On February 28, 1993, agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF, now known as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives or BATFE) began their assault on the home of the Branch Davidians outside Waco, Texas. An unarmed David Koresh was shot by the agents as he stepped onto his front porch. A shootout resulted with several deaths on both sides.
Shortly afterward, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) took charge of the situation, and on April 19, 1993 agents from both departments (utilizing military hardware and both U.S. and foreign military advisers) assaulted the dwellings, which resulted in the deaths of 80 American citizens. Most of the victims were old men, women, and small children.
The events at Waco have contributed to the disdain of federal abuse of power like nothing since the Boston Massacre back in 1770. (By comparison, the British killed 5 Americans in that assault.) Moved by grassroots pressure, the Congress of the United States convened special hearings into the conduct of those federal agencies responsible for the Waco debacle. The result was less than satisfactory to many Americans.
The congressional hearings, along with eyewitness testimony and subsequent infrared video of the events at Waco led many to believe that federal agents were allowed to lie under oath with impunity. It is a fact that crucial evidence was conveniently "lost" by federal agents. Worse still was the release of videotapes of the events by investigative reporters showing the utter absurdity and duplicity of the government's account of the tragedy.
At the end of the hearings, questions remained unanswered, and no one within the federal government was held accountable. Davidians who survived the raid were tried for murder. A jury found them innocent, but no charges were ever brought against any federal agents.
Whatever one thinks of David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, they had committed no capital crimes. Neither could the charges of child abuse, illegal weapons, or illegal drug activity (charges that were used by the feds to justify their raid) be substantiated.
Furthermore, it is unconscionable (not to mention a violation of U.S. law as prescribed in the Posse Comitatus Act—a law that President Bush recently had the audacity to expunge, by the way) that tanks and other military equipment would be used against mostly women and children within our own country. The bizarre tactics employed by the BATF and FBI at Waco are unfathomable and unforgivable! Our government has been more lenient and patient when dealing with many of America's deadliest enemies than it was in dealing with those poor Davidians.
There must never be another Waco!
God-given, constitutional liberties apply to every American, even those who are considered strange or unconventional. Under no circumstances must we allow federal agencies (or any other agencies, for that matter) to circumvent the laws of our nation that protect individual life and liberty. And, unfortunately, with the advent of the Patriot Act, the federal government has far more power and authority—and individuals have far less freedom and protection—than in 1993. This portends an even more ominous future for liberty.
The demands of liberty and justice rest upon us all. Certainly, Congress plays a part. Their investigation into Waco was inept, to say the least. The media also plays an important role. They have the power to inform; they also have the power to sedate. Absent a love for truth and justice by a lackadaisical media and a cowardly Congress, the fires of Waco still burn in the heart of the American conscience.
Beyond that, under the Bush administration, we have watched the size and scope of the federal government burgeon to proportions never before seen. It seems clear that we have entered an era of unlimited and unbridled federal power and authority. Can we assume, therefore, that more Wacos are on the horizon?
It is incumbent upon each of us to seriously ponder our future. It is imperative that each of us be willing to study, once again, the great principles upon which this country was built. Such a study demands that we re-familiarize ourselves with the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. We must re-read our Declaration of Independence. We must read the words of wisdom and warning delivered by our Founding Fathers. In short, we must be completely familiar with the principles of liberty, because those principles made us, and those principles will keep us. Without them, liberty's future is about as permanent as the wooden buildings at Mt. Carmel. Without them, the fire of tyranny will reduce us to the cinders of obscurity as surely as did the fire outside Waco, Texas on April 19, 1993.
Dr. Chuck Baldwin is the pastor of Crossroad Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida. He hosts a weekly radio show. His website is here.