Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace Part 3

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Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace is a Webnovel created by Gore Vidal.
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28 May 2001.

The New Theocrats.

June 18, 1997, proved to be yet another day that will live in infamy in the history of The Wall Street Journal, or t.w.m.i.p., “the world’s most important publication,” as it bills itself- blissfully unaware of just how unknown this cheery neofascist paper is to the majority of Americans, not to mention those many billions who dwell in darkness where the sulfurous flashes of Wall Street’s little paper are no more than marsh gas from the distant marches of the loony empire. June 18 was the day that t.w.m.i.p. took an ad in the New York Times, the paper that prints only the news that will fit its not-dissimilar mind-set. The ad reprinted a t.w.m.i.p. editorial t.i.tled “Modern Morality,” a subject I should have thought alien to the core pa.s.sions of either paper. But then for Americans morality has nothing at all to do with ethics or right action or who is stealing what money-and liberties-from whom. Morality is s.e.x. s.e.x. s.e.x.

The edit’s lead is piping hot. “In the same week that an Army general with 147 Vietnam combat missions” (remember the Really Good War, for lots of Dow Jones listings?) “ended his career over an adulterous affair 13 years ago” (t.w.m.i.p. is on strong ground here; neither the general nor the lady nor any other warrior should be punished for adulteries not conducted while on watch during enemy attack) “the news broke”-I love that phrase in a journal of powerful opinion and so little numberless news-“that a New Jersey girl gave birth to a baby in the bathroom at her high school prom, put it in the trash and went out to ask the deejay to play a song by Metallica-for her boyfriend. The baby is dead.”

Misled by the word “girl, ” visualized a panicky p.u.b.escent tot. But days later, when one Melissa Drexler was indicted for murder, she was correctly identified by the Times as a “woman, 18.” In a recently published photograph of her alongside her paramour at the prom, the couple look to be in their early thirties. But it suited t.w.m.i.p. to misrepresent Ms. Drexler as yet another innocent child corrupted by laissez-faire American liberal “values,” so unlike laissez-faire capitalism, the great good.

All this is “moral chaos,” keens the writer. I should say that all this is just plain old-fashioned American stupidity where a religion-besotted majority is cynically egged on by a ruling establishment whose most rabid voice is The Wall Street Journal.

“We have no good advice on how the country might extricate itself anytime soon from a swamp of s.e.xual confusion-” You can say that again and, of course, you will. So, rather than give bad advice, cease and desist from taking out ads to blame something called The Liberals. In a country evenly divided between political reactionaries and religious maniacs, I see hardly a liberal like a tree-or even a burning bush-walking. But the writer does make it clear that the proscribed general was treated unfairly while the “girl” with baby is a statistic to be exploited by right-wing journalists, themselves often not too far removed from the odious Metallica-listening orders who drop babies in Johns, a bad situation that might have been prevented by the use, let us say, of a rubber when “girl” and “boy” had s.e.x.

But, no. We are a.s.sured that the moral chaos is the result of s.e.xual education and “littering,” as the ad puts it, “the swamp” with “condoms that for about the past five years have been dispensed by adults running our high schools… or by machines located in, by coincidence, the bathroom.” Presumably, the confessional would be a better venue, if allowed. So, on the one hand, it is bad, as we all agree, for a woman to give birth and then abandon a baby; but then too, it’s wrong, for some metaphysical reason, to help prevent such a birth from taking place. There is no sense of cause/effect when these geese start honking. Of course, t.w.m.i.p. has its own agendum: outside marriage, no s.e.x of any kind for the lower cla.s.ses and a policing of everyone, including generals and truly valuable people, thanks to the same liberals who now “forbid nothing and punish anything.” This is s.p.a.ceship-back-of-the-comet reasoning.

The sensible code observed by all the world (except for certain fundamentalist monotheistic Jews, Christians, and Muslims) is that “consensual” relations in s.e.xual matters are no concern of the state. The United States has always been backward in these matters, partly because of its Puritan origins and partly because of the social arrangements arrived at during several millennia of family-intensive agrarian life, rudely challenged a mere century ago by the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the cities and, lately, by the postindustrial work-world of services in which “safe” prost.i.tution should have been, by now, a bright jewel.

Although the “screed” (a favorite right-wing word) in the Times ad is mostly rant and not to be taken seriously, the spirit behind all this blather is interestingly hypocritical. T.w.m.i.p. is not interested in morality. In fact, any company that can increase quarterly profits through the poisoning of a river is to be treasured. But the piece does reflect a certain unease that the people at large, most visibly through s.e.x, may be trying to free themselves from their masters, who grow ever more stern and exigent in their prohibitions-one strike and you’re out is their dirty little secret. In mid-screed; the paper almost comes to the point: “Very simply [sic], what we’re suggesting here is that the code of s.e.xual behavior formerly set down by established religion In the U.S. more or less kept society healthy, unlike the current manifest catastrophe.” There it is. Where is Norman Lear, creator of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, now that we need him? Visualize on the screen gray clapboard, slate-colored sky, omni-ous (as Darryl Zanuck used to say) music. Then a woman’s plaintive voice calling “Hester Prynne, Hester Prynne!” as the screen fills with a pulsing scarlet “A.”

So arriere-garde that it is often avant-garde, t.w.m.i.p. is actually on to something. Although I shouldn’t think anyone on its premises has heard of the eighteenth-century Neapolitan scholar Vico, our readers will recall that Vico, working from Plato, established various organic phases in human society. First, Chaos. Then Theocracy. Then Aristocracy. Then Democracy-but as republics tend to become imperial and tyrannous, they collapse and we’re back to Chaos and to its child Theocracy, and a new cycle. Currently, the United States is a mildly chaotic imperial republic headed for the exit, no bad thing unless there is a serious outbreak of Chaos, in which case a new age of religion will be upon us. Anyone who ever cared for our old Republic, no matter how flawed it always was with religious exuberance, cannot not prefer Chaos to the harsh rule of Theocrats. Today, one sees them at their savage worst in Israel and in certain Islamic countries, like Afghanistan, etc. Fortunately, thus far their social regimentation is still no match for the universal l.u.s.t for consumer goods, that brave new world at the edge of democracy. As for Americans, we can still hold the fort against our very own praying mantises-for the most part, fundamentalist Christians abetted by a fierce, decadent capitalism in thrall to totalitarianism as proclaimed so saucily in the New York Times of June 18,1997.

The battle line is now being drawn. Even as the unfortunate “girl” in New Jersey was instructing the deejay, the Christian right was organizing itself to go after permissiveness in entertainment. On June 18 the Southern Baptists at their annual convention denounced the Disney company and its TV network, ABC, for showing a lesbian as a human being, reveling in Pulp Fiction violence, flouting Christian family values. I have not seen the entire bill of particulars (a list of more than one hundred “properties” to be boycotted was handed out), but it all sounds like a pretrial deposition from Salem’s glory days. Although I have criticized the Disney cartel for its media domination, I must now side with the challenged octopus.

This is the moment for Disney to throw the full weight of its wealth at the Baptists, who need a lesson in const.i.tutional law they will not soon forget. They should be brought to court on the usual chilling-of-First-Amendment grounds as well as for restraint of trade. Further, and now let us for once get to the root of the matter. The tax exemptions for the revenues of all the churches from the Baptists to the equally absurd-and equally mischievous-Scientologists must be removed.

The original gentlemen’s agreement between Church and State was that We the People (the State) will in no way help or hinder any religion while, absently, observing that as religion is “a good thing,” the little church on Elm Street won’t have to pay a property tax. No one envisaged that the most valuable real estate at the heart of most of our old cities would be tax-exempt, as churches and temples and orgone boxes increased their holdings and portfolios. The quo for this huge quid was that religion would stay out of politics and not impose its superst.i.tions on Us the People. The agreement broke down years ago. The scandalous career of the Reverend Presidential Candidate Pat Robertson is a paradigm.

As Congress will never act, this must be a gra.s.s-roots movement to amend the Const.i.tution, even though nothing in the original First Amendment says a word about tax exemptions or any other special rights to churches, temples, orgone boxes. This is a useful war for Disney to fight, though I realize that the only thing more cowardly than a movie studio or TV network is a conglomerate forced to act in the open. But if you don’t, Lord Mouse, it will be your rodentian a.s.s 15.7 million Baptists will get, not to mention the a.s.ses of all the rest of us.

The Nation.

21 July 1997.

A letter to be delivered.

I am writing this note a dozen days before the inauguration of the loser of the year 2000 presidential election. We are now faced with a j.a.panese seventeenth-century-style arrangement: a powerless Mikado ruled by a shogun vice president and his Pentagon warrior counselors. Do they dream, as did the shoguns of yore, of the conquest of China? We shall know more soon, I should think, than late. Sayonara.

11 January 2001.

[*] Congratulations, Mr. President-Elect. Like everyone else, I’m eagerly looking forward to your inaugural address. As you must know by now, we could never get enough of your speeches during the recent election in which the best man won, as he always does in what Spiro Agnew so famously called “the greatest nation in the country.”

[* This was written for Vanity Fair before the November 7, 2000, presidential election.]

Apropos your first speech to us as president. I hope you don’t mind if I make a few suggestions, much as I used to do in the sixties when I gave my regular States of the Union roundups on David Susskind’s TV show of blessed memory. Right off, it strikes me that this new beginning may be a good place to admit that for the last fifty years we have been waging what the historian Charles A. Beard so neatly termed “perpetual war for perpetual peace.”

It is my impression, Mr. President-Elect, that most Americans want our economy converted from war to peace. Naturally, we still want to stand tall. We also don’t want any of our tax money wasted on health care because that would be Communism, which we all abhor. But we would like some of our tax dollars spent on education. Remember what you said in your terminal debate with your opponent, now so much charred and crumbling toast? “Education is the key to the new millennium.” (Actually, looking at my notes, all four of you said that.) In any case, it is time we abandon our generally unappreciated role as world policeman, currently wasting Colombia, source of satanic drugs, while keeping Cuba, Iraq, and, until recently, Serbia “in correction,” as policepersons call house arrest. This compulsive interference in the affairs of other states is expensive and pointless. Better we repair our own country with “internal improvements,” as Henry Clay used to say. But in order to do this your first big job will be to curb the Pentagon warlords and their fellow conspirators in Congress and the boardrooms of corporate America. Ever since the Soviet Union so unsportingly disbanded in order to pursue protocapitalism and double-entry bookkeeping, our warlords have been anxiously searching for new enemies in order to justify an ever increasing military budget. Obviously, there is Terrorism to be fought. There is also the war on Drugs, to be fought but never won. Even so, in the failed attempt, the coming destruction of Colombia, a once liberal democratic nation, promises to be great fun for warlords and media, if not the residents of a once happy nation. Lately, a new clear and present danger has been unveiled; Rogue States, or “states of concern.” Currently, North Korea, Iraq, and Iran have been so fingered, while the world’s 1 billion Muslims have been demonized as crazed fanatics, dedicated to destroying all that is good on earth, which is us.

Since we have literally targeted our enemies, the Pentagon a.s.sumes that, sooner or later. Rogues will take out our cities, presumably from s.p.a.ceships. So to protect ourselves, the Ronald Reagan Memorial Nuclear s.p.a.ce Shield must be set in place at an initial cost of $60 billion even though, as of July, tests of the system, no matter how faked by the Pentagon, continued to fail The fact that, according to
polls, a majority of your const.i.tuents believe that we already have such a shield makes it possible for you to say you’re updating it and then do nothing. After all, from 1949 to J 1999 the United States spent $7.1 trillion on “national ;
defense.” As a result, the national debt is $5.6 trillion, of which $3.6 trillion is owed to the public, and $2 trillion to the Social Security-Medicare Trust Funds, all due to military spending and to the servicing of the debt thus incurred.

Mr. President-Elect, since Treasury figures are traditionally juggled, it would be nice if you were to see to it that the actual income and outgo of federal money are honestly reported. Last year the government told us, falsely, that its
income was just over $1.8 trillion while it spent just under j $1.8 trillion; hence, the famous, phantom surplus when If there was, of course, our usual homely deficit of around $90 billion. Year after year, the government’s official income is inflated by counting as revenue the income of the people’s Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds. These funds are not federal revenue. This year Social Security has a healthy surplus of $150 billion. No wonder corporate America and its employees in Congress are eager to privatize this healthy fund, thus far endangered only by them.

Although actual military spending was indeed lower last year than usual, half the budget still went to pay for wars to come as well as to blowing up the odd aspirin factory in the Sudan. Cash outlays for the military were $344 billion while interest on the military-caused national debt was $282 billion: sorry to bore you with these statistics, but they are at the heart of our-what was Jimmy Carter’s unfortunate word?-malaise (that’s French for broke). The Clinton administration’s cheery promise of a $1.8 trillion budget surplus over the next decade was, of course, a bold if comforting fiction, based on surreal estimates of future federal income-not to mention expenditures that, if anything like last September’s congressional spending spree, will drown us in red ink.

Sir, if you are going to be of any use at all to the nation and to the globe that it holds hostage, you will have to tame the American military. Discipline the out-of-control service chiefs. Last September, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General H. H. Shelton, declared that more, not less, dollars were needed. Specifically, the Marines want an extra $1.5 billion per year, the army wants over $30 billion, the navy $20 billion, the air force $30 billion, all in the absence of an enemy (we spend twenty-two times more than our seven potential enemies-Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria-combined). You must not grant these ruinous increases.

In August 1961, I visited President Kennedy at Hyannis Port. The Berlin Wall was going up, and he was about to begin a huge military buildup-reluctantly, or so he said, as he puffed on a cigar liberated by a friend from Castro’s Cuba. It should be noted that Jack hated liberals more than he did conservatives. “No one can ever be liberal enough for the New York Post,” he said. “Well, the Post should be happy now. Berlin’s going to cost us at least three and a half billion dollars. So, with this military buildup, we’re going to have a seven-billion-dollar deficit for the year. That’s a lot of pump priming.” He scowled. “G.o.d, I hate the way they throw money around over there at the Pentagon.”

“It’s not they,” I said. “It’s you. It’s your administration.” Briskly, he told me the facts of life, and I repeat them now as advice from the thirty-fifth to the-what are you, Mr. President? Forty- third president? “The only way for a president to control the Pentagon would be if he spent the entire four years of his first term doing nothing else but investigating that mess, which means he really could do nothing else…”

“Like getting reelected?”

He grinned. “Something like that.”

So I now propose, Mr. President-Elect, while there is still time, that you zero in on the links between corporate America and the military and rationalize as best you can the various procurement policies, particularly the Ronald Reagan Memorial Nuclear Shield. You should also leak to the American people certain Pentagon secrets. In 1995, we still had our missiles trained on 2,500 foreign targets. Today, to celebrate peace in the world, our missiles are trained on 3,000 foreign targets-of which 2,260 are in Russia; the rest are directed at China and the Rogue States. Although President Clinton has spoken eloquently of the need for a reduction in such dangerous nuclear targeting, the Pentagon does as it pleases, making the world unsafe for everyone. But then USA Today recently reported that the military enjoys the highest popularity rating (64 percent) of any group in the country-the Congress and Big Business are among the lowest. Of course, the services do spend $265 million annually on advertising.

Jack Kennedy very much enjoyed Fletcher Knebel’s thriller Seven Days in May, later a film. The story: a jingo based on the real-life Admiral Arthur Radford plans a military coup to take over the White House. Jack found the book riveting. “Only,” he chuckled, rather grimly, “it’s a lot more likely that this president will one day raise his own army and occupy their d.a.m.ned building.” No, I don’t agree with Oliver Stone that the generals killed him. But there is, somewhere out there, a watchdog that seems never to bark in the night. Yet the dog that doesn’t bark is the one that should be guarding the house from burglars, in this case the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower so generously warned us against. Although there are many media stories about costly overruns in the defense industries as well as the slow beginning of what may yet turn into an actual debate over the nuclear shield that Reagan envisaged for us after seeing Alfred Hitchc.o.c.k’s Torn Curtain, a movie nowhere near as good as Seven Days in May, there is, as yet, no debate over the role of the military in the nation’s life and its ongoing threat to us all, thanks to the hubris of senior officers grown accustomed to dispensing vast amounts of the people’s money for missiles that can’t hit targets and bombers that can’t fly in the rain. Congress, which should ride herd, does not because too many of its members are financed by those same companies that absorb our tax money, nor is it particularly helpful that senior officers, after placing orders with the defense industries, so often go to work as salesmen for the very same companies they once bought from.

Of all recent presidents, Clinton was expected to behave the most sensibly in economic matters. He understood how the economy works. But because he had used various dodges to stay out of the Vietnam War, he came to office ill at ease with the military. When Clinton tried to live up to his pledge to gay voters that the private life of any military person was no one’s business but his own, the warlords howled that morale would be destroyed. Clinton backed down. When Clinton went aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt to take the salute, sailors pranced around with mop ends on their heads, doing f.a.g imitations while hooting at the president, who just stood there. These successful insults to civilian authority have made the military ever more truculent and insolent. And now they must be brought to heel.

This summer, the warlords of the Pentagon presented the secretary of defense with their Program Objective Memorandum. Usually, this is a polite wish list of things that they would like to see under the Christmas tree. By September, the wish list sounded like a harsh ultimatum. As one dissenting officer put it, “Instead of a budget based on a top-line budget number, the chiefs are demanding a budget based on military strategy.” Although their joint military strategies, as tested in war over the last fifty years, are usually disastrous, military strategy in this context means simply extorting from the government $30 billion a year over and above the 51 percent of the budget that now already goes for war. Mr. President-Elect, I would advise you to move your office from the West Wing of the White House to the Pentagon, across the river. Even though every day that you spend there could prove to be your Ides of March, you will at least have the satisfaction of knowing that you tried to do something for us, the hitherto unrepresented people.

Fifty years ago, Harry Truman replaced the old republic with a national-security state whose sole purpose is to wage perpetual wars, hot, cold, and tepid. Exact date of replacement? February 27, 1947. Place: White House Cabinet Room. Cast: Truman, Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson, a handful of congressional leaders. Republican senator Arthur Vandenberg told Truman that he could have his militarized economy only if he first “scared the h.e.l.l out of the American people” that the Russians were coming. Truman obliged. The perpetual war began. Representative government of, by, and for the people is now a faded memory. Only corporate America enjoys representation by the Congresses and presidents that it pays for in an arrangement where no one is entirely accountable because those who have bought the government also own the media. Now, with the revolt of the Praetorian Guard at the Pentagon, we are entering a new and dangerous phase. Although we regularly stigmatize other societies as rogue states, we ourselves have become the largest rogue state of all. We honor no treaties. We spurn international courts. We strike unilaterally wherever we choose. We give orders to the United Nations but do not pay our dues. We complain of terrorism, yet our empire is now the greatest terrorist of all. We bomb, invade, subvert other states. Although We the People of the United States are the sole source of legitimate authority in this land, we are no longer represented in Congress a.s.sembled. Our Congress has been hijacked by corporate America and its enforcer, the imperial military machine. We the unrepresented People of the United States are as much victims of this militarized government as the Panamanians, Iraqis, or Somalians. We have allowed our inst.i.tutions to be taken over in the name of a globalized American empire that is totally alien in concept to anything our founders had in mind. I suspect that it is far too late in the day for us to restore the republic that we lost a half-century ago.

Even so, Mr. President-Elect, there is an off chance that you might actually make some difference if you start now to rein in the warlords. Reduce military spending, which will make you popular because you can then legitimately reduce our taxes instead of doing what you have been financed to do, freeing corporate America of its small tax burden. The 1950 taxes on corporate profits accounted for 25 percent of federal revenue; in 1999 only 10.1 percent. Finally, as sure as you were not elected by We the People but by the vast sums of unaccountable corporate money, the day of judgment is approaching. Use your first term to break the Pentagon. Forget about a second term. After all, if you succeed on the other side of the Potomac, you will be a hero to We the People. Should you fail or, worse, do nothing, you may be the last president, by which time history will have ceased to notice the United States and all our proud rhetoric will have been reduced to an ever diminishing echo. Also, brood upon an odd remark made by your canny, if ill-fated, predecessor Clinton. When Gingrich and his Contract on (rather than with) America took control of Congress, Clinton said, “The president is not irrelevant.” This was a startling admission that he could become so. Well, sir, be relevant. Preserve, protect, and defend what is left of our ancient liberties, not to mention our heavily mortgaged fortune.[*]

Vanity Fair.

December 2000.

[* And so Mr. President, elected by the Supreme Court (5-4), has now, in addition to a vice president who was a former secretary of defense, appointed another former defense secretary to his old post as well as a general to be secretary of state; thus the pa.s.s was sold. We are now in, the president tells us, “a long war”-presumably to the end.]

Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace Part 2

If you are looking for Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace Part 2 you are coming to the right place.
Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace is a Webnovel created by Gore Vidal.
This lightnovel is currently completed.

Even so, the more one learns about the FBI, the more one realizes that it is a very dangerous place indeed. Kelly and Wearne, in their investigation of its lab work, literally a life-and-death matter for those under investigation, quote two English forensic experts on the subject of the Oklahoma City bombing. Professor Brian Caddy, after a study of the lab’s findings: “If these reports are the ones to be presented to the courts as evidence then I am appalled by their structure and information content. The structure of the reports seems designed to confuse the reader rather than help him.” Dr. John Lloyd noted, “The reports are purely conclusory in nature. It is impossible to determine from them the chain of custody, on precisely what work has been done on each item.” Plainly, the time has come to replace this vast inept and largely unaccountable secret police with a more modest and more efficient bureau to be called “the United States Bureau of Investigation.”

It is now June 11, a hot, hazy morning here in Ravello. We’ve just watched Son of Show Time in Terre Haute, Indiana. CNN duly reported that I had not been able to be a witness, as McVeigh had requested: the attorney general had given me too short a time to get from here to there. I felt somewhat better when I was told that, lying on the gurney in the execution chamber, he would not have been able to see any of us through the tinted gla.s.s windows all around him. But then members of the press who were present said that he had deliberately made “eye contact” with his witnesses and with them. He did see his witnesses, according to Gate McCauley, who was one. “You could tell he was gone after the first shot,” she said. She had worked on his legal case for a year as one of his defense investigators.

I asked about his last hours. He had been searching for a movie on television and all he could find was Fargo, for which he was in no mood. Certainly he died in character; that is, in control. The first shot, of sodium pentothal, knocks you out. But he kept his eyes open. The second shot, of pancuronium bromide, collapsed his lungs. Always the survivalist, he seemed to ration his remaining breaths. When, after four minutes, he was officially dead, his eyes were still open, staring into the ceiling camera that was recording him “live” for his Oklahoma City audience.

McVeigh made no final statement, but he had copied out, it appeared from memory, “Invictus,” a poem by W. E. Henley (1849-1903). Among Henley’s numerous writings was a popular anthology called Lyra Heroics (1892), about those who had done selfless heroic deeds. I doubt if McVeigh ever came across it, but he would, no doubt, have identified with a group of young writers, among them Kipling, who were known as “Henley’s young men,” forever standing on burning decks, each a master of his fate, captain of his soul.

Characteristically, no talking head mentioned Henley’s name, because no one knew who he was. Many thought this famous poem was McVeigh’s work. One irritable woman described Henley as “a 19th-century cripple.” I fiercely e-mailed her network: the one-legged Henley was “extremities challenged.”

The stoic serenity of McVeigh’s last days certainty qualified him as a Henley-style hero. He did not complain about his fate; took responsibility for what he was thought to have done; did not beg for mercy as our always s.a.d.i.s.tic media require. Meanwhile, conflicting details about him acc.u.mulate-a bewildering mosaic, in fact-and he seems more and more to have stumbled into the wrong American era. Plainly, he needed a self-consuming cause to define him. The abolition of slavery or the preservation of the Union would have been more worthy of his life than anger at the excesses of our corrupt secret police. But he was stuck where he was and so he declared war on a government that he felt had declared war on its own people.

One poetic moment in what was largely an orchestrated hymn of hatred. Outside the prison, a group of anti-death-penalty people prayed together in the dawn’s early light. Suddenly, a bird appeared and settled on the left forearm of a woman, who continued her prayers. When, at last, she rose to her feet the bird remained on her arm-consolation? Ora pro n.o.bis.

CNN gave us bits and pieces of McVeigh’s last morning. Asked why he had not at least said that he was sorry for the murder of innocents, he said that he could say it but he would not have meant it. He was a soldier in a war not of his making. This was Henleyesque. One biographer described him as honest to a fault McVeigh had also noted that Harry Truman had never said that he was sorry about dropping two atomic bombs on an already defeated j.a.pan, killing around 200,000 people, mostly collateral women and children. Media howled that that was wartime. But McVeigh considered himself, rightly or wrongly, at war, too. Incidentally, the inexorable beatification of Harry Truman is now an important aspect of our evolving imperial system. It is widely believed that the bombs were dropped to save American lives. This is not true. The bombs were dropped to frighten our new enemy, Stalin. To a man, our leading World War II commanders, including Eisenhower, C. W. Nimitz, and even Curtis LeMay (played so well by George C. Scott in Dr. Strangelove), were opposed to Truman’s use of the bombs against a defeated enemy trying to surrender. A friend from live television, the late Robert Alan Aurthur, made a doc.u.mentary about Truman. I asked him what he thought of him. “He just gives you all these canned answers. The only time I got a rise out of him was when I suggested that he tell us about his decision to drop the atomic bombs in the actual ruins of Hiroshima. Truman looked at me for the first time. *O.K.,’ he said, *but I won’t kiss their a.s.ses.'” Plainly another Henley hero, with far more collateral damage to his credit than McVeigh. Was it Chaplin’s M. Verdoux who said that when it comes to calibrating liability for murder it is all, finally, a matter of scale?

After my adventures in the Ravello gardens (CBS’s Bryant Gumbel was his usual low-key, courteous self and did not pull the cord), I headed for Terre Haute by way of Manhattan. I did several programs where I was cut off at the word Waco. Only CNN’s Greta Van Susteren got the point. “Two wrongs,” she said, sensibly, “don’t make a right.” I quite agreed with her. But then, since I am against the death penalty, I noted that three wrongs are hardly an improvement.

Then came the stay of execution. I went back to Ravello. The media were now gazing at me. Time and again I would hear or read that I had written McVeigh first, congratulating him, presumably, on his killings. I kept explaining, patiently, how, after he had read me in Vanity Fair, it was he who wrote me, starting an off-and-on three-year correspondence. As it turned out, I could not go so I was not able to see with my own eyes the bird of dawning alight upon -the woman’s arm.

The first letter to me was appreciative of what I had written. I wrote him back. To show what an eager commercialite I am-hardly school of Capote-I kept no copies of my letters to him until the last one in May.

The second letter from his Colorado prison is dated “28 Feb 99.” “Mr. Vidal, thank you for your letter. I received your book United States last week and have since finished most of Part 2- your poetical musings.” I should say that spelling and grammar are perfect throughout, while the handwriting is oddly even and slants to the left, as if one were looking at it in a mirror. “I think you’d be surprised at how much of that material I agree with….

As to your letter, I fully recognize that “the general rebellion against what our gov’t has become is the most interesting (and I think important) story in our history this century.” This is why I have been mostly disappointed at previous stories attributing the OKC bombing to a simple act of “revenge” for Waco-and why I was most pleased to read your Nov. article in Vanity Fair. In the 4 years since the bombing, your work is the first to really explore the underlying motivations for such a strike against the U.S. Government- and for that, I thank you. I believe that such in-depth reflections are vital if one truly wishes to understand the events of April 1995.

Although I have many observations that I’d like to throw at you, I must keep this letter to a practical length-so I will mention just one: if federal agents are like “so many Jacobins at war” with the citizens of this country, and if federal agencies “daily wage war” against those citizens, then should not the OKC bombing be considered a “counter-attack” rather than a self-declared war? Would it not be more akin to Hiroshima than Pearl Harbor? (I’m sure the j.a.panese were just as shocked and surprised at Hiroshima-in fact, was that antic.i.p.ated effect not part and parcel of the overall strategy of that bombing?) Back to your letter, I had never considered your age as an impediment [here he riots in tact!] until I received that letter-and noted that it was typed on a manual typewriter? Not to worry, recent medical studies tell us that Italy’s taste for canola oil, olive oil and wine helps extend the average lifespan and helps prevent heart disease in Italians-so you picked the right place to retire to.

Again, thank you for dropping me a line-and as far as any concern over what or how to write someone “in my situation,” I think you’d find that many of us are still just “regular Joes”- regardless of public perception-so there need be no special consideration(s) given to whatever you wish to write. Until next time, then…

Under this line he has put in quotes: “‘Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.’ -H. L. Mencken. Take good care.”

He signed off with scribbled initials. Needless to say, this letter did not conform to any notion that I had had of him from reading the rabid U.S. press led, as always, by the New York Times, whose clumsy attempts at Freudian a.n.a.lysis (e.g., he was a broken blossom because his mother left his father in his sixteenth year-actually he seemed relieved). Later, there was a year or so when I did not hear from him. Two reporters from a Buffalo newspaper (he was born and raised near Buffalo) were at work interviewing him for their book, American Terrorist. I do think I wrote him that Mencken often resorted to Swiftian hyperbole and was not to be taken too literally. Could the same be said of McVeigh? There is always the interesting possibility- prepare for the grandest conspiracy of all-that he neither made nor set off the bomb outside the Murrah building: it was only later, when facing either death or life imprisonment, that he saw to it that he would be given sole credit for hoisting the black flag and slitting throats, to the rising fury of various “militias” across the land who are currently outraged that he is getting sole credit for a revolutionary act organized, some say, by many others. At the end, if this scenario is correct, he and the detested Feds were of a single mind.

As Senator Danforth foresaw, the government would execute McVeigh as soon as possible (within ten days of Danforth’s statement to The Washington Post) in order not to have to produce so quickly that mislaid box with doc.u.ments that might suggest that others were involved in the bombing. The fact that McVeigh himself was eager to commit what he called “federally a.s.sisted suicide” simply seemed a bizarre twist to a story that no matter how one tries to straighten it out never quite conforms to the Ur-plot of lone crazed killer (Oswald) killed by a second lone crazed killer (Ruby), who would die in stir with, he claimed, a tale to tell. Unlike Lee Harvey (“I’m the patsy”) Oswald, our Henley hero found irresistible the role of lone warrior against a bad state. Where, in his first correspondence with me, he admits to nothing for the obvious reason his lawyers have him on appeal, in his last letter to me, April 20, 2001- “T. McVeigh 12076-064 FOB 33 Terre Haute, In. 47808 (USA)”-he writes, “Mr. Vidal, if you have read the recently published *American Terrorist/ then you’ve probably realized that you hit the nail on the head with your article *The War at Home/ Enclosed is supplemental material to add to that insight.” Among the doc.u.ments he sent was an ABC-News.com chat transcript of a conversation with Timothy McVeigh’s psychiatrist. The interview with Dr. John Smith was conducted by a moderator, March 29 of this year. Dr. Smith had had only one session with McVeigh, six years earlier. Apparently McVeigh had released him from his medical oath of confidentiality so that he could talk to Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, authors of American Terrorist.

Moderator: You say that Timothy McVeigh “was not deranged” and that he has “no major mental illness.” So why, in your view, would he commit such a terrible crime?

Dr. John Smith: Welt, I don’t think he committed it because he was deranged or misinterpreting reality…, He was overly sensitive, to the point of being a little paranoid, about the actions of the government. But he committed the act mostly out of revenge because of the Waco a.s.sault, but he also wanted to make a political statement about the role of the federal government and protest the use of force against the citizens. So to answer your original question, it was a conscious choice on his part, not because he was deranged, but because he was serious.

Dr. Smith then notes McVeigh’s disappointment that the media had shied away from any dialogue “about the misuse of power by the federal government.” Also, “his statement to me, *I did not expect a revolution/ Although he did go on to tell me that he had had discussions with some of the militias who lived in the hills around Kingman, AZ, about how easy it would be, with certain guns in the hills there, to cut interstate 40 in two and in that sense interfere with transportation from between the eastern and western part of the United States-a rather grandiose discussion.”

Grandiose but, I think, in character for those rebels who like to call themselves Patriots and see themselves as similar to the American colonists who separated from England. They are said to number from 2 million to 4 million, of whom some 400,000 are activists in the militias. Although McVeigh never formally joined any group, for three years he drove all around the country, networking with like-minded gun-lovers and federal-government-haters; he also learned, according to American Terrorist, “that the government was planning a ma.s.sive raid on gun owners and members of the Patriot community in the spring of 1995.” This was all the trigger that McVeigh needed for what he would do-shuffle the deck, as it were.

The Turner Diaries is a racist daydream by a former physics teacher writing under the pseudonym Andrew Macdonald. Although McVeigh has no hangups about blacks, Jews, and all the other enemies of the various “Aryan” white nations to be found in the Patriots’ tanks, he shares the Diaries’ obsession with guns and explosives and a final all-out war against the “System.” Much has been made, rightly, of a description in the book of how to build a bomb like the one he used in Oklahoma City. When asked if McVeigh acknowledged copying this section from the novel, Dr. Smith said, “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 h.o.m.os.e.xuals. He made that very clear.” As for the book as an influence, “he’s not going to share credit with anyone.” Asked to sum up, the good doctor said, simply, “I have always said to myself that if there had not been a Waco, there would not have been an Oklahoma City.”

McVeigh also sent me a 1998 piece he had written for Media Bypa.s.s. He calls it “Essay on Hypocrisy.”

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 set 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

McVeigh quotes again from Justice Brandeis: “‘Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or ill it teaches the whole people by its example.'” He stops there. But Brandeis goes on to write in his dissent, “Crime is contagious. If the government becomes the law breaker, it breeds contempt for laws; it invites every man to become a law unto himself.” Thus the straight-arrow model soldier unleashed his terrible swift sword and the innocent died. But then a lawless government, Brandeis writes, “invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means-to declare that the government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal-would bring terrible retribution.”

One wonders if the Opus Dei plurality of the present Supreme Court’s five-to-four majority has ever pondered these words so different from, let us say, one of its essential thinkers, Machiavelli, who insisted that, above all, the Prince must be feared.

Finally, McVeigh sent me three pages of longhand notes dated April 4, 2001, a few weeks before he was first scheduled to die. It is addressed to “CJ.”(?), whose initials he has struck out.

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 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 c.u.mulative raids (and subsequent violence and damage) that federal agents had partic.i.p.ated 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 a.s.sault 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 behavior. 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 government, I viewed this action as an acceptable option. 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.

Sincerely, T.M.

USP Terre Haute (In.) There were many outraged press notes and letters when I said that McVeigh suffered from “an exaggerated sense of justice.” I did not really need the adjective except that I knew that few Americans seriously believe that anyone is capable of doing anything except out of personal self-interest, while anyone who deliberately risks-and gives- his life to alert his fellow citizens to an onerous government is truly crazy. But the good Dr. Smith put that one in perspective: McVeigh was not deranged. He was serious.

It is June 16. It seems like five years rather than five days since the execution. The day before the execution, June 10, the New York Times discussed “The Future of American Terrorism.” Apparently, terrorism has a real future; hence we must beware n.a.z.i skinheads in the boondocks. The Times is, occasionally, right for the usual wrong reasons. For instance, their current wisdom is to dispel the illusion that “McVeigh is merely a p.a.w.n in an expansive conspiracy led by a group of John Does that may even have had government involvement. But only a small fringe will cling to this theory for long.” Thank G.o.d: one had feared that rumors of a greater conspiracy would linger on and Old Glory herself would turn to fringe before our eyes. The Times, more in anger than in sorrow, feels that McVeigh blew martyrdom by first pleading not guilty and then by not using his trial to “make a political statement about Ruby Ridge and Waco.” McVeigh agreed with the Times, and blamed his first lawyer, Stephen Jones, in unholy tandem with the judge, for selling him out. During his appeal, his new attorneys claimed that the serious sale took place when Jones, eager for publicity, met with the Times’s Pam Belluck. McVeigh’s guilt was quietly conceded, thus explaining why the defense was so feeble. (Jones claims he did nothing improper.) * * *

Actually, in the immediate wake of the bombing, the Times concedes, the militia movement skyrocketed from 220 antigovernment groups in 1995 to more than 850 by the end of *96. A factor in this growth was the belief circulating among militia groups “that government agents had planted the bomb as a way to justify anti-terrorism legislation. No less than a retired Air Force general has promoted the theory that in addition to Mr. McVeigh’s truck bomb, there were bombs inside the building.” Although the Times likes a.n.a.logies to n.a.z.i Germany, they are curiously reluctant to draw one between, let’s say, the firing of the Reichstag in 1933 (Goring later took credit for this creative crime), which then allowed Hitler to invoke an Enabling Act that provided him with all sorts of dictatorial powers “for protection of the people and the state,” and so on to Auschwitz.

The canny Portland Free Press editor, Ace Hayes, noted that the one absolutely necessary dog in every terrorism case has yet to bark- The point to any terrorist act is that credit must be claimed so that fear will spread throughout the land. But no one took credit until McVeigh did, after the trial, in which he was condemned to death as a result of circ.u.mstantial evidence produced by the prosecution. Ace Hayes wrote, “If the bombing was not terrorism then what was it? It was pseudo terrorism, perpetrated by compartmentalized covert operators for the purposes of state police power.” Apropos Hayes’s conclusion, Adam Parfrey wrote in Cult Rapture, “[The bombing] is not different from the bogus Viet Cong units that were sent out to rape and murder Vietnamese to discredit the National Liberation Front. It is not different from the bogus *finds’ of Commie weapons in El Salvador. It is not different from the bogus Symbionese Liberation Army created by the CIA/FBI to discredit the real revolutionaries.” Evidence of a conspiracy? Edye Smith was interviewed by Gary Tuchman, May 23,1995, on CNN. She duly noted that the ATT bureau, about seventeen people on the ninth floor, suffered no casualties. Indeed they seemed not to have come to work that day. Jim Keith gives details in OKBOMB!, while Smith observed on TV, “Did the ATF have a warning sign? I mean, did they think it might be a bad day to go into the office? They had an option not to go to work that day, and my kids didn’t get that option.” She lost two children in the bombing. ATF has a number of explanations. The latest: five employees were in the offices, unhurt.

Another lead not followed up: McVeigh’s sister read a letter he wrote her to the grand jury stating that he had become a member of a “Special Forces Group involved in criminal activity.”

At the end, McVeigh, already condemned to death, decided to take full credit for the bombing. Was he being a good professional soldier, covering up for others? Or did he, perhaps, now see himself in a historic role with his own private Harper’s Ferry, and though his ashes molder in the grave, his spirit is marching on? We may know-one day.

As for “the purposes of state police power,” after the bombing, Clinton signed into law orders allowing the police to commit all sorts of crimes against the Const.i.tution in the interest of combating terrorism. On April 20, 1996 (Hitler’s birthday of golden memory, at least for the producers of The Producers), President Clinton signed the Anti-Terrorism Act (“for the protection of the people and the state”-the emphasis, of course, is on the second noun), while, a month earlier, the mysterious Louis Freeh had informed Congress of his plans for expanded wiretapping by his secret police. Clinton described his Anti-Terrorism Act in familiar language (March 1,1993, USA Today): “We can’t be so fixated on our desire to preserve the rights of ordinary Americans.” A year later (April 19, 1994, on MTV): “A lot of people say there’s too much personal freedom. When personal freedom’s being abused, you have to move to limit it.” On that plangent note he graduated c.u.m laude from the Newt Gingrich Academy.

In essence, Clinton’s Anti-Terrorism Act would set up a national police force, over the long-dead bodies of the founders. Details are supplied by H.R. 97, a chimera born of Clinton, Reno, and the mysterious Mr. Freeh. A twenty-five-hundred-man Rapid Deployment Strike Force would be organized, under the attorney general, with dictatorial powers. The chief of police of Windsor, Missouri, Joe Hendricks, spoke out against this supra-Const.i.tutional police force. Under this legislation, Hendricks said, “an agent of the FBI could walk into my office and commandeer this police department. If you don’t believe that, read the crime bill that Clinton signed into law…. There is talk of the Feds taking over the Washington, D.C., police department. To me this sets a dangerous precedent.” But after a half-century of the Russians are coming, followed by terrorists from proliferating rogue states as well as the ongoing horrors of drug- related crime, there is little respite for a people so routinely-so fiercely-disinformed. Yet there is a native suspicion that seems to be a part of the individual American psyche-as demonstrated in polls, anyway. According to a Scripps Howard News Service poll, 40 percent of Americans think it quite likely that the FBI set the fires at Waco. Fifty-one percent believe federal officials killed Jack Kennedy (Oh, Oliver what hast thou wrought!). Eighty percent believe that the military is withholding evidence that Iraq used nerve gas or something as deadly in the Gulf. Unfortunately, the other side of this coin is troubling. After Oklahoma City, 58 percent of Americans, according to the Los Angeles Times, were willing to surrender some of their liberties to stop terrorism-including, one wonders, the sacred right to be misinformed by government?

Shortly after McVeigh’s conviction, Director Freeh soothed the Senate Judiciary Committee: “Most of the militia organizations around the country are not, in our view, threatening or dangerous.” But earlier, before the Senate Appropriations Committee, he had “confessed” that his bureau was troubled by “various individuals, as well as organizations, some having an ideology which suspects government of world-order conspiracies-individuals who have organized themselves against the United States.” In sum, this bureaucrat who does G.o.d’s Work regards as a threat those “individuals who espouse ideologies inconsistent with principles of Federal Government.” Oddly, for a former judge, Freeh seems not to recognize how chilling this last phrase is.

The CIA’s former director William Colby is also made nervous by the disaffected. In a chat with Nebraska state senator John Decamp (shortly before the Oklahoma City bombing), he mused, “I watched as the Anti-War movement rendered it impossible for this country to conduct or win the Viet Nam War…. This Militia and Patriot movement… is far more significant and far more dangerous for Americans than the Anti-War movement ever was, if it is not intelligently dealt with- It is not because these people are armed that America need be concerned.” Colby continues, “They are dangerous because there are so many of them. It is one thing to have a few nuts or dissidents. They can be dealt with, justly or otherwise [my emphasis] so that they do not pose a danger to the system. It is quite another situation when you have a true movement- millions of citizens believing something, particularly when the movement is made up of society’s average, successful citizens.” Presumably one “otherwise” way of handling such a movement is when it elects a president by a half-million votes-to call in a like-minded Supreme Court majority to stop a state’s recounts, create arbitrary deadlines, and invent delays until our ancient electoral system, by default, must give the presidency to the “system’s” candidate as opposed to the one the people voted for.

Many an “expert” and many an expert believe that McVeigh neither built nor detonated the bomb that blew up a large part of the Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995. To start backward-rather the way the FBI conducted this case-if McVeigh was not guilty, why did he confess to the murderous deed? I am convinced from his correspondence and what one has learned about him in an ever lengthening row of books that, once found guilty due to what he felt was the slovenly defense of his princ.i.p.al lawyer, Stephen Jones, so unlike the brilliant defense of his “co-conspirator” Terry Nichols’s lawyer Michael Tigar, McVeigh believed that the only alternative to death by injection was a half-century or more of life in a box. There is another aspect of our prison system (considered one of the most barbaric in the First World) that was alluded to by a British writer in The Guardian. He quoted California’s attorney general, Bill Lockyer, on the subject of the C.E.O. of an electric utility, currently battening on California’s failing energy supply. *”I would love to personally escort this CEO to an 8 by 10 cell that he could share with a tattooed dude who says-“Hi, my name is Spike, Honey.”‘… The senior law official in the state was confirming (what we all suspected) that rape is penal policy. Go to prison and serving as a h.e.l.l’s Angel s.e.x slave is judged part of your sentence.” A couple of decades fending off Spike is not a Henley hero’s idea of a good time. Better dead than Spiked. Hence, “I bombed the Murrah building.”

Evidence, however, is overwhelming that there was a plot involving militia types and government Infiltrators- who knows?-as prime movers to create panic in order to get Clinton to sign that infamous Anti-Terrorism Act. But if, as it now appears, there were many interested parties involved, a sort of unified-field theory is never apt to be found, but should there be one, Joel Dyer may be its Einstein. (Einstein, of course, never got his field quite together, either.) In 1998, I read Dyer’s Harvest of Rage. Dyer was editor of the Boulder Weekly. He writes on the crisis of rural America due to the decline of the family farm, which also coincided with the formation of various militias and religious cults, some dangerous, some merely sad. In Harvest of Rage, Dyer made the case that McVeigh and Terry Nichols could not have acted alone in the Oklahoma City bombing. Now he has, after long investigation, written an epilogue to the trials of the two coconspirators.

It will be interesting to see if the FBI is sufficiently intrigued by what Joel Dyer has written to pursue the leads that he has so generously given them.

Thus far, David Hoffman’s The Oklahoma City Bombing and the Politics of Tenor is the most thorough of a dozen or two accounts of what did and did not happen on that day in April. Hoffman begins his investigation with retired air-force brigadier general Benton K. Partin’s May 17, 1995, letter delivered to each member of the Senate and House of Representatives: “When I first saw the pictures of the truck-bomb’s asymmetrical damage to the Federal Building, my immediate reaction was that the pattern of damage would have been technically impossible without supplementing demolition charges at some of the reinforcing concrete column bases…. For a simplistic blast truck-bomb, of the size and composition reported, to be able to reach out in the order of 60 feet and collapse a reinforced column base the size of column A-7 is beyond credulity.” In separate agreement was Samuel Cohen, father of the neutron bomb and formerly of the Manhattan Project, who wrote an Oklahoma state legislator, “It would have been absolutely impossible and against the laws of nature for a truck full of fertilizer and fuel oil… no matter how much was used .. , to bring the building down.” One would think that McVeigh’s defense lawyer, restlessly looking for a Middle East connection, could certainly have called these acknowledged experts to testify, but a search of Jones’s account of the case, Others Unknown, reveals neither name.

In the March 20, 1996, issue of Strategic Investment newsletter, it was reported that Pentagon a.n.a.lysts tended to agree with General Partin. “A cla.s.sified report prepared by two independent Pentagon experts has concluded that the destruction of the Federal building in Oklahoma City last April was caused by five separate bombs…. Sources close to the study say Timothy McVeigh did play a role in the bombing but *peripherally/ as a *useful idiot/” Finally, inevitably-this is wartime, after all-“the multiple bombings have a Middle Eastern *signature,’ pointing to either Iraqi or Syrian involvement.”

As it turned out, Partin’s and Cohen’s pro bono efforts to examine the ruins were in vain. Sixteen days after the bombing, the search for victims stopped. In another letter to Congress, Partin stated that the building should not be destroyed until an independent forensic team was brought in to investigate the damage. “It is also easy to cover up crucial evidence as was apparently done in Waco- Why rush to destroy the evidence?” Trigger words: the Feds demolished the ruins six days later. They offered the same excuse that they had used at Waco, “health hazards.” Partin: “It’s a cla.s.sic cover-up.”

Partin suspected a Communist plot. Well, n.o.body’s perfect.

“So what’s the take-away?” was the question often asked by TV producers in the so-called golden age of live television plays. This meant: what is the audience supposed to think when the play is over? the McVeigh story presents us with several take-aways. If McVeigh is simply a “useful idiot,” a tool of what might be a very large conspiracy, involving various homegrown militias working, some think, with Middle Eastern helpers, then the FBI’s refusal to follow up so many promising leads goes quite beyond its ordinary incompetence and smacks of treason. If McVeigh was the unlikely sole mover and begetter of the bombing, then his “inhumane” (the Unabomber’s adjective) destruction of so many lives will have served no purpose at all unless we take it seriously as what it is, a wake-up call to a federal government deeply hated, it would seem, by millions. (Remember that the popular Ronald Reagan always ran against the federal government, though often for the! wrong reasons.) Final far-fetched take-away: McVeigh did not make nor deliver nor detonate the bomb but, once arrested on another charge, seized all “glory” for himself and so gave up his life. That’s not a story for W. E. Henley so much as for one of his young men, Rudyard Kipling, author of The Man Who Would Be King.

Finally, the fact that the McVeigh-Nichols scenario makes no sense at all suggests that yet again, we are confronted with a “perfect” crime-thus far.

Vanity Fair.

September 2001.

Fallout.

Once our media has invented a cartoon image for a national villain or hero, it does not take a benign view of anyone who contradicts its version. My reasonably mild a.n.a.lysis of McVeigh was interpreted as approval of the bombing at Oklahoma City and I was said to have hailed him as “a freedom fighter,” a phrase, as you have seen, that I never used. I thought it was obvious that I agreed with the examining psychiatrist who said, “Had there been no Waco, there would have been no Oklahoma City.” Therefore, the truth-seeker should concentrate on the various elements that led up to the federal ma.s.sacre at Waco on the ground that whatever the Federal government does it does in the name of all of us. What McVeigh did he did on his own for reasons well worth understanding since he appears to represent, in many ways, millions of heartland Americans.

In the original article I quote Joel Dyer at greater length than I do now. He had spent years following up on leads to potential coconspirators with McVeigh. There was even a potential Iraqi connection in Oklahoma City, which might well have brought roses to the cheeks of our right-wing activists, eager for war with Iraq as well as Iran, Somalia, and just about any Islamic nation that does not obey us. In any case, I have now left out all those leads not followed by the FBI on the ground that the spoor, as Tarzan used to say, grows, with pa.s.sing time, ever more faint.

But at the time Dyer and I were ready to share our findings, no matter how unwanted, with the FBI. The mysterious Louis Freeh had left as director and his place was taken by R. S. Mueller, for whom I prepared the following letter, which I read on NBC’s Today Show, leaving out the names of those who had given leads, but including the doc.u.ment numbers of the FBI reports collected by Dyer during various “discovery” court hearings.

August 27, 2001 The Honorable Robert S. Mueller III, Director-Designate Federal Bureau of Investigation J. Edgar Hoover Building 935 Pennsylvania Avenue, K.W.

Washington, B.C. 20535-0001 Dear Director-Designate Mueller; Congratulations on your recent appointment as director of the Federala Bureau of Investigation. If recent news reports are to be believed, it seems your first priority is to restore the tattered image of the Freeh-based bureau. We see you as Shane come to town. With that in mind, might I suggest a bona fide investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing? To that worthy end, I am providing you a list of “302” reports from the Bureau’s alleged “investigation” that I hope you will find more interesting than did your predecessor Hr. Louis Freeh.

McVeigh Discovery Materials 302 Reports DCNO 005290001-1 DCNO 004623001-1.

DCNO 016598001-1 DCNO 004622001-1.

DCNO 004412001-1 Russell Roe DCNO#-illegible DCNO 004613001-1.

DCNO 016417001-1 DCNO 007936001-1.

DCNO 006333001-1 DCNO 008597001-1.

DCNO 015040001-1 DCNO 015830001-1.

DCNO 015042001-1 DCNO 016016001-1.

DCNO 015039001-1 DCNO 007986001-1.

DCNO 015041001-1 Lead # 15004 DCNO#-illegible Upon review, you will find that, these 19 “302” reports were generated as a result of your organization’s interviews with Kansas law enforcement personnel, eyewitnesses, confidential informants, militia members, etc. Collectively, they contain information regarding, among other things, four men, resident in East Kansas at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing, who were well-known anti-U.S. government radicals.

Let me briefly summarize the contents of these doc.u.ments.

In the first series of doc.u.ments is a report of perhaps the only eyewitness to the actual a.s.semblage of the bombing components. He was present, on or about April 17, 1995, at Geary Lake and identified one man and others unknown who were offloading fertilizer from a farm truck to the Ryder truck.

The second set of reports deals with a man who was overheard, several weeks prior to the bombing, saying that “Someone is going to smoke some Okies-wait till Timray does his job.’ It is also noted that this same individual had suggested committing numerous acts of terrorism-both prior to and subsequent to-the OKC bombing. In fact, your agency later arrested him for one such plot. Let us hope they will tell you about it.

A third group of “302”s describes in detail a man said to be a dangerous, government-hating radical thought to have exploded fertilizer bombs on his remote Kansas property prior to the fertilizer-bomb explosion in Oklahoma City, You should have no trouble locating information on this individual, as your agency has had many unusual dealings with him over the years. In an effort to save you valuable time, as I am sure you are quite busy cleaning up after Mr. Freeh, please be aware that if you simply request this individual’s file by the original number a.s.signed by the F.B.I. (W924376484), you may encounter difficulty in locating it because, I’ve been told, this file number was mysteriously rea.s.signed to an unrelated case in New Jersey and that new numbers have been issued for the Kansas man’s files. What, one wonders, can this mean?

The last set of reports contains information from Kansas law enforcement, describing an anti-government radical living in the same small town as Terry Nichols, McVeigh’s only named co-conspirator. You will also find his name on the Posse Comitatus videotapes seized by the F.B.I, at the Nichols’s brothers’ farm in Michigan. I believe the seized tapes describe him as a close personal friend of the Posse leader whose phone number was in Mr. Nichols’s wallet at the time of his arrest. But then again, perhaps these two likeminded friends of a friend never stumbled across one another in a town whose population is 636.

In addition to the above information, these reports also indicate that these men had ties to both the Michigan Militia and the Arizona Patriots, two anti- government organizations with which Mr. McVeigh a.s.sociated prior to the bombing, Here are my concerns and, I suspect, the concerns of every thoughtful American. Based upon an examination of the evidence turned over during the discovery process and trial, it appears that the F.B.I., despite the quality of the leads I’ve set forth above, never actually bothered to pursue the information provided in any substantive manner. The men in question were not interviewed, not even the obligatory “Where were you on April 19?” phone call. In fact, they were not investigated in any manner whatsoever, no vehicle registration checks, nothing. By the way, I think you would find the vehicle angle quite interesting. Had the above leads been investigated in even a cursory manner, the FBI would have learned that all four men were closely a.s.sociated in the same radical anti-government faction. I’m sure you will agree that such a connection between these overlooked leads might tell us who did what that cruel April day.

In addition, as set out in. my recent article in Vanity Fair, the name of at least one other person a.s.sociated with this same organization was given to the F.B.I, by three different persons, yet there were no “302” reports concerning the three and no information whatsoever on the subject in the discovery materials turned over by the government.

I cannot say with certainty that these men were part of the bombing plot that left 168 innocent people dead. It would be impossible to reach such a bold conclusion in light of the F.B.I.’s failure to even investigate such a possibility. I am simply pointing out that the government’s ongoing insistence that it “followed every lead” and that there is “no credible evidence that others were involved” is not based on the evidence, but rather on the F.B.I.’s increasingly jittery public relations department. The evidence turned over thus far in this case suggests an indifference to the very notion of justice that goes quite beyond the bureau’s eerie incompetence. To be generous, I suspect that the bureau did pursue more leads than it has ever let on, so, as Senator Danforth suggested before McVeigh’s execution: after the execution there will be some box found, somewhere, containing evidence that was withheld from McVeigh’s defense attorneys.

Now that McVeigh has already been injected into a better world, I am sure that the bureau’s choice of explanation to my inquiry will be a difficult one. Was it an incompetent investigation, as this trail of ignored leads would suggest? Or is it something even more sinister, a case of withholding evidence during discovery, which is a criminal act? Either way, I believe that the American people, particularly those most affected by the murderous bombing, deserve an explanation.

Please reply at your earliest convenience. Sincerely, Gore Vidal Care of Vanity Fair 4 Times Square, 22nd Floor New York, NY 10036 For those readers now hanging from what Alfalfa Bill Murray used to call “tender-hooks,” what did the Director-Designate reply? Nothing. Also, as far as anyone can tell, the Lee Harvey Oswald scenario has played out yet again. I will say that when I was questioned on NBC-why did I bring this up and so add to the unique suffering of the Oklahomans?-I said I bring it up to save them and the rest of the country from further suffering because potential enemies of the United States ace still at large and they are certain to strike at us again. I was not sufficiently prescient to say that some, even as I spoke, were studying in Oklahoma on how to maneuver aircraft in the air without first taking off.

Finally, McVeigh spoke to me from the grave. I received a note from Eric F. Magnuson, director of the World Libertarian Order. On May 21, 2001, Mr. Magnuson wrote McVeigh on Death Row asking him what changes he would make in the way the United States administers itself. McVeigh duly responded with ten additions to the ten amendments that comprise our Bill of Rights. Here they are, preceded by Mr. Magnuson’s position on the marten Eric F. Magnuson’s Disclaimer June 20, 2001. It must be stressed here that the WLO does not necessarily agree with any of Timothy McVeigh’s ideas just because we reproduce them here. Our writings are entirely separate from his. We certainly do not advocate or condone the blowing up of large buildings filled with people that one does not even know. You might kill a future Libertarian. We do feel however, that these tragic things cannot be kept from happening in the future unless we are willing to take a very clear and honest look at why they have happened in the past. We are confident that all right-thinking people agree with this very basic principle. Those who disagree are those who prefer fantasy to truth. Such people are the problem, not any part of the solution. The fact that Timothy McVeigh did a desperate and destructive thing does not conveniently negate the fact that government in America has become too large and oppressive, it simply underscores it.

Eric F. Magnuson Director The World Libertarian Order Tim’s Bill Of Rights 1.) Neither Speech, Press, Religion, nor a.s.sembly shall be infringed, nor shall such be forced upon any person by the government of the United States.

2.) There shall be no standing military force during peacetime, (this) to include large bodies of federal law enforcers or coalitions of these officers that would const.i.tute a military force, with the exception of sea-based maritime forces.

3.) The Executive Office shall hold no power to unilaterally alter Const.i.tutional rights.

4.) No person shall be subjected to any form of direct taxation or wage withholdings by the Federal government.

5.) No person’s life or liberty shall be taken without due process. Any government employee circ.u.mventing due process rights shall be punished with imprisonment. Citizens shall not be subjected to invasions of their homes or property by employees of the Federal government. Property or other a.s.sets of United States citizens shall not be subject to forfeiture to the Federal government.

6.) Personal activities that do not infringe upon the rights or property of another shall not be charged, prosecuted, or punished by the United States government. Any crime alleged will be prosecuted by the jurisdiction most local to the alleged crime, respectively. No person shall be twice tried for an offense alleged and adjudicated in another jurisdiction. No person shall be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, nor shall the Federal government hold power to execute any individual as punishment for a crime convicted, or contract to another ent.i.ty for this purpose. No person shall be held to account for the actions of another, unless proven by more than one witness to be the princ.i.p.al figure.

7.) All currency shall be redeemable in a globally recognized material of intrinsic value, such as silver.

8.) Legislative members shall earn no more than twice the current poverty level and shall not be subject to any additional pay, bonuses, rewards, gifts, ent.i.tlements, or other such privileges, as holding such office is meant to serve the people and should not be looked upon as a capitalist career opportunity.

9.) Where non-violent checks and balances fail to remedy government abuse or tyranny, the common people reserve the right to rebellion. Inherent with this right, the common people maintain the absolute right to own and possess those weapons which are used by any level of government for domestic policing.

10.) Any rights not enumerated here belong inherently to the people or the state respectively, and shall not be a.s.sumed by omission (to be) delegated to the jurisdiction of the Federal government.

Timothy J. McVeigh.