September 1, 1999


The news that the FBI has been lying all this time about what happened at Waco is not really all that shocking. Only the mainstream media and the elites believed the government's story, which is why they were content to bury the matter and forget it. After all, Koresh was a Christian nut and possibly a child-molester who had an unhealthy interest in guns: enough said, case closed. But the animus against Christianity in Washington D.C. and the New York media center is not shared by the rest of the country. Americans were skeptical, to say the least, about the official story, and the latest revelations have merely confirmed their suspicions. Not only the FBI but also the Justice Department have now been implicated in a massive cover-up. I don't normally dwell on American domestic affairs unless the subject is directly related to U.S. foreign policy, but in this case the line between domestic and international affairs has become blurred. For what the new revelations indicate is growing evidence of a direct role played by the US military in the Waco tragedy. Just as the US military was ordered to bomb the Christian Serbs back to the Stone Age and drive them out of Kosovo, so the same forces struck the Koreshian Christians on that fateful day in 1993. At Waco, the US government went to war against its own citizens.- and why should a government that targets civilians in Serbia and Iraq be any more merciful toward its own civilians? Waco and Kosovo: two fronts in the same war pitting a ruthless power-mad US government against all who dare to defy its will.


"How dare they say that this is not a free country!" Thus President Clinton, in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, scolded those who see the federal government as a tyranny. The only proper answer to our clueless Commander-in-chief, then and now, is a simple four-letter word that speaks volumes about the age we are living in: Waco.


In the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, we were not supposed to talk about Waco. Yet the memory of it not only persisted, but grew stronger, in spite of the smear campaign against anyone who dared raise the subject. In the minds of millions, the Waco massacre is emblematic of the new age we are entering, the grisly symbol of a government thoroughly corrupted and even maddened by power.


On the morning of February 28, 1993, two trailers with no markings pulled up in front of David Koresh's sanctuary, in Waco, Texas, known to the inhabitants as Mt. Carmel. Although the building was described by the authorities and a receptive media as "the Compound," in reality it was an ordinary unfortified wooden structure, not a mountain fastness or a military bunker, but a home. Within minutes, that home was under assault from more than 70 heavily armed bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) commandos. Faces obscured by ski masks, they rushed the front door, shouting and shooting.


The Davidians' answer to this deadly assault was to fight back, to fight for their lives and in defense of their children. When the dust cleared, four BATF agents were dead, and several others wounded. While there is considerable evidence that some of these causalities may have been caused by "friendly fire," these deaths were deemed "murder" by US Attorney General Janet Reno, and Koresh's surviving followers were put on trial. The Davidian defendants were all acquitted of the charge of conspiracy to murder federal agents: five were convicted of voluntary manslaughter, which the judge in the case defined as taking action "in the sudden heat of passion caused by adequate provocation."


For defending their homes and their families against a government goon squad, the convicted Davidians were sentenced to 40 years in jail. This was clearly not the intention of the jurors. As Sara L. Bain, jury foreman, put it in a letter to the judge: "Even five years is too severe a penalty for what we believed to be a minor charge." She went on to say that: "The federal government was absolutely out of control here. We spoke in the jury room about the fact that the wrong people were on trial, that it should have been the ones that planned the raid and orchestrated it and insisted on carrying out this plan who should have been on trial." Instead of being brought to justice, Larry Potts, the FBI official in charge of this murderous operation, was promoted to second-in-command of the Bureau!


The official BATF report on Waco, a shameless whitewash, is dedicated to the memory of the four BATF agents who lost their lives in the initial shoot-out. No mention is made of the Davidians who died that day. Perry Jones was shot as he stood in the doorway, behind his son-in-law, David Koresh. Jaydean Wendel had been nursing her newborn child, and had just put the baby down when she fell in a hail of bullets. Pete Gent was shot as he clambered up the water tower, picked off by BATF snipers. Winston Blake and Peter Hipsman were killed by gunfire that penetrated the house. Michael Schroeder was ambushed on his way from a warehouse to Mt. Carmel. Their murderers are walking the streets, not only free but in positions of power.


From the beginning of the long siege of Mt. Carmel, the American public was awash in a relentless wave of propaganda vilifying Koresh as a latter-day Charles Manson and his followers as demonic automatons wired to kill. And yet, when the BATF descended on the Davidians' home, Koresh came to the door, unarmed, and yelled out: "What do you want?" The simplicity of this gesture, a plaintive cry followed by "There are women and children in here," belies the Satanic image of Koresh painted in such vivid hues by the Establishment media. Instead of a demon, he seems vulnerable, hapless, and all too human as he stands there, shocked by the fulfillment of his own prophecy. As if to underscore their peculiarly American naiveté, one of the first things Koresh and his followers did after the smoke cleared was to call 911! The tape of that call has Koresh saying "I don't care who they are. Nobody is going to come to my home, with my babies around, shaking guns around, without a gun back in their face. That's just not the American way."


Not the American way, but a new way, the BATF/Reno/Clinton way. The America Koresh remembered did not allow jackbooted government thugs to storm into private homes; but we are living in a new era, where such outrages are euphemized and even glorified by the Orwellian language of BATF bureaucrats, who in a report described their murderous Sunday morning blitzkrieg as a "dynamic entry."


The official government explanation for the BATF raid has changed so many times that it is difficult to keep count: first we were told by Janet Reno that the Koreshians were engaged in massive child abuse. It was revealed at the trial, however, that a nine-week investigation by the Texas Bureau of Child Protective Services in 1992 had failed to come up with any evidence of abuse. Then we were told that Koresh was stockpiling weapons: but according to the BATF's own report, there were no suspected illegal weapons per se on the premises, but only speculation that at some time the Koreshians might have the wherewithal, equipment, and intent to convert legal parts into illegal automatic weapons.


The 51-day siege of Mt. Carmel was accompanied by a barrage of propaganda, all dutifully echoed by the "mainstream" media, that turned the most blatant act of government-sponsored terrorism in US history into a hostage drama. This was based on the fiction that Koresh was somehow holding his devoted followers against their will, and much was made by Janet Reno of the alleged danger posed by Koresh to the children. On day 2 of the siege, when the FBI took over from the BATF, they brought in the "Hostage Rescue Team," and declared that their goal was to get the "hostages" out, as if this somehow established the fiction once and for all. Somehow the American people had to be convinced that the violent persecution of a tiny religious sect was not only necessary, but positively righteous. The only way to do it was to smear them as gun-crazy child-molesting fanatics, mentally enslaved to an authoritarian leader.


In fact, the children of Mt. Carmel, as shown in a video made by Koresh, seemed well adjusted and happy. Interacting freely and unselfconsciously with Koresh, they are clearly not at all frightened or even much in awe of the Prophet. When Janet Reno cited them as the motivating factor that led to the raid, she lied to the American people – and the media obligingly broadcast this lie far and wide. We were asked to believe that it was Butch Reno's late-blooming maternal instinct that drove her to mobilize a small army against Koresh and his extended family. If so, then the old saw about killing the thing you love applies here, and with a vengeance.


It was, we were told, another "hostage crisis." But the official rationale for the siege began to unravel when the first of the "hostages" came out, two elderly women. Both were immediately handcuffed and booked for murder. Some "hostages"!


And what about the children of Mt. Carmel, for whose sake the raid was supposedly launched? They were subjected to an endless assault by their alleged protectors and would-be rescuers. The water and electricity were immediately turned off, as were all phone lines except for a line to the FBI. The children were also subjected to loud rock music, glaring floodlights, recordings of bizarre Tibetan chants, the cries of slaughtered rabbits, and other sounds meant to demoralize, disorient, and deprive them of sleep.


Out of concern for "the children," Reno's relentless siege employed every tactic but that of rational negotiation. But since Koresh spoke the language of faith, specifically Christian faith, the militant secularists in Reno's Justice Department and the FBI had no way to communicate with them. With Koresh alluding to Biblical passages to illustrate his millennialist and specifically Adventist theology – FBI negotiators contemptuously called it "Bible-babble" – the feds were determined to bring matters to a head as soon as possible. The longer the siege lasted, the more it was possible that Koresh might maneuver them into an indefinite stalemate – which they would not allow.


The idea of a stalemate was intolerable to the feds for two reasons: 1) it would undermine federal authority. If Koresh could stand up to the federal colossus, then other dissident groups might get ideas. 2) If Koresh and his followers were allowed to live through the siege, their testimony would result in the indictment, not of the Davidians, but of their persecutors.


According to the BATF report, at the end of March FBI officials began to contemplate sterner measures, including "inserting tear gas" into the "compound." This was duly approved by Reno and the President. As tanks rigged up with gas-dispensing nozzles advanced on the cluster of wood-frame buildings, the FBI used megaphones to announce; "This is not an assault! Do not fire weapons!" For some reason, the Davidians did not believe them. They dared to defend themselves against what looked to them like the prelude to the Armageddon Koresh had so often conjured.


The Davidian gunfire bounced off the tanks' heavy armor. The feds succeeded in puncturing the walls of the house, and inserted gas into the buildings. Although the official line is that the intent was to flush the Davidians out of the structure, what occurred was the demolition of the building with the Davidians still inside it, and the sudden outbreak of a fire. The blaze spread quickly, whipped up by a fierce wind and the puncture holes in the buildings. Who started the fire? It is an article of faith in the Justice Department and the White House that Koresh immolated himself and his own followers. The survivors of Waco say that it was the tanks that started the blaze, as they came crashing through the walls, knocking over Coleman lanterns the Davidians used for illumination. Bales of straw had been stacked up on the walls, to deflect bullets, and these ignited the spark that ended in a fiery holocaust. The FBI's recent admission that it used "pyrotechnic" devices, and new evidence that gunfire rained down on the Davidians from helicopters hovering overhead, completes the grisly picture.


Others note that, early that fateful morning, the FBI asked the Parkland Memorial Hospital Burn Unit to prepare for several burn victims. FBI agents were issued fireproof vests, while a helicopter equipped with a hi-tech fire-detecting equipment circled like a vulture overhead. Did the FBI have reason to expect the sudden outbreak of a fire that day? To believe this – we were told by our respectable pundits on the right as well as the left – was to endorse the "conspiracy" view of Waco. It was to descend into the deepest, darkest fever-swamp of right-wing paranoia, to wallow in the muck of the blackest reaction. Such a thought was a hate crime, a demagogic appeal to dangerous and bigoted Angry White Men – and yet, some persisted in daring to think it.


Imagine the reaction if Waco had been situated in, say, Bosnia, and its assailants were Serbian separatists instead of BATF and FBI commandos. Christiane Amanpour would have been right there on the spot, wailing and moaning about the slaughter of the innocents against a backdrop of smoking ruins. Susan Sontag would have been on the next flight out, and the United Nations would have had a war crimes tribunal up and running before her plane touched the ground.

Check out Justin Raimondo's article, “China and the New Cold War”

“Behind the Headlines” appears Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with special editions as events warrant.

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against US Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (forthcoming from Prometheus Books).


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