By Doug Newman
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Published in the Rocky Mountain News on September 23, 1999.
NOTE: The murder of 80 innocent people at the Branch Davidian compound 20 years ago today was a test run to see just how much the feds could get away with. As it turns out, they can get away with just about anything with the blessing of the majority of the American people.
One need not be a psychopath in a cave in Montana to be indignant about the atrocities committed at Waco in the spring of 1993. The incineration of 80 people, without any due process, was one of the most horrifying events in recent memory.
In his September 5 column, Mike Littwin speaks of the recent revelations about FBI actions in the Waco tragedy. He writes, “The sound you’re hearing is the full-throated roar of vindication from conspiracy theorists everywhere.” It is as if only lunatic fringe types would attribute this massacre to a government run amok. Over the last six years, I have talked with plenty of people of all political stripes who express horror at the Waco massacre.
David Koresh was a wacko, as was anyone who would follow him. There is a difference, however, between being a kook and being a criminal. The Branch Davidians lived for years on the outskirts of Waco, and did nothing to harm those in the area. If the feds felt Koresh violated any laws, they could have served him a warrant on one of his very frequent trips into town. There was no justification whatsoever for the amount of firepower with which the feds surrounded the Davidian compound.
Oh sure, Waco made for sensational television. This could only happen in an intellectually and morally bankrupt nation. The nonchalant response of so many Americans shows how far we have drifted from our dual moorings of constitutionalism and limited government. Time and again we hear that, because the Davidians were so weird, their rights were just not that important. (The silence about Waco from mainstream Christian pulpits has been particularly appalling. What if the feds had torched a community of traditional Christians similar to those described in the biblical book of Acts?)
The government’s quest for truth and justice concerning Waco has been about as vigorous as O.J. Simpson’s search for Ron and Nicole’s real killers. Bill Clinton is not Hitler, and Janet Reno is not Himmler. However, Waco happened on their watch. Freedom lovers everywhere should be highly indignant about this tragedy. That Clinton and Reno could carry out such an atrocity with impunity suggests that America is heading in a dangerous direction.