President Clinton tried to blame the Oklahoma City bombing on right-wing militias and talk radio. He said the anti-government talk had gone too far. But a left-wing American writer, Gore Vidal, has now been quoted as praising the convicted bomber, Timothy McVeigh, who was executed for the crime. Vidal said McVeigh was sending an anti-government message that should be heeded by the American people.
It will be fascinating to see how the American media deal with this one. Gore Vidal, an arch-enemy of William F. Buckley who usually saves his venom for conservatives, gave what a British reporter described as a “withering address” at the Edinburgh book festival. Journalist Fiachra Gibbons, the arts correspondent for the British Guardian, said Vidal “compared McVeigh to Paul Revere, the hero of American independence. He said the Gulf War veteran wanted to send out a warning that the government had been bought by corporate America and “its secret police, the FBI, were out of control. What McVeigh was saying, according to Gore Vidal, was, ‘The Feds are coming, the Feds are coming.'”
The Guardian story continued, “In his strongest identification yet with the man who confessed to blowing up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people in retaliation for the FBI’s slaughter at Waco, Vidal described him as a Kipling hero with an overdeveloped sense of justice who did what he did because he was inflamed by the massacre [and] the FBI’s subsequent cover-up?”
If this was McVeigh’s intention, then it backfired. Clinton used the bombing to discredit conservatives, and an anti-terrorism bill passed Congress putting more power into the hands of the federal government. But Vidal claims this was because of maneuvering by the FBI before and after the bombing. He claims that the FBI not only knew about the plot but was involved in it. Vidal believes the FBI had infiltrated a right-wing group that planned it and did not interfere with the bombing because it wanted to pressure President Clinton into signing anti-terrorist legislation giving the bureau more power.
Up until this point, Gore Vidal’s analysis of the FBI makes some sense. There are other experts who believe there was a foreign connection to the blast, and that it has been covered up as well. In any case, Vidal was quoted by the paper as saying that McVeigh did not actually carry out the bombing, and that he, Vidal, would reveal the names of those who did. “I am about to drop another shoe,” he said in Scotland. “I have been working with a researcher who knows at least five of the people involved in the making of the bomb and its detonation. It may well be that McVeigh did not do it. In fact, I am sure he didn’t do it. But when he found out he was going to be the patsy?[h]e decided to grab all credit for it himself, because he had no fear of death.”
Gore Vidal goes way too far in his comments about McVeigh, who is certainly no hero. It seems clear he was involved in the plot in some way. But Vidal may be on the right track in challenging the government’s claim that McVeigh and his associate Terry Nichols acted alone. Not even top former FBI officials believe that.