by Benedict D. LaRosa
INCIDENT IN WACO:
ENFORCING THE LAW OR PURGING NONCONFORMISTS?
Reminiscent of the Weaver incident in ldaho last August, approximately 100 heavily armed federal agents from the Bureau of AlcohoI, Tobacco, & Firearms (BATF) stormed the headquarters of a religious organization near Waco, Texas, on suspicion of firearm violations.
As they broke into the buildings, the BATF officers were met by heavy gunfire from the occupants. Almost immediately, four BATF agents and from seven to 14 members of the religious community died. including a two-year-old child. Fifteen BATF agents and an unknown number of sect members were injured. One hundred people inhabited the compound at the time of the attack, about one-half of them women and children.
The religious community is part of the Branch Davidians, an offshoot of a sect which broke away from the Seventh Day Adventists in 1934. They espouse self-sufficiency and a survivalist creed. With the exception of a minor shooting incident in 1987 between supporters of their present leader, David Koresh, and followers of the group's previous leader, they have lived peacefully in the Waco area for almost 50 years.
The government and the media have presented an overwhelmingly negative picture of the Branch Davidians, referring to them as a cult and comparing their leader to Jim Jones and Charles Manson. Reporters have called Koresh a religious fanatic and self-proclaimed Messiah who claims to be the son of God. There have been accusations of brainwashing, sexual abuse, unexplained disappearances, and strange rituals. The sect is considered isolationist with a persecution complex because they prepare for a time of world disorder when Christians such as them expect to be persecuted. Koresh is held responsible for the bloodbath.
The BATF claims its agents were merely trying to serve federal search and arrest warrants on Koresh based on complaints by neighbors that the sect had machine guns and explosives on the property. They stated that since Koresh rarely leaves the compound. they were forced to go in after him, and that members of the sect opened fire first.
Press reports of the incident have been biased for good reason. With the exception of the first few hours when reporters were close enough to observe events and Koresh was able to communicate by telephone with newsmen, government agents have kept the media two or more miles from the complex and dependent upon them for news. The media is thus reduced to parroting the government's line. There is no impartial negotiator such as Bo Gritz or Jack McLamb to report the other side of the story as happened during the standoff in Idaho. Little wonder we are getting a distorted picture of events.
The government's story contradicts certain facts and leaves several questions unanswered. Why were 100 heavily armed men of the Special Operations Group needed to serve search and arrest warrants on people with no previous history of violence? Contrary to government claims, Koresh regularly jogs outside the compound and could have been easily arrested anytime. In addition, a BATF spokesman admitted that they had been planning the assault for months and practicing it for days. News videos of the beginning of the confrontation appear to show BATF agents provoking the violence by breaking into several buildings. Those within seem to have fired in self-defense.
If those within the compound were suspected of criminal activity, why didn't the McClennan County Sheriff handle the matter? Why were federal agents involved? Had someone in the community harmed anyone or threatened to do so? What crime did the Branch Davidians commit to warrant such a raid? Possessing machine guns and explosives are not crimes, even if true. There is a machine gun shoot every year in Helotes where a large number of machine gun toting citizens safely display and fire their weapons. And it's common for rural people to use explosives to uproot tree stumps and do other chores.
The day before the incident, a Waco newspaper began a series of negative stories about the Branch Davidians focusing on the number and type of firearms within the compound. Publication was delayed at the request of federal law enforcement officials to coincide with their attack. Why?
Almost immediately upon news of the incident and before the facts were known, Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock called for, a ban on military type semi-automatic weapons, and President Clinton chastised the National Rifle Association for standing in the way of reasonable gun control measures. Five days later. Governor Ann Richards called for stricter control of guns. Was this simple political grandstanding or does it indicate a coordinated plan to provoke violence to justify further gun control measures?
The frequent reference to the Branch Davidians as a "cult" also arouses suspicion. Although the word does not have a negative meaning, its use by conventional religions to attack non-traditional sects and popular ignorance have given the word a negative connotation. The use of the term is obviously being used to alienate the Branch Davidians from the populace. Why? Perhaps to distract public attention from the real motive behind the raid.
The sect's beliefs, however strange, are irrelevant to the issue. History records that all Messiahs are self-proclaimed. Many people consider God their father, which would make them his sons and daughters. The rumor of strange rituals is reminiscent of the accusations against the, early Christians who were reported to eat the body of their founder and drink his blood. Claims of sexual abuse, brain washing. etc. are unsubstantiated despite official investigations. Noah was ridiculed for being an alarmist when he built an ark in preparation for the deluge. John, the author of Revelation, predicted catastrophes which have yet to occur. As with Noah, the Branch Davidians will either be proved right or wrong by events.
There is also a question of jurisdiction. The U.S. Constitution limits the criminal jurisdiction of the federal government over state citizens to counterfeiting. piracy, felonies committed on the high seas. and offenses against the Laws of Nations. Its territorial jurisdiction is limited to federal territories and enclaves such as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, military bases, etc. Firearm violations within the state of Texas are outside its jurisdiction. This is a created crime having no natural, common law, or constitutional basis.
Under the natural or common law, a crime is an assault on the life, liberty, or property of another. The mere possession and responsible use of an item can never be a crime. Many Americans know that they have a right to own, possess, and operate firearms, and that when it comes to rights, legislative restrictions do not have the force of law. The problem arises when ignorant civil servants try to enforce such edicts upon people determined to exercise their rights. The result is what happened in Idaho last August and in Waco beginning February 28.
It appears that the Branch Davidians are doing no more than what other religious and secular groups and individuals have been doing for decades: stockpiling food, water, medical supplies, munitions, and other necessities in anticipation of a social and economic collapse in the near future.
In conclusion, there was no problem before the arrival of federal assault troops. Federal agents have no business roaming around the state in heavily armed bands attacking peaceful Texans for violating pretended legislation. This is not a war between a cult and the law, but between citizens upholding their rights and civil servants gone astray. Instead of protecting the public, as a BATF agent characterized the attack, it appears more as an excuse for more gun control and a purge of non-conformists. o
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