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