The Right side of the law

On April 19th 1995, Timothy McVeigh parked a yellow rental truck beside the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, and walked away.

On April 19th 1995, Timothy McVeigh parked a yellow rental truck beside the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, and walked away. The truck exploded a few minutes later, destroying one third of the building, including a day-care centre. The blast killed 168 people, 19 of whom were children.

McVeigh was a right-wing extremist, associated with neo-Nazis, and inspired by the scurrilous hate-novel, the Turner Diaries. There is considerable evidence linking him to a gang of racist bank robbers, who probably financed the bombing. McVeigh was executed, and his accomplice, Terry Nichols, is serving life in prison.

This March, tipped off by another inmate, the FBI searched Nichols’s former home and found a stockpile of explosives they apparently missed 10 years ago. This is just the latest in an embarrassing series of missteps by the bureau, which is accused by some of bungling the investigation into the bombing, and by others of complicity.

At the time, the Oklahoma City bombing was the worst modern-day terror attack on American soil. McVeigh and Nichols were a sorry pair, a couple of redneck losers with neither the skills nor the resources to carry out a bombing on such a scale. There’s no question that others were involved, but no one else has ever been charged.

Scraps of evidence hint of McVeigh’s ties to the Aryan Republican Army, a fascist gang led by the flamboyant transvestite Pete (Commander Pedro) Langan, who stole at least $250,000 during the ‘90s for the purpose of bankrolling extremist violence. Much more than just scraps suggest Nichols was involved with Ramzi Yousef, the 1993 World Trade Centre bomber.

Six years later, the Oklahoma bombing was eclipsed by the September 11 massacre, in response to which the US has invaded two countries, slaughtered a 100,000 people, abandoned international law, the Bill of Rights, and the Geneva Conventions, and legitimized torture and illegal confinement. In the name of national security, the much-vaunted “world’s longest open border” with Canada is soon to be closed. Shoot-to-kill vigilante groups patrol the border with Mexico.

It’s unlikely that a country as large and wealthy as the US can seal its borders against terrorism, but supposing it does, how safe will America be? Tens of thousands of Americans share McVeigh’s racist views, his love of guns, and his total contempt for the federal government and all of its employees. A “patriotic American” website called the Activist Page (motto, “If you run, you’ll only die tired”) lists 40 anti-government militias throughout the States.

Shortly before the death of Terry Schiavo, Norm Olson, founder of the Michigan Militia and a fundamentalist pastor, formed a plan to “rescue” the brain-dead celebrity. He and 2,000 militia members planned to storm the hospital. Only when Schiavo’s father publicly renounced violence was the plot abandoned.

It appears Olson wouldn’t have ordered the militiamen to shoot any doctors, nurses, or hospital security staff that resisted this action: the manifesto of the Michigan Militia clearly states that it “does not have the authority to order any member … to shoot at someone. That decision is left solely to the individual citizen.”

During the War on Terror, how is it that the leader of an armed anti-government organization can make public plans to storm a hospital with 2,000 supporters, and remain a free man? Why isn’t Homeland Security brought to bear with full force on tens of thousands of well-armed Americans whose movement spawns racist killers and terrorist madmen?

How is it that the second largest terror attack in modern American history gets so little attention from law-enforcement agencies that they’re still digging up explosives 10 years later?

It’s quite simple really. There are no turbans in the Michigan Militia, no Korans in the Patriot movement. An almost universally white-skinned, conservative Christian, Republican-voting bunch, the vast majority of militiamen are also members of the most powerful lobby-group in the US today: the National Rifle Association. These assembled facts mean that they are categorically exempt from the label “terrorist.”

The CIA is not about to start kidnapping militia members, or members of the Aryan Nations, or the World Church of the Creator, or the American Nazi Party, or the Ku Klux Klan, and shipping them to client torture states. Nor is there any plan to carpet bomb their training camps or to declare them “enemy combatants” and lock them up for years in torture gulags.

There is no war on terror. The idea of a war on terror has always been an absurdity. It’s like a war on fighter jets, or a war on cluster-bombing: you cannot make war against a method of making war. Nor is there any serious attempt underway to control terrorist violence in the US.

All rhetoric to the contrary aside, the War on Terror is a war for control of the oilfields of the Middle East. That’s how racial profiling of so-called terrorists works: the enemy is identified by where he comes from, not by what he might do.

In America today, it doesn’t matter how many assault rifles and rounds of ammunition you possess, how extremist your views, or how violent your aims and methods might be. So long as you’re patriotic, pro-war, anti-abortion, anti-gun control, anti-taxes, anti-immigration, and anti-gay, you’re on the right side of the law.

Al Pope won the 2002 Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist in BC/Yukon. His novel, Bad Latitudes, is available in bookstores. Read more at

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