James Nichols, Brother of Oklahoma City Bombing Conspirator, Took ‘Soldier’s Ransom’ Oath
ESSEXVILLE, Mich. — When his little brother Terry was convicted of conspiring with Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing, James Nichols was heard muttering darkly in the courtroom, "It ain't over."
At the time, Nichols was talking about his brother's case. Now his words have a broader, and far more sinister, resonance.
This fall, the Intelligence Report has learned, the 49-year-old farmer from northeastern Michigan took a secret "Soldier's Ransom" oath — on behalf of both himself and his brother — pledging his life to a white supremacist religion that promises to eliminate Jewish people, race-mixers, gay men and lesbians and others in what one minister has called "the biggest bloodbath you can imagine."
At the same time, moviegoers were getting a vivid glimpse of Nichols' volatility in "Bowling for Columbine," filmmaker Michael Moore's new exploration of American gun culture.
When Americans understand they are "enslaved" by "the powers to be," the gray-bearded farmer bellows into Moore's microphone, "They will revolt with anger! Merciless anger! There will be blood running in the streets!"
Until now, Nichols' self-created public persona has been that of an all-American farmer who simply distrusts the government and loves explosives. But his Oct. 5 initiation into the ranks of racist revolutionaries is bound to resurrect lingering suspicions about his involvement in the Oklahoma City conspiracy.
And it brings back another question: Were the conspirators, who McVeigh insisted only hated the U.S. government, also motivated by racial or religious animus?
Though McVeigh held a brief membership in the Ku Klux Klan during his Army days, and though his inspiration for the bombing came from the notoriously anti-Semitic and racist novel The Turner Diaries, he maintained until the day he was executed that his beef was with the government.
James Nichols made similar claims. But the radical Posse Comitatus ideology that clearly fueled the Nichols brothers' animosity toward the government includes a religious element — Christian Identity — that is as virulently anti-Semitic as The Turner Diaries, written by the late neo-Nazi leader William Pierce.
Now James Nichols has pledged both himself and Terry to be warriors in the cause of Christian Identity. As wide-eyed viewers of "Bowling for Columbine" can attest, this is frightening news.
If nothing else, it demolishes James Nichols' pose as a simple farmer incapable of the kinds of hatred that drove his little brother and his friend McVeigh to mass murder.
Nichols took the oath of Aryan warriorhood in a deceptively modest setting: a ramshackle furniture store in the tiny town of Essexville, Mich., just up the road from his farm.
About 90 white supremacists from different parts of the country had gathered there for the Feast of the Tabernacles, a high holy day on the Christian Identity calendar. The man behind the Feast was James Wickstrom, an Identity pastor who has long been one of America's most outspoken racist leaders.
The two-day event featured violent speeches by some of the most extreme voices of Identity, which teaches that whites are God's true chosen people, while Jews are the "spawn of Satan" who must — along with gay men and lesbians and soulless "muds," or people of color — be done away with.
On Day Two of the Feast, after listening to a series of calls to exterminate the Jews, Nichols walked up to a makeshift altar in the back of the furniture store and dropped cents into a basket — two helpings of the Old Testament "soldier's ransom" of cents, paid to ensure God's protection. Nichols spoke his name out loud, then told the rapt Aryans that he had come on behalf of his brother, too.
Facing a Confederate battle flag pinned to a pegboard wall behind the altar, Nichols bowed his head, raised his arms Pentecostal-style, and pledged himself and Terry to eternal battle.
Ralph Daigle, an elderly ex-convict and Identity pastor, placed his fingertips on Nichols' forehead, anointing him for the struggle ahead.
After asking Yahweh (God) to make the Nichols brothers great warriors in the cause, Daigle addressed the congregation, reminding them Terry Nichols, now serving a life sentence, was unjustly imprisoned by "the Jew."
James Nichols lowered his arms and got a congratulatory handshake from Wickstrom, well-known for his furious, red-faced calls for "a perfect hatred" against the "Jew-nited States."
Seven years ago, when Nichols was last in the public eye, he was busy maintaining that neither he nor his brother — nor McVeigh, for that matter — had anything to do with "this unconscionable crime."
Yes, McVeigh had listed James Nichols' farm as his address when he was arrested. Yes, McVeigh had lived on Nichols' farm for a spell in 1993. And sure, he and Terry and McVeigh had messed around with small bombs.
But even though he was charged with federal conspiracy to make destructive devices and imprisoned for days, James Nichols was set free, insisting that he was nothing more than an Everyman — just your average "farmer in rural America," as he writes in his 1997 apologia, Freedom's End.
But there was never any doubt that Nichols' antipathy toward the U.S. government was passionate — as was his love for destructive devices. The Nichols brothers grew up tossing small bombs to blow up tree stumps on the family farm. Apparently this turned into a hobby, particularly for James. His enthusiasm for explosives was one of the factors that led law-enforcement officials to arrest him and scour his grain bins for evidence in April 1995.
In "Bowling for Columbine," Michael Moore asks Nichols what the feds found.
"Blasting caps," Nichols replies. "I had my blasting caps, dynamite fuse, black powder, you know, for muzzle-loaders. Sure! Diesel fuel. Fertilizer. But that's normal farm stuff. That's no way connected in any way whatsoever to, uh, the Oklahoma City bombing or bomb making."
Neighbors told investigators that James Nichols was both more tempestuous and politically extreme than his brother. Even in his self-serving memoir, Nichols rails repeatedly at an "oppressive and tyrannical government."
Like other sympathizers of the Posse Comitatus movement that sprouted in the Midwest during the 1970s and '80s, Nichols renounced his U.S. citizenship, refused to carry a driver's license, and took to stamping "Discharged Without Prejudice" in red ink on his paper money, indicating that he did not consider it legitimate currency.
While Nichols' political views and explosive habits were abundantly clear, there was little indication that his ideology went beyond a loathing for the government. Now there is no question. By pledging the Soldier's Ransom, Nichols has made it clear that he not only longs for an overthrow of the U.S. government, but also for a bloody solution to Jewish "tyranny."
His new friends in the white supremacist movement — if they are, indeed, new — will certainly add fuel to the fire that burns inside Nichols. No anti-Semite in America is more incendiary than James Wickstrom, a former Posse leader and the first to shake Nichols' hand after the ceremony.
"The Jew's God is Satan," he bellowed in Essexville, adding a handy quote from the Book of Psalms: "Let them be blotted out of the book of the living."
When the Feast was finished, Nichols drove the miles back to Decker, back to the place where he showed Timothy McVeigh how fertilizer bombs work. Nobody knows what Nichols might have been contemplating to strike back against "the Jew." But this much is indisputable: The three words he muttered in that Denver courtroom five years ago echo now with a chilling new meaning.
"It ain't over," indeed.