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The Waco Massacre Revisited





 As we look back on this horrific event, there are many lessons Christians can learn about the massacre performed as a military operation upon civilians by the United States government against a small cult.  One has to ask, could this happen to the church under a liberal or even conservative President in the future?




A Brief Background




The Waco massacre which happened in 1993, involving David Koresh, the Branch Davidians, the Bureau Of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is one of the most disturbing chapters in the whole of American history and Christians should take note of this.



David Koresh was a cult leader, and not a Christian by any means. Normally in our society cult leaders are often times referred to as another "Jim Jones"...The hatred for cult leaders which are generally small in size, is very much hyped up by the media and the government.  In this case, David Koresh was blamed for the fire and the deaths of those who followed him...Even so-called conservative Pat Robertson jumped on the bandwagon as to blaming David Koresh for the whole thing.  So did many of the so-called Christian media outlets.  But as we shall see, this wasn't the case at all.




Leading up to the Waco Massacre

Rumors Fly Around about the Cult's Activities




 The Davidians were running a very profitable gun business.  They were working with a gun deal named Henry McMahon, who held a Class III dealer's license allowing him to legally own, sell, and buy, any type of weapon. In April of 1993, McMahon told the Pensacola television show "Lawline" that Koresh had purchased a large number of legal military-style semi-automatics as an investment, assuming that their value would increase if the government somehow restricted their manufacture or sales in the future. Considering that this had happened with other guns in the past, this was a reasonable business investment. McMahon said most of these guns were kept boxed and never fired, to enhance resale value. Now long after the interview accusations began to surface such as a stockpile full of explosives and weapons, some of which were reported to be illegally converted to rapid-fire automatic.



Also while the rumors were floating around about illegal weapons, the local media was printing a series of stories about Koresh entitled; "The Sinful Messiah." which detailed accusations of child abuse and polygamy.  As a result of the media coverage and hearsay evidence, the  suspicions by the government contained nothing more than merely conjecture. A plan was formulated many months in advance to carry out the warrant once the government agency received  it. The plan was to attack the compound where the cult lived. But first they decided to do a little scouting and make an attempt to place spies and listening devices on the inside of the cult.



In February 25th, BATF agent Davy Aguilera, with the assistance of U.S. Attorneys Bill Johnston and John Phinizy, produced a "Probable Cause Affidavit in Support of Search Warrant." On the basis of that affidavit, Magistrate Judge Dennis S. Green signed a search warrant for illegal weapons and explosives for Mount Carmel and the "Mag Bag" garage and an arrest warrant for David Koresh for possession of an unregistered destructive device. [65] However, Treasury Department officials nixed the raid plan when they discovered its existence Friday, February 26th. BATF Director Higgins convinced officials that because of the Waco Herald-Tribune series on the Branch Davidians, February 28th might be the last opportunity to, as one put it, "catch the cult members unprepared and away from their stockpile of heavy weaponry."



The Raids and Standoff in the Waco Massacre




It's not my intent to go over every single detail, but just give you a brief overview of what happened during the attack.  It was close to 10 o'clock, as three teams formed to enter the building, an agent went to the compound's front door and knocked. "The first entry team was to be inside the front door within seven seconds after the convoy pulled up to the compound," says Linedecker. "All the assault teams would be deployed within thirteen seconds." They'd been preparing for this for eight months, and each team had an assignment—protect the children, neutralize the military force, and seize the arms. Notice how the government is treating the cult not as civilians, but as a "military force."



David Koresh looks from behind a steel door to see agents there with a warrant. He quickly closes the door in their face.  Then a gun battle erupted.  Both sides shooting at each other with a Blackhawk helicopter shooting from above.  Although the government denied there was gunfire coming from the Blackhawk, survivors of the skirmish and the subsequent standoff claimed that bullets came in through the ceiling, which meant that agents in the helicopter were firing into the compound. Women from inside who survived claimed they'd placed their bodies over the children to protect them from the rain of bullets.



There was screaming going on inside the compound while others were yelling. ATF bullets pierced the front door, behind which Koresh had been standing. Several people had been hit, including cultists firing from the tower, and four were wounded while five were dead. Finally after two hours of shooting, a truce was reached and the agents were able to gather their wounded which was 16 agents and their dead which was 4 agents.  This started the 51 day standoff. A standoff that included such psyhco-war tactics such as sleep deprivation of the inhabitants in the small cult's community by means of all-night broadcasts of recordings of the screams of rabbits being slaughtered.


During the 51 day standoff, the FBI, and US Army took over. David Koresh made a pledge to surrender upon completion of his written explanation of the meaning of the Seven Seals in the Bible.  But the government disregarded such a pledge and decided to attack the compound with greater force and leaking out to the press that they were doing it for the "children." who they said were being abused.




At dawn on April 19, 1993, and throughout the morning, tanks rammed holes in the main building and pumped (in the FBI's words) "massive amounts" of CS gas into the building, despite knowing that inside were more than a dozen children. The tanks demolished parts of the compound and created tunnels for the wind to blow through. The buildings at this point were saturated with inflammable CS gas and spilled kerosene. 




By midday, the US military started a fire in the compound with pyrotechnic devices that were fired into the main building.  Holes in the building created by the military fueled the fire to spread massively and quickly. For six years the US government denied using any pyrotechnic device. During that six year of denial Congress held hearings concerning Waco in 1996. This hearing concluded that, "On April 19th&multiple fires began in different places inside the Branch Davidian residence and that they were deliberately set by the Davidians themselves."   Finally in 1999 admission by the government which said they indeed did use such pyrotechnic devices.  (http://www.cnn.com/US/9908/24/fbi.waco/). 




However, they still denied starting the fire and treated using the devices as non factors in what caused the compound to go up in flames.  The media even downplayed the devices as being "potentially flammable" not just flammable. But one can only conclude why deny using the devices for six years?  The government seems to indicate, they are not telling us the whole story. After the compound had burned down the BATF flag was hoisted aloft to signify 'victory'. When it was all said and done, about 76 men, women and children died — including twelve children younger than five years of age.



Questionable Evidence About the Illegal Guns




BATF Agent Davy Aguilera was investigating the Cult's practices of obtaining firearms. He  attended two gun shows with Vernon Howell, Mike Schroeder, Paul Fatta, and Henry McMahon who is a Federally licensed firearms dealer and was working along side the Branch Davidians in the gun business." Yet Aguilera was unable to conclude there was no illegal activity going on and continued to look for evidence such as contained in his affidavit where he interviewed a man named Breault and reported his activities as "participated in firearmed shooting exercises conducted by Howell.  He stood guard  armed with a loaded weapon."  What agent Aguilera failed to mention or perhaps on purpose failed to mention was the fact that Breault was legally blind.  He is a guy who is able to see enough to throw a ball down an alley but not well enough to see which pins he knocked down. According to Breault he used an air rifle for target practice and residents said he was never a guard there nor was he ever trained at Mt Carmel.  




The Cult had a pretty huge inventory of guns while conducting it's business. The inventory consisted of; one hundred four (104) AR-15/M-16, upper receiver groups with barrels; eight thousand, one hundred (8,100) rounds of 9mm and .223 caliber ammunition for AR-15/M-16; twenty (20), one hundred round capacity drum magazines for AK-47 rifles; two hundred sixty (260), M-16/Ar-15, magazines; thirty (30) M-14 magazines; two (2) M-16 EZ kits; two (2) M-16 Car Kits; one M-76 grenade launcher; two hundred (200) M-31 practice rifle grenades; four (4) M-16 parts set Kits "A"; two (2) flare launchers; two cases (approximately 50) inert practice hand grenades; 40-50 pounds of black gun powder; thirty (30) pounds of Potassium Nitrate; five (5) pounds of Magnesium metal powder; one pound of Igniter cord (A class C explosive); ninety-one (91) AR/15 lower receiver units; twenty-six (26) various calibers and brands of hand guns and long guns; 90 pounds of aluminum metal powder; 30-40 cardboard tubes. The amount of expenditures for the above listed firearm paraphernalia, excluding the (91) AR-15 lower receiver units and the (26) complete firearms, was in excess of $44,300."




All these guns, gun parts, powders, inert grenades, and other equipment were lawfully purchased and may be legally owned. None per se established probable cause that Koresh had violated or was about to violate federal law. As has been noted, the seemingly large amounts are not illegal either according to the Firearms Owners' Protection Act of 1986 and the Supreme Court decision United States vs. Anders, nor are they unusual for someone dealing in weapons or holding them as an investment.




Aguilera failed to investigate or on purpose failed to investigate the one dealer who might possibly have sold Koresh illegal arms. In the affidavit he states his reason, "because of the sensitivity of the investigation" so in effect he didn't bother contacting any of the "vendors with questionable trade practices" who had sold to Koresh, including one suspected of "unlawful possession of machineguns, silencers, destructive devices, and machinegun conversion kits." So what the evidence appears to be is that Aguilera refused to check to see if Koresh had bought illegal items from this source and instead inferred probable cause.



As of December, 1992, Aguilera's only evidence that the Branch Davidians were doing one or more of these things was that they had bought a number of legal weapons and legal gun parts which, with the help of a few parts they did not have, can be converted into machineguns. Aguilera states that Firearms Enforcement Officer Curtis Bartlett told him that the firearms parts which Howell had received, and the method by which he had received them, was consistent with findings in other BATF investigations which resulted in the seizure of illegal machineguns. However, BATF's suspicions remained pure conjecture.


The Evidence Suggests Massacre the Cult and Destroy the Rest




One gets the feeling after reviewing the gun investigation, the Cult in the government eyes was guilty, and also the US government was trying very hard not to get to the bottom of this issue, but withhold facts from the public by telling the whole story in an attempt to try and make this cult look so bad that military action was only option. The evidence also suggests that the US government intended that no person, man, woman or child continue to leave the compound alive. For example, CS gas according to the government was used in the final raid in order to flush out the cultists from the compound.  I'm sure you marines or ex-marines are familiar with this type of gas because it's part of the training to go through 40 seconds worth of it.  CS gas is normally used for outdoors to control riots, not indoors. The gas renders the person who's exposed to it immobile.  When a marine is expose to this gas, after the training session, normally he needs to be helped out of the building as he can't do it on his own. And that's only being exposed to for 40 seconds.  Now some in the compound did have gas masks, however none of the children did nor the women had gas masks.  One has to ask, why use this gas (which makes people immobile not mobile) to flush people out of the building? Also why use this gas on the very ones (the children) who you claim to be trying to save from abuse in the compound?




Child Abuse Allegations 




Speaking of the children, the accusation of child abuse was the reason why the US government attacked the second time and not wait for the cultists to surrender.  As it turns out, there was no abuse coming from the cult on it's own kids.  There was talk about David Koresh beating babies but that all it was just talk, no evidence to confirm such an allegation.  Despite what the government said there was overwhelming evidence of child abuse, the likes of FBI Director William Sessions acknowledged, there was "no contemporaneous evidence" of child abuse; given the many FBI listening devices inside the Mount Carmel Center, Sessions' conclusion appears accurate. As the FBI well knew, Koresh, having been wounded so severely on February 28 by a BATF sniper that he thought we was going to die soon, was in no position to physically or sexually abuse anyone in the subsequent weeks. A few months after the fire, Reno said that she might have misunderstood the FBI comments, and there was no evidence of ongoing child abuse in the besieged home.




However, Reno changed two years later by giving another explanation on why the compound was attacked.  In May 1995,  Reno said. The "first and foremost" reason was that "Individuals sympathetic to Koresh were threatening to take matters into their own hands to end the stalemate [and] were at various times reportedly on the way."  But while child abuse had disappeared as a rationale, a child welfare issue remained: "They [the FBI] told me that the conditions were deteriorating inside. I was concerned about the safety of the people inside. The behavioral experts were telling me that children--for a siege that could last a year--it would have a lasting effect on them."



In Conclusion

Some say it was a total debacle that is all.  A debacle?  For 8 months they trained for the first raid and then conducted a military mission against untrained civilians.  Who had the better resources and training?  Who was really more prepared?  The government of course, not the cult, it  was the government who had the better training, better weapons, and was way more prepared! 



As we know, the US government also covered up a number of things including such things as the pyrotechnic devices for six years, kept out key parts of  information which made various people looked worse than they actually were. We to this day most likely will never know what all really happened during the Waco Massacre. But we know one thing for sure, this should have never happened. And it is scary that a country who claims to believe in "freedom" carry out such a massacre on it's own soil. Christians must pray for this government as well as others in which they live in...For governments like this, really and absolutely needs God.


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