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Remembering Waco, 29 years later
Accused criminals are citizens with rights, not enemies that must be destroyed on a battlefield.
The images on our televisions 29 years ago today should shock the conscience of Americans to this day and remind us just how dangerous the federal government can be to our liberty. After two months in office, the Clinton Administration sent military equipment - including tanks - to be used against American citizens on American soil. By the end of the day, the Branch Davidian compound was consumed by fire and 76 people - including 20 children, were dead.
The story began a couple months earlier with a botched raid on the cult's compound. The federal government sent a SWAT-style strike force to the compound, but they quickly found they were outgunned by the heavily armed cultists and were forced to retreat. It was the heavy-handed tactics used in February that led to the standoff that ended in a massacre 29 years ago today. Had the federal agents not literally gone in with guns blazing, would the standoff have happened? We will never know, but a much less aggressive approach would have been much wiser and less likely to produce a shootout.
Much has been said about police militarization over the last 8 years. Back in 2014, a completely unnecessary SWAT raid resulted in the brutal maiming of toddler Bounkham Phonesavanh, who had a dangerous "flash bang" grenade tossed into his crib. The raid was to find a suspect who did not even live at the house that was raided. Flash bang grenades are sometimes falsely referred to as "non lethal" weapons, but they are actually "less lethal" weapons. People have been killed and maimed by these explosives.
Two years ago, Breonna Taylor was killed by police during another unnecessary and excessive SWAT raid. A raid that was intended to confuse and disorient the targets did just that, and Taylor's boyfriend attempted to halt what he believed was a home invasion. Imagine how that could have turned out differently had police showed up with a search warrant instead of a violent paramilitary raid in the middle of the night.
The reason I bring up these other cases is that Waco and excessive force are part of a fabric. For too long, we have seen crime and drugs as part of a "war" with law enforcement on one side and criminals on the other. But police are not soldiers, nor should they be. The job of domestic law enforcement and soldiers is very different. Accused criminals are citizens with rights, not enemies that must be destroyed on a battlefield.
There is no question that David Koresh was an evil man. His abuse of women and girls in his compound was horrifying and he needed to be brought to justice. But as has been said many times over three decades, if the goal was to bring in Koresh, he could have been picked up with much less force and without putting both federal agents and innocent civilians in nearly as much danger as they were with the "stormtrooper" tactics used in February 1993.
It is very important that we hold the federal government accountable. The Waco massacre was arguably the lowest point of Clinton's presidency, much worse than the scandal that led to his impeachment. Above all else, we must demand that federal agencies and the President commit to not using these heavy-handed tactics. We certainly should not tolerate deployment of military equipment on American soil to be used against American citizens. We need constant vigilance to keep the federal government in check, along with passing any laws necessary to prevent another Waco from happening.