The Oklahoma City Investigation: A Sick $89 Million JokeWhen the US military destroyed a $100,000,000 manufacturing plant in Sudan a few months ago, I found myself thinking about the Anti-Terrorist Act, one of the legal theories that "justified" the assault.We've since learned that: 1) the factory made medicine not chemical weapons, 2) enemy "du jour" Osama ben Laden appears not to have had any financial connection to it, and 3) the CIA had been warned long in advance of at least one of the embassy bombings that made our "counterattack" necessary.
Now, just a few months later, the news media has largely forgotten the story. As for the disastrous effect the loss of this plant will have on Sudan and its neighbors, that obvious question doesn't have seem to crossed the minds of anyone in the US news media.
The media, right, left and in between, has taken a similarly supine attitude towards the Anti-Terrorist Act. Should we really have a law which allows our government to do such things? And how in the world did we end up with a law like this in the first place?
The last question is easy to answer: The Anti-Terrorism Act was unpassable until 168 people were killed in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. And we all know what happened in that city on that day. Timothy McVeigh, a loner, a nut, a malcontent drove a Ryder truck packed with explosives made of fertilizer to the front of the A. P. Murrah Federal Building and set it off.
There's just one small problem with the story: it defies the laws of physics and common sense.
"You've got to see this!"
I was first clued in to the gaping holes in the Oklahoma City story by a video sent to me by one of my readers. Among other things, I document instances of election fraud, the crime that "never happens" in the US. My readers come from all over the political spectrum, from Marxists who see election fraud as yet another proof of the untenability of capitalism to rabid Rush-ites who are sure it's all a part of a liberal plot. Fortunately for my sanity, because I correspond with my readers on a regular basis, most fall somewhere in the middle.
One day a video arrived with a note saying in essence: "You've got to see this!" So I popped it in the VCR. What I saw shocked, but didn't surprise me. The video was made up of footage taken from live local TV news reports right after the bombing in Oklahoma City. The same theme was consistent throughout all the broadcasts: "A bomb has gone off inside the Murrah building and the bomb squad is clearing out rescue workers because additional bombs have been found."
Also included with this tape was a video of a public access interview with one Benton Partin, a retired Air Force Brigadier General. In it he makes the case that the major damage to the Murrah Building could only have been done by a bomb or bombs inside the building. His presentation was logical and his logic was unassailable. More on this later.
I don't need to have a ton of bricks fall on me to appreciate the obvious and I filed all this away as yet another example of the stupendous ineptitude of the US news media. Can't they get anything right? Can't they do anything other than rewrite government and corporate press releases? What's happened to independent reporting, seeking the truth, and all the other stuff I still naively believe is the reason we have a news media in the first place?
The great "militia kook" conspiracy hoax
Months later, I casually mentioned to a group of fellow journalists that we still don't know what damaged the Murrah Building so severely and one of them was all over me: "Don't you know that all those doubts are from stories planted by right wing militia kooks?"
No actually, I didn't know that. What I do know is that for several hours after the blast, the local media quite clearly and unequivocally referred to a blast inside the building, as did many of the eye witnesses and victims who were interviewed live on the scene. The anchors even read from a Justice Department press release that said the same thing.
But then the story changed. And the live feeds from the street stopped. Now it was a truck bomb parked in front of the building that did all the damage. Despite how you may disrespect local TV reporters, and how much many of them have earned that disrespect, they are pretty good at sticking microphones in people's faces and letting them talk. And when they don't start out with a preprogrammed agenda, they sometimes let the truth slip through.
Is it likely that right wing militia nuts seeded the street with victims and local officials to spread the "rumor" that there was a bomb inside the building? Is the FBI, which has been caught in so many lies they have filled several books, a likely source of reliable information about a tragedy they may have inadvertently had a hand in? (The Bureau had been warned the Murrah Building was a target for attack, but did nothing to protect the occupants.)
"But what about Partin? Surely he can't know what he's talking about. Surely he's a militia kook who dreams at night of overturning the federal government."
What about Partin
No, actually Partin is a man whose attitudes would be considered absolutely typical and mainstream in many parts of the country . He's a self-described Christian and proud of it, he hates Communism, and he believes its philosophy is the single biggest threat to American freedom. These attitudes are hardly uncommon among career military men. In fact, it would have been hard to rise to the level of Brigadier General during the Cold War without holding them.
Furthermore, not only does he not hate the "guv'ment," he's been steadily involved in mainstream political activities since his retirement from active duty. How mainstream? How about chairman of the Republican Party in Fairfax County, Virginia for four years? His solution to this country's problems? Getting more people to become involved in the political process.
Partin's complete resume is available to anyone who'd like to read it. He's a thesis short of being a PhD. engineer and was trained by the Air Force in the fine art of using conventional weapons to blow things up. The Air Force thought highly enough of his expertise in this area to make him Commander of the Air Force Armament Laboratory, the Air Force's chief R&D facility in Elgin, Florida.
Like many people who thoroughly grasp a subject, Partin is the soul of clarity when explaining his science to novices. Take the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, for example. One look at the pictures of the damage tells you at least part of force which killed our fellow citizens came from deep within the building. Why? The severe damage to supporting columns inside the building. This kind of damage can onlybe done by charges placed on or drilled into a column and absolutely cannot be done by the air blast generated by a bomb denonating in the street. (If you have an emotional need to doubt this, as many seem to do on this subject, contact a demolition company and ask them.)
Consider this example that is within the experience of many people. Take a small firecracker and blow it up a few inches from your hand. What happens? Nothing. Take that same small charge and blow it up in your hand. What then? Bye-bye fingers. Or imagine you want to blow up a watermelon (a typical kid thing to do.) Where do you put the charge? In the watermelon, of course. Setting off the charge near the watermelon won't do a thing.
Let's take another example. You want to knock somebody out. Do you score any points why swinging with all your might but not connecting? No. The force needs to be laid on very directly, otherwise all you produce is a strong breeze.
What about a truck bomb parked in the street in front of a building? Surely that is a dangerous thing. It is. The shock wave generated by an explosion can shatter windows and send razor sharp shards of glass and other debris flying through the air. It will blow over a frame building. But it can't crumble a concrete support pillar many feet away. The force of a blast falls off dramatically the further you get away from the explosion. Support columns are designed to withstand huge loads, over 3,000 pounds per square inch. They simply cannot be taken down by the air blast of an explosion that, by the time it reaches it, is only exerting 25 to 35 pounds per square inch.
On the other hand, a very modest charge, when place on or in a concrete column can take it down with ease. In fact, how many pounds of explosives would you venture to guess it took to take down theentire Murrah Building when it was decided for reasons of "closure" (no valid engineering or investigative reason) to demolish the entire building?
Just 150 pounds of explosives - total - placed in strategically in small charges throughout the building right on the support columns was all that was needed. In demolishing concrete structures, proximity is not just an important thing, it's everything.
Partin offers a much more thorough and technical explanation of all this, but you don't need to be an engineer or an expert to grasp the basic point: you can't demolish a concrete column designed to withstand hundreds of pounds of pressure with the air shock wave of an explosion.
In Benton Partin we have a man who is profoundly experienced in what he is talking about and who has no reason to cry "wolf." He's quite comfortable in his Virginia retirement after a distinguished 29 year military career and has little to gain from embarking on a career as a "conspiracy theorist" at this point in his life.
You'd think that the law enforcement agencies charged with investigating the tragedy would make use of his observations. And that the news media, which seems to so hungry for "experts" in various fields to fill the dead air, would jump on the chance to present his conclusions to the public. From a pure ratings point of view, it's got to be a winner, right?
Wrong. Yes, the FBI interviewed Partin, but did nothing with his carefully prepared and highly informed comments.
When Timothy McVeigh was tried in Denver, the prosecution did call a munitions expert to the stand, but it was necessary for them to go to the UK to find one who could explain how a truck bomb destroyed a concrete support pillar deep within the interior of a modern office building.
Think about that for a moment. There are thousands of individuals in this country, in the construction, mining, and demolition industries, not to mention the military, who could speak to the nature of the "fingerprint" of the explosion in the Oklahoma City bombing, but, for some reason, the prosecution had to go to England to find one who could explain how, in this one singular instance, the laws of physics and common sense were suspended.
Partin did make it onto one network TV program, but only a few seconds of the hours of his taped comments were broadcast. The host, who had left the interviewing tasks to others and who had not even bothered to meet Partin, framed Partin's remarks in the finished segment with this comment: "General Partin, a retired military man, is not an engineer."
Perhaps Partin hid his light under a bushel and wasn't aggressive enough in raising his concerns? No. With weeks of the bombing, he'd sent copies of his engineering analysis, complete with color photos, to every member of Congress and over 1,000 media outlets. He received a handful of form letters for his trouble.
So what really happened?
So what really happened in Oklahoma City? General Partin is the first to admit he doesn't know, but he does know munitions and their effect on structures. And he knows, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that the McVeigh truck bomb could not have been the sole source of the damage done to the Murrah Building and its occupants.
He also knows that someone doesn't want the story told. Partin's informed analysis would have been very easy to prove or debunk. All that would have been needed was a few hundred dollars worth of chemical and microscopic analysis.
Had the damaged columns been destroyed the way Partin - and many others - say they must have been, the residue of the explosive used would have infused the rubble. Also, the damaged column's cement would have been reduced to dust in a characteristic way, unmistakable under a microscopic analysis. But, for reasons as yet unexplained, such basic forensics was not thought necessary by the FBI investigators. Partin sent letters to dozens of elected officials imploring them to block the demolition of the building until these tests were done. His pleas fell on deaf ears. In spite of the fact the building's architect said it was still structurally sound, the Murrah Building was razed - and the rubble was buried in a locked and guarded landfill.
All in the interest of promoting "closure" and "healing" no doubt.
The real tragedy of Oklahoma
The final sick punch line of this episode was delivered a few days ago. The US government reports that the investigation and prosecution of the Oklahoma City bombing case cost - are you ready for this? - $98 million. The defense was permitted to bill an additional $15 million for their "exhaustive" investigation and trial work. Nice work if you can get it.
The horror of the bombing of the Murrah Building pales in comparison with the dumbing - and numbing - down of the US news media. Problems and crimes are solved when the facts are aired, not spun into oblivion. Common sense, not government assurances, should dictate the direction of a reporter's work. That the US news media has marginalized Benton Partin and many others who've produced valid evidence that contradicts the FBI's press releases on the Oklahoma City bombing must rank as one of the most disgraceful lapses in the recent history of American reporting.
Note: General Partin has also offered lucid, pertinent analysis of the evidence in the TWA Flight 800 case. The media and federal law enforcement have shown similar disinterest in that analysis as well.
Ken McCarthy is the sponsor of the George Seldes Internet Archive. A early pioneer of the use of the Internet for commercial purposes, he's spent recent years sponsoring several in-depth case studies on the accuracy of the press in their reporting of widely covered events.