OT? Waco: The dog breaks the leash

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Waco: The dog breaks the leash

That howling in your ears has nothing to do with hurricane season. Nope, it's not the sound of yet another North Carolina barrier island leaving for a tour of Europe and points beyond; instead, it's the noise made by the supposedly loyal and helpful pooch of the federal government as it's revealed to have turned, yet again on its masters. Y'see, the unsavory truth about the 1993 Waco massacre just turned up in the yard, and that seemingly friendly mutt turns out to be a mad dog.

By now, unless you live in a cave or attend public school (all right, that's a cheap shot), you know that after six years of denials, the Federal Bureau of Incendiaries  err  Investigation has fessed up to using pyrotechnic teargas grenades against the Branch Davidian settlement on April 19, 1993. That's the day that the FBI moved to end a 51-day siege with a tank assault which concluded in a raging inferno that took the lives of eighty-odd people. Of course, the FBI still denies that it was in any way responsible for the fire, accusing the Davidians of incinerating themselves.

But the denials by J. Edgar's heirs sound increasingly hollow, since the six-year coverup of the use of pyrotechnics ended only under duress. Independent investigators, including Mike McNulty, one of the makers of the Oscar-nominated documentary, Waco: The Rules of Engagement, gained access to evidence lockers that had been hidden from prying eyes by an apparently deliberate bureaucratic catch 22. Federal officials maintained jurisdiction over the leavings of the Waco disaster, but left it in the possession of the Texas Rangers, who had no authority to grant access; requests to see the material bounced back and forth between D.C. and Austin.

Once they realized what they had on their hands, the Texas Rangers were only too happy to hand the incriminating stuff to the federal judge presiding over a lawsuit by surviving Branch Davidians against the federal government.

But that seems to have just been the beginning. Along with the fire-bug teargas grenades revealed to public view came accounts of a videotape taken by Texas Rangers of the final assault on the Davidian settlement. According to The Washington Post, "some experts say [it] appears to show machine gun fire directed at the compound's occupants from an FBI helicopter the morning of April 19." That's a horrifying revelation that suggests that the final assault at Waco was staged with murderous intent, more to destroy the Davidians than to break the siege. The charge is unproven, as of yet, but the fact that an establishment organ like the Post was even willing to air such an allegation is a major political sea change.

The third serious revelation to-date hinges on the role played by the military at Waco. Former CIA officer Gene Cullen told the Dallas Morning News "that he learned from Delta Force commandos that members of the secret Army unit were 'present, up front and close' in helping the FBI in the final tear-gas assault on the Branch Davidian compound." Filmmaker McNulty claims to have proof that Cullen is telling the truth and that Delta Force commandos were actually "pulling triggers" during the final confrontation. Military personnel have been barred from civilian law-enforcement activities since the late nineteenth century without a specific presidential waiver, so evidence supporting such a charge would brand the federal operation at Waco as an illegal abuse of power.

Federal officials have gone so far as to admit that military personnel were present, but only as observers  a split-the-difference admission that may be true, but carries little credibility when the FBI has already been caught lying about a possible cause of the fatal inferno at Waco.

So that's the headlines-to-date recap, but what's it all mean? Will anything come of the new information?

Almost certainly. The information came out because of the pending trial of the lawsuit against the federal government, and because of research for McNulty's new documentary, Waco: A New Revelation which is due for release within a month or so. The lawsuit is moving forward despite the government's best efforts, and the documentary will hit screens amidst much greater publicity than its predecessor received; there's little that the government spinmeisters can do to head off either occurrence.

That's not to say that the feds aren't going to try to blunt the impact. With even government-apologist par-excellence Charles Schumer calling for an independent investigation, the job of whitewashing what is at best a massive case of criminal negligence and increasingly looks like officially sanctioned homicide falls into the lap of Julian Epstein, Minority Chief Counsel in the House of Representatives. Every time Epstein appears on yet another talking-head show to deny that proof that the FBI lied is reason to reopen an investigation into Waco, he looks like he can feel the noose tightening around his neck.

He should feel that way; the consequences are potentially as great as they've ever been for the federal government. At the very least, the FBI will emerge from this mess stripped of all credibility and revealed as an abusive, out-of-control agency. Coupled with the FBI's expensive screw-up at Ruby Ridge (the Weaver family was paid in excess of three million dollars for the FBI's crimes), the crime lab scandal which resulted in the departure of whistleblower Frederick Whitehurst (who is now advising Mike McNulty), and a history of spying on civil rights, anti-war, and dissident groups, the Waco revelations suggest a very clear conclusion about J. Edgar Hoover's child: The Federal Bureau of Investigation should be disbanded. The idea of a federal police agency has always been problematic at best, anyway. Law enforcement is primarily a state and local function, and state police agencies are perfectly capable of chatting with each other from time to time and sharing information without having to bow toward the Potomac.

And as the Bureau is disbanded, those agents responsible for the abuses at Waco should be brought to trial. Government officials obviously need to be reminded, once more, that a badge isn't a James Bond-style license to kill.

But the blame should be shared with generosity. At the time of the Waco disaster, Attorney General Janet Reno announced that she took full responsibility for the outcome. That's a lot of responsibility to shoulder, but an appropriate pronouncement by the official who authorized the final assault. There's no reason why she shouldn't be fired immediately based on the evidence that's already surfaced.

And her boss? Well, no evidence has yet fingered el jefe for directly authorizing illegal activities at Waco, but if his political fingerprints are found in that evidence locker, all bets should be off.

The Waco massacre is a stain on America and the American government that won't be erased. The incident revealed the U.S. government for what it has always been, though we often forget: A vicious dog that turns on its supposed owners more often than it defends them. That's a lesson that we needed to learn again, though its teaching always costs blood. If you don't keep the vicious dog chained in the yard, if you insist on letting it in the house, mayhem will result.

Maybe we should just put Cujo down for good.

-- El Gordo (none@none.none), September 01, 1999


To the top of New Answers, where all can see.

-- King of Spain (madrid@aol.com), September 01, 1999.

Time to find a new dog. One that isn't being regularly fed by our slave-owning neighbors, the Communist Chinese.


-- Liberty (liberty@theready.now), September 01, 1999.

Great article, but I think the main thrust of it is a idea worthy of debate. Disband the FBI?? While at first blush it sounds like a good idea, In thinking back about why it was formed in the first place. the first thing that comes to mind is local police/political corruption. If the FBI dog were taken on that "last special" trip to the Vet, who would keep the locals from setting up their own little kingdom? I know that in Miami we need someone to come in every now and then to take out the trash. Can we trust our local law enforcement to police themselves and their cronies in city hall?

As for that FBI dog, I do however hope it gets taken to the Vet for a "special operation".... snip snip

-- Bob (bob@bob.bob), September 01, 1999.

The FBI is just the tail. The real dog is the Fed itself, which has taken the step of using it's might against it's own citizens. Read your Constitution: it's build around the DREAD that the Federal government could get as big and strong and lawless as it is today; the thing is a laundry-list of vital limitations on Federal power. Even the Bill of Rights is framed not in terms of what we can do, but in terms of what the Federal government can't do. Our rights are pre-existent and natural and NOT granted by the Federal government OR the Constitution. As Walter Lippmann said: "The Bill of Rights does not come from the people and is not subject to change by majorities. It comes from the nature of things. It declares the inalienable rights of man not only against all government but also against the people collectively." Look how far we have strayed from that original mandate of a strictly and severely limited Federal Government.

We need that dog to attack intruders, but when it gets a taste of the baby, it's time to take it out behind the barn, and then go shopping for a new one. Changing the color of the leash won't cut it.


-- Liberty (liberty@theready.now), September 01, 1999.

El Gordo???

Would that your moniker belonged to the ORIGINAL El Gordo...another piece of problematical governmental Skulduggery!

-- K. Stevens (kstevens@ It's ALL going away in January.com), September 01, 1999.

Has anyone heard GWB say ANYTHING about this? If not, why isn't he hitting on it as a way to discredit the Clinton administration? Too many shared skeletons?

-- Linda (lwmb@psln.com), September 01, 1999.

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