Eleven Years Since Waco and Very Little Has Changed

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Eleven
years ago, on April 19, 1993, the FBI gassed the home of David Koresh
and his followers, and then forced a tank and incendiary devices
into the building, causing a fireball that consumed the lives of
eighty civilians, including about twenty children.

This
was the way the FBI decided to end a 51-day standoff, which began
when ATF agents stormed the Branch Davidian home and a shoot-out
ensued, killing four ATF agents and several Davidians. When the
ATF ran out of bullets, the Davidians stopped firing and let the
agents peacefully retreat.

Anyone
who has looked closely into the Waco massacre and who is not a blind
devotee of the government would agree that the tragedy was primarily
the government's fault. The feds lied
to the press repeatedly
during the standoff, saying that they
went there to apprehend Koresh and not his followers, insisting
that it was a hostage situation, and claiming that Koresh and his
followers were armed with dangerous weapons that they intended to
use against their neighbors. In
truth
, the ATF raided the Davidian home primarily for publicity,
the Davidians were not hostages, the FBI threw explosives at people
who tried to leave the building, and the Davidians probably had
no more weapons per capita than the average Texan. If Koresh was
their main target, the authorities could have easily arrested him
on one of his routine jogs or visits to the local bar. Instead,
they befriended him and even fired guns with him at his shooting
range before turning on him and attacking his home.

Those
who have seen the documentary Waco:
Rules of Engagement
, know many important aspects
of the story behind the atrocity. They also have seen some footage
from the congressional hearings on Waco, in which Republicans appear
daringly to question the brutality of the FBI and Janet Reno, and
in which Democrats, most notably Senator Charles Schumer, appear
to be vicious monsters, lashing out at the surviving Branch Davidians
during their testimony, and loyally defending the Clinton Administration
and the FBI as if they did absolutely nothing wrong in their use
of poison gas against little children and their firing of machine
guns at the people who managed to escape the burning and asphyxiating
doom of their collapsing home and church.

In
the 1990s, Waco was on many libertarians' minds as the epitome of
Clinton's governmental oppression, and many Republicans and conservatives
appeared to share concern about the disaster.

Now
that Republicans have taken over the White House, what changes have
occurred?

The
federal government still gets away with killing innocents and lying
to the press about it. The Bush Administration has made many assertions:
Saddam was an enemy of freedom itself and was hostile toward the
United States; it was his regime, not the Iraqi people, that the
War on Iraq targeted; the Iraqi people were Saddam's hostages, and
would greet America as liberators; Saddam had a dangerous weapons
cache, and he intended on using it against his neighbors and probably
the United States.

In
truth
, Saddam was indeed a murderous tyrant, although he was
backed by the United States during his worst crimes against humanity
before the U.S. government turned on him. The Iraqi people were
indeed Saddam's victims, but they were also victims of the U.S./U.N.
trade sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of them. And they
did not come, in the end, to greet Americans as liberators. Also,
of course, the weapons of mass destruction were a complete fabrication
and had they existed Saddam would not have launched them against
either his neighbors or the United States, lest he be wiped off
the earth by unrelenting nuclear retaliation.

Like
the Waco hearings, the 9/11 commission is in reality a joke. Not
only does the commission fail to address the real causes of 9/11,
it will ultimately fail to implicate any high officials for their
negligence. Just as the real purpose of the Waco hearings was to
create the illusion of government accountability while exonerating
all those guilty for the tragedy of April 19, 1993, so too the actual
motivation behind the 9/11 commission is to provide the appearance
that the government is improving its counter-terrorism operations
while removing blame from the bureaucrats, intelligence officials,
and administration officers who were sleeping at the wheel on September
11, 2001.

The
real way to stop future Wacos is to keep the federal government's
armed agents out of trouble at home, and the real way to prevent
future 9/11s is to keep the federal government's armed agents out
of trouble abroad.

The
9/11 Commission serves to distract us: It leads opponents of the
Bush Administration to assume that the Democrats are on their side,
just as opponents of Clinton thought this about the Republicans
who voiced their perfunctory and hollow criticisms of the Texas
Clinton Massacre.

We
should not be fooled or distracted by the histrionics coming from
the 9/11 commission. Democrats would probably be just as bumbling
and dishonest in the War on Terrorism as Republicans, who would
likewise have been just as deceitful if Waco had happened on Ashcroft's
watch. Just look at the way some of yesterday's conservative Waco
critics cheer on today's carnage in Fallujah, if you doubt me. To
them, avenging
four deaths with the killing of innocents during the Clinton years
was "murderous,"
but avenging
four deaths with the killing of innocents in Fallujah is “justice.”

April
19, 1775 was the date of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, and
a lot has changed in the 229 years since then in the dedication
to liberty of the typical American politico. April 19, 1993 was
the date of the vicious attack on the Branch Davidians at Waco,
Texas, and all that's changed in the eleven years since then is
which of the two political parties is in power and therefore guilty
of the worst crimes, and which one is seeking power and therefore
standing around disingenuously pointing fingers as if there were
a dime's worth of real difference between them.

April
19, 2004

Anthony
Gregory [send him mail]
is a writer and musician who lives in Berkeley, California. He earned
his bachelor's degree in history at UC Berkeley, where he was president
of the Cal Libertarians. He is an intern at the Independent
Institute
and has written for Rational Review, the Libertarian
Enterprise, and Antiwar.com. See
his webpage for more
articles and personal information.


        
        

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