Don't Execute Timothy McVeigh!!
Jude Wanniski
February 28, 2001


Memo To: President Bush
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Life Imprisonment Works for Me

The biggest reason the Founding Fathers gave the President the absolute power of clemency is to provide that most important safety valve to offset the angry emotions of the populace. There is of course no question that there would be outrage if you commuted Timothy McVeigh’s death sentence now scheduled for May to life imprisonment, without the possibility of parole. This, though, is exactly the time when you must focus your own inner thoughts on the option given you by the Constitution. You should put aside emotion and think of how to find justice without putting McVeigh to death. If I were you, I would commute to life without parole, for the central reason that McVeigh was not a cold-blooded killer, but a deranged and misguided political criminal. He was a man who came to the conclusion that he was powerless with his vote to affect the direction of our nation and had to make a much larger statement. In other words, he is now a federal political prisoner, whose bomb was directed solely at the structure of the inanimate federal building, not the children and men and women who were in it at the time the bomb went off. He deserves to spend his life in prison because we cannot countenance such extralegal vigilante behavior, especially when it results in the loss of the lives of innocent Americans.

As soon as I heard of the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building I sensed that it was an American who had done the deed, not a Muslim, which was the conventional assumption. A Muslim would aim his political outrage at the World Trade Center, not a pile of bricks in the heartland of our nation -- which is what happened there. It was clear to me that in our body politic, someone had snapped over the incredible events surrounding the immolation of the Branch Davidian families at Waco. It seemed to me that McVeigh was in a way settling the score, blasting to bits a pile of federal bricks because of our government’s bombing of the Branch Davidian complex at Waco.

The fact is, Mr. President, that our country had gone off the rails in recent years, with our elected political leaders seeing disturbances in the body politic and too quick to reach for the gun. In the case of Waco, it seems clear that it was Hillary Clinton who applied the pressure that resulted in Attorney General Janet Reno giving the green light to the Waco bombers. She was undoubtedly obsessed with the idea that the little children in the compound were being sexually abused, and wanted to put an end to it. So with only a few days on the job as First Lady, she made the phone calls that put Waco in motion. It is reasonable to assume she did this through Vince Foster, and that Vince blew out his brains when he realized he had been the agent, the intermediary for so many deaths. I don’t mean this as an indictment of Hillary. The road to hell has always been paved with good intentions, and hers were good.

The same thing can happen to you, Mr. President, if you are not careful. Did you know that the Clinton Justice Department KNEW that McVeigh could have been charged with murder, prosecuted and given the death penalty. Instead, the Justice Department decided to take federal jurisdiction, which meant they could not try McVeigh as a murderer -- because there is no federal law that permits capital punishment for simple murder. So they prosecuted him under the law that says the death penalty can be applied to a person who uses “weapons of mass destruction” that result in the loss of life. Well, now, McVeigh loaded up a truck with fertilizer and soaked it with gasoline, and the Justice Department considers this a “Weapon of Mass Destruction”???? Do you see what I mean, Mr. President? The reasoning easily transposes to what we have been doing in Iraq for the last decade. Our economic sanctions against Iraq have been the same misuse of our incredible power as the only SuperPower on the planet. We have caused with our sanctions the deaths of at least a million and a half people, mostly the young and the old.

It is Waco writ large. We really did not want to kill the kids and women and old folks in the Waco compound. We only wanted to SMASH David Koresh. Do you see what I mean, Mr. President? In Iraq, we have spend ten years trying to SMASH Saddam Hussein, tightening the economic noose around his neck in an attempt to cause so much suffering, that the Iraqi people would see to it that he was removed, expelled -- which is all we wanted at Waco.

It is really two things I am suggesting you do, Mr. President. Tell your political advisors and your focus groups and your Cabinet that you are going to commute the McVeigh sentence. You know as well as I do that McVeigh wants to die -- because he aimed his wrath at a pile of federal bricks and a great many of his fellow citizens lost their lives as a result. The Islamic men who blew up a piece of the World Trade Center also took lives in the process and are now serving life sentences for their political terrorism. McVeigh actually wants us to watch his execution on television so that we will have imprinted on our national consciousness that never again should one of us strike out at out central government with an act of political terrorism. The second thing I suggest you do, Mr. President, is stop the bombing of Iraq. Give Secretary of State Colin Powell the leeway he needs to bring the Waco problem of the Middle East to a peaceful resolution. Lift the sanctions that are killing innocent Iraqis and Saddam Hussein will agree to let in the international community to inspect for “weapons of mass destruction” at will.

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There is a related column on by Gordon Prather, a nuclear physicist who served as deputy assistant secretary of the army for science and technology in the Reagan administration, and who knows all about weapons of mass destruction.