Who Is Responsible for the Branch Davidian Tragedy?

In an earlier column. I wrote that "many Americans see Mount Carmel as a modern-day Lexington." Little did I realize how prophetic those words would be.

On April 19, the 218th anniversary of the battle of Lexington, the end came for the Branch Davidians. Around 6 a.m., government forces used tanks to punch holes through the buildings at Mount Carmel, into which they poured tear gas. At noon, a fire of unknown origin burned the complex to the ground within an hour. As of this writing, only eight Davidians are known to have survived.

The FBI blames the Branch Davidians for setting the fire in a mass suicide. However, former members, Koresh's grandmother, and one religious historian who has studied the sect say that suicide is not a part of their creed. The actions of sect members in defending themselves and their home, as well as Koresh's recent signing of movie and book contracts, argue against suicide.

The government version arouses suspicion for other reasons. No firetrucks were on the scene for the final assault, an unusual oversight. One person seen lighting the fire wore a gasmask and a black uniform, similar to that used by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (BATF). Burning the scene of the crime to obliterate evidence of wrongdoing or to punish killers of law enforcers seems to be a modus operandi of government agents. In the Gordon Kahl incident of 1983, federal agents set fire to the house in which Kahl's body lay, after torturing, mutilating, and killing him. They claimed the fire was started accidently. A cameraman at the Weaver family standoff in Idaho last August filmed a helicopter with a fuel bladder suspended under its belly circling the Weaver cabin. When the cameraman waved, it sped away. Government agents later arrested the man and confiscated his film.

The fire could have started accidently in any number of ways as government forces attacked the compound. The Branch Davidians may have started the fire as a ruse or to drive off the attackers, perhaps miscalculating the intensity and direction of the wind. We may never know for sure.

Whatever the case, most people blame David Koresh, leader of the Branch Davidian religious sect, for the violence and standoff which began on February 28 and ended on April 19. Those who perished with Koresh are considered more his victims, though they don't escape criticism for following what some call a demented pastor. A growing minority blame federal agents for provoking the attack either through stupidity or malice.

But the tragic drama played out at Mount Carmel is merely the effect of forces placed in motion earlier by others. We have to look elsewhere for the causes and the real culprits. After all, there is no evidence that Koresh and his followers, however strange their religious beliefs, harmed anyone or planned to do so prior to the incident. All evidence indicates that they defended themselves against an unprovoked attack by federal agents.

The federal agents themselves were only following orders. They were enforcing the law as they saw it, albeit it heavy-handedly. That's not to exonerate them of blame. They swear an oath to the Constitution of the United States, yet most of them have probably never read that document or understand its contents. Taking the oath has become a mere formality, a public display of patriotism. They should have known that their orders and the edicts under which they were operating were unlawful. The Nurnberg trials following World War II set the precedent that following orders does not absolve one of responsibility for acts against the natural rights of individuals. Finally, there is no excuse for the federal agents not exercising common sense and good judgment in carrying out their orders, however faulty.

There are others, however, who bear the brunt of the responsibility for the deaths and injuries incurred by both sides in this siege — our legislators at the national, state, and local levels, and the people of America themselves.

Legislators today think they can declare anything they wish illegal in the face of constitutional restraints, unalienable rights, and plain reason. It is they who have "sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people. and eat out their substance" (Declaration of Independence). It is their gun control "Acts of pretended Legislation" (Declaration of Independence) which are the causes behind the effects of the tragedies in Waco recently and in Idaho last August.

Our legislators are influenced to exercise unlawful powers by elites with a hidden agenda and well-intended souls who confuse what people must do for what they should do, and thus insist that our public servants impose their preferences on everyone. Although many of the "well-intended" force their standards on others in the name of God, they obviously believe that the Good Lord didn't know what He was doing when He gave man free will. Liberty to them isn't freedom from restraint, but a choice among the variables they select.

Then there is the vast majority of Americans who, like sheep, go wherever those in power lead them, never realizing that they are being victimized by the very people they trust. The incidents in Waco and Idaho are of little concern to them. (For the most authoritative account to date of the incident in Idaho last August, see A Mountain of Lies: The Apprehension and Arrest of Idaho's Randy Weaver by Kirby Ferris, Rapid Lightning Press, Box 603, Stinson Beach, CA 94970.)

Finally, those who carry the heaviest burden of blame are our fellow citizens who know better but don't do better. They ignore or rationalize the unlawful activities of government, not from an inability to discern right from wrong, but from fear of involvement. Involvement brings the risk of being labeled a troublemaker and losing one's jobs, status, property, etc. So, they stick their heads in the sand and pretend that what happens to others will not affect them. They forget that those who stick their heads in the sand leave their butts exposed.

So, there is plenty of blame to go around, from misguided legislators who pass edicts which masquerade as law, to the self-righteous who encourage them, to elites who push a hidden agenda, to the ignorant who don't know better, to the aware who would rather tolerate than fight. Are you one of them?

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