All-American Monster: Timothy Mcveigh
How did a small-town boy, raised in a working-class, Catholic family grow up to become the terrorist and mass murderer behind America's deadliest bombing?That's the target for All-American Monster: The Unauthorized Biography of Timothy McVeigh, which takes aim at McVeigh and the paramilitary right in the wake of the Oklahoma City Bombing, which killed 169 Americans and injured 500 at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.All-American Monster, published by Prometheus Books, comes on the eve of McVeigh's trial in Denver. The book was written by Brandon M. Stickney, a reporter with the Union Sun & Journal from McVeigh's hometown of Lockport, New York. Stickney began researching the book on the day of McVeigh's arrest, drawing upon hundreds of interviews with friends, victims and Army acquaintances. "As the hundreds of stories weaved themselves together into a life, I found myself getting into McVeigh's mind, which allowed me to speculate on occasion," he writes.Occasionally, this "speculation" mars the factual side of the book. Stickney speculates, for instance, that McVeigh stopped just outside Oklahoma City to admire his handiwork as the Murrah Building exploded at 9 a.m. on April 19, 1995. He also speculates that McVeigh was influenced by the survivalist film The Last Day* as a child, among other things, although there's no evidence for these and other events.MORE BOMBINGS PLANNED:Nonetheless, Stickney has crafted an absorbing book that peers deep within the paranoia of the far right, including profiles of co-conspirators Terry Nichols, an anti-government farmer from Decker, Michigan; and Michael Fortier, a fellow gun nut from Kingman, Arizona.The book also offers some revelations, such as the fact that McVeigh seemed to be preparing to bomb other sites throughout the U.S. in an attempt to start a revolution against the federal government.McVeigh's story is one of rage and loss, fueled by a racist upbringing and the twisted mythology of the far-right underground, in which books such as The Turner Diaries advocate race wars and the bombing of federal buildings.As Stickney tells it, McVeigh was shattered in his early teens by the break-up of his parent's marriage. His mother, Mickey, was an attractive but promiscuous woman, given to flounting her affairs in a small town in which everyone knew her business. She left home when her son was 10, leaving Tim with painful feelings of responsibility for the breakup as well as the burden of dealing with taunts at school. McVeigh described his mother as a "whore" and a "slut" to fellow soldiers in the Army, when he spoke of her at all.THE LURE OF GUNSMcVeigh found solace from his family troubles in his love of guns. Never interested in hunting, he began collecting weapons in his teens and quickly became an expert in armaments while still in high school. Later, he'd spend whole weekends at a 10-acre retreat, practicing shooting and survival skills. Upons leaving the Army, McVeigh kept an average of 10 guns in his home and two in his car."They were hidden," an acquaintance says. "He had a couple guns in the kitchen, a couple in the living room under the couch. I think there was one in the bathroom, behind the towels. Up the steps there was a little ledge and he kept on there a .38 revolver."McVeigh was also raised in a virtually all-white section of western New York state, where political antecedents were strongly tied to the Ku Klux Klan and a racism born out of unfamiliarity with people of other colors. He came of age in the early '80s at a time when good-paying factory jobs were drying up for unskilled laborers, putting his hometown (and his future) in the economic doldrums. With laid-off workers looking for scapegoats and low-paying jobs, McVeigh was raised in a culture that lumped all minorities together as welfare bums in league with devious liberals in the federal government.SPURNED BY WOMENAs a teenager and young adult, McVeigh was spurned by women, who invariably turned him down on dates -- perhaps because of his gun obsession, negativism and survivalist views. One woman who went out with him in the Army said she dumped him after he expressed admiration for Hitler's attempt at world conquest.His ambition following high school was to become a Green Beret. A crack shot marksman who literally blew the head off an Iraqi soldier at 1,100 meters in the Gulf War, McVeigh became a sergeant and a leader of men, even while inviting the scorn of those repulsed by his racism, anti-government diatribes, and quirky ways.Fellow soldiers and women alike characterized McVeigh as a "dork" and a "robot" given to slavish dedication to soldiering, even as others were looking forward to the fun of going on leave."McVeigh was real different," says an army colleague. "Kind of cold. He wasn't enemies with anyone. He was kind of almost like a robot. He never had a date... I never saw him at a club. I never saw him drinking. He never had good friends. Everything he did was for a purpose."BROTHERS IN ARMSMcVeigh found friendship, and his downfall, upon meeting McNichols and Fortier, two obsessive gun collectors who shared his racist and anti-government views.The friendship coalesced in the early '90s at a time when far-right paramilitary groups were rallying to the cause of Randy Weaver and the Branch Davidian massacre.McVeigh failed the physical test of making it into the Green Berets, giving it a half-hearted effort at best. Upon leaving the National Guard in 1992, he went to live with Terry Nichols in Michigan's Thumb. The book notes that it was Nichols who shared the formula for making bombs from fertilizer and fuel oil -- an explosive used to blast stumps from the ground on farms."That day Tim McVeigh may well have made the worst decision of his entire life," Stickney writes of the trip. "He would reenter the Circus of Losers -- the hate-filled group of people in Michigan, in Kansas, and in Arizona who would aid in his progressive mental disntegration."THE "AMERINOIDS"McVeigh and Nichols attended meetings of the Michigan Militia, but were turned away for advocating violent revolution. The two plunged deeper into the right's underground, working gun shows and circulating copies of the Turner Diaries, McVeigh's favorite book. They lived in a survivalist culture of "Amerinoids," deeply fearful of the federal government, believing that liberals are attempting to create a "New World Order" to rule the earth with an iron fist."There are harmless Amerinoids like Ross Perot and there are dangerous Amerinoids like Terry Nichols," Stickney writes. "Harmless Amerinoids are peaceful and attempt to affect change in government in a positive manner, like creating a third major political party... Dangerous Amerinoids are those who believe violence is needed to change government and the public's thinking."GULF WAR SYNDROMEStickney also believes that McVeigh may have been influenced by the chemically-induced paranoia of Gulf War Syndrome -- a toxic confluence of nerve gas agents and vaccinations that has produced a host of physical and mental symptoms denied by the Defense Department.McVeigh believed that the Army had injected a tracking device into his buttocks while he was sleeping, but declined to be X-rayed to find out for sure. These and other paranoid delusions are attributed to the possibility of a sickness McVeigh brought home from Iraq.McVeigh's story winds towards Oklahoma and his dreams of being a revolutionary hero against the federal government, particularly the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, which lead the raid on Waco and was headquartered in the Murrah Building,APRIL 19THThe book is filled with interesting minutiae about McVeigh, the paramilitary right, and the bombing.April 19th, for instance, was symbolic to McVeigh because it was two years after the Waco massacre. It was also "National Militia Day," and the 10-year anniversary of a federal raid on a Christian rightist camp called the Covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord, which had stockpiled weapons and poison gas. It was the day a white supremicist was to be executed in Arkansas for the murder of a black state trooper and a pawn shop owner. April 19th was also the anniversary of the American Revolution battles at Concord and Lexington. The time of the blast, 9 a.m., was the time an F.B.I. building is bombed in the fictional Turner Diaries.The book describes the rationale McVeigh, Nichols and Fortier shared for the bombing, even though it meant the deaths of dozens of children, both in the Murrah Building and at a day care across the street. In their view, the bombing was a mere skirmish igniting a revolution which would save the world from the evil mechanizations of government run amok.Ultimately, McVeigh emerges as a world class loser instead of the cagey revolutionary he envisioned: A bank video camera captured him and Nichols in the act of leaving the Ryder truck filled with explosives in front of the Murrah Building. An hour after the explosion, he was captured in a routine traffic stop for driving 75 mph in a car with no license plates, packing a Glock pistol and a 5" knife. As American Monster shows, McVeigh has made his place in history, but as one of our worst villains, rather than the hero he imagined.More poignantly, perhaps, American Monster offers a slice of working class Americana that is increasingly distant to middle class readers and well-heeled progressives. It's a world of factories, Army grunts, dead-end jobs, blue collar rock, rustbucket cars and lost dreams -- a rich breeding ground for the McVeigh's of the future.