Sixteen years ago we were reminded of the deadly danger of having the left-liberals in charge of the police state. The largest massacre of American civilians by the US government since Wounded Knee climaxed on April 19, 1993. The siege that had begun on February 28 with a botched ATF publicity stunt ended when the Branch Davidian church and home went up in flames, after an FBI-operated tank on lease from the military was driven through the building, pumping flammable CS gas for six hours into the place where women and children were cowering in fear. Chemistry professor George Uhlig later testified that the high concentration of the gas combined with poor ventilation subjected the women and children to conditions "similar to… the gas chambers used by the Nazis in Auschwitz."
On April 12, the FBI had ruled out using gas because it was dangerous to children. A week later, Bob Ricks, FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge, said the gassing was "to make their environment as uncomfortable as possible until they do exit the compound." This excuse came after weeks of throwing flash-bang grenades at the building when people tried to leave.
Attorney General Janet Reno said the gas attack "was not meant to be D-Day. This was just a step forward in trying to bring about a peaceful resolution by constantly exerting further pressure to shrink the perimeter." This militaristic lingo was characteristic of the feds’ approach throughout the siege. The government had waged psychological warfare by blaring obnoxious music, shining glaring lights and cutting the Davidians off water, electricity, their friends, attorneys and the press. Firefighters were not permitted near the scene as the flames continued engulfing the home. When it was all over, the ATF stuck its flag up on the building to declare victory.
At a press conference on April 20, a day after the FBI gassed American civilians, President Clinton said he did not believe "the Attorney General should resign because some religious fanatics murdered themselves." The press corps, in an unusually naked expression of solidarity with the government, applauded Clinton’s statement.
This underscores the dynamic of having this crop in power. If even the liberals are for a show of force, it must have been necessary. The blame was put on the "religious fanatics," not the government fanatics, and the press and most Americans ate it all up.
The media slavishly pushed war propaganda in Bush’s first term, but they will prove even more sycophantic of Obama. Fair-weather left-liberals who often criticize the most violent side of the Republican state look the other way as their leader jails people without trial, builds civilian surveillance systems, and kills innocents.
Over the last eight years, muckraking liberal journalists dissected every word and deed of the Bush regime, but under Clinton very few were bothered about the unambiguously atrocious nature of the federal raid at Waco. They did not care that Lon Horiuchi, the sniper who murdered Vicki Weaver at Ruby Ridge in August 1992, had been brought to Waco. They were not jumping up and down about Janet Reno using internationally banned chemical warfare on American children. They did not condemn the FBI for using explosives in addition to flammable gas and then lying about it. They were not concerned what it meant for the militarization of law enforcement, and did not ask why David Koresh, who had befriended federal agents, was friendly with local law enforcement, and had opened the Davidian home up for inspection, was simply not arrested when he was jogging or visiting the bar. The liberals did not wonder why the excuse for the raid shifted from a meth lab to illegal gun ownership to child abuse. They assumed that, as much as the government might have messed up the raid, the fault was primarily that of the victims. The fact that the Davidians were different and armed — though no more armed than the average Texan — was enough to dismiss their suffering and excuse the death of 80 Americans, many of them children, at the hands of law enforcement.
Many mainstream conservatives also backed the administration after Waco, but the weak reaction by the left-liberals, who Americans rely on as the outspoken critics of police abuses, was more important. Incidentally, many libertarians, broadly defined, also took the government’s side. Notably, Objectivist Leonard Peikoff of the Ayn Rand Institute defended the state’s raid and demonized the victims.
When Democratic administrations murder, the law-and-order right is often split. The left is in denial or supportive. And the press tends to spin the story to make the administration seem soft.
The headlines today emphasize Obama’s rhetorical shift from the "war on terror" and his superficial changes in detention policy. The media push the notion that Obama has cut military spending, when he is doing the opposite.
Moreover, the continuity between the Clinton and Obama administrations is not encouraging. We have Hillary, who cheered on the belligerent foreign policy of her husband, the bomber of Belgrade, now in charge of State. We have a Justice Department even more committed to sovereign immunity than the last administration and headed up by Janet Reno’s Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder.
Then there is the group the Democrats love to demonize: "Rightwing extremists." Clinton built a proto-Bushian police state around fear of militias. We saw a major blow to federal habeas corpus, which liberals claim to love, when the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act passed in 1996, in response to Oklahoma City and the supposed epidemic of rightwing militias. When John Ashcroft was being confirmed as Attorney General, his very suggestion that the U.S. government could become "tyrannical" was mocked as ridiculous and extremist by Ted Kennedy and liberals nationwide.
Today, we’re seeing a return of anti-militia hysteria. Just as the federal government and its liberal defenders throughout the 1990s conflated patriotic Americans and peaceful separatists with dangerous "hate" groups and Rush Limbaugh’s listeners with Timothy McVeigh, we have the same kind of culture-war nonsense today.
The Department of Homeland Security recently circulated a report that warns against the "Rise in Right-Wing Extremism." The document is apparently unclassified but nevertheless indicates it is "not to be released to the public, the media" or others who do not "need to know." The libertarian Judge Andrew Napolitano, who has roundly criticized the tyrannical usurpations of both Republicans and Democrats, writes:
The thrust of this report is that in the present environment of economic instability, returning military veterans, those who fear of the loss of Second Amendment-protected rights, those threatened by an African-American president, and those who fear "Jewish u2018financial elites’" could all be a fertile breeding ground for groups whose power and ideas the government hates and fears. The document is essentially a warning for DHS and FBI officials to be on the look-out for rootless persons looking for the comfort of groups as they may be a danger to American security.
The summary (unclassified) document is terrifying. One can only imagine what is contained in the classified version. This document runs directly counter to numerous U.S. Supreme decisions prohibiting the government from engaging in any activities that could serve to chill the exercise of expressive liberties. Liberties are chilled, in constitutional parlance, when people are afraid to express themselves for fear of government omnipresence, monitoring, or reprisals. The document also informs the reader that Big Brother is watching both public and private behavior.
Do you oppose the Federal Reserve? Support states rights? Hate the income tax? Support the right to bear arms? Know the Constitution better than our rulers? You are a likely suspect of a hate crime. You are in the same class as violent racists and terrorists.
With the upsurge in gun and ammo purchases and the mysterious rise in mass shootings, we can expect more efforts to lump violent agitators together with normal Americans who simply wish to defend themselves and their families. With growing resentment about Washington’s saddling future generations with debt, there will be more attempts to characterize Americans who hate paying ransom to a distant government with people who hate their country or want conflict. With the neglected veterans of Bush’s wars having trouble readjusting to society or simply dissatisfied with the increasingly socialistic country they come home to after being told they were defending freedom, we will see this tragedy caused by the federal government disgustingly twisted into a way to bolster that government.
Many Republicans are making a big stink about the DHS report, but others have pointed out that the administration has also warned about "left-wing extremists" and so it is no big deal. Most grassroots conservatives are rightly outraged, although they do not see the continuity from the Bush era. As I warned them on LRC precisely four years ago:
Conservatives today might be able to wrap themselves in the flag and condemn dissidents as traitors, but before they know it, another Clinton might come to power and they’ll be the ones again accused of assisting the enemy by opposing the State. They might come, once again, to see the difference between love of country and love of the government, only it might be too late to bask in the distinction, thanks to the anti-dissident political atmosphere they are helping right now to create. Today’s leftists, it is to be hoped, will remember the feeling of being branded a traitor, should a Democrat be in power during the next national crisis or war.
The next national crisis has come and the left has for the most part not learned its lessons. Now that their guy is in power, we are back to the peculiar political dynamic of the 1990s, when the left-liberal police state conducted atrocities and dissent was thin.
Of course in reality, the policies are bipartisan. Ruby Ridge happened and Waco was planned under Republicans, and Waco was whitewashed by the Republican Danforth Report. The Homeland Security Department and the Fusion Centers going after rightwing militia were begun in the Bush era. Under Bush the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act, which targeted many of the same groups today targeted by Obama, won the support of the overwhelming majority of Republican Congressmen. But what changes most is the way the public reacts to state violence, and with left-liberals at the throne police brutality and massacres tend to be more tolerated by the mainstream. It is somehow politically correct when a Democratic administration cracks down on the most marginalized people in society.
Meanwhile, the Obama regime is raiding medical marijuana clinics in violation of the spirit of campaign promises, continuing most dictatorial Bush terror policies, and scheming new ways to censor and control us. They want to take over the internet. They are contemplating more citizen disarmament, a move toward national service and more cradle-to-grave welfarism. By casting "rightwing extremists" as the Other, they can use this domestic bogeyman to expand upon the tools of oppression Bush constructed in the name of fighting the foreign bogeyman. It will aggravate the culture war and cause social division, but we must remember it is the state that is doing this dividing.
Obama has already killed a lot of foreigners. He has already broken key promises on civil liberties and transparency. He has already looted enough for five years of profligate spending. Let us hope his team does not react to "rightwing extremists" the way Clinton’s did at Waco. They would get away with it.
Anthony Gregory [send him mail] is a research analyst at the Independent Institute and editor-in-chief of the Campaign for Liberty. He lives in Berkeley, California. See his webpage for more articles and personal information.