Closure on one serial terrorist Kaczynski: He gave himself the right to kill people because of his own sincere beliefs.

May 08, 1998

THE TERROR committed by an obsessed murderer from May 1978 to April 1996 is put behind the nation. The man called Unabomber, a shambles of a 55-year-old reclusive mathematician, will not kill, maim or frighten again. He has begun serving his sentence of four lifetimes plus 30 years in Florence, Colo., in the highest security federal prison. It is over.

Theodore J. Kaczynski has much in common with his prison mate, Timothy J. McVeigh, and with self-righteous terrorists from the IRA to Hamas. His fierce dedication to a political ideal conferred on him the duty to murder strangers, reveling all the while in his dedication to his cause.

Were the death sentence ever justified, it would be in these crimes against society in which randomly chosen individuals suffer. If ever the death penalty worked, it was in this case, inducing the plea bargain that sent Kaczynski in disgrace to a place where he will do no more harm.

In his 17-year war on technology and modern life, Kaczynski placed 16 known bombs, killing three people and wounding 22 others, none of whom he knew. He was perfecting his craft, getting better. Hate was his justification.

At large, he was a menace to all. The FBI induced the Washington Post to print his mad manifesto, conceding to ego and extortion to get him to reveal himself. He did, thanks to a brother and sister-in-law who recognized the style and content, and who put duty to humanity over loyalty to family.

Kaczynski was willing to kill but not die for his convictions. He could have pleaded not guilty, risking the death penalty while airing his views and inviting martyrdom. He did not, clinging to however unsatisfactory a life, the very survival that he so casually denied to others. For the nation, though not for his victims, this is closure, the best outcome that could be had.

Pub Date: 5/08/98

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