As Timothy McVeigh went to meet his maker, he said he was bloodied but unbowed. In his mind he was a prisoner of war who died for a noble cause. He was justly angry about what the federal government did to innocent women and children at Waco. So he decided it was up to him to strike back. He picked the federal building in Oklahoma City because it was a command post of sorts for the federal government in the West.
Whether he acted more or less alone or with some assist from Terry Nichols is now something we will never really know for sure. Conspiracy theorists will insist forever that he could not have carried out that extensive a bombing operation without involving many other people. Some believe the government itself, knowing what McVeigh was up to, assisted in the operation in order to make the carnage worse. If that were the case, it would be a massive conspiracy that after six years would be awfully hard to cover up.
There are those on the far right who still justify what McVeigh did. Not that they approve of the deaths of the innocent children at the day care center. But they insist that the federal government waged war on its own citizens at Waco and Ruby Ridge and, once having embarked down that path, the federal government should have understood it would pay a steep price for what was done there.
The problem is that the people who paid the price had nothing to do with Waco and Ruby Ridge. They were innocent bystanders who got caught up in a war over which they had no control or authority.
The terrible damage McVeigh did went beyond the 168 who died and the hundreds more injured.
Beyond the horror and carnage inflicted on Oklahoma City, McVeigh did great damage to the movement he professed to be a part of. The anti-government mood was really gaining strength in the country. The 1994 elections swept into office some of the most determined reformers ever in modern times. These reformers were just beginning to flex their muscles in Congress, and they had the public behind them when the bombing occurred. That bombing completely tore the heart out of the anti-government movement in the country. It enabled President Clinton, who had been on the ropes, to make a comeback. It put the forces of less government completely on the defensive, lest somehow they be linked to Oklahoma City.
The anti-government forces have never regained the momentum they had before the bombing occurred. Only God knows how far things might have gone had this man-made act of vengeance not interfered with the political forces that had been building for years.
McVeigh may have thought he was getting even for his side. In fact, he set his cause back so far that it may never ever recover.
It is not for nothing that Scripture says, "Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord." McVeigh may think he went to his grave unbowed, but in fact he was defeated, having been the principal reason the forces of less government have lost the greatest war of the 20th century and have yet to regroup for the 21st century. They say he was bright. Yet it is clear he never understood any of this.