Timothy McVeigh's rhetoric shows the path from soldier to terrorist

(Photo: NBC News)

Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building immediately after McVeigh’s attack. (Photo: NBC News)

Timothy McVeigh was a reserved, withdrawn teenager who was named “Most Promising Computer Programmer” among his high school classmates after he hacked into a government system using his Commodore 64. After dropping out of junior college he joined the U.S. Army and wound up in the infantry. While at Fort Benning he started reading up on sniper tactics, firearms, and explosives.

He was reprimanded by the military for purchasing a “White Power” T-shirt at a Ku Klux Klan protest against black servicemen who wore “Black Power” T-shirts around the army base.

McVeigh was awarded the Bronze Star for his service as a vehicle crewman in the Desert Storm. He was a top-scoring Bradley Fighting Vehicle gunner while attached to the 1st Infantry Division.

As documented in his authorized biography, American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh & the Tragedy at Oklahoma City, he decapitated an Iraqi soldier with cannon fire on his first day in the war and was happy about it. He said he later was shocked to be ordered to execute surrendering prisoners and to see carnage on the road leaving Kuwait City after U.S. troops routed the Iraqi army.

McVeigh wanted to transfer to United States Army Special Forces (SF) after the war, but he dropped out after he couldn’t keep up with the physical rigors of the program. Shortly after that, McVeigh decided to leave the Army. He was honorably discharged on December 31, 1991.

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McVeigh serving in the Army during Desert Storm.

He wandered around working menial jobs after he transitioned out of the military, growing increasingly reactionary in his views. He left the Buffalo area because it was “too liberal” and set out looking for his former Army buddies.  Along the way he wrote letters to newspaper editors that revealed his political views:

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. 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.

McVeigh also wrote to Representative John J. LaFalce (D-NY) complaining about the arrest of a woman for carrying mace:

It is a lie if we tell ourselves that the police can protect us everywhere at all times. Firearms restrictions are bad enough, but now a woman can’t even carry Mace in her purse?

While visiting friends in Michigan, McVeigh complained that the Army had implanted a microchip into one of his butt cheeks so that the government could keep track of him.

McVeigh worked long hours in a dead-end jobs. He couldn’t get any girls to go out with him. He started gambling obsessively. Unable to pay back gambling debts, he took a cash advance and then defaulted on his repayments. He was enraged when the government told him that he had been overpaid $1,058 while in the Army and he had to pay back the money. He wrote another angry letter to the government:

Go ahead, take everything I own; take my dignity. Feel good as you grow fat and rich at my expense; sucking my tax dollars and property.

He rented an apartment that had no telephone, which had the advantage of making it impossible for his employer to contact him for overtime assignments. He also quit the NRA, viewing its stance on gun rights as too weak.

In 1993, he drove to Waco, Texas during the Waco Siege to show his support. At the scene, he distributed pro-gun rights literature and bumper stickers that read, “When guns are outlawed, I will become an outlaw.”

McVeigh also told a reporter that “the government is afraid of the guns people have because they have to have control of the people at all times. Once you take away the guns, you can do anything to the people. You give them an inch and they take a mile. I believe we are slowly turning into a socialist government. . . . and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control.”

He became a fixture on the gun show circuit and worked his way west until he got to Arizona. There he met Michael Fortier and Terry Nichols, two men who shared his radical views about the government. After growing weary of Fortier’s drug use, McVeigh and Nichols headed for Nichols’ farm in Michigan. While there they watched TV coverage of the Waco siege and both became enraged by the government’s heavy-handed attack on the compound there. They decided it was time for action.

McVeigh defined his struggle in a letter to a boyhood friend:

Those who betray or subvert the Constitution are guilty of sedition and/or treason, are domestic enemies and should and will be punished accordingly. It also stands to reason that anyone who sympathizes with the enemy or gives aid or comfort to said enemy is likewise guilty. I have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic and I will. And I will because not only did I swear to, but I believe in what it stands for in every bit of my heart, soul and being. I know in my heart that I am right in my struggle. I have come to peace with myself, my God and my cause. Blood will flow in the streets. Good vs. Evil. Free Men vs. Socialist Wannabe Slaves. Pray it is not your blood, my friend.

Working at a lakeside campground near McVeigh’s old Army post, he and Nichols constructed an ANNM explosive device mounted in the back of a rented Ryder truck. The bomb consisted of about 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and nitromethane.

On April 19, 1995, McVeigh drove the truck to the front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building just as its offices opened for the day. Before arriving, he stopped to light a two-minute fuse. At 09:02, a large explosion destroyed the north half of the building. It killed 168 people, including nineteen children in the day care center on the second floor, and injured 684 others.

On August 10, 1995, McVeigh was indicted on eleven federal counts, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, use of a weapon of mass destruction, destruction by explosives and eight counts of first-degree murder. Among his statements while on Death Row was this:

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.

He was executed by lethal injection at 7:14 a.m. on June 11, 2001, at the U.S. Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, the first federal prisoner to be executed by the United States federal government since 1963.

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