'Apocalypse in Oklahoma': fatal riddle


"Apocalypse in Oklahoma," by Mark S. Hamm. Northeastern Press. 352 pages. $26.95.

A recent trip to the bookstore disclosed no fewer than eight current titles purporting to expose the secret world of the right-wing militias. With lurid dust covers picturing swastikas, burning crosses and slack-jawed KKK mutants, the mainstream publishing industry appears to be betting that there is real money to be made in conjuring up images of rural paramilitary types preparing to set in motion a tidal wave of anti-government mayhem.

Are these books to be believed? Are we really in danger of a coordinated terrorist assault by the likes of the overweight, camouflaged couch potatoes we see waddling around on the 6 o'clock news?

One suspects that the publishing industry's need to hype sales may be the dominant force at work here. After all, who would buy a book about a terrorist movement whose only real threat to the Republic would be to overwhelm local hospital emergency rooms with stroked-out terrorists should they get off their fat rear ends and launch Armageddon?

No one, of course. So scare stories about the secret armies of the right are today's blue plate special in bookstalls all over America.

This sensationalism would be relatively harmless if it weren't for the occasional outright atrocity such as the Oklahoma City bombing. This unspeakably obscene act warrants a sober, accurate retelling instead of mainstream publishing scare-up-the money-hysteria. That is why the well-reasoned, non-ideological, factually oriented analysis provided by author Mark S. Hamm is such a welcome relief.

The author and his publisher are to be congratulated for providing us with a well-written, fact-filled narrative that sets forth the dreadful events surrounding the bombing. This is essential reading for those seeking to place this horror in context and to understand its true meaning.

The reader will not find lurid lurid accounts of a vast, secret conspiracy coiled and ready to strike again. On the contrary, the author makes a persuasive case that the bombing appears to have been the work of three nitwits whose crowning intellectual achievement has been figuring out how use fuel oil and fertilizer to murder a large cross-sample of their fellow citizens.

Their motive? According to the author, they were avenging the government's killing of innocents at Waco, Texas by murdering more innocents. This appalling illogic only underlines the riddle posed by these trailer park commandos who appear to be your basic polite, respectful, and shy mass murderers.

Hamm occasionally detours from this fascinating narrative by criticizing the FBI for what he perceives as missed investigative opportunities. For example, the author believes that when lead suspect Tim McVeigh was first in custody, the FBI should have placed an undercover informant with him to gain incriminating information.

Unfortunately, under current case law, that type of investigative ploy would have produced illegal, suppressed statements and tainted investigative leads that would have destroyed the resulting wider investigation like a flesh-eating bacteria.

Aside from these rare lapses, however, the author interweaves highly readable tales of courage, compassion, faith and solid police work. That he manages to do so without resort to the sensational is a tribute to his narrative skills.

Lloyd George Parry is a former federal prosecutor who ha conducted numerous investigations of clandestine criminal and terrorist organizations. He practices law in Philadelphia.

! Pub Date: 4/13/97

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