and that McVeigh had never been formally connected to the militia movement. 38 McVeigh himself always denied any involvement with the militias.
The contemporary militia movement which sprang up in the early 1990s after the fall of European communism and the Gulf War 39 is not a harmonious national movement. There are significant ideological differences amongst its different groups. 40 What they share in common is being armed local self-defense groups made up entirely of private citizens who regularly meet and conduct military-style training exerices 41 and have varying types of reactionary anti-government political beliefs. It should be noted that much of the membership left the movement in the aftermath of Oklahoma City bombing for which they were widely portrayed in the media as being responsible. 42 The militia movement has not been responsible for any terrorist acts resulting in loss of life in recent years.

35. Stern, op.cit., p.16.
36. M. Kazin, ‘The White Rage’, http://www.prospect.org/print/V8/31/kazin-m.html
37. K. Stern, ‘Timothy McVeigh: The Oklahoma City Bomber’, http://www.adl.org/mcveigh/default.htm
38. loc.cit.
39. C. Berlet, ‘Dances with Devils: How Apocalyptic and Millennialist Themes Influence Right Wing Scapegoating and Conspiracism’, http://www.publiceye.org/Apocalyptic/Dances-with-Devils-2.htm
40. M. Fenster, Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture, Minneapolis, 1999, p.25.
41. Hamilton, op.cit., p.224.
42. Fenster, op.cit., p.27.

Nonetheless, it would be wrong to suggest that the militia movement is entirely benign in nature given that Stern has documented that some militia members in recent years have been responsible for harassment of government officials and been convicted on a variety of conspiracy and weapons charges. 43 Non-governmental militias remain illegal under the laws of most states and are not recognised under the Second Amendment of the Constitution. 44 Whilst the militia movement has had a minority of violent and reprehensible people from America’s radical right in its ranks, ultimately, the historical record does not support the conclusion that the militias can be classified as representing "the post-Vietnam American Freikorps". 45 Instead, Rush Limbaugh’s characterisation that "weekend militia groups" were "just a bunch of weekend bubbas who go out there with their guns and play army, but they mean no harm" 46seems to be accurate for the great majority of its past and present membership. Nor does the historical evidence support the conclusion that McVeigh was a pawn of the militia movement.

43. K. Stern, ‘The Militia Movement’, http://www.adl.org/learn/Ext-US/Militia-M.asp
44. Hamilton, op.cit., p.56.
45. Linenthal, op.cit., p.24.
46. Linenthal, op.cit., p.26.

Whilst McVeigh was not a member of the militia movement he readily admitted to having been part of the Patriot movement. The Patriot movement dates from the early 1990s and consists of a diffuse array of American right-wing activists. Its ranks cover a wide spectrum from disaffected conservatives, pro-gun activists, survivalists and radicals who would meet Lundskow’s definition of American fascism including hard-core Christian Identity adherents and neo-Nazis. 47 The movement is most readily apparent through the American gun show circuit and talk shows they broadcast on shortwave radio. By his own admission McVeigh attended approximately eighty gun shows and listened to Patriot movement talks shows on his shortwave radio. 48 He was not a passive spectator at these events; he was an active participant. McVeigh set up his own table at these events and sold survivalist items including T-shirts, Army camouflage pants, canteens, duffel and sleeping bags, and copies of the book The Turner Diaries. Eventually, he sold flares and flare launchers as well. 49 Most of all he enjoyed talking to like-minded people about his anti-government and pro-gun views. 50 By his own account in American Terrorist he encountered at gun shows ‘’all kinds of items for sale, from guns to turkey calls to anti-Clinton bumper stickers to Adolf Hitler wall clocks and Hitler Youth posters. Although he never aligned himself with the stranger elements of the gun culture….’’ 51 McVeigh was undoubtedly exposed to American fascism on the gun show circuit, but, in the absence of any compelling evidence to contradict his account, it is reasonable to accept that he never formally aligned himself with these elements. McVeigh has clarified that he was never a member of any Patriot organization. 52
47. James, op.cit., p.68.
48. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.121.
49. ibid., p.137.
50. ibid., p.124.
51. loc.cit.
52. ibid., p.160.

One of the key ideological criteria for Lundskow’s definition of American fascism is racism. Dees 53 and Stern both protrayed McVeigh as a rabid racist. In the account of his life he provided to Michel and Herbeck McVeigh admitted to several instances of racist behaviour. In 1987, at the age of nineteen, in his first spell working for an armoured car service in Buffalo as a security guard he was exposed for the first time to minority groups and American inner-city neighborhoods. 54 His older colleagues derisively referred to the local African-Americans as "porch monkeys" 55 and McVeigh came to share these sentiments with his co-workers at that time. After his return from the Gulf War he was overheard around his Army base using the pejorative term "nigger" on several occasions and, consequently a complaint about him was submitted to his superior officer. He would also laugh at what he thought was a "good nigger joke" 56 McVeigh explained this away on the basis that although he disliked some African-Americans amongst his Army colleagues and would use the term "nigger", in anger, he also cited other African-Americans as being amongst his closest "battle buddies". 57

Furthermore he was critical of affirmative action government programmes. After leaving the Army McVeigh applied for a couple of government positions, toll collector for New York State Throughway Authority and marshal with the U.S. Marshals Service. He scored well in the entrance exams for both positions but was never offered either position and believed he had been the victim of discrimination because he was white. "The equal-opportunity shit bothers me," McVeigh said years later. "The job should go to the most qualified person, regardless of race." 58

53. Corcoran & Dees, op.cit., p.155.
54. Pantziarka, op.cit., p.199.
55. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.44.
56. ibid., p.88.
57. ibid., p.87.
58. ibid., p.100.

More significantly, McVeigh was a member of the Ku Klux Klan for a year whilst in the Army. By his own account McVeigh joined on a trial basis after reading an anti-government Klan pamphlet arguing American society should return to the model operative at the time of the Founding Fathers. McVeigh stretches credibility in claiming that he knew virtually nothing about the Klan at the time he joined. But the fact remains he did not renew his membership which you would expect him to do if he had been a committed racialist; this lends credence to his claim that he disagreed with the Klan focus being racism rather than individual and gun rights. McVeigh swore to Michel and Herbeck that was not a racist whilst conceding that he actively explored the racist point of view. 59 In preparation for his trial McVeigh was interviewed by a defense appointed Psychiatrist, Dr Smith, who later released his report on McVeigh (with his permission). The report comments, "Tim wanted it made clear that…he was not a racist. He made that very clear." 60 After his conviction in 1995 McVeigh served in the Federal Supermax Prison until the summer of 1999. During that time McVeigh came to know several of his fellow prisoners, including Theodore Kaczynksi, the Unabomber. Kaczynski wrote a letter to Michel and Herbeck detailing his impressions of McVeigh. He noted:
"McVeigh is considered to belong to the far right, and for that reason some people apparently assume that he has racist tendencies. But I saw no indication of this. On the contrary, he was on very friendly terms with the African-American inmates here and I never heard him make any remark that could have been considered even remotely racist." 61

Ultimately, in none of his public statements has McVeigh ever cited racism as a factor behind his decision to bomb the federal building at Oklahoma City. As noted by Stern, in the aftermath of his death, the only explicit messages of support for McVeigh that were posted on the internet came from white supremacists and neo-Nazis 62 Nonetheless, it is surely reasonable to conclude that if McVeigh was a committed racist he would have been proud of this, and willing to publicly acknowledge it as an essential component of his personal ideology that led him to bomb the federal building at Oklahoma City.

59. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.88.
60. G. Vidal, The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2001, London, 2002, p.287.
61. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.399.
62. K. Stern, ‘Timothy McVeigh: The Oklahoma City Bomber’, http://www.adl.org/mcveigh/default.htm

The Sociologist James Aho employed the empirical method of asking people what publications they read to help determine their ideological positions in a study that he conducted of right-wing extremists in Idaho in the early 1990s. 63 Applying this methodology to McVeigh produces interesting results. Growing up he had loved comic books and science fiction. 64 After graduating from High School he started avidly reading books and magazines from gun culture about the Second Amendment and gun rights. 65 When he entered the Army he soon became known amongst his fellow soldiers for keeping beside his bed a large collection of books on guns and gun owners’rights. 66 By this time he had also become an avid reader of anti-government books and pamphlets from the Patriot and militia movements outlining conspiracies involving the United Nations and the Gold Standard 67 and had started reading Spotlight, the newsletter of the anti-Semitic Liberty Lobby, and Patriot Report, the Arkansas-based Christian Identity newsletter. 68 He was also an avid reader of history books particularly on the Founding Fathers and the American Revolution. 69 When Tracy McVeigh, a journalist for The Australian, visited McVeigh on death row she discovered that he was a media junkie who loved television news programs and had subscriptions with hundreds of magazines and journals including gun magazines, the Patriot Report and The Spotlight, as well as non-political car and basketball magazines. 70
The influence of literature in shaping McVeigh’s worldview is emphasised by his decision after the bombing to leave on the passenger seat of his getaway car a white envelope containing a significant number of typed pages, taken from both magazines and books. For special emphasis McVeigh had highlighted some passages with a yellow marker. He had intended this material to explain his motivations for the bombing.

63. James, op.cit., p.69.
64. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.2.
65. ibid., p.36.
66. ibid., p.58.
67. ibid., p.107.
68. Corcoran & Dees, op.cit., p.154.
69. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.110.
70. T. McVeigh, ‘Death Wish’, The Australian Magazine, The Australian, 16 June 2001, p.18.

Amongst the material was pages 61 and 62 from the novel The Turner Diaries. Highlighted was the passage:
"The real value of our attacks today lies in the psychological impact, not in the immediate casualties. More important, though, is what we taught the politicians and the bureaucrats. They learned this afternoon that not one of them is beyond our reach. They can huddle behind barbed wire and tanks in the city, or they can hide behind concrete walls and alarm systems at their country estate." 71

The folder contained a pamphlet titled, "The American Response to Tyranny", praising the valour of the 100 colonists who fought 400 British troops at Lexington, Massachusetts, on April 19, 1775. The defiant colonists "…none of whom had any strictly personal reason for becoming involved….stood, and fought, on principle for their rights and for liberty." 72 McVeigh had highlighted the section:
"The motto of many American militias was, ‘Don’t tread on me,’ which was symbolized by a coiled rattlesnake-an animal which, when left to exist peaceably, threatens no one, but when trodden upon, strikes as viciously and with as deadly an effort as any creature on earth." 73

There was also a bumper sticker directly quoting the Revolutionary War hero Samuel Adams, "WHEN THE GOVERNMENT FEARS THE PEOPLE, THERE IS LIBERTY. WHEN THE PEOPLE FEAR THE GOVERNMENT, THERE IS TYRANNY." Underneath this quote McVeigh had written, "Maybe now, there will be liberty!" 74

McVeigh also included An article from Soldier of Fortune magazine "Executions or Mercy Killings?" about the federal law enforcement raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, on April 19, 1993. McVeigh had highlighted "Executions" as well as many other passages in the article including:
"They deployed in a military manner against American citizens. They slaughtered 80-plus people, committed acts of treason, murder and conspiracy." 75 "…they backed Lady Liberty into a corner and shot her in the head." 76

71. R. A. Serrano, One of Ours: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing, New York, 1998, p.219.
72. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.227.
73. loc.cit.
74. loc.cit.
75. Serrano, op.cit., p.219.
76. ibid., p.220.

There were dozens of other articles included containing quotes from Revolutionary War heroes and diverse historical figures such as Winston Churchill, John Locke, Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams. This included the famous quote from Locke:
"I have no reason to suppose that he who would take away my liberty, would not, when he had me in his power, take away everything else. Therefore it is lawful for me to treat him as one who has put himself into a ‘state of war’ against me, and kill him if I can." 77 The Adams quote came from his challenge to those who value wealth more than liberty to "crouch down and lick the hands which feed you." 78
There was a copy of the Declaration of Independence on the back of which McVeigh had written, "Obey the Constitution of the United States, and we won’t shoot you." 79

He had even taken the step of becoming a billboard advertising his ideology and motivation for the bombing. McVeigh, when arrested was wearing a T-shirt. The T-shirt depicted on its front a drawing of Abraham Lincoln underneath which was the caption "SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS", Latin for "Thus ever to tyrants". 80 This phrase was of course synonymous with Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, who shouted out this phrase after leaping on to the stage of Ford’s Theater in Washington D. C. theatre immediately after shooting Lincoln on April 14, 1865 (Booth himself was alluding to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar as this was the phrase uttered by Brutus after killing Caesar). 81 The back of McVeigh’s T-shirt depicted a tree superimposed over which was a quote from Thomas Jefferson, "THE TREE OF LIBERTY must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." 82

Most of this aforementioned literature can be classified as indicative of a right-wing libertarian mindset rather than that of an American fascist. His subscription to the Spotlight, the newsletter of the anti-Semitic Liberty Lobby, and Patriot Report, the Arkansas-based Christian Identity newsletter, do indicate exposure to ideas stemming from organisations that are part of the milieu of American fascism but this is not conclusive proof that he also subscribed to their ideology. As noted by Tracy McVeigh her namesake was subscribing to hundreds of publications in prison, and he was exposed to a wide range of views courtesy of his avid consumption of media such as newspapers and network news programs.
77. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.228.
78. loc.cit.
79. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.228.
80. G. Vidal, ‘The Meaning of Timothy McVeigh’, Vanity Fair, September 2001, p.131.
81. A. Brinkley, American History A Survey Volume I: To 1877, New York, 1999, p.362.
82. G. Vidal, ‘The Meaning of Timothy McVeigh’, Vanity Fair, September 2001, p.131.

More contentious is the question of how much the 1978 novel The Turner Diaries (banned in Australia and the United Kingdom) shaped, and ultimately reflected, the personal ideology of McVeigh. By his own account McVeigh bought the book as an eighteen year old after seeing it advertised in Soldier of Fortune magazine. Its immediate impact upon McVeigh was shown by the fact that soon after reading it he began circulating it amongst his friends imploring them to read it. 83 For Christmas 1991 he sent a copy to his cousin, Klye Kraus, as a present. Kraus read it and was appalled. 84 In the Army McVeigh continued the practice of circulating the book amongst trusted friends; including two of his Sergeants, Albert Warenment 85 and Jose Rodriguez, Jr. Both rejected the book owing to its racist content and told him to get rid of it. 86 He sold copies of the book as part of his sales table at gun shows. 87

There is a distubringly close resemblance between McVeigh’s bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City and an incident in The Turner Diaries, where its hero, Earl Turner, blows up the FBI headquarters in Washington D.C., resulting in seven hundred casualties:
The Turner Diaries
Oklahoma City Bombing
"FBI’s national headquarters downtown"
A federal building housing FBI offices in downtown Oklahoma City
"a little under 5,000 pounds"
Slightly less than 5,000 pounds
"ammonium nitrate fertilizer" and (fuel) oil"
Ammonium nitrate fertilizer and fuel oil
9:15 A.M.
9:02 A.M.
"a delivery truck"
A Ryder moving truck

83. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.38.
84. Serrano, op.cit., p.51.
85. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.58.
86. ibid., p.60.
87. ibid., p.88.
88. R. Abanes, American Militias: Rebellion, Racism & Religion, Downers Grove, 1996, p.151.

This parallel was commented upon at McVeigh’s trial by U.S. special attorney and lead prosecutor Joseph Hartzler who presented The Turner Diaries as the blueprint for the bombing. 89 The eminent Psychiatrist Dr Jay Lifton went further in his book Destroying the World to Save It, by using The Turner Diaries as the basis for his psychoanalytic explanation of McVeigh’s actions:
"But above all else, he had become enamored not with a single guru or 90 a group but with a single text, The Turner Diaries, an apocalyptic neo-Nazi novel that dramatically depicts a white revolution in America that leads to a global nuclear holocaust in which all Jews and non-whites are annihilated….With the Diaries he had no need for either a cult or a guru in the flesh. The book provided him with entrée to the equivalent of a radical cultic experience." 91

The most notorious example of American fascist literature is The Turner Diaries. It was written by Dr William L. Pierce, under the pseudonym Andrew MacDonald. Pierce abandoned his academic career in physics to pursue a full-time career as an American fascist activist. He worked as an aide for the leader of the American Nazi Party George Lincoln Rockwell. Pierce then moved on to work for the National Youth Alliance, a racist and anti-semitic offshoot of the George Wallace organization, Youth for Wallace. After the organization split in a factional dispute Pierce ended up in 1974 heading his own organisation the National Alliance. The Turner Diaries initially appeared in serial installments in the National Alliance magazine Attack! between 1975 and 1978. The National Alliance publishing company first published it as a novel in 1978. 92

89. Linenthal, op.cit., p.39.
90. R. J. Lifton, Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinriky, Apocalyptic Violence, and the New Global Terrorism, New York, 1999, p.326.
91. ibid., p.327.
92. M. Barkun, Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement, Chapel Hill, 1997, p.226.

The novel is presented in the form of a diary kept by its white American hero, Earl Turner, covering the period from 1991 until just before his death two years later. Not of a revolutionary attitude initially, Turner finds himself radicalised by new federal government gun-control legislation, racial integration, and societal problems blamed upon African-Americans, Jews, 93 gays, 94 feminists 95 and the corrupt "Jewish" leadership of the mainstream Christian churches. 96 Turner finds and joins the membership of an underground revolutionary group, the Organization, dedicated to the violent overthrow of the federal government. Eventually, he also joins the Organization’s mystical inner cadre, known as the Order. After the Organization conquers southern California, nonwhites in the community are violently expelled.

Turner’s next mission is to assist in taking seized nuclear warheads 97 to the outskirts of Washington D.C., with the aim of helping to secure the safety of the new racial elite in California against the areas still run by "the System". To demonstrate the power of the Organization to the federal government Turner agrees to a suicide mission, in which he flies a plane equipped with one of the warheads into the U.S. Pentagon. The novel’s epilogue explains that after Turner’s suicide mission, the System started to collapse, allowing the Organization to assume control of North America and then Europe. Finally, the Organization launches a successful genocidal assault on nonwhite areas of the world using nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. 98

The epilogue concludes, "But it was in the year 1999, according to the chronology of the Old Era – just 110 years after the birth of the Great One – that the dream of a White world finally became a certainty." 99 This of course is an explicit reference to Pierce’s idol Adolf Hitler who was born in 1889. 100 An ex-girlfriend of McVeigh’s recalled his qualified comments about Hitler:
"From what I remember, he said he didn’t necessarily agree with all those Jews being killed," she recalled, "But he said Hitler had the right plan. I think he was talking about when Hitler tried to conquer the world, how he went about it, little pieces at a time. He thought that was admirable. I didn’t like him after that." 101

93. loc.cit.
94. M. Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence, Berkeley, 2001, p.199.
95. ibid., p.198.
96. ibid., p.219.
97. Barkun, op.cit., p.226.
98. ibid., p.227.
99. A. Macdonald, The Turner Diaries, http://www.skrewdriver.org.uk/turnerepi.html
100. Lifton, op.cit., p.336.
101. Corcoran & Dees, op.cit., p.155.

Nonetheless, McVeigh denied that the fascist agenda of the novel actively captured his imagination. He maintained that what he found compelling was its depiction of gun rights as central to maintaining individual rights in the face of intrusive government, and for showing the consequences when they are not protected. McVeigh claimed its appeal was summed up in the promotional advertisement for The Turner Diaries in gun magazines: "What will you do if the government comes for your guns?" 102
Given the lurid nature of the fascist agenda in The Turner Diaries, it is tempting to dismiss McVeigh’s explanation. This would be unfair, however, given that his biographers Michel and Herbeck credited him with honesty and candour in the seventy-five hours of interviews he gave them as part of their extensive research for American Terrorist. As Michel put it "we never caught him out on a deliberate lie". 103 Gore Vidal, who corresponded, with McVeigh, also concluded that McVeigh was being truthful about the attraction The Turner Diaries held for him. "Although McVeigh had no hang-ups about blacks, Jews, and all the 104 other enemies of the various ‘Aryan’ white nations to be found in the Patriots ranks, he shares the Diaries obsession with guns and explosives and a final all-out war against the ‘System.’" In support of this view Vidal cites the psychiatrist, Dr Smith, who examined McVeigh as part of his trial preparations. Vidal quotes Dr Smith on the issue of whether McVeigh acknowledged copying the bomb making description in The Turner Diaries:
"Well, sort of. Tim wanted it made clear that, unlike The Turner Diaries he was not a racist. He made that very clear. He did not hate homosexuals. He made that very clear." As for the book as an influence, "he’s not going to share credit with anyone.’’ 105
McVeigh did not include any of the racist passages from The Turner Diaries amongst the explanatory literature he left in his getaway car.

102. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.38.
103. McVeigh, op.cit., p.21.
104. G. Vidal, The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2001, London, 2002, p.287.
105. ibid., p.288.


In his sociological study Terror in the Mind of God Sociologist Mark Juergensmeyer has suggested that McVeigh’s mindset was profoundly shaped by his exposure to the ideology of Christian Identity. 106 To consider the significance of this it is first necessary to clarify what Christian Identity represents. It first emerged in the 1940s and now has approximately 20,000 to 30,000 followers in the U. S. 107 Its racist origins lay in British-Israelism, but Christian Identity adopted an even more extreme belief system. British-Israelism labelled Jews as evil and corrupt, but still identifiably human. Christian Identity considers Jews and African-Americans to be outside of the human race; blacks are considered animals and Jews as the embodiment of satanic evil. 108 Its ideology is based upon a combination of ideas derived from racism and variations upon fundamentalist Christianity. 109 Identity is not a religious sect or denomination of a mainstream Christian church. Nor does it have a formal church leadership structure. It does not boast a definitive creed that a person must accept to qualify as an adherent. Identity is best understood as a religious, social, and political movement whose membership is based upon the religiously inclined members of American fascism notably the Klan, white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups. 110

Äs identified by Richard Abanes the majority of Identity followers agree on five core beliefs:
White people (Aryans) are the Israelites of the Old Testament.
The Jews are literal descendants of Satan.
Adam and Eve were not, as mainstream Christianity teaches, the first people. They were the first white people.
All non-Whites (blacks, Asians, Middle Easterners, etc.) are descendants of pre-Adamic races and make up an entirely different species than Caucasians.
Armageddon, which will be a race war between whites and non-whites, is fast approaching. 111

106. Juergensmeyer, op.cit., p.31.
107. Abanes, op.cit., p.154.
108. Barkun, op.cit., p.147.
109. Abanes, op.cit., p.154.
110. ibid., p.155.
111. loc.cit.

In light of these beliefs and its membership base, Christian Identity clearly qualifies as an American fascist movement. If it could be determined that McVeigh was an adherent of Christian Identity this would legitimate the claim that he was an American fascist. McVeigh was undeniably exposed to the Identity theology through some of the literature he studied. For example, he subscribed to The Patriot Report, the newsletter of an Arkansas-based Christian Identity group. McVeigh was also aware of the Christian Identity community, Elohim City, on the Oklahoma-Arkansas border. Phone call records document that he phoned Elohim City on a couple of occasions in the months leading up to the bombing. McVeigh was once booked for a minor traffic offense ten miles on the access road for Elohim City. But there is no evidence that he was ever a formal member of this or any other Christian Identity community. 112 It seems more likely that he was obliquely sounding out the community about whether they would be willing to let him take refuge there at short notice.

Juergensmeyer has contended that McVeigh was also exposed to Christian Identity ideology through The Turner Diaries. As noted previously McVeigh admired The Turner Diaries. William Pierce has denied any links with Christian Identity. Nevertheless, the ideological agenda he promotes in the Diaries is virtually identical to that promoted by Christian Identity; indeed the book has become an unofficial "bible" amongst the movement’s followers. Pierce and Christian Identity adherents both wish for a pure theocratic society, purged of the ‘malign’ influence of mainstream Christianity, racial and sexual minorites, which is to be governed by religious law with no boundary existing between church and state. 113

112. Juergensmeyer, op.cit., p.31.
113. ibid., p.32.

The problem with Jergensmeyer’s theory is that McVeigh was never a particularly religious person. He had been raised as a Roman Catholic and attended mass during his childhood, but later admitted to finding the services boring. By the time he reached the Army he referred to himself as an agnostic. 114 In late 1993 McVeigh visited a church in southern Montana organised along the survivalist principles of stockpiling of food and munitions. Whilst impressed with their survivalist orientation, the church’s "New Age ways" failed to capture his imagination. 115 Subsequently he visited a Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Kingman, Arizona which also left him unimpressed. There is no evidence he ever attended a Christian Identity service. McVeigh felt that organized religion wasn’t for him and preferred to believe that natural law was the governing power of the world. He thought this natural law was energized by a higher power that guided people as to what was right and wrong if they were in touch with their spiritual side. 116 Despite his professed indifference to organised religion, McVeigh did accept a Catholic Priest performing the last rites for him after he had been strapped to the execution gurney. 117
McVeigh sought to clarify his outlook on life, including religion, with his final public statement. His last communique consisted of a handwritten copy of the 1875 poem ‘Invictus’ by William Ernest Henley:
"Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pt 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."

114. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.57.
115. ibid., p.142.
116. ibid., p.143.
117. W. Jackson, ‘Timothy McVeigh’s "Invictus"’, http://www.pottsborochurchofchrist.com/pottsboro%20press%20articles/6c%20-%20

"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." 118

The theme of this classic Victorian poem is stoicism. "Invictus" is Latin for unconquered and in the context of this poem denotes the necessity to be true to your own convictions. The poem also eulogises reliance upon one’s own spiritual resources, rather than those derived from formal religions. Henley’s reference to the gods, "I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul", is flippant in tone. "Gods" has been left in lower-case, and the gods "may be." Henley is proclaiming "I’m in possession of my fate. I have been strong, I haven’t cried, or winced" despite the cruel "bludgeoning of chance." Henley himself was an amputee who had lost one of his children at a young age but remained "My head is bloody, but unbowed." "I am" is the Hebrew word for God. When Henley writes "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul," he refers to God being within us, rather than an external deity, and taking strength from this in the face of the suffering endured in life. The fact that McVeigh selected this poem as his final statement indicates the personal resonance it held for him and his own attitude towards life. 119 It is also consistent with other philosophical comments he had made,The Australian journalist Tracy McVeigh, was privy to his confession that he didn’t believe in heaven and hell: "If I’m wrong then I’ll adapt, improvise and overcome," he says. "But if there is a hell, then I’ll be in good company with a lot of fighter pilots who also had to bomb innocents to win the war." 120 If Christian Identity, or any form of organised religion, had been central to his worldview, he certainly would not have selected "Invictus", with its autonomous philosophical outlook as his final statement to the world. 121

Fascism has historically found expression through nationalism. In current American political debate an example of the differing positions of the Left and Right on nationalism can be shown through their respective usages of the term ‘New World Order’. The relevance here is in providing another significant example of McVeigh failing to conform to the expected ideological position of an American Fascist.

118. G. Vidal, The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2001, London, 2002, p.282.
119. ‘English Professor Marion Hector: The Meaning of ‘Invictus’, http://www.cnn.com/2001/LAW/06/11/mcveigh.poem.cnna/index.html
120. McVeigh, op.cit., p.21.
121. ‘English Professor Marion Hector: The Meaning of ‘Invictus’,

During his second State of the Union address on January 29th 1991, President Bush attempted to summarise the global values arising out of the new post-cold war era that were being fought for in the Gulf War:
"a big idea, a new world order, where diverse nations are drawn together in common cause to achieve the universal aspirations of mankind – peace and security, freedom, and the rule of law. Such is a world worthy of our struggle and worthy of our children’s future." 122

Instead of the positive meaning intended by President Bush, the phrase ‘New World Order’ popularly became a codeword for conspiracy theories of global domination. It had been a popular phrase with the radical right since the 1960s when the John Birch Society used it to denote the leftist ‘one worldism’ they associated with the United Nations. By the 1990s the term was adopted by the American radical right to refer to an even more extreme conspiracy theory which held that ‘globalist’ forces were working to destroy American liberties, and thereby seeking to incoporate America into the ‘New World Order’ of one world government as argued, by for example, the Militia of Montana. 123
The American left has also employed the term ‘New World Order’ but with a very different meaning attached to it; witness the characteristic "real politik" of Noam Chomsky’s:
"The Gulf War has torn aside the veil covering the post-Cold War era. It has revealed a world in which the United States enjoys unchallenged military supremacy and is prepared to exploit this advantage ruthlessly. The New World Order (in which the New World gives the orders) has arrived." 124
The Left’s deployment of the term acts as a kind of inversion of the Right’s preoccupation with global conspiracies to weaken the power of the U. S. 125

122. A. Spark, ‘Conjuring order: the new world order and conspiracy theories of globalization’, in J. Parish and M. Parker (eds.), The Age of Anxiety: Conspiracy Theory and the Human Sciences, Oxford, 2001, p.46.
123. ibid., p.47.
124. ibid., p.51.
125. loc.cit.

One might expect McVeigh to echo the radical right definition rather than that of the left. This supposition is not supported by the evidence, notably the essay McVeigh wrote titled "Essay on Hypocrisy" for the June 1998 issue of Media Bypass (an underground alternative-media publication sympathetic to the concerns of the contemporary militia movement). In this essay he compares the morality of the Oklahoma City bombing (which he was responsible for but not admitting to at this time), with that of the actions of the U.S. military in Iraq during the Gulf War (in which he served). He considered the American government hypocritical for its condemnation of the bombing when he deems it to be guilty of more serious crimes in Iraq:
"The administration has said that Iraq has no right to stockpile chemical or biological weapons…mainly because they have used them in the past. Well, if that’s the standard by which these matters are decided, then the U.S. is the nation that sets the precedent. The U.S. has stockpiled these same weapons (and more) for over 40 years. The U.S. claims that this was done for the deterrent purposes during its ‘Cold War’ with the Soviet Union. Why, then, is it invalid for Iraq to claim the same reason (deterrence) – with respect to Iraq’s (real) war with, and the continued threat of, its neighbor Iran?…"
"Yet when discussion shifts to Iraq, any day-care center in a government building instantly becomes ‘a shield.’ Think about it. (Actually there is a difference here. The administration has admitted to knowledge of the presence of children in or near Iraqi government buildings, yet they 126 still proceed with their plans to bomb – saying that they cannot be held responsible if children die. There is no such proof, however, that knowledge of the presence of children existed in relation to the Oklahoma City bombing.)" 127

The essay is critical of the excesses of US military power in Iraq rather than fearful of the subversion of that power by ‘globalists’. It indicates that McVeigh was closer to Noam Chomsky than John Trochmann (leader of the Militia of Montana) in his conception of the ‘New World Order’.

126. G. Vidal, The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2001, London, 2002, p.288.
127. ibid., p.289.


Shortly before his execution, McVeigh sent Gore Vidal a letter dated April 4 2001, explicitly giving his motivation for committing the bombing:
"I explain herein why I bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. I explain this not for publicity, nor seeking to win an argument of right or wrong. I 128 explain so that the record is clear as to my thinking and motivations in bombing a government installation."
"I chose to bomb a Federal Building because such an action served more purposes than other options. Foremost, the bombing was a retaliatory strike: a counter-attack, for the cumulative raids (and subsequent violence and damage) that federal agents had participated in over the preceding years (including, but not limited to, Waco). From the formation of such units as the FBI’s ‘Hostage Rescue’ and other assault teams amongst federal agencies during the 80s, culminating in the Waco incident, federal actions grew increasingly militaristic and violent, to the point where at Waco, our government – like the Chinese – was deploying tanks against its own citizens."
"…For all intents and purposes, federal agents had become ‘soldiers’ (using military training, tactics, techniques, equipment, language, dress, organization and mindset) and
they were escalating their behaviour. Therefore, this bombing was also meant as a pre-emptive (or pro-active) strike against those forces and their command and control centers within the federal building. When an aggressor force continually launches attacks from a particular base of operations, it is sound military strategy to take the fight to the enemy.
Additionally, borrowing a page from U.S. foreign policy, I decided to send a message to a government that was becoming increasingly hostile, by bombing a government building and the government employees within that building who represent that government. Bombing the Murrah Federal Building was morally and strategically equivalent to the U.S. hitting a government building in Serbia, Iraq, or other nations. Based on observations of the policies of my own 129 government, I viewed this action as an acceptable option."

128. G. Vidal, The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2001, London, 2002, p.289.
129. ibid., p.290.

"From this perspective what occurred in Oklahoma City was no different than what Americans rain on the heads of others all the time, and, subsequently, my mindset was and is one of clinical detachment. (The bombing of the Murrah building was not personal no more than when Air Force, Army, Navy, or Marine personnel bomb or launch cruise missiles against (foreign) government installations and their personnel.)
I hope this clarification amply addresses your question.
USP Terre Haute (In.)" 130

McVeigh explained his understanding of political ideology to fellow federal prison inmate, the Unabomber, Theodore Kacynski:
"McVeigh told me of his idea (which I think may have significant merit) that certain rebellious elements on the American right and left respectively had more in common with one another than is commonly realized, and that the two groups ought to join forces. This led us to discuss, though only briefly, the question of what constitutes the "right." I pointed out that the word "right," in the political sense, was originally associated with authoritarianism, and I raised the question of why certain radically anti-authoritarian groups (such as the Montana Freemen) 131 were lumped together with authoritarian factions as the "right." McVeigh explained that the American far right could be roughly divided into two branches, the fascist/racist branch, and the individualistic or freedom-loving branch which generally was not racist. He did not know why these two branches were lumped together as the "right," but he did suggest a criterion that could be used to distinguish left from right: the left (in America today) generally dislikes firearms, while the right tends to be attracted to firearms."
"By this criterion McVeigh himself would have to be assigned to the right."
"But McVeigh did not fit the stereotype of the extreme right-wingers. I’ve already indicated that he spoke of respect for other people’s cultures, and in doing so he sounded like a liberal. He certainly was not a mean or hostile person, and I wasn’t aware of any indication that he was super patriotic. I suspect that he is an adventurer by nature, and America since the closing of the frontier has had little room for adventurers." 132

130. G.Vidal, The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2001, London, 2002, p.291.
131. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.399.
132. ibid., p.400.

In his "Essay on Hypocrisy", his explanatory about the bombing and his discussion with Kacynski, McVeigh fails to reveal the "fundamentalism, racism and totalitarianism" one would expect of him to satisfy the Lundskow definition of American fascism. McVeigh was undeniably influenced by the right-wing Patriot movement and literature such as The Turner Diaries, but in his attitudes towards the US government, race and religion, he stubbornly resists easy categorisation as an ideal-type adherent of American fascism. This fatally undermines the argument of Stern, Dees, Abanes, Serrano, Snow, Lamy, Wilcox and George that McVeigh is best understood as a terrorist of the American far right. It also illustrates the inherent difficulty in seeking to use an ideological label that was created in response to an earlier historical epoch. Fascism arose in the aftermath of World War I in response to modernization in general and Marxism in particular. Fascism worshipped to use Hegel’s phrase, "the godhead of the state." McVeigh’s journey to terrorism took place in a radically different post-Cold War world. 133

McVeigh’s letter of April 4 2001, gives a detached political rationale for his act of massive violence. It does not adequately explain though why he chose the path of terrorism over peaceful political activism in response to these perceived injustices. The next chapter will address this question by examining more closely his life and the world of post-Vietnam America he was shaped by.

133. James, op.cit., p.69.

Fundamentalism is a term that arose in the America of the 1920s out of a cultural debate between two types of Protestant Christianity. Fundamentalism came to describe evangelical Protestants who sought to defend the traditional articles of their faith (literal truth of the Bible, conservative social mores, centrality of religious faith to life) against Protestant modernists who sought to adapt Protestantism to scientific theory (most notably Darwinian evolution) as well as modern society and culture. There was a notable class aspect to this debate. Protestant modernists were largely middle-class people from urban America whereas the fundamentalists were based in poorer provincial and rural America. 134 Timothy McVeigh did not share the Christian faith of the Protestant fundamentalists. Utilising this term to describe McVeigh is not meant to suggest any moral equivalence between Protestant fundamentalists and the man responsible for a terrible act of mass murder. What is intended by its usage is to help illuminate the mindset of McVeigh and his background.
Like the Protestant fundamentalists McVeigh was the product of a fading rustbelt town in provincial America, far removed from the social influence held by urban America. 135 His faith in certain patriotic and traditional American values amounted to his own spiritual creed; his own fundamentalism. Patriotism spiritually elevated him from being an isolated individual to a realm of sacred transcedence. His resort to massive violence will be explained as the consequence of the disparity between his own values and the world he perceived himself to be living in.

134. A. Brinkley, American History A Survey Volume II: Since 1865, New York, 1999, p.830.
135. C. M. Stock, ‘Excerpt from Rural Radicals: Righteous Rage in the American Grain’, http://www3.niu.edu/-td0raf1/history468/apr1103.htm

Andrew Kehoe, the man responsible for the Bath School disaster in rural Michigan, provides an instructive historical antecedent to McVeigh. On 18 May 1927 dynamite that Kehoe had planted in the school’s basement exploded killing thirty-nine children and teachers. Afterwards as people searched for survivors amongst the rubble Kehoe detonated dynamite in his pick-up truck which he had parked out the front of the school. This killed five more people including Kehoe himself. 136 In total forty-four people had been killed and fifty-eight injured. It was later discovered that Kehoe had murdered his wife and burnt down his home before blowing up the school. The subsequent inquest concluded that Kehoe had been motivated by his bitterness that higher property taxes had been levied on the community to help pay for the construction of the school. Kehoe blamed these taxes for contributing to the impending foreclosure of his farm and he wanted retribution against his local community. Kehoe only left behind by way of explanation an engraving on his fence that, "Criminals are made, not born". 137 Like McVeigh, Kehoe was an individual in provincial America alienated from his government and society, who chose terrorist violence on a massive scale rather than peaceful political activism as part of a wider social movement. The Bath School bombing was the worst act of domestic terrorism prior to the Oklahoma City bombing.

As noted by the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, in modern society "the membership of a durable totality…was cast as giving sense to otherwise brief and meaningless life". 138 The two primary supra-individual institutions that offer such comfort are the family and the nation. For Timothy McVeigh the family could not be the supra-individual institution to offer him the courage to face his own mortality. He never felt particularly close to his parents and later in life could remember few interactions with them in his childhood as they both worked full-time during this period. 139 His parents separated when he was eleven and formally divorced when he was eighteen. 140 McVeigh’s closest familial relationship was with his grandfather Ed McVeigh, rather than any member of his immediate family. 141

136. J. Brennan, ‘Bath School Disaster’, http://www.michmarkers.com/Pages/S0631.htm
137. J. Seidel, ‘Life after terrorism: For Bath, the memory of the 1927 school bombing that killed 44 never goes away’, http://www.freep.com/features/living/bath9_20011209.htm
138. James, op.cit., p.77.
139. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.21.
140. ibid., p.22.
141. ibid., p.21.

As the member of a dysfunctional family it is not surprising that McVeigh should have chosen to avidly embrace the supra-individual institution of the nation as a source of greater meaning in his life. His nationalism was shaped by his love of science fiction, westerns, guns and survivalism.

Growing up McVeigh had loved science fiction, which notably impacted upon his nascent nationalism. He loved Star Trek, Isaac Asimov novels, action hero comic books 142 and films such as Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man, Logan’s Run and Red Dawn, with their survivalist theme of man trying to survive apocalyptic disaster. 143 Of particular importance to McVeigh’s ideological development was George Lucas’s 1977 film 'Star Wars'. 144 Critical analysis of this film reveals its essentially conservative message. Notable amongst the values glorified by the film are individualism as opposed to the state, nature in contrast to technology, faith rather than science, and provincial rather than urban values. The evil Empire in the film represents the conception of socialism held by conservatives-a tyrannical faceless state bureaucracy threatening the small "republican" communities in the film such as that of the film’s hero Luke Skywalker. Skywalker is the embodiment of good in the film as represented by individual freedom, the film’s most cherished ideal. Luke Skywalker is a natural warrior as well as leader whose very name is suggestive of elevated spiritualism and the western hero. Luke has access to ‘the Force’, a cosmic spiritual power that is the key to the elite military leadership provided by the Jedi Knights. He champions freedom over tyranny. 145

In opposition to Luke are the ‘Imperial Storm Troopers’ of the Empire who resemble America’s Nazi and Soviet foes. Their generals wear uniforms resembling those of World War II Soviet soldiers. The troopers, vaguely Germanic and Slavic in appearance, all appear indistinguishable in their white uniforms and corresponding physiques. They symbolise socialist collectivisation-the penultimate fear of American conservatives. By contrast, Luke is the archetypal American-style individualist hero. 146

142. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.26.
143. ibid., p.29.
144. ibid., p.40.
145. D. Kellner & M. Ryan, Camera Politica: The Politics and Ideology of Contemporary Hollywood Film, Indianapolis, 1990, p.229.
146. ibid., p.230.

Nature is idealised in the film; as is trusting your own natural instincts rather than rationality. For the penultimate battle scene, Luke is involved in an attack on the Empire’s Death Star. He chooses to switch off his battleship’s computer and instead rely upon his natural instincts to hit the target and destroy the Death Star; which he succeeds in doing, vindicating the choice of natural instincts over rationality. 147

'Star Wars' illustrates two key conservative components of American culture. The ongoing resonance of the heroic male individual as a cultural icon and the relative ease with which a state governed by a liberal or socialist government can be presented as evil because of the restrictions they place upon individual freedom. Part of the ideological appeal for McVeigh in this film would have lain in its depiction of conservatism as revolutionary, not passive. It privileges dynamic individualism rebelling against an evil and oppressive state to fight for freedom. 148 McVeigh’s own feelings about federal law enforcement agents would come to echo those expressed in the book version of Star Wars description of the Imperial Troopers:
"These fearsome troops enforce the restrictive laws with callous disregard for human rights. Quite often they are tools used to further the personal ambitions of the Imperial governors and bureaucrats." 149

The ideological influence of 'Star Wars' upon McVeigh is reflected in the fact that he drew upon the film to help justify the Oklahoma City bombing. McVeigh envisioned himself as a Luke Skywalker type hero destroying what he considered the equivalent of the Death Star – a federal building filled with employees of a government he considered evil. McVeigh had even noted the film’s depiction of clerical staff working inside the Death Star. 150 Though these clerical workers were not foot soldiers for the Empire, they were nonetheless vital to its operations. When Luke destroyed the Death Star they were among its casualties whose demise McVeigh and movie audiences cheered along with the other bad guys. McVeigh justified killing clerical staff in the federal building in Oklahoma in the same way; they too were part of what he considered an ‘Evil Empire.’ 151

147. ibid., p.231.
148. Kellner & Ryan, op.cit., p.234.
149. ibid., p.317.
150. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.224.
151. ibid., p.225.

The influence of 'Star Wars' can even be detected in his conception of religion. As discussed in the previous chapter McVeigh was not an adherent of organised religion. He believed "that the universe was guided by natural law, energized by some universal higher power that showed each person right from wrong if they paid attention to what was going on inside them." 152 This sounds highly reminiscent of the mysterious, highly intuitive cosmic spiritual power that is ‘the Force’ in 'Star Wars'.

McVeigh was also influenced by his love of TV westerns, particularly 'Little House on the Prairie'. This drama was based upon the book written by Laura Ingalls Wilder in the 1930s. Ostensibly it is rural nostalgia set in late nineteenth-century America. Wilder’s daughter has revealed that the ideological motivation for writing the book was to attack the New Deal. The government is depicted in a negative light throughout as too large and incompetent in stark contrast with the homespun wisdom of the rugged frontier settlers. 153 The TV version stayed true to the spirit of the book. McVeigh’s vividly remembered favourite episode held an antitax message. The pivotal scene showed a group of settlers waiting in a queue for the property tax assessor to deal with them. One of them quips, "You think this is bad? I’ll bet one day they’ll tax a man’s income!" Everyone in the queue laughs at this absurd notion. 154

In 1986 after graduating from High School, McVeigh entered into a period of self-reflection in which he first formulated his ideological orientation. Given his love for guns, cars and the great outdoors, it was easy for McVeigh to conclude that his most cherished value was the quintessential conservative value of individual freedom. His conservative orientation was reflected in his decision to join America’s largest gun lobby organisation the National Rifle Association in 1984 and to become a registered Republican on his eighteenth birthday shortly before High School graduation. 155

152. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.143.
153. R. Davison, ‘From Bacon’s Rebellion to the Populists to Oklahoma City, Violent Rural Movement Have Deep Roots in American History’, http://www.salon.com/april97/radical970418.html
154. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.40.
155. ‘PBS - Frontline Documents: McVeigh Chronology’, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/documents/mcveigh

His adoption of freedom as his guiding principle led to him to start researching the Second Amendment and the rights of gun owners in the belief that these constituted the cornerstone of freedom. 156 He read many history books on the Founding Fathers and the American Revolution and came to strongly admire these American heroes. 157 In particular, he came to admire Patrick Henry the Revolutionary War orator and the small group of patriotic Americans who bravely fought the British Army at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. 158

McVeigh’s research into the Second Amendment and ‘gun owners’ rights naturally led him to the literature of the American gun culture. He read gun magazines and books such as To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth which combined being a training manual with urging its readers to adopt a constant combat mindset and to be John Wayne type men. At this time McVeigh first read The Turner Diaries and was thrilled by its passionate advocacy of gun rights. 159

He was also exposed to the ‘New War’ paramilitary subculture that had emerged. McVeigh was a keen reader of Soldier of Fortune: The Journal of Professional Adventurers. Soldier of Fortune magazine started up in 1975. It sought to remasculinize America by fostering the creation of a new breed of independent American warrior in the aftermath of America’s political and military failure in Vietnam. 160 America had always celebrated war and the warrior up until Vietnam provided the country with its first lost war. This ended the American cycle of "regeneration through violence" 161 provided by satisfaction in always winning wars and symbolically reaffirming the essential goodness of America in the process of doing so. The loss in Vietnam was experienced as an identity crisis by many, particularly men who experienced it as a form of emasculation. 162 Soldier of Fortune magazine helped usher in a ‘New War’ culture in 1980s America seeking to re-glorify the warrior and war. The culture was based upon glorification of the paramilitary rather than the military. The new warrior was generally presented operating on his own or as part of a small elite team. The warrior role was presented as the ideal for all men to aspire to regardless of their occupation. 163

156. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.36.
157. ibid., p.109.
158. ibid., p.59.
159. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.38.
160. J. W. Gibson, Warrior Dreams: Paramilitary Culture in Post-Vietnam America, New York, 1995, p.7.
161. ibid., p.10
162. loc.cit.
163. ibid., p.9.

McVeigh was also exposed to the ‘New War’ culture through the Rambo, Missing in Action and Red Dawn movies. 164 His enthusiasm for Rambo was shown the following year when one day he showed up for his job as a security guard dressed as the Rambo character, replete with sawn off shotgun and bandoliers slung over the chest much to the shock of his co-workers. 165

Tellingly, it was also at this time that McVeigh adopted the philosophy of survivalism. This decision was influenced by the survivalist habits of his grandfather, his memories of the devastation wrought in Pendleton by the blizzard of 1977 and the survivalist themes of movies such as 'The Planet of the Apes', 'Red Dawn', 'Omega Man' and 'Logan’s Run'. Survivalism is predicated on the belief that the individual has to be prepared in case society collapses one day due to natural or man made catastrophe such as war or violent revolution. Being prepared means being well-armed, having a secure home (preferably a bunker) and adequate provisions to ensure survival. 164 Gun ownership is deemed essential for the survivalist to ensure they can defend themselves and their property when central authority has broken down. Accordingly, there is a natural correlation between the gun and survivalist cultures. 165 McVeigh remained a devotee of this philosophy for the rest of his life. At his father’s home he kept survivalist provisions in the form of MRE rations, guns, ammunition and one hundred gallons of water. When he entered the Army he rented a shed near his Army base to keep these supplies handy in case of any impending disaster. 166
The conservative version of the American civil religion embraced by Timothy McVeigh was of itself unextraordinary for a young white male living in provincial America in the later part of the twentieth century. 167 His focus on the Second Amendment as the heart of the Constitution, admiration for the founding fathers and Revolutionary War heroes, gun rights, individual freedom, science fiction, westerns and immersion in the cultures of the gun, ‘New War’ and survivalism were features he had in common with thousands of others who did not choose to embrace violent terrorism. To properly understand why we have to consider his radicalising experiences in the Army and afterwards.

164. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.50.
165. Corcoran & Dees, op.cit., p.153.
164. Pantziarka, op.cit., p.221.
165. ibid., p.222.
166. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.60.
167. B. R. Barber, Jihad vs. McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism Are Reshaping the World, New York, 1996, p.214.


Timothy McVeigh enlisted in the U. S. Army on 24 May 1988. In so doing he signed on for a "traditional initiation into American masculinity"; 168 entirely in keeping with his patriotic beliefs. His ideal of masculinity was based upon the heroes of the ‘New War’, Sylvester Stallone in the Rambo movies and Chuck Norris in Missing in Action, and he was eager for the Army to turn him into a warrior like them. He also thought it would give him the chance to improve his shooting and survivalist skills and offer him the chance of an exciting, long-term career with his ultimate goal being to join an elite fighting unit such as the Special Forces or Army Rangers. 169 By the time he left the Army forty-three months later on January 2, 2002, he was a killer who had been radicalised by his experiences in the armed forces, particularly in the Gulf War, and was an embittered critic of his federal government.

For his initial training at Fort Benning, Georgia, McVeigh soon discovered that a vital component of it was psychological. McVeigh was taught to be an efficient soldier capable in combat situations of suspending notions of the sanctity of human life and be able to kill other people whilst ignoring their humanity and believing this to be acceptable, even heroic on occasion. 170 He was also taught to hate the enemy and focus on acting as part of a team rather than as an individual. During long training marches McVeigh and the other recruits were taught to ritually chant sound-offs about the killing and mutilation of the enemy and violent sex with women. 171
"Blood makes the grass grow!" recruits were taught to chant. "Kill!Kill!Kill!"
"I can’t hear you!" would scream back the sergeant."
"Blood makes the grass grow! Kill! Kill! Kill!"
"I still can’t hear you!"
"Blood makes the grass grow! Kill! Kill! Kill!"
"Kill them all," another verse went. "Let God sort it out!" 172

168. Linenthal, op.cit., p.23.
169. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.50.
170. M. Swearingen, ‘Who Taught McVeigh to Kill?’, http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig/swearington1.html
171. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.53.
172. loc,cit.

In retrospect McVeigh considered his first two years in the Army to be the high point of his life. He felt a sense of belonging and purpose in the Army in this period that he had never experienced in his hometown of Pendleton. 173 It was a good place to be for a man of his ideological convictions. He was able to indulge his love of guns as a routine part of his job. When other soldiers went out on a Friday or Saturday night he usually opted to stay in barracks obsessively checking his weapons or reading weapons manuals or Soldier of Fortune. 174 He was able to keep dozens of books on gun rights and firearms piled up neatly beside his bunk. When debates over gun rights came up in conversation amongst the soldiers he would intensely enter the arguments authoritatively citing the Founding Fathers and Revolutionary War heroes in support of his views. 175 Whilst other soldiers generally did not share his fervour, the support for gun rights he found in the Army was substantially higher than in the general community. During this period he experienced the social validation of finding two ideological soulmates in Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier who he befriended; the deepest friendships he would ever enjoy. 176

McVeigh also felt validated by the recognition he received for being an excellent and dedicated soldier. At the end of his training as an infantry trainee at Fort Benning in August 1988 he was awarded the maximum possible test score. For his next posting he was sent to the First Infantry Division (a division whose World War Two exploits had been immortalised in The Big Red One book and film) at Fort Riley, Kansas. 177 His postive career path continued. He went to Heidelberg, West Germany, with his company for urban combat training. McVeigh excelled in competition there and was awarded the German Expert Infantry Badge. He also bonded with his colleagues and started referring to them as his ‘battle buddies’. Back at Fort Riley he was given a new assignment to train as a Bradley (a tank-style troop carrier) gunner in the mechanized infantry. For the tryout examination to be a Bradley gunner McVeigh received the highest score. 178 The Fort Riley commanding officers nominated McVeigh as the best of the 120 Bradley gunners at the base. His Bradley was given the honour of serving as the Division Display Vehicle for parades and V.I.P. visits. 179

173. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.53
174. ibid., p.62.
175. ibid., p.59.
176. ibid., p.54.
177. ibid., p.58.
178. ibid., p.63.
179. ibid., p.64.

The recognition and validation McVeigh received was sufficient to inspire him to re-enlist for another four years, in September 1990. 180 He was only twenty-two years old; he’d already been promoted to corporal and was now being groomed for promotion to the rank of Sergeant. 181 Then came even better news, he was to be given the opportunity to try out for his dream assignment of joining the Special Forces. If successful he would get to wear the coveted Green Beret. His first test appointment was set for 17 November 1990 at Fort Bragg. 182

At this time of his life Timothy McVeigh had been happily integrated into the societal institution most in tune with his own philosophical outlook. His fellow soldiers may have occasionally found his proselytising on behalf of gun rights and The Turner Diaries a little disconcerting but he was universally respected for his qualities as a soldier. It appeared a foregone conclusion that he would have a successful long-term career in the Army to keep him integrated in American society. However, global events were about to adversely impact on him.


Saddam Hussein’s Iraq successfully invaded the neighboring emirate of Kuwait on 2 August, 1990, and announced that this would constitute a permanent annexation. Shortly afterwards most of the world’s governments, at the behest of President Bush, voted to support a United Nations motion enforcing a trade embargo on Iraq. Whilst this was in effect the US deployed a force of 690,000 troops (425,000 American, 265,000 allied troops) along the Kuwait border. The United Nations, on 29 November 1990, voted to support the American motion authorizing military action against Iraq if it did not leave Kuwait by January 15, 1991. Iraq refused to withdraw from Kuwait. Subsequently, on January 16, 1991 America and her allies began a massive bombardment of Iraqi forces that last six weeks. 183

180. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.64.
181. Stickney, op.cit., p.110.
182. ibid., p.110.
183. A. Brinkley, American History A Survey Volume II: Since 1865, New York, 1999, p.1131.

On February 23, 1991, American and allied forces commenced their ground offensive against Iraq with a surprise attack into Iraq itself rather than Kuwait as predicted. Five days later on February 28, 1991, Iraq accepted the proposed ceasefire from the allies and the war came to an end. Iraqi’s army of 600,000 had only offered light resistance and had been routed 184 with at least 100,000 casualties sustained and an unknown number of Iraqi civilians killed. The allies suffered only 141 casualties. America and her allies could have chosen to conquer all of Iraq at this time and depose Saddam Hussein. Instead, President Bush chose not to exceed the terms of the ‘United Nations’ authorisation, which allowed for military action only to the extent necessary to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Allied troops withdrew from Iraq and Hussein remained in power. 185

McVeigh’s involvement in the Gulf War began in early November 1990 when he was advised that, along with the rest of his company, he was being sent to the Gulf. He had mixed feelings about it, explaining:
"I took an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic….I don’t like going to other nations. I thought the principle was defending yourself." 186
He justified it to himself on the basis that Saddam was a bully and that it was his patriotic duty to go. 187

McVeigh’s company was deployed in Saudi Arabia in early January 1991 and had to endure a seven-week wait for Operation Desert Storm to begin. When they were moved to the southern Iraqi border at the beginning of February McVeigh was given the gratifying news that he had been promoted to Sergeant. 188

His company was part of the attack from the West on the Iraqi army when the offensive started on 23 February 1991. McVeigh had feared losing his life in this war, but in reality the war was more like a high-tech turkey shoot with the superiority of the American equipment ensuring that the Iraqis had no chance of winning the war. McVeigh distinguished himself in the frenetic combat conditions with his gunnery skills. 189

184. P. Johnson, A History of the American People, London, 1998, p.953.
185. A. Brinkley, American History A Survey Volume II: Since 1865, New York, 1999, p.1132.
186. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.65.
187. loc.cit.
188. ibid., p.68.
189. ibid., p.73.

On the second day of combat he killed his first human beings. From the Bradley his crew detected a distant enemy machine gun post. An Iraqi soldier stuck his head up. From a distance of estimated by his crew at nineteen football fields McVeigh fired a 25mm high explosive round from the Bradley cannon. He hit the hapless Iraqi in the chest resulting in his head exploding. "His head just disappeared…I saw everything above the shoulders disappear, like in a red mist," as McVeigh recalled." 190 This shot also killed another Iraqi soldier standing nearby. The remaining Iraqis quickly surrendered. For this action McVeigh was awarded the Army Commendation Medal. Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Moreno wrote that McVeigh had inspired members of his platoon by "destroying an enemy machine-gun emplacement, killing two Iraqi soldiers and forcing the surrender of 30 others from dug-in positions." He was also awarded another four medals for his Gulf War service 191 and granted the honour of serving as part of the inner security detail for General Schwarzkopf when he signed the armistice with the Iraqi generals in Safwan in early March. 192 McVeigh had covered himself in glory as an American warrior.

In late March 1991 McVeigh was summoned back to America to try out again for the Special Forces at Fort Bragg. McVeigh pulled out two days into the twenty-four day assessment program. 193 He subsequently returned to his old posting at Fort Riley and returned to his status as their top Bradley gunner. McVeigh could have still enjoyed a successful career in the Army and tried out again for the Special Forces. But by late 1991 he was disillusioned with the Army and took an honourable discharge on 2 January 1992. He cited his wartime experiences as the substantial cause of his disillusionment. 194

190. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.74.
191. ibid., p.75.
192. ibid., p.80.
193. ibid., p.85.
194. ibid., p.92.


The journey that McVeigh undertook from being a model soldier to decorated war hero to disillusionment and acceptance of an early discharge in the short space of forty-three months seems illogical. Given his desire to be a masculine Rambo style ‘New War’ warrior patriotically fighting for his country why would his combat experiences in the Gulf War constitute the basis for his disillusionment with the US Army in which he was so happy before the war? This can be comprehended by understanding that the Gulf War constituted a new type of conflict, shaped by globalisation, that was sharply at odds with McVeigh’s beliefs as to what was legitimate warfare for a warrior like himself.

The most obvious manifestation of globalisation is in the increased interdependency of economies across the world. 195 In speaking of globalisation I am guided by the definition of sociologist Anthony Giddens:
"Globalisation can…be defined as the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa." 196

With the fall of the Berlin wall and collapse of the Soviet Empire a new type of ‘globalizing war’ came into effect. ‘Globalizing wars’ are intended to forcibly remove state sovereignty over an area and/or destroy the resistance capabilities of a state. Unlike ‘orthodox modern wars’ the victors in a ‘globalizing war’ do not desire to assume control over the territory, or managerial and administrative responsibility for the local population, given all the financial and human resource expenditure involved. 197

195. Z. Bauman, ‘Wars of the Globalization Era’, European Journal of Social Theory, Vol.4, No.1, February 2001, p.11.
196. A. Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity, Oxford, 1996, p.64.
197. Bauman, op.cit., p.13.

‘Globalizing wars’ are carried out in the name of the ‘international community’. In reality the ‘international community’ tends to consist of short-term military alliances between partners each bringing their own vested interests to the ‘globalizing war’ they have agred to engage in. The only political institution the ‘international community’ can boast is the United Nations. The UN was created in the aftermath of World War Two and reflected the dominance of the then superpowers in its power structure. In the absence of a universally accepted body of global law the ‘law of the stronger’ has prevailed. 198 The ‘international community’ and its moral standards may be invoked to justify war but the actual formula tends to be based upon the nuisance value and military strength of the state being targeted. 199

The objective of the ‘globalizing war’ is not the acquisition of territory but to remove impediments to global economic forces, to globalisation itself. The target is to open the conquered territory up to global market forces. Given the economic imperatives of ‘globalizing war’ it does not make sense for the victors to take on the weighty economic burden of rebuilding the conquered territory and taking responsibility for its population. 200

The reality of global politics does not support the conclusion that the moral values of the ‘international community’ constitute an adequate explanation as to why wars are waged in its name. As succinctly explained by Jean Clair of Le Monde: "If wars should be waged everywhere the human rights are derided, they would embrace the whole of the planet, from Korea to Turkey, from Africa to China." 201

East Timor provides a pertinent historical example. It was nearly 30 years after the Indonesian invasion of East Timor before the ‘international community’ intervened to stop the ongoing genocide and forced population resettlement policies of the Indonesians. The intervention finally occurred because Australia took the initiative of creating a coalition willing to act as peacekeepers in East Timor. Australia was motivated by the repercussions it was experiencing from Indonesian policies in East Timor, most notably refugee numbers, as well as the weakened Indonesian regime lacking the political will to resist foreign troops being deployed in East Timor. 202

198. ibid., p.15.
199. ibid., p.16.
200. Bauman, op.cit., p.16.
201. loc.cit.
202. loc.cit.

Doubts about the morality of globalizing wars are also provided by consideration of their record in ameliorating human misery, by intervening against one of the warring parties. Having targeted Serbia for its criminality arising from its extreme nationalist policies (and unofficially for its refusal to adopt neo-liberal economic policies) the US bombing campaign against the Serbs produced mixed results. Whilst the Serbian ‘ethnic cleansing’ and open warfare came to a halt inter-ethnic peace was not restored. The Bosnian state that emerged out of the Dayton agreement grouped together three mutually hostile communities with peace only prevailing due to the ongoing presence of NATO. 203 There was also reverse ‘ethnic cleansing’ carried out by the Kosovo Liberation Army expelling Serbs from their homes in much the same way Serbs had expelled Albanians and others. 204

The Gulf War fits perfectly within Bauman’s model of globalizing war. By invading oil rich Kuwait Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had disrupted the global network of economic interdependency. In particular it upset America, the world’s unchallenged superpower after the recent demise of the Soviet empire. Kuwait was an ally of America and a major supplier of its oil. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait threatened American access to the Middle Eastern oil reserves so vital for the American domestic economy. Whilst the Iraqi invasion was morally indefensible this is not enough to explain America’s determined military response. After all America did not respond militarily to Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor, Iraq’s invasion of Iran, or Lebanon’s invasion by Israel. 205

The United Nations history of reflecting the ‘law of the stronger’ was illustrated again in this crisis. The American UN motion for military action to be authorized if Iraq did not leave Kuwait by January 15, 1991, was overwhelmingly endorsed on 29 November 1990. 206

America assembled an ‘international community’ coalition of fifty states against Iraq. The allied army put together by the Americans was principally composed of Americans but also included a significant minority of British, French, Australian, Egyptian and Syrian personnel. 207 All the allies had vested interests at stake including oil, ties with America, and for the Egyptians and Syrians the belief that Saddam constituted a threat to the Arab world and their status within it.

203. ibid., p.18.
204. ibid., p.19.
205. H. Zinn, A People’s History of the United States: 1492 – Present, New York, 1995, p.583.
206. A. Brinkley, American History A Survey Volume II: Since 1865, New York, 1999, p.1132.
207. Johnson, op.cit., p.953.

A vital part of the calculations of the ‘international community’, particularly America, was that Iraq’s military could be quickly overwhelmed. Even though the Iraqi army numbered 600, 000 it was well known to be reliant upon outdated military technology such as Soviet tanks that would be no match for the latest American military technology. These calculations proved correct. After a six week bombing campaign the ground war offensive only had to run five days before the allies had won the war. Although Iraq suffered an estimated 100,000 casualties the allies only had a relatively meagre (though still tragic) 141 casualties. 208

Having achieved the objective of removing Iraq from Kuwait, and thus restoring the access of global economic forces in Kuwait, President Bush called a halt to the campaign. The Allied army was not asked to conquer Iraq in its entirety and remove Saddam Hussein and his regime. This would have involved incurring massive economic and manpower expense. Instead in keeping with the principles of ‘globalizing war’ America and her allies soon withdrew from southern Iraq leaving Saddam Hussein as its dictatorial ruler.

As with the international community intervention against Serbia the globalizing war waged against Iraq proved to be a mixed blessing in terms of ameliorating human misery. The people of Kuwait undoubtedly benefited by being freed from the tyranny of Iraqi occupation (although no democratic regime was established after their liberation). Unfortunately, the war was an unmitigated disaster for the people of Iraq. In addition to the mass slaughter of Iraqi soldiers (many of them forced conscripts) and civilians during the war there were terrible repercussions afterwards as well. The Kurdish minority in northern Iraq had been emboldened to openly rebel against Hussein’s regime by the Allies military victory. President Bush opted not to support them with the result that their rebellion was brutally put down by Hussein’s Republican Guard. His ghastly regime did not become any more humane after the war and inflicted more suffering on his people. Sanctions continued to be applied to Iraq after the war. These were blamed for the death of thousands more civilians due to shortages of food and adequate medical supplies. 209

208. Brinkley, op.cit., p.1132.
209. Zinn, op.cit., p.586.

Sergeant Timothy McVeigh experienced first hand this ‘globalizing war’. He had killed two Iraqi soldiers, from a distance estimated at nineteen football fields, using the 25mm cannon on his Bradley troop carrier. This was an example of the advantage offered by superior American military technology over the Iraqis with their inferior equipment including obsolete Soviet tanks. 210 McVeigh witnessed the human impact of this technology when the shot he fired from the 25mm cannon caused the upper body of one of the Iraqis to explode on impact. 211 He also saw the terrible carnage that American military might wrought in terms of large numbers of charred corpses of Iraqi troops, Iraqi wounded crawling along with limbs missing, and wild dogs chewing on human limbs. 212

McVeigh also experienced the ‘globalizing war’ principle of not taking responsibility for cleaning up battlefield carnage and caring for the local population. His unit was assigned the duty of burying the Iraqi dead only to be abruptly told later to leave the dead where they lay. The rationale for this order was not explained. 213 After the fighting ceased his company spent a few weeks on security duties near Iraqi villages. This exposed McVeigh to the extreme poverty of the Iraqi civilians, which upset him and the other soldiers. They were issued strict orders not to give any food or supplies to these unfortunate civilians, an order McVeigh deliberately violated one day when he gave food to a family whose plight particularly moved him. 214

The principles of ‘globalizing war’ had also led to Saddam Hussein’s regime surviving the war. This disappointed McVeigh, like the other soldiers. He wrote in a letter home to an old friend that he wished he’d been given the chance to fight Saddam personally rather than his motley army:
"Chickenshit bastard. Because of him, I killed a man who didn’t want to fight us, but was forced to." This also shows that even at the time McVeigh was feeling remorse about his killing. 215

210. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p. 72.
211. ibid., p.74.
212. ibid., p.75.
213. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.75.
214. ibid., p.79.
215. ibid., p.76.

He later told Herbeck and Michel:
"What made me feel bad was, number one, I didn’t kill them in self-defense….When I took a human life, it taught me these are human beings, even though they speak a different language and have different customs. The truth is, we all have the same dreams, the same desires, the same care for our children and our family. These people were humans, like me, at the core." 216

Even before the war McVeigh had been reading conspiratorial right-wing literature about the ‘New World Order’ alleging that the United Nations was plotting to destroy American liberty and achieve global domination. 217 His misgivings about his involvement in the Gulf War were heightened by the fact it had been as part of a United Nations sanctioned force; an organisation he then feared was conspiring to take over America and the rest of the world. 218

After leaving the military McVeigh rethought his position and came to blame the US government rather than the ‘United Nations’ for the war. He informed his biographers that the list of grievances to be avenged in his mind as he was driving to Oklahoma City included "U. S. military actions against smaller nations". 219 In his "Essay on Hypocrisy" written for the June 1998 issue of Media Bypass McVeigh labelled the US government guilty of hypocrisy for condemning his bombing when he considered it to be guilty of worse carnage in Iraq:
"Yet when discussion shifts to Iraq, any day-care center in a government building instantly becomes ‘a shield.’ Think about it. (Actually there is a difference here. The administration has admitted to knowledge of the presence of children in or near Iraqi government buildings, yet they 220 still proceed with their plans to bomb – saying that they cannot be held responsible if children die. There is no such proof, however, that knowledge of the presence of children existed in relation to the Oklahoma City bombing.)" 221

216. loc.cit.
217. ibid., p.59.
218. ibid., p.76.
219. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.2.
220. G. Vidal, The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2001, London, 2002, p.288.
221. ibid., p.289.

Finally, in his letter to Gore Vidal of April 4, 2001, explaining his motivations he notes:
"Bombing the Murrah Federal Building was morally and strategically equivalent to the U.S. hitting a government building in Serbia, Iraq, or other nations. Based on observations of the policies of my own 222 government, I viewed this action as an acceptable option." 223

Despite his misgivings that his posting to the Gulf was contrary to his oath to defend the Constitution McVeigh had gone out of patriotism, a sense of duty and the opportunity to prove himself as an American warrior fighting what he considered to be an evil bully. As an American fundamentalist McVeigh went in the expectation that he would be fighting as a warrior in an orthodox modern war against an evil enemy with unconditional victory as the only acceptable objective. Instead, he found himself a participant in the first ‘globalizing war’ in which the enemy were slaughtered owing to the superiority of American technology. He participated in this slaughter taking two lives and witnessing the terrible aftermath it left. At the end of the fighting Saddam Hussein had been left in power and the Iraqi people had been left in a wretched state with no assistance being offered to them by the US and its allies. McVeigh was left full of remorse for his actions in participating in such a war. This led to his disillusionment with the federal government that he came to blame for the war and hence to his inability to continue serving in its army.
At this time his journey to terrorism was not complete. The final radicalisation would come with his depressing life experiences after leaving the army.

222. ibid., p.290.
223. ibid., p.291.

Despite the trauma of his Gulf War experiences, and his subsequent loss of enthusiasm for the army, Timothy McVeigh returned home to Pendleton in a positive state of mind. He was confidently anticipating that as a decorated war-hero he could expect to be given the opportunity to launch a successful new career. His hopes did not eventuate as he experienced again the negative effects of globalisation.

Over the next thirteen months McVeigh tried, in vain, to secure a new vocation and to integrate himself back into civilian life in western New York. He soon found that employers were more interested in college graduates than war-heroes. His ambition to join a computer software company could not be realised as he lacked a computing diploma or degree. 224 McVeigh couldn’t even secure a factory job like his father. 225 His bitterness towards government was increased by his unsuccessful applications for civil service positions, as a toll collector with the New York State Throughway Authority and as a deputy marshal with the U. S. Marshals Service, despite his getting high entrance test scores. McVeigh blamed discriminatory affirmative-action programs for his missing out on these jobs. 226

To his great disappointment the only job he could get was back in the minimum wage environment of the security industry; a vocation he thought he’d left behind permanently when he signed up for the U. S. army. He was required to work up to eighty hours a week 227 as a security guard; his remuneration for these exhaustingly long hours was a mediocre annual salary of less than $12,000. On this salary he could not afford health insurance. 228 A 1987 survey documented that the average income of a high school graduate was just under $28,000. The survey also showed that the average income for high school and college graduates was $16,000 and $50,000 per annum respectively. 229 McVeigh was earning less than the average income of his contemporaries.

224. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.95.
225. ibid., p.96.
226. ibid., p.100.
227. ibid., p.101.
228. ibid., p.110.
229. C. Lasch, The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy, 1996, New York, p.32.

McVeigh’s predicament can be explained with reference to economic changes arising out of globalisation. America’s industrial sector cut jobs as it lost market share to foreign competitors. American industry also began outsourcing work to foreign countries. By establishing factories and plants in low-wage countries like Mexico and Thailand American companies could make substantial savings by not having to pay the higher wages required in America. These reasons served as the rationale for factories like Harrions Electric, Bill McVeigh’s long-term employer in Pendleton, not wanting to recruit new staff like Timothy McVeigh. 230 Globalisation also had positive effects in terms of creating skilled new jobs, particularly in the burgeoning computer industry. 231 For these jobs employers required college and university graduates rather than high school graduate ex-servicemen. If McVeigh had completed the computer analyst diploma he started at Bryant & Stratton business college he might have ended up as an affluent professional in Silicon Valley. Instead, to his chagrin, he now found himself amongst the brutally exploited ranks of America’s working poor. 232

His reduced circumstances led to McVeigh adopting an increasingly jaundiced outlook. He vented his increasing rage in a letter to the Lockport Union Sun & Journal printed on February 11, 1992:
"Crime is so out of control. Criminals have no fear of punishment. Prisons are overcrowded, so they know they will not be imprisoned long. This breeds more crime in an escalating cyclic pattern. Taxes are a joke. Regardless of what a political candidate "promises," they will increase. More taxes are always the answer to government mismanagement. They mess up, we suffer. Taxes are reaching cataclysmic levels, with no slowdown in sight. The "American Dream" of the middle class has all but disappeared, substituted with people struggling just to buy next week’s groceries. Heaven forbid the car breaks down. Politicians are further eroding the "American Dream" by passing laws which are supposed to be a "quick fix," when all they 233 are really designed for is to get the official re-elected. These laws tend to "dilute" a problem for a while, until the problem comes roaring back in a worsened form (much like a strain of bacteria will alter itself to defeat a known medication). 234

230. A. Brinkley, American History A Survey Volume II: Since 1865, New York, 1999, p.1139.
231. ibid., p.1140.
232. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.95.
233. ibid., p.98.
234. ibid., p.99.

Politicians are out of control. Their yearly salaries are more than an average person will see in a lifetime. They have been entrusted with the power to regulate their own salaries and have grossly violated that trust to live in luxury.
Racism on the rise? You had better believe it. Is this America’s frustrations venting themselves? Is it a valid frustration? Who is to blame for the mess? At a point when the world has seen communism falter as an imperfect system to manage people, democracy seems to be headed down the same road. No one is seeing the "big" picture.
Maybe we have to combine ideologies to achieve the perfect utopian government. Remember, government-sponsored health care was a communist idea. Should only the rich be allowed to live longer? Does that say because a person is poor he is a lesser human being and doesn’t deserve to live as long, because he doesn’t wear a tie to work?
What is it going to take to open the eyes of our elected officials?
America is in serious decline.
We have no proverbial tea to dump. Should we instead sink a ship full of Japanese imports?
Is a civil war imminent?
Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system?
I hope it doesn’t come to that, but it might.
Timothy McVeigh" 235

This letter articulates a mixture of anti-government rhetoric and class resentment. More ominously, it makes clear that McVeigh was starting to consider violent action against ‘the System’.

235. Herbeck & Michel, ibid., p.99.

The following month after writing this letter McVeigh suffered a psychological breakdown. His grandfather answered his front door on a cold morning to find McVeigh dressed only in sweatpants with tears running down his face. Ed McVeigh took his grandson in with some comforting words and put him to bed. After contemplating suicide McVeigh fell asleep. 236 He awoke feeling better for the kindly attention he had received from his grandfather and resolved to carry on despite his less than impressive prospects in life. 237
In the wake of his breakdown McVeigh resumed reading antigovernment literature and started sharing his views with his youngest sister Jennifer. He explained to her his theory that the federal government was planning to disarm the American people and revoke the right to bear arms conferred under the Second Amendment of the Constitution. 238

McVeigh interpreted events at Ruby Ridge in Idaho in August 1992 as confirming his theory. A cabin on Ruby Ridge was the home of the Weaver family, adherents of the Christian Identity religion with ties to Aryan Nations. Randy Weaver was due to face trial on a firearm violation charge after he sold a sawn-off shotgun to a federal informant. He refused to leave his cabin to show up for his scheduled trial. In response, U. S. Marshals placed the cabin under surveillance. When on patrol on 21 August 1992, a group of the Marshal unexpectedly ran into Randy, his fourteen-year old son Sammy and family friend Kevin Harris. Shots were exchanged resulting in the death of Sammy and one of the U. S. Marshals. The next day a FBI sniper shot and killed Randy’s wife Vicki as she stood at the front door of the cabin holding her baby. 239 Hundreds of FBI, ATF and U. S. Marshal then laid siege to the cabin for eleven days before the surviving members of the Weaver family finally agreed to surrender. 240

He was now convinced that if George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were to be transported to modern day America they would be appalled by the state the country was in. McVeigh envisioned them feeling "physically ill" and calling on all patriotic Americans to instigate a "full revolution" against the degenerate federal government. 241

236. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.102.
237. ibid., p.103.
238. ibid., p.108.
239. loc.cit.
240. ibid., p.109.
241. ibid., p.110.

By March 1993 he had had enough of New York and security work and left to take up a construction job in Florida. In the ensuring two years he lived a nomadic lifestyle that involved him travelling around the country but never staying in any one place for long. He worked on a short-term basis in a variety of low paying jobs such as being an assistant in a hardware store. Mostly he survived off the pittance he earned selling books and survivalist items at gun shows around the country. When not staying with his old army buddies, Michael Fortier in his trailer home in Arizona, or Terry Nichols at his farm in Michigan, McVeigh would often sleep in his car. In this period he barely qualified as working poor; he was only one step removed from underclass destitution. 242
The process of the radicalisation of Timothy McVeigh was to be completed by events in Waco, Texas. The Branch Davidians religious sect had set up their home base in Waco in 1935. In 1990 David Koresh assumed leadership of the sect. In excess of 100 Federal ATF agents raided the compound on 28 February 1993 with the intention of searching for illegal armaments allegedly held by the Davidians. The raid degenerated into a gunfight resulting in the deaths of four ATF agents and six Davidians. After a 51 day siege of the Davidian compound and failed negotiations the federal agents launched a six-hour assault on the compound on April 19, 1993, that had been ordered by the Attorney-General Janet Reno. The Davidian building caught fire during the attack. There were no casualties amongst the federal agents. An estimated eighty Davidians were killed, including twenty-seven children. It was the largest number of American civilians who had been killed in a confrontation with their government since 200 Sioux Native-Americans had died under fire from the Seventh Cavalry at Wounded Knee, South Dakota on December 29, 1890. 243
McVeigh had followed developments closely from Florida. After a few weeks he drove to Waco and tried to get through to Mount Carmel only to be turned away by federal agents. He then spent a few days selling bumper stickers with gun rights messages such as "FEAR THE GOVERNMENT THAT FEARS YOUR GUN" and "WHEN GUNS ARE OUTLAWED I WILL BECOME AN OUTLAW." He gave an interview to a student journalist that formed the basis for an article in a college newspaper. McVeigh spelt out his view that federal law enforcement did not have any legal jurisdiction to carry out the search warrant and that it should be performed by the local sheriff and warned of the dangers of government gun control. 244

242. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.121.
243. G. Vidal, The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2001, London, 2002, p.272.
244. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.120.

On April 19, 1993, McVeigh was staying with the Nichols brothers at their farm in Decker, Michigan. He was changing the oil on his car in preparation for driving back to Waco with Terry Nichols to protest the government siege when he was called into the TV room. As he watched the coverage of Mount Carmel burning, as it was rammed by Bradley armoured vehicles much like the ones he used during his military service, McVeigh wept. In the rage that followed he swore he would do something about it. 245

Many Americans were outraged by the government’s actions that day at Waco. Why was McVeigh so enraged by it that it served to motivate him into becoming a terrorist?
In addition to ‘globalizing wars’ another form of conflict that has emerged in the age of globalisation is that of postmodern political violence. This phenomenon arises when the state has ceased functioning effectively and there is no operative legal and civic institutions resulting in the absence of a discernible moral order and anarchic violence. 246 Examples include the recent conflicts in Ruanda, Kosovo and Bosnia. The conflicts are postmodern because of the absence of a normative framework. These conflicts are directed by the state against society and assume the character of a civil war. The state has become an instrument of powerful interest groups that have seized control of it to facilitate the violent implementation of their agenda. 247

For Timothy McVeigh America had become a country with no discernible normative framework. As an American warrior he had gone to fight on behalf of his country in the Gulf War. Instead of an orthodox modern war he found himself involved in a ‘globalizing war’ whose morality he could not condone. On coming home he had left the army and was unable to find a decent new vocation, despite his war-hero status largely owing to economic changes arising out of globalisation. Given his beliefs as an American fundamentalist dictating that the Second amendment and gun rights constitute the very essence of American liberty he could only interpret federal law enforcement actions, both originating in alleged firearms abuses, at Ruby Ridge and Waco as confirming his worst fears about the federal government. The Waco assault brought back disturbing memories of the Gulf War with Bradley armoured vehicles being used, CS gas fired in amongst the Davidians, and the high casualty rate.

245. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.135.
246. G. Delanty, ‘Cosmopolitanism and Violence: The Limits of Global Civil Society’, European Journal of Social Theory, Vol.4, No.1, February 2001, p.47.
247. ibid., p.48.

With the Brady Firearms Control Bill approved by Congress in November 1993 McVeigh’s concerns were further heightened. The Bill banned ‘assault-type’ weapons and imposed a ten-day waiting period before gun permits could be obtained. 248 For McVeigh where was the normative order? As far as McVeigh was concerned the people who were running the federal government were intent on destroying his version of the American civil religion.

In the face of a state that had used such massive violence in the Gulf War, and then against its own citizens at Ruby Ridge and Waco, it was hard for McVeigh to see the point in peaceful political protest. He had written letters to his local newspaper back in Pendleton, distributed pamphlets at Waco, attempted to start his own militia group in Arizona with Michael Fortier, 249 and spent much time on the gun show circuit looking for kindred spirits without ever finding a formal organisation he could comfortably join. He felt that his attempts at peaceful activism and collective action had achieved nothing. He also felt socially marginalised and since late 1992 he had started to feel indifferent about life itself. 250

As he could not envision any meaningful improvement in his life McVeigh decided to seek transcedence through violence and martyrdom. In the absence of any willing collaborators to take the final steps with him he decided to take on in his mind the mantle of American "mythic individualism" exemplified in American culture by the cowboy who saves the society he can never fully integrate into. 251 He would throw off his passivity and embrace dynamic individualism instead, as Luke Skywalker and Earl Turner had done. In doing so, McVeigh would prove to himself that he was worthy of comparison with the Founding Fathers and Revolutionary War heroes. April 19, 1995, was chosen as the date by McVeigh because it not only marked the second anniversary of Waco, but two hundred and twenty years since the American patriots he so admired sacrificed their lives taking on the British forces at Lexington and Concord. 252 He also realised that the terrorist tactic of "propaganda by deed", communicating your message via a violent terrorist act, represented the easiest way to make his political concerns known to a wider public. 253

248. Stickney, op.cit., p.151.
249. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.141.
250. ibid., p.115.
251. R. N. Bellah, R. Madsen, W. M. Sullivan, A. Swidler & S. M. Tipton, Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life, Berkeley, 1985, p.145.
252. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.1.
253. C. Townshend, Terrorism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford, 2002, p.9.

Until now analysts have been prone to simplify McVeigh as a right-wing radical, an American fascist, without proper critical consideration of his beliefs and the world that shaped him. When a systematic analysis is undertaken to ascertain whether McVeigh satisfies the selection criteria for Lundskow’s definition of American fascism it becomes apparent that McVeigh does not neatly fit into this ideological category. Whilst heavily exposed to some aspects of American fascist culture, for example The Turner Diaries, McVeigh drew his own individualised conclusions from this exposure rather than becoming an ideal-type fascist adherent. Analysts to now have not given sufficient consideration to the impact of globalisation on shaping McVeigh.

Timothy McVeigh was determined to live his life in accordance with the values he identified as constituting fundamental Americanism dating back to what he thought were the ancient ideals of the Founding Fathers and the Revolutionary War heroes. To him these amounted to the individualist ideals of ‘freedom’ and the Second amendment of the Constitution. In addition he aspired to be a ‘new war’ warrior fighting to restore the primacy of the country which he believed embodied his civil religion. Life experience proved to be a bitter teacher for McVeigh. He failed to recognise that globalisation was the dominant force shaping the world in which he lived and that it was fundamentally incompatible with his fundamentalist beliefs. He suffered the traumatic disappointment of fighting, in a ‘globalizing war’, which ended without a neat moral resolution in accordance with his values. After leaving the army as a decorated war hero he was reduced to the menial status of being a member of the working poor and eventually a subsistence nomad, as a result of not having the necessary skills to succeed in an American economy shaped by the demands of globalisation. He experienced the events of Ruby Ridge and Waco as proof that what he recognised as the normative order for American society had been lost and that the state had turned against its people. McVeigh found his life and country intolerable and felt driven to take terrorist action in response.
Ultimately, his decision to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City needs to be understood as an act of hollow nihilism from a man spiritually and emotionally exhausted by the vast distance between his ideals and the realities of his life and the world he found himself in:
"I’ll be glad to leave this fucked-up world….Truth is, I determined mostly through my travels that this world just doesn’t hold anything for me….I knew my objective was a state-assisted suicide." 253

253. Herbeck & Michel, op.cit., p.358.

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C. Articles from Internet sites

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E. Newspaper articles
Bone, J. ‘McVeigh a hero born in wrong era, says Vidal’, The Australian, 9 August 2001, p.8.
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Los Angeles Times ‘Long road to hate lined with disappointments and failures’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 June 2001, p.13.
McVeigh, T. ‘Death Wish’, The Australian Magazine, The Australian, 12 May 2001, pp.18-22.

Reuters ‘Tale of American terror to become a TV series’, The Australian, 16 June 2001, p.16.
Riley, M. ‘Congress tells FBI chief: heads will roll’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 18 May 2001, p.13.
Riley, M. ‘All systems go for McVeigh execution’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 June 2001, p.9.
Riley, M. ‘McVeigh to say his goodbyes as death nears’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 June 2001, p.22.
Riley, M. ‘Sorry, but that’s the nature of the beast, says McVeigh’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 June 2001.
Riley, M. ‘Hated killer’s last words: ‘I am captain of my soul’’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 June 2001, p.1 & 12.
Rimer, S. ‘From Dad, with love, birthday card for killer’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 April 2001.
Romei, S. ‘Bomber resists apology’, The Australian, 12 April 2001, p.10.
Romei, S. ‘McVeigh plotted to murder Reno’, The Australian, 28 April 2001, p.14.
Romei, S. ‘The Last Hours of an American terrorist’, The Australian, 9 June 2001, p.1 & p.19.
Romei, S. ‘McVeigh dies defiant’, The Australian, 12 June 2001, p.1.
Romei, S. ‘TV glitch delays the inevitable’, The Australian, 12 June 2001, p.10.
Romei, S. ‘McVeigh’s father bears no grudge against state’, The Australian, 14 June 2001, p.8.
Ronson, J. ‘The Plots Thicken’, Good Weekend, The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 June 2001, pp.26-31.
Thomas, J. ‘Children collateral damage, says killer’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 March 2001, p.10.

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