The 'Ambush' at Waco
By Vin Suprynowicz
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
Last time, S.H., who reports his father participated in the deadly Feb. 28, 1993 federal assault on the Branch Davidian church in Waco, Texas, wrote:
"The long and the short of it was that the ATF was there to serve an arrest warrant and to seize the illegal weapons. If the Davidians had not opened fire, if they had not sought to ambush federal agents, the ATF would have arrested two men, taken away some weapons that were illegal and the rest of the Davidians would still be there, worshiping just as they pleased. It's hard to serve a warrant when you can't even get to the front door."
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So the ATF went to Waco to serve an arrest warrant. Since you also report your father was there on the government side, Mr. H., perhaps your direct sources in the ATF can finally tell us: Which officer had the arrest warrant in his possession? No ATF agent has ever been able to provide that name at trial or to any congressional committee.
The nation desperately needs the specific name of the person who had that printed warrant on his person, and meant to serve it. Will he or she now confirm this for reporters? At what phone number can we reach the agent who physically had the written search or arrest warrant with him or her at Mount Carmel at the beginning of the assault on Feb. 28, and who will so swear under oath?
Obviously, he must have been in the lead, with the document out in plain sight of David Koresh when the latter opened the door. His account would be crucial to anyone hoping to believe this version of events. Please identify him and arrange for us speak to him.
Then let's all ask him if, in their initial attempts to make a peaceful entry, the ATF agents shot the five tame family dogs where they stood in their pen (as planned and practiced), before or after he tried to "hand the warrant" to David Koresh. Let's also ask him how the noisy and intimidating "helicopter diversion" you're so fond of, was supposed to facilitate the peaceful service of this warrant.
But then, if there was any plan to peacefully serve a warrant, why attempt to spring a surprise attack by 76 ninja-clad agents, pouring out of cattle trailers, at all? Was a surprise attack necessary because David Koresh or his followers had ever drawn guns or resisted visits by the local police, by Texas Child Welfare inspectors, or anyone else? When? Why weren't any such incidents cited on the affidavit seeking the search warrant?
Nothing in informant Aguilera's affidavit indicated any reason to expect the Rev. Koresh or his followers to use force to resist. That's why the magistrate did not issue a so-called "no-knock" warrant. Title 18, USC 3109 states that an officer must give notice of his legal authority and purpose before attempting to enter the premises. Only more than a year after the fact did any ATF agent change his story to claim he yelled "Search warrant" a few seconds after the firing began. Specifically asked at trial whether they ever rehearsed a peaceful, unresisted entry, Agent Ballesteros said "No, we did not."
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If a peaceful service was intended, why -- when David Koresh opened the door, held up his empty hand and said "Wait, let's talk, there are women and children in here" -- why did agents immediately open fire, critically wounding his father-in-law who stood behind him?
Why did the ladder team place their ladders against the side of the building and begin their illegal entry even as this was happening? How would this have facilitated giving anyone inside the opportunity to peacefully comply?
At the trial, Agent Bill Buford, who was on the team that climbed to and entered the second story window, testified that those agents had been authorized to shoot anyone inside who they saw with a weapon -- even though those agents had not announced they were police or that they were serving a search warrant.
In fact, Agent Buford testified that he did so shoot a Davidian, who approached him carrying a gun ... inside that gun owner's private dwelling. (trial transcript, pg. 2732-33.)
If you, Mr. H., were a Branch Davidian planning an "ambush," wouldn't you put some men in trenches or behind other cover in outlying positions, to achieve a crossfire?
How was an "ambush" of the BATF possible, when BATF commanders all knew they were expected? The Rev. Koresh, having been informed of the upcoming raid by the local mailman (a Branch Davidian), told undercover agent Robert Rodriguez "Robert, they're coming. Whether BATF or FBI or whatever, they're coming." The undercover agent shook Koresh's hand, left, and informed the agents in the undercover house that the raid was expected, in plenty of time for ATF commanders to have called it off if they'd wished.
Instead, co-commander Chuck Sarabyn decided to proceed, rushing out to the staging area and shouting: "Get ready to go, they know we're coming!" and "Koresh knows the ATF and the National Guard are coming!" This incident is reported on page 91 of the Treasury Department report. More than 60 agents have reported they heard Sarabyn give this warning.
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The jury in San Antonio specifically rejected charges that the Davidians "ambushed" anyone. Juror Teresa Talerico later commented: "They had 45 minutes to get their people positioned, to get the guns all passed out. It seems to be quite apparent that there was no such plan, because of the hustle-bustle to get guns, even after the ATF drove up."
Waco Herald-Tribune photographs, which reporter Marc Masferrer testified were all taken within the first 20 to 30 seconds of the raid, show windows intact with screens in place, and no one visible at the windows, even as agents are firing at and into the church.
During the trial, Agent Roland Ballesteros was asked whether it wouldn't have made more sense for anyone planning an "ambush" to remove the screens and place gunmen at the windows. Agent Ballesteros acknowledged the photos show the screens in place, and no one returning fire from the building, even though they clearly show his own men firing into the building.
The photographs from the early moments of the assault show agents kneeling in plain sight in front of the building, with no cover, firing into the building. No ATF agent has ever been able to explain why anyone would take up such firing positions if there was or had been any return fire at that point, let alone why these men were not instantly killed if there was any kind of Davidian "ambush."
Justice Department outside expert Alan Stone, M.D., wrote in his Nov. 8, 1993 report to the Justice Department on Waco: "The BATF investigation reports that the so-called 'dynamic entry' turned into what is described as being 'ambushed.' As I tried to get a sense of the state of mind and behavior of the people in the compound the idea that the Davidians' actions were considered an 'ambush' troubled me. If they were militants determined to ambush and kill as many ATF agents as possible, it seemed to me that given their firepower, the devastation would have been much worse. ... The ATF agents brought to the compound in cattle cars could have been cattle going to slaughter if the Davidians had taken full advantage of their tactical superiority."
Again, this is from an official government report.
Within one minute after the raid began, Davidian Wayne Martin, a Harvard-educated attorney, had reached the McLennan County Sheriff's office by dialing 9-1-1. He immediately shouted, "There are about 75 men around our building shooting at us in Mount Carmel. Tell them there are children and women in here and to call it off! Call it off!"
Why would suicidal militants, anxious to kill as many government agents as possible, make such a call?
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Section 9.31 of the Texas Penal Code states: "The use of force to resist an arrest or search is justified: (1) If, before the actor offers any resistance, the peace officer (or persons acting at his direction) uses or attempts to use greater force than necessary to make the arrest or search; and (2) When and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the peace officer's (or other person's) use or attempted use of greater force than necessary."
The San Antonio jury, even after being stacked by prosecutors to eliminate any "gun nuts," militia members, or folks predisposed to be suspicious of the ATF, found there was no "ambush." The only convictions were on the minor, constitutionally dubious "gun law" violations.
Yet the pro-government extremists continue to parrot this long-discredited nonsense about an "ambush" of the government storm troopers, when in fact it was the ATF that was trying to pull off an ambush ... and merely bungled it.
It must be appalling to realize that you were nourished, clothed, and raised up with money looted from unwilling taxpayers at gunpoint (government guns, of course, which remain unrestricted), and paid to your father for a life's work depriving honest, law-abiding Americans of their Second Amendment right to bear arms ... the overwhelming mission of the current ATF, a supposed "tax-collecting agency" which in 1993 handled 10,818 cases in which they sought the arrest and imprisonment of gun-owners (not people who use guns in the commission of violent crimes -- that's a different agency entirely), while their criminal referrals on alcohol and tobacco matters totaled only 38 (source, ATF internal case summary reports, counts are number of defendants.)
I can understand, to some extent, how hard it must be for you to contemplate that your father engaged in a completely unjustified, unnecessary and illegal paramilitary action which resulted in the death of five to 10 innocent Branch Davidians from wounds inflicted that day, as well as the deaths of four ATF agents, most probably from friendly fire. (The government claims never to have checked the bullets from their wounds to match them against either Davidian or ATF weapons ... an odd omission.)
It must be even harder to realize that the actions of your father and his agency on Feb. 28, 1993 eventually led to the government toxic gassing and incineration of more than 60 more innocent persons -- half of them women and young children -- as other government agencies attempted to cover up the evidence of the initial ATF bungling in a raid which Col. Charles Beckwith (U.S. Army, ret.) founder of the Delta Force, told the Houston Post on March 4, 1993 was "very amateur" in both planning and execution.
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And, of course, the tragedies spreading like ripples on a pond from these government crimes at Waco in 1993 are still expanding.
Unless some faction of the government itself blew up the Murrah building in Oklahoma City to destroy all the Waco raid planning documents which were stored in the ATF office there, we're left to assume all those deaths were in reprisal (however misguided the perpetrator in his selection of tactics) for the ATF-FBI murders at Waco.
Eventually, unless the uniformed liars confess, accept their punishment, and do their penance, I suspect the brand of their guilt will burn its way to the surface of the Washington government's flesh, like the scarlet letter "A" on the preacher's chest in the famous novel, in a level of violence and insurrection that will make what we've seen to date look like Sunnybrook Farm.
If you're really interested in getting to the bottom of what happened, you might want to read any of the well-researched books on the subject, the most recent of which is Carol Moore's "The Davidian Massacre," co-published by Legacy Communications, of Franklin, Tenn., and the Gun Owners Foundation, of Springfield, Va.
Autographed copies of Ms. Moore's book are available at $9 book rate ($11 first class or Canada), which includes postage and handling, from: Carol Moore, Box 65518, Washington, D.C. 20035, tel. 202-635-3739.
You ask if it's my "contention that the ATF went to Mt. Carmel with the purpose of shooting people; with the intent to kill those people?"
Well, in all of their 15 to 20 practice raids to prepare for the Waco assault, agents had only been shown how to scale ladders, kick in doors, throw concussion grenades, and open fire.
If you've undergone any military training, you know the standard dictum that the way it's done in training is the way men will do it when the adrenaline is pumping.
An armed, high-speed, "dynamic" assault without any knocking and waiting for doors to be opened voluntarily is the only way they ever practiced for this raid.
They knew perfectly well they could have arrested an unarmed David Koresh any time he went jogging -- they had undercover operatives in place who reported how often he went jogging, or into town for supplies ... alone or with only one companion, and unarmed.
The ATF knew perfectly well they could have called David Koresh on a cellular phone and said they'd like to drop by in 10 minutes to inspect his weapons for any violations (leaving no time for anyone to go out back and bury anything), just as the local sheriff had gone calling in the recent past. They were actually invited by David Koresh, months before this unnecessary raid.
Yet they decided against these options. Instead, the publicity-hungry BATF piled 76 pumped-up (though inexperienced) fully-armed agents in cattle trailers, raced to the scene, and sent them charging the building in a well-planned assault.
Even if the deaths were not specifically "planned," legal doctrine usually dictates that deaths which occur during the commission of some other premeditated felony -- such as depriving citizens of their civil rights under color of law -- are chargeable as murder.
I believe these killings should be indicted and brought to trial as murders.
So far, I still have a right to say so.
Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The column is syndicated in the United States and Canada via Mountain Media Syndications, P.O. Box 4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.
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