Flames engulf the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, on April 20, 1993

Flames engulf the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, on April 20, 1993


R.J.E., Anthony Gregory

For many Americans, Waco represented the nightmare their government had become. On February 28, 1993 federal BATF agents arrived at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. They used the pretext that the Davidians failed to pay a small fine on a minor firearms charge. Apparently the government believes Christians who own guns are a greater threat than street gangs, who have turned entire sections of cities into war zones.

Instead of knocking on the front door, they jumped out of the back of their truck, and stormed the compound, shooting their machine guns at the building, supposedly to arrest leader David Koresh, who quite frequently went jogging outside of the compound and often drove into town to pick up groceries. The government could have easily arrested him without incident.

But they weren’t interested in simply arresting Koresh. They wanted to make a statement. They wanted a confrontation. The Branch Davidians who originally opened the front door to greet them had to slam it shut to save their lives. Several Davidians and BATF agents were injured and killed. The BATF claimed the Davidians shot at them, however the door showed 13 bullet holes coming from the OUTSIDE IN, and none going from the inside out. This door mysteriously dissappeared and has never been found (funny how these things happen in cases like this, isn’t it?). For 51 days we watched the puppet politicians and media villify Koresh and the Davidians as agents of the US government surrounded the compound, cut off power, cut off phone service so the people inside could not tell their side of the story to the public. They set up loudspeakers outside the compound and loudly played the sounds of pigs being slaughtered and heavy metal music 24 hours a day.

It all ended on April 19, 1993 when Delta Force agents showed up dressed to kill in Gestapo black uniforms. They hopped into their A-1 tanks and punched holes into the side of the building. They then flooded the building with nerve gas, and apparently started a fire that consumed the building and caused the deaths of 86 of the men, women, and children inside. Although the American public was brainwashed to view Koresh as a sexual maniac with dozens of dazed followers in his hypnotic thrall, the truth was far from that officially endorsed deception.

David Koresh was not the raving lunatic who the media and FBI demonized on a daily basis. Koresh wasn’t an unstable egotist who sought solace and validation in any oddball religion that came down the pike. He was born and raised a Davidian, a religion whose origins stretch back to 1934. Far from a Jim Jones figure with a fly-by-night theology, Koresh was a seemingly devout man with a lifelong understanding of the Biblical scriptures, and his followers appreciated that. This clearly symbolized how we live under a de facto executive dictatorship. The White House never felt the need to ask permission of the Congress before it undertook the raid, and the Congress never raised a serious challenge to the White House’s assertion of complete sovereignty. Our elected representatives and media provided the illusion of participatory government, while Reno and various anonymous and unelected underlings held the reins of government and abused their power on a horrific scale.

Waco was neither a leftwing nor rightwing issue. It is instead an issue that transcends such political categories and cuts to the most profound of questions as to what kind of country this is, what kind it should be, and the very meanings of liberty and tyranny. At Waco, the U.S. government treated the Branch Davidians as any total state might treat its most alienated subjects. It broke into their home aggressively, shot at them recklessly and mockingly defiled their graves. It blocked off their water and their communications with family, counsel and the press. It waged psychological warfare on them. It showed no mercy on the little children that it gassed. It imprisoned the survivors, including one man who wasn’t even in the building during the siege. The Davidians were effectively dehumanized by the central state’s lapdog press, and so all too few voices, even on the hyper-sensitive left, came to their defense when Clinton and Reno’s federal police stampeded them under their weight.

There are always groups that receive less sympathy when they go head to head with the state, and the ruling class knows it and thrives off it. For years, in different ways and to varying extents, it’s also been gun owners, pro life activists, home-schoolers, divorced fathers, and independent entrepreneurs among others. It can be one group that endures the jackboot today and a seemingly opposing group that suffers tomorrow. But the primary concern for a free society is not which kinds of people should have their freedom smashed. The real concern is liberty for all. The capacity of the state to divide peaceful people into groups and set them against one another is its capacity to oppress. When anyone is victimized by the state, all who believe in and love the universal values of freedom, as well as the finer principles on which America was founded, have a moral obligation to oppose it. A government that can get away with what it did at Waco is essentially unleashed, constrained only by its own whim.

After Waco it was becoming more popular to criticize the government and there was more open hatred of their tactics. At that time it was mostly the right that spoke out against unchecked government power, erosions of the Bill of Rights, and the imperial executive. But the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, which occurred on Waco’s two-year anniversary, saved the Clinton presidency and government from a population becoming angry at government abuses of power as it’s partisans successfully blamed the terrorist attack on anti-government attitudes.

After the OKC bombing, suddenly we were to believe that even the mild criticism of government heard on mainstream conservative radio was aiding the terrorists. Then the most dramatic change occured with 9-11. After that it became even more politically incorrect to openly criticize government excesses, whether under Bush or Obama. One side will accuse the other of of siding with “the terrorists”.

Waco is a reflection of a greater problem. Look at the many laws and policies in America leading up to Waco, and Waco shouldn’t be any surprise. Look at Waco, and the post 9-11 Homeland Security police state falls into place. The continuity between the Clinton and Bush and Obama presidencies on issues of civil liberties demonstrate something that many people don’t want to wrap their minds around. America’s police state is utterly bipartisan. It is designed to persist and indeed extend its reach with each administration, no matter the party in charge. In fact, the political party illusion serves to distract people from the real issues, the state’s trampling of our liberties, and instead devote their hopeful attention and energy to getting one dictatorial gang elected rather than the other.

Both Clinton and Bush, and now Obama have gotten away with massive prosecutorial abuses, federal police brutality and dramatic attacks on due process for the accused, all while the people have argued over which side is the worse liar and central manager and not how best to restore liberty in America. So Bush’s Patriot Act was condemned by the left while he was in office, but Obama’s and Clinton’s assaults on privacy are ignored or encouraged. The right called Clinton’s seizure of Elian Gonzalez tyrannical, but thought Bush had the “inherent authority” to detain and abuse people without trial or due process. The left lamented how loyally the mainstream media toed Bush’s line on WMD in Iraq, but wasn’t nearly as critical when the media parroted Clinton’s Kosovo war propaganda.

Obama’s and Clinton’s gun grabbing are decried as totalitarian by the right, whereas the Bush federal government got away with door-to-door gun confiscations in New Orleans after Katrina. The federal response to Katrina alone should have lost Bush all of his support among those who found Waco unacceptable.

The worst of this problem of the bipartisan police state is seen in the “they did it, so why can’t we?” form of argument. How many times did we hear Bush’s defenders cite something horrifying that Clinton did or said as evidence that Bush’s actions weren’t as beyond the pale as his critics claimed, after all? This is a disingenuous line of argument coming from those who lambast Obama or Clinton. But it is effective so long as Americans care more about their team winning the electoral championship every four years than about the fact that the whole game is fixed. If Clinton’s officials conducted a large civilian massacre on American soil, should Bush have been allowed to as well?

One interesting thought experiment is to ponder what would have happened if it had been Bush who torched the Branch Davidian home. My guess is that he’d get away with it just as Clinton did. In contrast, however, the American right would not be nearly as outraged as it was, or pretended to be, in the early 1990s. The left, on the other hand, would be quite enraged, far more than it actually was in 1993. It might even point out that half of Bush’s victims at the Waco siege were persons of color. As it actually happened, the left didn’t even notice the demographics of the slaughtered. You see, the establishment left typically saves the race card to play in partisan games.

America’s had this bipartisan police state for a long time. It was Republican Abraham Lincoln who waged war on half the country and suspended the Bill of Rights in the other half. It was Democrat Woodrow Wilson who really honed the art of imprisoning dissenters. It was the Republicans in the 1920s who adamantly enforced alcohol prohibition. Democrat Franklin Roosevelt tossed the Japanese Americans in concentration camps. When Republicans turned the heat on leftists during the Cold War, they were only emulating their Democrat predecessors’ surveillance and harassment of Old-Right and far-left dissenters in the 30s and 40s.

Both Republicans and Democrats are fervently pro-gun control. Neither party has ever done anything significant to rein in the IRS. And just as Clinton’s men helped to whitewash the massacre at Ruby Ridge, which occurred on the first Bush’s watch, Republican fixers were eager to cover up the Clinton administration’s wrongdoing at Waco.

The trend continues today. Although Obama and his cadre have set some precedents, the Republican opposition offers little hope. Bush spied on Americans with no regard for the Bill of Rights or even the meager statutory restraints imposed on him, and all the Democrats did was whine that they weren’t in on the snooping, and that next time they wanted to be informed. Of course, they all have an interest in keeping the police state healthy and strong. The idea that the Democrats are more sensitive to civil liberties while at the empire’s helm is too absurd for words. Obama’s abuses of power far outshine any of his predecessors.

Waco should remind us that Democrats are no more restrained than the Republicans when it comes to being “tough on crime,” if all that entails is using the bludgeon of state power against all social elements the ruling class has deemed less than human. It should also remind us that that bludgeon is no more surgically precise or benevolent no matter who wields it, and how corrupting it is for those who do. This should have been obvious to all, as the Bush government turned Iraq into one big Branch Davidian compound.

If ever Americans are to have their rightful liberty, a political realignment must emerge that shatters the dishonest and distracting constructs of left and right, Democrat and Republican, and focuses instead on liberty versus the state. Asking a liberal what he thinks of Waco, or Obama’s list of abuses might give you an idea of whether he tends toward liberty or statism. Asking a conservative about Iraq or the door-to-door gun confiscations in New Orleans after Katrina may provide similar illumination. The atrocity apologists on left and right should be seen as on the same side on the issue of state power, and those of us who oppose mass murder must work together against the criminal bipartisan police state.

R.J.E., Anthony Gregory