Government Reports on Waco Tragedy Faulty

Recently, the Treasury and Justice Departments released the results of their investigations into the Branch Davidian tragedy. The Treasury Department's report was highly critical of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms' (BATF) leadership for their mistakes in the planning and execution of the February 28 raid and the coverup that followed. Although the Justice Department investigators found no evidence of child abuse by the Branch Davidians during the siege — contradicting one of Attorney General Janet Reno's justifications for the final assault — their report found no fault with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) conduct of the siege or with the Attorney General's decisions. The report instead praised the FBI for showing "extraordinary restraint" and handling "this crisis with great professionalism." The Branch Davidian victims had no input, and, of course, were blamed for their own demise.

With the release of the reports and the subsequent suspensions of BATF Director Stephen Higgins and five other officials, one could almost hear a collective sigh of relief from politicians and bureaucrats in Washington and elsewhere. They had literally thrown out the Constitution of the United States, and most Americans didn't notice or care. The public condemned David Koresh and his followers on que and expressed overwhelming support for the government's actions.

At least one member of Congress was not fooled by the theatrics. Don Edwards, Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights, called the Justice Department report "very disappointing." Both reports make it clear that the intent of the investigation was not to address the questions of legality and propriety, but to learn how to conduct better raids and sieges.

The important questions remain unanswered. Why did some 100 government agents armed with automatic weapons, grenades and helicopters attack a peaceful religious community with a history of cooperation with the law? Why didn't the agents attempt to serve the warrants peacefully? The government claims that the stockpiling of weapons necessitated extreme measures. But many Texas have more guns per person than did the Branch Davidians. There was no evidence that the remaining firearms were intended for anything but self-defense. Certainly, no citizen of Waco lost sleep anticipating an attack by the Branch Davidians.

Then there was the litany about cults and strange religious beliefs. So what! This is supposed to be the land where religious freedom is not only tolerated, but also cherished.

Why didn't the BATF and the FBI consult with reputable religious scholars who had studied the Branch Davidians rather than the nonprofessional, religious bigots of the Cult Awareness Network? As mentioned in a previous article several well known professors had studied the local Branch Davidians in depth. We now know that Dr. Catherine Wessinger, Associate Professor of the History of Religions and Women's Studies at Loyola University in New Orleans and Chairman of the New Religious Movements Group of the American Academy of Religion, had planned a special session on the Branch Davidians. She has admitted that "colleagues in religious studies who went to Waco, tried to talk to the FBI, tried to advise them, and they were not listened to."

Dr. Wessinger went on the say, "Every religion at some point is a new religion. And when a new religion starts, it is going to be viewed as something aberrant to the mainstream of society. What my students have a hard time understanding is that Christianity at one point was regarded as an aberrant cult."

Neither the Treasury Department nor the Justice Department investigators questioned these religious experts. Why?

It is ironic that during the September trouble in Moscow, the U.S. government cautioned Boris Yeltsin and the Parliamentary leaders not to resort to violence. More recently, Attorney General Janet Reno testified before a congressional committee that she is "fed up with the epidemic of violence" in movies and on television. Yet. the U.S. government and Reno in particular are responsible for the bloodiest attack upon U.S. citizens by their own government in this century!

So much for the "thorough and independent" investigations promised by President Clinton.

Next | Previous | LaRosa Reports | Mt. Carmel Page | Commentary Page | Text Version | Home | Constitution Society