Thirty years ago, FBI tanks smashed into the ramshackle home of the Branch Davidians outside Waco, Texas. After the FBI collapsed much of the building atop the residents, a fire erupted and 76 corpses were dug out of the rubble. Unfortunately, the American political system and media have never honestly portrayed the federal abuses and political deceit that led to that carnage.
What lessons can today’s Americans draw from the FBI showdown on the Texas plains 30 years ago?
Purported Good Intentions Absolve Real Deadly Force
Janet Reno, the nation’s first female attorney general, approved the FBI’s assault on the Davidians. Previously, she had zealously prosecuted child abuse cases in Dade County, Florida, though many of her high-profile convictions were later overturned because of gross violations of due process. Reno approved the FBI assault after being told “babies were being beaten.” It is not known who told her about the false claims of child abuse; Reno claimed she couldn’t remember. Her sterling reputation helped the government avoid any apparent culpability for the deaths of 27 children on April 19, 1993. After Reno publicly promised to take responsibility for the outcome at Waco, the media conferred instant sainthood upon her. At a press conference the day after the fire, President Bill Clinton declared, “I was frankly—surprised would be a mild word—to say that anyone that would suggest that the Attorney General should resign because some religious fanatics murdered themselves.” According to a Federal News Service transcript, the White House press corps applauded Clinton’s comment on Reno.
It Is Not an Atrocity If the U.S. Government Does It
Shortly before the Waco showdown, U.S. government officials signed an international Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty pledging never to use nerve agents, mustard gas, and other compounds (including tear gas) against enemy soldiers. But the treaty contained a loophole permitting governments to gas their own people. On April 19, 1993, the FBI pumped CS gas and methyl chloride, a potentially lethal, flammable combination, into the Davidians’ residence for six hours, disregarding explicit warnings that CS gas should not be used indoors. Benjamin Garrett, executive director the Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute in Alexandria, Virginia, observed that the CS gas “would have panicked the children. Their eyes would have involuntarily shut. Their skin would have been burning. They would have been gasping for air and coughing wildly. Eventually, they would have been overcome with vomiting in a final hell.” A 1975 U.S. Army publication on the effects of CS gas noted, “Generally, persons reacting to CS are incapable of executing organized and concerted actions and excessive exposure to CS may make them incapable of vacating the area.”
Rep. Steven Schiff (R-NM) declared that “the deaths of dozens of men, women and children can be directly and indirectly attributable to the use of this gas in the way it was injected by the FBI.” Chemistry professor George Uhlig testified to Congress in 1995 that the FBI gas attack probably “suffocated the children early on” and may have converted their poorly ventilated bunker into an area “similar to one of the gas chambers used by the Nazis at Auschwitz.” But during those 1995 hearings, congressional Democrats portrayed the CS gas as innocuous as a Flintstone vitamin.
The ATF is honoring its agents who were killed as they kicked off the slaughter of American women and children at the Waco, Texas Branch Davidians compound in 1993, in an event widely known as the “Waco Massacre.”
The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives Houston, Texas office posted to Twitter this week to mark the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the Waco Siege, that led to the Waco Massacre. Included in the ATF’s tweet was a photograph of four agents “standing post” at the “Waco Peace Officer Memorial in Waco, TX in honor of Special Agents Conway LeBleu, Todd McKeehan, Robert Williams, and Steve Willis.”
The ATF was blasted in the responses to its tweet by a chorus of Twitter users, including prominent accounts like those of Jake Shields and Mindy Robinson.
“We mourn for the innocent women and children you burned alive,” Shields commented on the ATF’s tweet.
“Oh, you mean the baby killers?” Mindy Robinson wrote. “Are they standing guard so real patriots don’t dance on their graves? Yea, it takes a real man to shoot, kill, poison, and set innocent women and children on fire for their own “safety.”
President Joe Biden’s nominee to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) has purged thousands of tweets from his Twitter profile, while still permitting communications on Facebook, raising flags over his prior hearing response that he made his account private due to “violent threats” that were forwarded to the Department of Justice.
In writing to Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, David Chipman said he “decided to set my Twitter account to private because of violent threats I had received in the past and anticipated receiving once my nomination was made public. I notified officials at the Department of Justice that I intended to make my account private.”
In addition, it appears Chipman has deleted the vast majority of his tweets. Whereas there were 1,815 tweets in October 2016, there are now a mere 115 as of Wednesday. It is unclear why his Facebook posts remain public and why he can be freely messaged if Chipman is legitimately worried about being threatened through social media. Surely, those threatening the ATF nominee would be smart enough to use other platforms. The contradiction was flagged by American Accountability Foundation.
Sen. Cotton told The Federalist Chipman’s behavior is suspicious and that he seems to be trying to conceal past information.
The man President Joe Biden wants to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has made false statements about the 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.
During a 2019 “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit, a user self-identified as David Chipman falsely claimed that members of the sect had shot down two helicopters during the Waco massacre.
“At Waco, cult members used 2 .50 caliber Barretts to shoot down two Texas Air National Guard helicopters,” he wrote. “Point, it is true we are fortunate they are not used in crime more often.”
As noted in the New York Post, it is largely known that Branch Davidian members did indeed shoot at helicopters, however, none were shot down.
Further, no Barretts were recovered at the scene of the massacre.
“Although all of the three helicopters sustained damage from weapons fire, none of the National Guard crews or ATF aboard were injured,” a 1996 House report on the incident concluded.
Four ATF agents and 82 Branch Davidian members died in the 51-day siege.
In the same Reddit thread, Chipman defended the FBI’s role in the Waco disaster.
“I worked for the government for 25 years and I understand how trust in government has been harmed. Please remember, however, that it was agents on the ground who let the public know the truth about these incidents when some sought to cover-up inconvenient truths,” he wrote.
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