In light of some awful high-profile murders by sick individuals, the Los Angeles Times' Tim Rutten wants the Department of Homeland Security to revisit its report from earlier this year that connects potential terrorism to "right-wing extremism." And Rutten seems especially concerned about those serving in the military. From his column:
Two months ago, the Republican National Committee and many conservative commentators went into paroxysms of rage over a report by the Department of Homeland Security drawing attention to the potential terrorist threat of resurgent right-wing extremism. The department ended up apologizing for noting the extremist underground's attempts to recruit returning military personnel. (All three of the men involved in the Oklahoma City bombing met and developed their convictions while serving in the Army.) As the body count mounts, the department may want to reconsider that apology.
Rutten appears to imply that extremist "convictions" are developed while serving in the military.
First of all: Did the Oklahoma City culprits (Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, and Michael Fortier) really "develop their convictions while serving in the Army"? Sure, the three men met in the Army and shared similar views. However, by many accounts, there's no verifiable evidence that they "developed their convictions" there. Here's UMKC law professor Douglas O. Linder writing about the life of Timothy McVeigh (bold mine):
By age 14, Tim McVeigh's interests included survivalism. He began stockpiling food and camping equipment in preparation for possible nuclear attack or a communist overthrow of the United States government.
In other words, McVeigh's paranoid views developed long before he joined the Army. (McVeigh joined the Army at age 20. A comprehensive book about McVeigh and the Oklahoma City murders, "American Terrorist," also says nothing about the views of the culprits "developing" while in the Army. Again, McVeigh's interests in survivalism and guns started at a young age.)
And here's what the Kansas City Star reported in May of 1995 when writing about Terry Nichols:
A fellow soldier, Robin Littleton, said [Terry] Nichols struck up a fast friendship with a lanky recruit from upstate New York, Timothy McVeigh. They were drawn to each other like magnets, with a common interest in weapons and similar views.
Nichols and McVeigh were to become angry opponents of the federal government, but the ex-sergeant said he saw no evidence of that.
"First of all, a man who hates the government is not going to be joining the Army," he said. "Anything along those lines must have come later."
Terry Nichols' stint in the Army lasted less than a year. And when the third man, Michael Fortier, testified at the trial of Tomothy McVeigh, he said nothing about the three "develop[ing] their convictions" while in the service.
The most common account seems to be that the men's warped views and paranoia turned murderous after the August 1992 Ruby Ridge and February 1993 Waco raids. (McVeigh had been discharged from the Army in December 1991 and discharged from the Army Reserve in May 1992.) The raids have been cited as the men's motivation for the Oklahoma bombing.
For Rutten to suggest that terrorist "convictions" are "developed" in the military is an awful smear. Unless he can put forward some solid evidence to support his claim, he should issue an apology.