|Fifth Anniversary: Waco Revisited
This article appeared in the May 1998 (Volume 8, No. 5) issue of Personal UPDATE.
Sunday, April 19 marked the fifth anniversary of the BATF/FBI assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.
We have learned a lot about what happened there, especially that much of the official government story is inaccurate at best and a lie at worst. The most recent expose is a documentary which shows much of what the government has been telling us about Waco to be false. Waco: The Rules of Engagement (Fifth Estate Productions, 1997) was nominated for an Academy Award, having been produced not by right-wing whackos but Hollywood liberals who believe that everyone deserves civil rights.
The BATF was in a battle for congressional funding; the raid on the Branch Davidian compound was not staged to enforce the law, it was staged for public relations purposes - and it was bungled. There was no evidence that the Davidians had violated any law. The BATF used fabricated information to obtain a warrant from a careless magistrate. Some of the allegations made on the affidavit were fraudulent.
David Koresh had previously allowed inspections for weapons and had made an offer to talk to BATF agents about their current concerns. Also, Koresh had cooperated with state officials when two previous allegations of child abuse were made. The BATF had a knock warrant. Instead of knocking on the door and serving the warrant, as required by law, the BATF assembled a combat team. The BATF informed the media prior to the assault and made certain that TV cameras were in place to record the staged gun control and child rescue operation.
To this date, it has never been determined who fired first. A critical piece of evidence - the front door - is missing. Indeed, the federal government saw to it that much evidence was destroyed or burned in the flames. This was not the first time the federal government tampered with or destroyed evidence. Much of this came out in the trial of the people involved with the Ruby Ridge incident, in which the judge reprimanded the government for evidence tampering.
ATF agents who participated in the raid have testified in court and congressional hearings that the Branch Davidians fired the first shots. Right after the raid, however, one AFT agent told an investigator that a fellow agent may have shot first, when he killed a dog outside the compound. The agent later retracted the statement, saying that the Branch Davidians had initiated the gunfire. Surviving Branch Davidians have maintained that they did not shoot their guns until they were fired upon.
Although the federal government used abuse of the Davidian children as one of the rationales for the assault on the compound, they subjected the children to searchlights at night and the sounds of rabbits being slaughtered, played on loudspeakers round-the-clock, along with other forms of psychological warfare. Finally, the government wound up killing them.
The "tear gas" the Davidians were subjected to was CS dissolved in methylene chloride. CS is a highly toxic military gas which is banned for warfare use by international treaty. Methylene chloride is a highly flammable substance, used as paint remover. Government infrared tapes support the thesis that it was the government that started the fire, with methylene chloride, not the Branch Davidians. According to Dr. Edward Allard, former head of the Defense Department's Night Vision Laboratory, the infrared images show conclusively that the Davidians were machine-gunned as they tried to flee the burning building.
And what of the govemment's side of the story? They wouldn't appear in the film. Movie critic Roger Ebert said: "What is remarkable, watching the film, is to realize that the federal case has not been made. Evidence has been 'lost,' files and reports have 'disappeared,' tapes have been returned blank, participants have not testified and the 'crime scene,' as a Texas Ranger indignantly testifies, was not preserved for investigation, but razed to the ground by the FBI - presumably to destroy evidence."
Footage of congressional hearings make it clear that the Republicans knew what had happened but were too fearful of the implications for "law and order" to take any meaningful action. So they did nothing. When it was all over, the government victors flew their flag over the remains of the Davidian compound. It was clear this had been a military action taken against citizens of the United States, even though the law prohibits such action.
The church has failed to grasp the significance of Waco. It is clear that there were serious breaches of Constitutional rights. During the siege, David Koresh and his followers were demonized as religious fanatics, hazardous to themselves and everyone else. The church at large, rather than demanding an investigation, accepted the official story and rationalized it with the thought that Koresh was an extremist, both theologically and sociologically.
But consider that we are now living in a post-Christian culture, where
everyday Christianity is considered an extreme belief. At the same time,
we find that the Constitutional protections which guarded this republic
for so many years are eroding rapidly.
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