Saturday, April 19, 2008

What Happened 15 Years Ago in Waco, Texas?

Today is the 15th anniversary of the U.S. government's storming of the Branch Davidians Mount Carmel compound in Waco, Texas. Federal agents released CS tear gas into the building, and several fires broke out, spreading quickly through the structure. Approximately 76 Branch Davidians, 21 of whom were children, were killed in the ensuing blaze. Autopsies confirmed that many of the victims, including David Koresh, had died of single gunshot wounds to their heads. As I recall, no government agent fired a gun during this assault.

This raid culminated from a costly 51-day stand off which stemmedfrom the murder of four ATF agents while they were serving a lawful warrant on Davidian cult leader David Koresh.

This all-time great Michael Ramirez cartoon adequately expresses my own view at the time as to where the true responsibility for this tragedy lies.
David Koresh, a false prophet, broke the peace.

15 Moderated Comments:

Blogger Petrosexual said...

4 once I agree with U.

4/19/2008 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger MadMike said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/19/2008 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger MadMike said...

Vigil I thank you for this tribute. I have personal knowledge of Waco and what went down there 15 years ago. This was a provoked attack by a self-appointed "prophet", not an offensive mounted by United States Federal Officers for the sake of killing Jesus Jumpers, as many would have us believe. Several good men died that day and they died needlessly as did the innocent children, all murdered by Koresh and his gang of crazies.

4/19/2008 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger JR said...

Thanks for the comment, Vigilante.
My focus on the FBI actions was simply placed in light of our current situation in Texas (which is looking more and more like a hoax). My point was simply that, in the United States, our principles of due process, innocent until proven guilty and habeus corpus, cannot be overridden in the zeal of going after a bunch of freaks. Being a freak is not a crime, but harming children is, and those that perpetuate it should be burned at the stake (so to speak).

There is, however, a process for these things, and I'm always wary of the government kicking in the doors of private citizens on merely a hunch.

That being said, the Waco tragedy (my birthday) was a terrible reminder of the level of scum and villany that exists, even in the US of A.

4/19/2008 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger Coleen Rowley said...

One of my former FBI bosses, Jeff Jamar, was the FBI Special Agent in Charge at Waco and I knew others involved there too. It’s apparent that portions of the FBI lost patience after 51 days and did not listen to their own psychological experts who were involved in stand-off negotiations and who actually had an idea about Koresh’s suicidal tendencies. By the way, the District Judge in the civil lawsuit brought by Branch Davidian survivors clearly found that it was Koresh and others who initiated the fires and other deadly means of taking their followers lives. John Danforth was appointed to conduct a separate inquiry and he too came up with similar conclusions.

The mistake by the FBI leaders and in the various SWAT teams’ execution, resided only in not better assessing how self destructive Koresh and his supporters would be. And in not being more patient and listening to the negotiators and psychological experts. (Actually it was the kind of classic brain vs brawn issue that one sees in police movies.)

A year or so afterward, a standoff occurred with the “Montana Freeman”, and so the FBI got a chance to apply the lessons learned. Patient negotiating in that case paid off, with that stand-off resolved and no one hurt.

The worst repercussion of Waco, however, was that watching it burn (and maybe the ensuing media coverage afterward blaming the FBI) was the thing that probably most radicalized Timothy McVeigh, who a few years later, also on April 19th if I remember correctly, blew up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma, also killing an almost equal number of children.

McVeigh said he didn’t know about the day care center in the Oklahoma federal building and I think he also said that it was the only thing he regretted.

To me, McVeigh’s killing of children (of federal employees) to somehow avenge the killing of the children at Waco, is a bit like our military attack on Iraq when we were attacked by Al Qaeda. It just shows how stupid vengeance is. I guess the nicest way of putting it is this kind of senseless, radical vengeance is completely counterproductive. And we’re seeing that happen with Iraq now too.

The lesson from all this (as well as what I say about torture being unethical, illegal AND INEFFECTIVE), and what I’ve come to believe as an ethicist is that the (Kantian type) ethics principles that have stood the test of time are not really different from the only kind of “utilitarian ethics” that matter, “rule utilitarianism”. Some day I’ll write a book.

4/19/2008 03:43:00 PM  
Blogger Utah Savage said...

Thank you for this piece Vig,

It stands in stark contrast to the hand wringing that is going on at the Wizard's site. As You know, I have also written about the Pligs. Sorry if that word sounds disrespectful of other's belief system, but it's just Utah slang.

I plan to keep writing about my insiders (as in, I live in Utah and know some Pligs personally) view of the practice of polygamy. If you remember Warren Jeffs the guy who started the Texas branch of the Colorado City bunch was finally arrested by the FBI. My question about the raid on the Texas Pligs is not, Why? But rather, what took you so long?

4/19/2008 07:40:00 PM  
Blogger the WIZARD, fkap said...

My special thanks to Coleen Rowley for her inside knowledge and insight.

JR is spot on concerning his comments about the current tragedy in El Dorado.

"My focus on the FBI actions was simply placed in light of our current situation in Texas (which is looking more and more like a hoax). My point was simply that, in the United States, our principles of due process, innocent until proven guilty and habeus corpus, cannot be overridden in the zeal of going after a bunch of freaks."

I hate child abuse, child rape and forced marriage. But JR is exactly correct: "There is, however, a process for these things, and I'm always wary of the government kicking in the doors of private citizens on merely a hunch."

4/19/2008 08:08:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

Coleen says: It’s apparent that portions of the FBI lost patience after 51 days and did not listen to their own psychological experts who were involved in stand-off negotiations and who actually had an idea about Koresh’s suicidal tendencies.

Coleen, I was also impatient. At that moment, on that day, I was in front of my TV, saying aloud, "Finally, finally. Enforce the rule of law." Two months of this expensive, $ millions-a-day stand-off between society and these religious gun-freaks, cop-killers and hostage-keepers? Enough. It was grim. But it was a satisfying relief to see the gas pumped in through punctured walls. (On TV, I saw no tear gas cannisters fired.) But when the fires came, in that wind, it was sad and tragic beyond words. To this day, I do not blame Reno. I blame Koresh. Of course, in my initial cheer-leading, I was complicit. Nevertheless, it was Koresh, his cult-of-personality, and his guns.

4/20/2008 07:54:00 AM  
Blogger Stella said...

I agree with madmike This was a provoked attack by a self-appointed "prophet", not an offensive mounted by United States Federal Officers and Janet Reno. Yes, Colleen, Waco provoked McVeigh to attack Oklahoma City. You're absolutely right.

Koresh was every bit the sociopath the members of this administration are.

4/21/2008 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger Petrosexual said...

A little bit extreme there.

4/21/2008 06:13:00 PM  
Blogger Stella said...

Your point, Petro?

4/25/2008 06:22:00 PM  
Blogger Stella said...

Colleen, I love this: McVeigh’s killing of children... to somehow avenge the killing of the children at Waco, is a bit like our military attack on Iraq when we were attacked by Al Qaeda. It just shows how stupid vengeance is.

That quote should be etched on a plaque and hung in the new president's office.

4/25/2008 06:25:00 PM  
Blogger LittleBilly said...

Hi, Vig: Finally got around to reading this fine article and the comments.

As I said in my post Religion Run
Amok, I am appalled most of the time at the religious practices which so many people think up. In this case, I found it even stranger that our current president should be leading the charge against the "freedom and liberty" of another religious group.

5/07/2008 07:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lawful warrent! Fifty-one day standoff! This is bullshit. Prior to the 51 day media event siege David Koresh left the compound on a regular basis. The FBI knew this and could have easily picked him up. What happened here is that Bill Clinton and Janet Reno murdered 76 men, women and children. Twenty-one children were murdered! Why? Bill and Janet hated these Bible believing fanatics.

4/28/2009 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Vigilante said...

I make it a point never to respond to anonymous comments except to say in this context, that Michael Ramirez' verdict is correct. This is settled history.

4/28/2009 05:36:00 PM  

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