dirty rag

US Politics - Carpe Jugulum - Winfield Patterson

Mr. Finkleman,

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 your piece:

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.

Your assertion 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.

Timothy McVeigh 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 should die.