What Now? Five ways to prevent the next Timothy McVeigh

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[June 12] WASHINGTON, DC — Now that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh has been executed, there are specific actions the government should immediately take to prevent such a horrific act of domestic terrorism from ever happening again, Libertarians say.

Of course, no one can guarantee that another Timothy McVeigh-style psychopath won’t try to murder scores of innocent people, said Steve Dasbach, Libertarian Party national director. However, Libertarians have five concrete suggestions for the government, each of which would reduce the chance of such a crime being repeated.

On Monday morning, McVeigh was executed by lethal injection at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, for his role in the 1995 bombing that killed 168 people in a federal building in Oklahoma City.

Now, the government should act quickly to try to change the political climate that helped spawn a Timothy McVeigh, said Dasbach. Such reforms could include:

(1) Prosecute government officials who commit crimes

McVeigh said he blew up the building in Oklahoma City to protest the federal government’s actions in Waco — and he was quickly apprehended, tried, and punished for his crime, noted Dasbach. That was proper, even if you might disagree with the morality of the death sentence.

However, not a single FBI or BATF agent was arrested for their role in the fiery deaths of 86 people at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. There should not be one standard of justice for ordinary Americans, and another for government officials. Until that injustice is eliminated, many Americans will continue to view their government with suspicion, fear, and bitterness.

(2) Embrace an open, vibrant political system

People tend to turn to violence only when they feel they have no other way to be heard, said Dasbach. It is the government’s responsibility, then, to make sure that political discussion is not restricted, regulated, or suppressed.

When Americans feel they have a role in the political system, they will work through the political system to make productive changes. When that avenue is blocked — either by restrictive ballot access laws, legal curbs on political speech, exclusion from debates, or by attempting to discredit unpopular political speech — the Timothy McVeighs of the world turn to violence.

That’s why robust political debate — especially about the abuse of government power — is a healthy way to change the system. And that’s why stifling such debate is downright dangerous.

(3) Reject violence on principle

Over the past 20 years, the United States government has intervened militarily in Iraq, Yugoslavia, Haiti, Panama, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, and other nations, said Dasbach. In each case, these military actions resulted in innocent civilians being killed, and were done without the benefit of a formal declaration of war.

The message of these actions is simple: It’s proper to use violence to achieve political goals. That’s a message the government should not send. Instead, a commitment to nonviolence should start at the top.

Unless the security of the United States is directly threatened, the U.S. government should not bomb, invade, or drop missiles on people in other nations. Violence breeds violence, and it’s time for our government to lead by example and stop the bloodshed.

(4) Repeal the Omnibus Anti-Terrorism Act of 1996

This legislation, rushed through Congress after the Oklahoma City bombing, grants the president arbitrary power to declare individuals ‘terrorists,’ authorizes the use of secret evidence, and reverses the presumption of innocence for suspects, said Dasbach. Repealing this law would expand freedom without hindering the ability to catch real criminals.

The freedoms recognized under the Bill of Rights are our strongest bulwark against terrorism. Security measures that infringe on those freedoms will inevitably lead to abuse, ultimately making us less secure in our lives and property.

(5) Reduce the size and power of the federal government

No, we’re not saying that the growing power of the federal government justifies what Timothy McVeigh did, said Dasbach. But the fact is, millions of Americans view their own government with suspicion and distrust.

Americans see a government that can recklessly seize our property under asset forfeiture, eminent domain, or environmental laws; that can detain us at roadblocks for not wearing a seatbelt; that forces banks to spy on their own customers; that shoots innocent people dead in the name of the War on Drugs; that can secretly read our e-mail; that allows the IRS to seize our bank accounts; and that can violate our civil liberties in a thousand different ways.

A government that was limited to its Constitutionally defined role would be smaller, less intrusive, and less threatening. It would be a government that honors fundamental American liberties, instead of undermining them. And it would be a government that gives Americans little reason to view it with apprehension.

Those five suggestions have something in common, said Dasbach: They would all change the political climate in a positive way — and make future Timothy McVeighs less likely.

We can never bring back the men, women, and children who were killed in Oklahoma City, he said. But by using this tragedy to honor and reaffirm our nation’s fundamental liberties, we can help make sure that the 168 people who died in Oklahoma City did not die in vain. It would be America’s way of standing up and saying: ‘Never again.’

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