Posted: Jun 13, 2001 12:00 AM
The proper commentator, of course, would rail that Europeans are appalled at the execution of Timothy McVeigh -- and that would be the final word. They would put the execution in the context of President Bush's visit to Europe this week, and how the execution puts Bush in a bad light before the -- all bow -- "international community." It would not matter that hundreds of victims -- as well as the families of the 168 men, women and children that McVeigh killed -- see the world as a better place without the cowardly terrorist. More refined minds would dismiss the belief of witness Kathleen Treanor, who lost her daughter and in-laws, that the execution represented "justice." Face it: She is too common to voice the refined opinions of our betters abroad. A better commentator would ignore the majority of grieving parents, children and siblings of victims who wanted McVeigh to be executed, and instead would focus on the rare victim's relatives who opposed it. Those relatives, be it understood, are better people. The sensitive commentator ignores the grieving family members' gratefulness that they no longer will have to live with McVeigh posing as a patriot and civil libertarian. Or that they no longer will have to read of McVeigh trumpeting his alleged cause or raging over the death of children in Waco. They won't have to endure his conceited pretensions, as he declares himself "unbowed" in the best sense of William Ernest Henley's poem. They also no longer will have to hear the variety of words McVeigh can use to write off their loved ones, as in his famous infamous explanation that the 19 children he killed were "collateral damage." They won't have to hear any new nonapologies. As in, "I am sorry these people had to lose their lives." The sympathetic commentator would add that the execution won't really give Oklahomans "closure." As if the witnesses for even one minute thought it would. The far-seeing commentator would bemoan the irony that the execution would turn McVeigh into a martyr. Or that the execution only gave McVeigh what he wanted. (Sure, that's why McVeigh pleaded not guilty. That's why his attorneys tried to convince jurors that the real bomber died in the blast -- because McVeigh wanted the federal government to execute him.) The indignant commentator would denounce the system and proclaim that supporters of the death penalty are no better than McVeigh. It makes no difference that McVeigh's victims were innocent, that they had no due process, no appeal and, worst of all, no chance. It doesn't matter that he was a mass murderer. The global commentator would throw in statistics about the death penalty in China and Saudi Arabia. The irony is that our betters in Europe rarely complain about Chinese firing squads or Saudi beheadings, because their real revulsion isn't to lethal injection, but to America itself. This columnist lacks those sensibilities. When a man sets out to kill strangers, when he kills children to retaliate for the deaths of other children, he has forfeited his humanity. McVeigh was not fit to live in the world he had made smaller and crueler. His outrage was so great that only the gravest penalty could answer it.