by Carol Moore
I was one of millions of Americans who, after seeing the April 19, 1993 burning of the Branch Davidian church outside of Waco, Texas wondered: Did these people really commit mass suicide, as the government alleged, despite the clear evidence on television that the fire started after a tank crashed into one part of the building? Were they really as insane as the government claimed? Why did they have to be attacked with massive, military-like force 51 days earlier? What is the truth?
After two years of research I came to the following conclusions, documented in my book The Davidian Massacre published in late 1995. After the book came out more evidence surfaced that back up allegations -- and answer questions -- presented in the book. I review both below. See the links above for the book's online version and other information.
On February 28,1993 overly aggressive and highly militarized agents of BATF set out to put on a "big show" to increase their budgets and prestige by attacking the Branch Davidian religious group outside of Waco, Texas. Six months earlier, agents had spurned David Koresh's attempts to cooperate with their investigation of his gun business by inviting them to see his guns. On February 28, when he came to the front door and tried to cooperate, reckless agents shot him and mortally wounded his father-in-law. Other agents started shooting from helicopters, killing four Davidians. Agents probably assassinated another Davidian who approached Mount Carmel later that day. And so began a 51 day standoff.
Davidians and their on-site attorney made it clear to FBI negotiators that evidence of illegal gunfire in the highest roofs and walls of Mount Carmel would lead to prosecution of agents for murder. One of the Davidians' motivations for refusing to surrender was their demands for assurances this evidence would not be destroyed by BATF investigators after they left the premises. It was not until the end of March that outside attorneys told them that Texas Rangers, who they trusted, and not BATF, would be investigating.
FBI Hostage Rescue Team member hearing of these claims, and bent on revenge for the deaths of four BATF agents killed by Davidian defenders during the February 28th BATF attack, did their best to sabotage negotiations. They escalated harassment of Davidians every time individuals left Mount Carmel, turning off power, faking tank attacks, turning on bright lights and loud music. Finally, distrustful Davidians stopped coming out at all.
At the same time agents began a campaign of lies to Attorney General Janet Reno about the status of negotiations, the alleged beating of children, the safety of CS gas, the rules of engagement, and other issues, tricking her into approving their gas and tank assault. They set it up to make sure that the attack would lead to the destruction of the building, its incriminating evidence–and scores of inconvenient Davidian witnesses to BATF crimes.
On April 19, 1993, as the tank assault began, FBI agents falsely claimed that Davidians broke their phone, making negotiations impossible. Davidians believe a tank broke the line. They claimed Davidians shot at them, giving them an excuse to speed up their plan to massively gas Davidian and rip apart Mount Carmel with tanks. Davidians pleaded with gestures and signs to have their phones fixed--they were terrified of being shot or run over by tanks if they started exiting. For even as tanks rammed the building, the FBI lied, calling out over loudspeakers, "This is not an assault."
After six hours of tank attacks, a fire started, probably by the last tank attack knocking over a lantern–but possibly by an FBI incendiary device at the front of the building. Infrared (FLIR) video evidence strongly suggests an agent in an FBI tank lobbed an incendiary device into the back of the building after the first fire, starting a second fire. Wind whipped fire swept through the tinderbox of a building. Most Davidians were trapped by debris and collapsed stairwells on the second floor or inside the concrete room. There is evidence on FLIR video that FBI or Delta force personnel shot at least 70 shots at the back of building during the fire, probably to stop Davidians trying to escape. There even is evidence, dramatized convincingly in the new film “Waco: A New Revelation” that FBI or Delta Force personnel sneaked into the building and placed a shaped charge on top of the concrete room to kill Davidian leaders who they believed were hiding there. Nineteen men, thirty-four women and twenty-three children died that day.
The trial of eleven survivors was a travesty of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct. Nine Davidians received a total of 243 years in sentences. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear their appeals on the 30 year sentences the judge meted out to them for carrying a gun during the commission of a crime–even though the jury found them innocent of that crime, murder of federal agents. He also failed to tell the jury they could find the Davidians innocent of aiding and abetting voluntary manslaughter by reason of defense, something some jurors declare they would have done! On June 4, 2000 the seven Davidians still imprisoned, aided by noted Second Amendment attorney Stephen Halbrook, won their Supreme Court appeal and their sentences were cut to a total of 105 years. Six of the seven were released from prison in 2006, one in 2007.
In 1995, after two weeks of hearings, Congress announced it had gotten out all the truth –and promised it had gotten federal agents under control. My book reviews many reasons that was not true. For details about continuing revelations until the end of the year 2000 see Waco News.
In 1999, pushed by evidence from Davidian civil suit investigators and attorneys, as well as film-makers, "Waco" made the headlines again. “Ex-agent says device fired at Waco compound,” “[Texas Rangers] official says Army force present at Waco siege,” “Reno Says FBI Misled Her About Waco Arms,” “Reno and Freeh Agree on New Independent Probe of Waco” and “Independent Counsel and Congress Investigate Waco” blared across newspapers front pages and web pages of America. Of course these weren’t “revelations” to most Waco researchers, government critics and Davidian attorneys–or to people who had seen the Academy Award-nominated and Emmy winning film “Waco: the Rules of Engagement.” Congress promised yet another round of Waco hearings but in the end only a few Senators took the matter seriously.
Then President Bill Clinton appointed former Senator John Danforth to investigate. Danforth believed the FBI, conducted questionable forensic tests, and his year 2000 report again exonerated FBI agents. The only prosecution Danforth brought was against the federal prosecutor who allowed a Waco investigator too free an access to evidence, prompting the 1999 revelation that FBI agents had used pyrotechnic devices on April 19th, despite their previous denials. (The prosecutor earlier had engaged in coverups of evidence of BATF agents' crimes against Davidians, so we shouldn't feel too badly for him.) He claimed to be a whistleblower -- thereby making sure the government knew he could expose a lot more cover ups -- and received only probation after plea bargaining.
Why has there been such a cover up of the truth about Waco? Simply put, the truth is too terrible for the American people to hear: federal agents twice attacked and murdered a total of 82 civilians, mostly women, children and the elderly–half of them people of color. And the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of our “Constitutional Republic” let them get away with it. All branches have a vested interest for finding federal agents innocent of all crimes–protection of their own perks and privileges.
The truth would undermine Americans’ faith in their political system. Waco film-maker Michael McNulty has revealed some in Congress fear “The truth would just inflame the crazies.” Americans must demand prosecution of all responsible agents and financial reparations to the Davidian prisoners who spent more than a dozen years in prison, victims of government crimes against them.