The Sniper
Jude Wanniski
October 14, 2002


Memo To: Authorities
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: What to Look For

The man who is killing people in the Washington, D.C. area with his high-powered rifle is in the pathological family of the Unabomber and Timothy McVeigh. You must think of the United States as an organic body, a body politic, which is producing new forms of social pathologies. He is not killing his victims for fun, I don’t think, but because he believes he is being asked to do so by a force that is part of the organic body. A cancerous cell in a human body is part of the body, remember. It is not alien. We see this same kind of human behavior in Israel, where young men and women strap bombs to their bodies and blow up their fellow man along with themselves. But they destroy themselves in the process of destroying others randomly selected. Just as a cancer does not discriminate as it moves from cell to cell.

If you are the Mayor of Washington, D.C., or the Chief of Police, this kind of advice will be useful to you only if you think of me as a specialist in organic political bodies. You can’t find the sniper by going to a psychologist or a psychiatrist. This is outside their area of expertise. They will surmise that the sniper hated his father or felt deprived by his mother, but they will be wrong. They still have not figured out Timothy McVeigh, who planted a bomb in Oklahoma City as his way of communicating to the entire body politic that he was a cancer produced by the fluids or energies in American society. He did not want to live, but accepted execution the way a cancerous cell will welcome a bombardment of radiation. It does not do any good to evaluate McVeigh in personal terms, any more than it would to say that the Palestinian suicide bombers are good or bad. If you want to find the sniper and execute him, or at the very least reach him in a way that dissolves his murderous impulses, you have to see him at a national level.

It is no accident that he is killing in and around our nation’s “capital.” Timothy McVeigh chose the federal building in Oklahoma City to do what he did. It was a reaction to the federal government’s execution, by chemical weapons, of the women and children at Waco – the unintended consequences of the ill-considered use of force. The innocents who died in Oklahoma City were "collateral damage," in McVeigh’s own words. He was bombing what he believed to be a cancerous central life system and if it meant good tissue was going to be killed in the process, so it had to be. He knew it would mean less if he survived through legal maneuvers, so he almost begged for execution. So too with the Palestinians who blow themselves up, taking with them a random selection of their fellow man. Whoever happens to be on the bus or in the pizza parlor.

The sniper is doing the same. If he were killing blacks or killing gays or killing women or killing Jews or killing Hispanics or killing old or killing young, we might turn this problem over to psychiatrists or psychologists. But his killings are random, and we might easily assume they are carefully random, unconsciously random. I’m not able to take even a wild guess as to the deep, deep motivations in this fellow who kills at random. But it is – without a doubt – political. If I had to guess, I would have to say this man is telling the most powerful nation in the history of the world that one man with a rifle can stop things. If I were you, I would go talk to the Unabomber , and ask him what he thinks can be done to stop this horror. The chief objective, authorities, is not to catch the man and put him away. It is to stop him before he kills again and again and again. He is giving an example to other men all over the world who believe the existing political institutions are not able to resolve cancerous problems.