Monday, April 19, 2010

Thoughts on the Oklahoma City Bombing 15 Years After

I'm glad I kept a diary.

I knew I was overseas when the Oklahoma City bombings occurred. But I couldn't remember where exactly I was when they occurred. My memory simply isn't what it used to be. But I can tell you I was based in London for the winter semester of 1995 where I was working as a parliamentary intern for Jimmy Wray, a Labour MP from Glasgow. It was also around this time I accompanied Jimmy to a Council of Europe meeting in Strasbourg.

So I rummaged through my old diaries and lo and behold there it was. As it turns out I found out while having lunch with a young woman named Joy Kramper who told me what had happened. She was a student from Catholic University in Washington D.C. who was also working as an intern at Westminster. We were both part of an exchange program with the University of Leeds.

If I remember correctly she interned for a Labour MP named George Robertson who was also from Scotland. When Tony Blair became Prime Minister two years later he appointed Robertson as Minister of Defence. Robertson would later serve as Secretary General of NATO and is now a member of the House of Lords.

What I do remember is that I was quite fond of Joy. We went out a couple of times. On one occasion, we went to see Conversations With My Father starring Judd Hirsch at the Old Vic. However, nothing would ultimately come of it. It wasn't the first time and it certainly wasn't the last. C'est la vie. The last time I saw her was by chance in Ottawa either later that same year or in 1996. But I digress.

I should note that I did not find out what had happened until the day after the attacks. It is worth noting the attacks were first commented upon in the Commons on the 20th. So here's what I wrote in my diary on April 20, 1995:

It was during lunch that she told me about the terrorist bombing of a U.S. government building in Oklahoma City killing over 50 people, many of them infants from the nursery in the basement of the building. Speculation abounds as to who could be behind such a heinous and cowardly act - Abu Nidal, the Branch Davidians, the IRA. Although Joy has no connection to Oklahoma, it both saddened and frightened her. I felt my stomach turn when I saw the picture of a fireman holding a bloody and helpless infant fighting for its survival. You can only wonder how could human beings do such a thing. Yet it is something for which we have no shortage of talent and resources. What a bloody waste.

A couple of days later, Jimmy and I traveled to France and it was there I found out that it wasn't the Branch Davidians who were responsible for the bombing. However, Timothy McVeigh cited the 1993 ATF raid on their compound in Waco, Texas exactly two years before which claimed the lives of 76 people (including at least 20 children) as a motive for his actions. Whatever his motives, the Oklahoma City bombing would claim the lives of 168 people including 19 children under the age of six. McVeigh would be executed for his act of barbarism in June 2001.

There's no doubt the Oklahoma City bombing was the turning point in Bill Clinton's presidency. It was scarcely 100 days after Republicans had taken control of both Houses of Congress for the first time in four decades. Clinton was on the ropes and appeared headed to join Jimmy Carter as a one term wonder. But the liberal media painted Gingrich and company, talk radio and McVeigh with a broad brush while portraying Clinton as a bulwark against right-wing extremism.

Well, if it worked in 1995 then why not in 2010? Both Charles Krauthammer and Jim Antle of The American Spectator have already rebuked Clinton so I won't comment on his most recent remarks except to say that the day Tea Party activists begin wantonly murdering children then Clinton might be more worthy of my attention. Otherwise, the former President's comments actually diminish the evil perpetrated by McVeigh as well as Terry Nichols.

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