Experts: McVeigh Won't Be Militia Martyr

ByABC News
April 27, 2001, 1:15 PM

June 12 -- Militia groups will not look back upon the execution of Timothy McVeigh as a day of mourning.

Despite the FBI's last-minute handover of previously undisclosed documents in his case and the courts' refusal to grant a second delay of his execution, McVeigh's death will not be considered a day of infamy like the fatal 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas, or the 1992 killing of white separatist Randy Weaver's wife and son during the standoff in Ruby Ridge, Idaho.

"We or no one that we know of feel he is a martyr for anything," said John Trochmann, spokesman for the Militia of Montana. "To me, executing him is like throwing away and destroying evidence, as if the tracks are probably leading too close to home."

The debacle over more than 4,000 pages of FBI documents renewed suspicion that the government conspires to wipe out its opponents by any means necessary. But it did not improve McVeigh's standing among militia groups like Trochmann's. To them, McVeigh is not a martyr; he is a patsy for the government who almost single-handedly killed the anti-government "Patriot" movement's momentum with the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

"What would we have had to gain from blowing up public property?" asked Trochmann. "Who would gain anything unless someone wanted to pass some new type of anti-militia legislation?"

The Bumbling Government Patsy

At the time of the Oklahoma City bombing, there were close to 1,000 active militias, according to Joe Roy, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, which tracks the activities of militia groups. However, since the bombing, militias have dwindled to 194 active today. The Oklahoma City bombing was a "public relations nightmare" for the militia movement, Roy said, scaring off moderate extremists and prompting others to take a lower profile.

"In general, the movement has distanced itself [from McVeigh] because of the heinousness of the act, the killing of 19 children among the 168 who died," said Roy. "McVeigh's few supporters the few that are out there in the right wing will say that they don't condone what he did, but they can understand why. Only members of the extreme right support him."

Experts say most members of the militia believe McVeigh was not really one of them they believe he is really part of a government conspiracy to squash the Patriot movement.

"To understand the way these people feel about McVeigh, you have to understand the way they think," said Evan McKenzie, professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "They think of themselves as very powerful, very important vanguards of the revolution that the government wants to bring down."