This month marks the 20th anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people. The aftermath of the OKC bombing in 1995 was very similar to what occurred after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
Immediately after the OKC bombing, libertarians raised the issue of motivation. Let’s examine what motivated Timothy McVeigh to commit this bombing, we said.
That was the last thing U.S. officials and many Americans, especially conservatives, wanted people to consider. Attempting to suppress any discussion of motivation, they did their best to intimidate libertarians into silence with such cries as, “You’re a defender and a justifier! You’re just defending and justifying what McVeigh did.”
Of course, it was the same sort of reaction after the 9/11 attacks. When we raised the question of motivation after those attacks, here at FFF we were absolutely flooded with email and regular mail, accusing us of being defenders and justifiers of the terrorists and even traitors who hated America. We were expected to automatically buy into the official line on motivation — that the terrorists just hated us for our “freedom and values” and keep our mouths shut on any other possibility.
It didn’t work. In both instances we stood our ground. Motivation is different from defense and justification, we continually pointed out. After all, prosecutors in criminal cases, who oftentimes spend much of their time exploring motive, could hardly be called defenders or justifiers of the people they prosecute.
There was one big reason that U.S. officials wanted to maintain silence when it came to the OKC bombing and the 9/11 attacks: They didn’t want the American people to focus on the actions of U.S. officials that gave rise to both events.
What was it that motivated Timothy McVeigh into bombing that OKC federal building? There wasn’t any question about it: The federal massacre of the Branch Davidians at Waco one year before. That momentous event, along with the federal cover-up of the crime afterward, engendered so much anger and hatred within McVeigh that he decided to exact revenge by waging war against the U.S. government. As the first step in what he anticipated would be a long, drawn-out war, he bombed the OKC federal building. That was why he insisted on being considered a POW rather than a criminal convict.
What was it that motivated the 9/11 attackers? There wasn’t any question about that either: The federal government’s brutal actions in the Middle East, which had been killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people, especially Iraqi children, not to mention the U.S. government’s unconditional support of Middle East dictatorships and the Israeli government.
U.S. officials didn’t want people to be focusing on such things, which is why they did their best to intimidate libertarians, unsuccessfully, into maintaining their silence.
The Waco massacre can be described as nothing more than legalized murder on the part of federal officials. The event began with officials in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms getting upset and paranoid over the purchase and accumulation of firearms, including assault rifles, by the Branch Davidians, a religious cult whose members were living in a compound near Waco, Texas. Apparently, the BATF was convinced that this small group of people were planning on marching to Washington and violently overthrowing the U.S. government, taking over the IRS, the DEA, the BATF, the Interstate Highway System, the military, CIA, the NSA, and the rest of the federal government.
But there was something more important on the minds of BATF agents: upcoming budget hearings in Congress. Attempting to garner favorable publicity in the hopes of getting more money from Congress, BATF officials decided to engage in a highly publicized raid on the compound rather than simply arrest the leader of the Branch Davidians, David Koresh, as he was walking down the streets of Waco.The raid turned violent and the Branch Davidians defended themselves from the onslaught, killing some federal agents in the process. That set in motion a nationally publicized standoff that only made U.S. officials even madder. After almost two months, and running out of patience that their surrender demand wasn’t being obeyed, U.S. officials attacked the compound, using tanks supplied by the U.S. military, and injected flammable gas into the main building. The gas ignited and the place quickly went up into flames, killing some 83 people, including children. Immediately afterward, U.S. officials bulldozed the entire site so that no one could investigate what they had done.
Just like with 9/11, the vast majority of the American people promptly immediately sided with U.S. officials. “Good riddance,” was the standard attitude. Not so with us libertarians. We continued speaking out against the massacre. Among the leading libertarians who were carrying this banner into the mainstream press was FFF policy advisor James Bovard.
As I have pointed out in the past, there are people in society who are emotionally and psychologically unable to limit themselves to peaceful protests in the face of grave government wrongdoing. As long as the government is behaving itself, these people stay under the radar screen, oftentimes living out their lives in peace without ever being noticed. But the minute the government commits a heinous crime, this segment surfaces and ends up violently retaliating. That was obviously the case with Timothy McVeigh.
Gradually, through the power of words, reason, argumentation, and analysis, libertarians were successful in raising the conscience and consciousness of the American people with respect to Waco. People began realizing what a horrible thing the feds had done and that they should have just left the Branch Davidians alone.
And guess what we haven’t seen since 1995. We haven’t seen any more OKC attacks. That’s because we haven’t seen any more Waco massacres. The fact is that if there had never been a Waco attack, there never would have been the bombing of the OKC federal building.
By the same token, there is a way to put an end to the constant threat of anti-American terrorist attacks. That way is: Close all the foreign military bases, bring all the troops home, dismantle the national-security state apparatus, end foreign aid, and no more killing, assassinating, torturing, and meddling in other countries.
If we could put an end to terrorist bombings of federal buildings by putting an end to Waco-like massacres, we can put an end to terrorist attacks on America by putting an end to foreign interventionism. It just takes will and the repeated exposition of libertarian values to raise people’s conscience and consciousness.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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