Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines

Week of:
May 27, 2001
We Must Know What Went on in Waco


by: F.R. Duplantier

"In a free society, a person who commits a crime is not exempt from investigation or prosecution merely because he works for the government, wears a uniform, and carries a badge."

"On April 19, 1993," recalls Timothy Lynch of the Cato Institute, "agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation used tanks to assault a building that contained 76 men, women, and children. The tanks rammed holes through the walls of the building and sprayed tear gas inside. Because the adults in the building had gas masks, the FBI's tactical objective was to gas the children so as to prompt the parents to gather them up and flee the structure," Lynch explains. "After several hours of gassing, a fire broke out and almost everyone in the building died. That incident," he notes, "has become the most controversial law enforcement operation in modern American history."

In a report published by the Cato Institute (cato.org), Lynch seeks to determine whether or not "the federal government was completely forthright about what happened at Waco. Did the people in the building really commit mass suicide?" he asks. "Or was it closer to murder, with federal agents abusing their power and then covering up their misdeeds? The 'official' investigation of the Waco incident was headed by former Missouri senator John C. Danforth, whose report essentially exonerated the federal government of wrongdoing," Lynch observes. "The factual record, however, does not support Danforth's sweeping exoneration. On the contrary," he contends, "it raises deeply disturbing questions not only about the tactics used at Waco but, more generally, about the mindset often found in America's increasingly militarized law enforcement agencies."

Lynch acknowledges Branch Davidian leader David Koresh's "share of responsibility for the tragedy. Scores of lives could have been saved if he had simply walked out of Mt. Carmel and surrendered peacefully," he affirms. "But his refusal to do so cannot absolve federal officials from what they did at Waco," Lynch insists. "Because numerous crimes at Waco have gone unpunished," he worries, "the people serving in our federal police agencies may well come to the conclusion that it is permissible to recklessly endanger the lives of innocent people, lie to newspapers, obstruct congressional subpoenas, and give misleading testimony in our courtrooms. If such activity becomes more common than it is today," Lynch warns, "those agencies will surely become lawless and unaccountable."

If federal agents are not held accountable for their actions at Waco, no American is safe. This means you! You -- the person reading these words right now, no matter how docile and law-abiding -- could also be tricked or coerced into committing a crime, or framed for one you did not commit. You too could have your property overrun and your home invaded by a band of heavily armed hoodlums. You too could watch helplessly as members of your family are slain. You too could spend your last moments on earth begging your government not to kill you. Yes, the truth about Waco could prompt Americans to lose faith in our government, but what's worse: losing faith in it or losing control of it?