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Jewish World Review June 21, 2000 /18 Sivan, 5760

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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Consumer Reports

Waco: We are the jury -- ON MONDAY, June 19, 2000, a civil trial began to determine the government's culpability for the Waco massacre in 1993.

At least, that's how the media are portraying this wrongful death lawsuit against the government brought by survivors of the Branch Davidians who died in the 1993 raid on the Waco compound. But the truth is that we don't need a trial to establish the government's culpability. It has already been established through the investigations conducted following the event.

In seeking to escape liability, the government will no doubt try to portray the incident and the resulting 80 deaths as entirely the fault of cult leader David Koresh. And without question Koresh is partly to blame. But a significant degree of fault also lies with the government, which could have averted this tragedy and spared the lives of these mostly innocent people, including 19 children. Even a jury verdict in favor of the government will not alter that fact.

The Clinton administration has employed the same PR strategy with Waco as it has with other instances involving its malfeasance. It has sought to deflect criticism of its own conduct by demonizing its accusers. Law professor Jonathan Turley -- absolutely my favorite liberal on the planet -- puts the lie to this Clinton propaganda effort. "Waco horrified a great number of people in the mainstream. The Justice Department, however, tends to portray the Waco incident as largely a concern for fringe and extremist groups."

There have been some seemingly outrageous claims regarding the Waco incident. But the problem is that with this administration you just never know, because deceit is the taproot of so many of its activities.

One glaring example is that Janet Reno defiantly denied for six years that the FBI used incendiary devices at the siege. Only Waco wackos would conjure up such a fanciful idea. Right? Wrong. Last year Reno was humiliated with belated FBI admissions that they had in fact used pyrotechnic containers during the siege. So what else did they lie about? As it turns out, plenty.

Within the remaining space I just want to relate a few of the 1996 findings of two congressional subcommittees investigating the affair. These were not the rantings of paramilitary groups, but the conclusions of congressional committees after conducting 10 days of hearings, entertaining more than 100 witnesses and reviewing thousands of documents.

Concerning the initial raid (Feb. 28, 1993):

  • While the ATF had probable cause to obtain the arrest and search warrants, the affidavit filed in support of the warrants contained numerous false statements.

  • Koresh could have been arrested outside the compound (he often went jogging off premises); but

  • The ATF was predisposed to a military-style raid as much as two months before their undercover operations began.

  • The ATF knew that Koresh had been tipped off about the initial raid and that he was likely to resist forcefully, but it deliberately proceeded with the raid anyway, instead of delaying it in accordance with its policy.

  • ATF raid commanders lied about the fact that they knew before the raid that Koresh had been tipped off and would likely be lying in wait for them.

The subcommittees also concluded that:

  • Instead of cooperating with the committees, the administration engaged in damage control from the beginning. The president himself characterized the hearings as an attack on law enforcement.

  • The ATF's investigation of the Branch Davidians was grossly incompetent.

  • Despite all of these findings and many more, the Justice and Treasury Departments issued detailed written reports exonerating all Department officials.

Who should we believe? The Clinton administration or the congressional subcommittees?

The subcommittees did not present a one-sided picture. In fact, they concluded that "the ultimate responsibility for the deaths of the Davidians and law enforcement agents lies with Koresh." But they also said that the ATF's reckless decision to proceed with the raid "more than any other factor, led to the deaths of the four ATF agents killed on February 28." And they found that "although physical and sexual abuse of children occurred, the final assault (on April 19) put the children at the greatest risk."

That's the understatement of the last century. A government does not protect children by engaging in activities that ultimately led to their deaths. We can figure that much out ourselves, no matter what the jury determines.

JWR contributor David Limbaugh is an attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and a political analyst and commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.



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03/01/00: McCain's coalition-busting daggers in GOP's heart
02/28/00: Bush's silver lining in McMichigan
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02/16/00: Substance trumps process
02/14/00: The campaign finance reform mirage
02/09/00: President McCain: End of the GOP as we know it?
02/07/00: From New Hampshire to South Carolina
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01/31/00: Veep gores Bradley
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01/20/00: Nationalizing congressional elections
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12/27/99: Al Gore: Bullish on government
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12/20/99: Bush: Rendering unto Caesar
12/15/99: Beltway media bias
12/13/99: White House ambulance chasing
12/08/99: Clinton's labor pains
12/06/99:The lust for power
12/01/99: In defense of liberty
11/29/99: Are Republicans obsolete?
11/24/99: Say you're sorry, Mr. President
11/22/99: Architects of victory
11/17/99: Trump's tax on freedom
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10/27/99: The false charge of isolationism
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10/13/99: Senate must reject nuclear treaty
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10/04/99: Clinton and his media enablers
09/29/99: Reagan: Big-tent conservatism
09/27/99: The Clinton/Gore taint?
09/22/99: Have gun (tragedy), will travel
09/20/99: Hillary's blunders and bloopers
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07/21/99: JFK Jr. and Diana: the pain of privilege
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06/23/99: GOP must lead in foreign policy
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06/10/99: Victory in Kosovo? Now What?