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The Davidian Massacre by Carol Moore


               Even as a long-time libertarian pacifist critical of the United States government, I felt confident telling a friend in early 1993, "At least our government doesn't just go in and attack and kill a lot of people like the Serbs do in Bosnia."  And on February 28, 1993, when Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) agents stormed Mount Carmel, I saw nothing but what television commentators told me I was seeing--a bunch of armed "religious fanatics," rumored to be abusers of women and children, "ambushing" federal agents.  When I saw the bullets blasting through a wall at an agent on the roof, even I thought, "Sometimes you need a little government to protect you from people like that!"
               However, as the siege continued and as I kept up with debates on computer bulletin boards and the news from "Waco," I began to suspect that federal agents were up to no good.  I began to understand why the Branch Davidians were forced to take up arms in self-defense on February 28th.  And while as a pacifist I felt uncomfortable with the Davidians' continuing armed resistance, I became intrigued by David Koresh, who I jokingly referred to as "little Jesus in Texas," and his defiant "Wackos in Waco."
               I hoped David Koresh would quickly finish his book and surrender so that we could move on to the next stage of the soap opera: watching a television tour of the Mount Carmel "compound" and televised interviews of Koresh and his followers--including his many wives and children; hearing Koresh's newest pronouncements on the fate God planned for the Feds; and observing the inevitable circus of the government's trial of "little Jesus" and his disciples.  Would Koresh somehow triumph and go free as he had after his by-now famous trial for the shootout with a past leader of the Davidians?  The story was just beginning to get interesting.
               Only once, in a moment when I myself became impatient with the drawn out siege, did it occur to me that the siege might end in disaster, some kind of fiery inferno, but I shook off the thought.  I told myself, "Our government would never do that!"
               On April 19, 1993 I was looking forward to celebrating the 217th anniversary of the first battles of the American Revolution.  In 1775 a British expedition to raid Minutemen weapons stockpiles in Concord, Massachusetts resulted in the Battles of Lexington and Concord.  Even as an advocate of non-violent action who believes the American Revolution could have been won non-violently, I remain rather proud of the fact that I am the great-great-great-great granddaughter of Col. James Barrett, commander of the militia at Concord.  (His son Col. Nathan Barrett, and Lexington native private Mathias Hawes, two of my great-great-great grandfathers, also fought in the battles.)  Most of the Minuteman weapons were stored at Barrett's farm, which was the primary target of the British expedition.  Barrett later gave the order to fire upon the British, should they fire first.
               That morning I was late for work and had only a moment to be shocked by the sight of tanks ramming Mount Carmel's familiar pale walls.  Later a coworker alerted me that the building was on fire.  For the next half hour I watched CNN's live coverage and waited anxiously to see people fleeing.  When it became apparent there were few survivors, I closed myself in a storage room and broke down sobbing in grief for people who I had never known, and even had mocked, and yet with whom I felt a certain solidarity.
               Soon enough I began to get angry--especially as I heard television reports that the Davidians had set the fire.  I found these reports dubious, considering the way those tanks had been ramming away at the building.  What a way to celebrate Lexington and Concord--burn to death individuals also accused of owning too many weapons.  The British actually started a small fire in Col. James Barrett's barn, but they had the courtesy to put it out!  It was clear that the government's punishment of the Davidians was totally out of proportion to the crimes that it alleged some of them had committed.
                Like so many others, I might have allowed the federal government's actions to fade into a disturbing memory, had it not been for two events in September, 1993: seeing Linda Thompson's flawed, but eye-opening video, "Waco, the Big Lie," and making the pilgrimage to Mount Carmel during a trip to Texas.  In Waco I met with six surviving Davidian women and had the wrenching experience of watching the video again with them in their temporary home at the Brittney Hotel.  I met with other Davidians at a religious conference that November in Washington, D.C.  After the Branch Davidian trial was over, I began written and phone contact with the Davidian prisoners.
               After returning from Waco, I and several other libertarians and pacifists formed the Committee for Waco Justice which has worked to remind the public about the government's crimes against the Davidians.  With dozens of others I have protested on the anniversaries of these crimes outside the White House, Justice Department, Congress and the headquarters of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
               Writing this book has been an angering experience, as I have continued to find more and more evidence of federal crimes and coverup of those crimes.  And it has been a painful experience.  I have talked to or read letters from Davidian prisoners and survivors who mourn lost husbands, wives, children and friends.  Considering the trauma Davidians have experienced, it is impressive that survivors, even the prisoners, display little hate towards those who murdered their friends and families.  And so I have chosen to begin each chapter with a quote from a Davidian.
               Contact with the Davidians has set even me, a former Bible mocker, to studying the Bible.  I was especially impressed by the biblical recognition of the "mischief" that can be done by statute, or under color of law (Psalm 94:20).  While as a pacifist I would like to see all our swords turned into plowshares, I only can support voluntary disarmament schemes, with the emphasis on disarming governments.  No pacifist can support government disarming the people by armed force and killing them when they resist.  Unjust laws, not an overflowing of Davidian wickedness, brought on this tragedy of biblical proportions.
               My research and experiences have convinced me that the federal government, with full cooperation of the media and press, destroyed a loving, committed, interracial community and family, something all too rare in our isolated, alienated, bigoted world.  The community, the family may not have been perfect.  However, its greatest problem seems to have been paranoia induced by a government intent on imposing its law upon families and communities and disdainful of their attempts to cooperate with law enforcement.
               This paranoia proved to be justified when the federal government launched a paramilitary attack by 76 heavily armed men and women firing sub-machineguns, including from helicopters, and throwing flash-bang grenades.  When the family refused to be broken and dispersed, the Feds resorted to assaults by 50 ton tanks smashing into the living room and kitchen until the home caught fire, killing the family and destroying the community.
               Tragically, it seems that on the second anniversary of the fire at Mount Carmel one small group of individuals traumatized by the massacre of the Branch Davidians may have responded with terrible vengeance against federal employees in Oklahoma City.  Two years after the deaths of so many Davidians Americans again had to witness a search through burned and mangled ruins for the remains of senselessly murdered men, women and children.  I pray that governments will learn to resolve conflicts with citizens cooperatively and non-violently--and that citizens angered by government tyranny will learn the techniques of assertive and effective non-violent civil disobedience and non-violent direct action.

               To end, special thanks to Larry Pratt and Gun Owners Foundation and to members of the Committee for Waco Justice: Ian Goddard, James Long, Tim Seims, Andrew Williams, Alan Forschler, Michelle McKneally, and Richard Sanford.  Thanks also to other investigators and interested parties who generously shared information, including: Jim Bule, Jack DeVault, Ken Fawcett, Sharon Fisher, Debbie Green, Dave Hall, Dean Kelley, Kirk Lyons, Michael McNulty, Gordon Melton, Dewey Millay, Gordon Novel, Jim Pate, Dick Reavis, Nancy Ross, Rick Sherrow and Mark Swett.  Thanks to participants who shared information and their stories, including Phillip Arnold, Sarah Bain, James Tabor, defense, appeals and civil suit attorneys and those few Mount Carmel survivors.  And most grateful thanks to Davidian prisoners who continue to speak out, despite their captivity, and who remain the continuing victims of these terrible government assaults.

Carol Moore, June, 1995

For updated list of Davidian victims click here.

 Updated 1/98
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