I read with unflagging
interest and rising gore your fascinating and wrongheaded editorial
in USA Today, dated Thursday, April 19, 2001 under the headline
"Remorseless McVeigh Clearly is Guilty - So Let Him Live". I can't
recall an editorial that so embodied the dingbat philosophy of the
anti-death penalty lobby while simultaneously presenting itself
in a spirit of true justice. Truly, sir, I am in awe.
Allow me to summarize
First, you begin
by clearly stating that McVeigh is guilty, that he is remorseless,
and that he has gotten a fair trial under our justice system. You
then proceed with a six-point argument against visiting the death
penalty upon McVeigh, claiming that he is no longer a threat; that
we shouldn't kill him because it's exactly what he wants us to do;
that his death will have no deterrent effect, and will actually
make him a martyr; that we don't need to kill him now that he isn't
a threat because that will make us like him; and finally, that if
we kill him we may never know of his accomplices. You finish your
piece by presenting the reader with a very satisfying picture: of
Tim McVeigh spending his long life in a dark hole, forgotten, relegated
to madness and the trash heap of history, rather than as the defiant
young man sentenced to death.
Fool. To my mind,
the only argument here that makes an iota of sense is this final
one - that McVeigh's accomplices may go free. But I will return
to this part of the discussion later.
Let's start with
the first argument - "we don't need to kill him now, since he isn't
a threat anymore, and if we do kill him then we're no better than
he is." You're wrong. You're wrong because we're right to kill him.
McVeigh's death is a punishment, and a considerably more gentle
punishment than the murder he committed against 168 innocent men,
women and children. McVeigh earned his death sentence just as certainly
as his victims didn't. We, as a society, are not brought down to
his level by executing him. We are elevated as a whole by finding
the strength to remove him permanently from our midst. The Good
and the Innocent must not tolerate the Evil. To do so, for any stupid
and insipid sentimentality is to allow ourselves to rot from within.
I also disagree
with your claim that McVeigh isn't a threat anymore since he is
in custody. The world is full of criminals who were, at one time,
in custody - and yet they continue to commit crimes, some of them
walking free, some of them against fellow inmates. Remember: Hitler
did time for trying to start a revolution before he ever succeeded.
Remember also: that's exactly what Timothy McVeigh hoped to accomplish
- a revolution. And had the Germans treated his treason with the
same justice we will mete out in this case, World War Two might
have been averted. Are you really claiming an ability to predict
the future? There's only one way to guarantee McVeigh will have
no voice. Silence him. Permanently.
that execution "fits into his plan" is shaky, at best. His plan
was to succeed and get away with murder. His plan was to escape
prosecution. True, he may think that his death will be seen as martyrdom,
but I don't follow your logic which claims McVeigh is more powerful
dead than alive. Martyrs all have one thing in common: they're dead.
The memory of a dead man is never as powerful as the rallying cry
on the fringes of society to free a live one. Left alive, McVeigh
has the power to communicate - as he has already done in the media
- to plan, instigate, approve, and lend moral support to his comrades.
Dead, he rots.
You claim that
executing him will not deter future crimes. I think you would be
hard-pressed to prove that assertion. I don't think we've seen the
last of right wing domestic terrorism in America - as long as there
is a Ku Klux Klan, an Aryan Nation, and twisted loners like McVeigh,
we will have to remain vigilant. But since we cannot prove a negative,
or measure in any way the crimes not committed because of McVeigh's
execution, this argument carries no weight. You're simply making
an empty, dingbat argument.
But your most
compelling argument - that if we execute him, we deny ourselves
the possibility of his confessing the names of his accomplices at
some future date - also has major flaws. Like anyone else, I'm disgusted
by the thought that some fellow traveler is walking the Earth free,
having participated in this aberration. Like anyone else, I want
to know that justice has been served, and the guilty punished. But
McVeigh hasn't talked yet. He shows no remorse, and while I can't
predict what he might or might not do in the future, I'm willing
to take that chance. We have the prime instigator, the central figure.
I say punish the guilty we have, now, and let Time punish the rest.
Criminals have loose tongues, and their tales travel a long, long
way. Sooner or later, those people will surface. If not, at least
we got McVeigh.
Of course, there
is a simple solution to this last dilemma: give him to me until
his execution date, and don't ask any questions about my methods.
I'll have the man singing about accomplices within a week. I'll
have the names, addresses, social security numbers, next of kin,
pet names, and aliases of everyone that ever heard McVeigh bitch
about his tax returns much less bombing federal buildings and I'll
return him just in time and just conscious enough to be legally
executed. I'd be happy to do it, too. I'd consider it my patriotic
duty. I bet I could even get my employer to give me the time off,
paid, and when it's all over I'll sleep well - no regrets. Just
send the man to me.
is no martyr, no symbol. He is a criminal. He should be executed,
slowly, painfully, and in public as a Warning to the Others. His
body should be hung on a pike and paraded through each of the fifty
states before being burned, and his ashes should be scattered over
a hog farm. Timothy McVeigh took the lives of 168 people, destroyed
the lives of their families, and ruined forever a small corner of
the American Heart.
And for that he