My generation is mostly unaware of the incident which began on February 28, 1993. Twenty days after the incident began, over 70 people; men, women, and children perished as their place of worship burned to the ground. This tragedy occurred following a violent confrontation between religious fanatics and the US government. The incident, which I believe quite accurately meets the definition of terrorism, did not occur in Syria, or Iraq, or Afghanistan... this took place in Waco, Texas. Contrary to what you might have expected, it seems that the actions of the federal government, not those of the religious fanatics, met every inch of the definition of terrorism. I will tell you why I believe, by observing facets of highest law in this country, that government's actions in Waco were unlawful. I will make it clear how the federal government used violence and intimidation against civilians, as well as what appears to have been the political aim behind this stunt.
Before I go into detail about the Waco tragedy, I encourage you to search pictures of ATF agents posing in front of the charred debris which was once a church. The men are posing in their photos, one smiling as if they were taking a picture with their hunting trophy. What is their trophy? The rubble which hides the burned remains of not just combatants, but also men, women, and children who did not participate in the hostility.
Violence against civilians.
What falls under the category of violence? I would argue that militarized men with guns and tanks unlawfully laying siege onto a church of otherwise peaceful people is a vivid example of violence. According to the testimony of the surviving churchgoers, in contrast to that of BATF agents, these agents fired first in the encounter, killing the group's dogs. An ATF agent claimed that he believed this may have been true, but later retracted his statement. Their testimony continues to state that this gunfire led them to believe they were under attack, and retaliation ensued. Why would I believe the testimony of the survivors over those of the government agency? As I will elaborate later, it has been proven that the agency lied about a critical aspect of this case, and other aspects of their testimony have been made questionable by conflicting evidence.
Intimidation and the pursuit of political aims.
Rather than to follow what was obviously the most peaceful option, the federal government decided to try to intimidate the churchgoers at gunpoint in what would clearly become national news. The fanatical cult leader, David Koresh, did not spend all of his time at the compound. Federal agents could have easily apprehended him off of church property, prompting a surrender of the rest of the church and minimizing danger to the men, women, and children who lived within the compound. So why did the BATF take the path of greatest resistance? Why did they avoid the most peaceful option which they had surely considered? Only one answer seems clear; the raid was a political stunt.
The BATF showed up in order to produce a confrontation which would spark support throughout the nation for Clinton's gun control agenda. What better way to mobilize a nation to support gun control than an on-camera confrontation with armed religious fanatics who could easily be written off as a risk to public safety? Simultaneously, what better way to flex the might of the US federal government domestically than a successfully armed confrontation with such a group?
It seems clear that this confrontation was unlawful.
Whether or not it matters in the grand scheme of things, the actions of the US government in Waco were unlawful. The importance of government following the rules which we the people set for it is hopefully obvious to you, and whether or not you like it, this applies to gun rights. Our constitution's second amendment states explicitly that "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." If our government was to infringe this right in any way whatsoever, whether some gun control is good or not, such an action would need to be done through the amending process in order to be considered constitutional by article V and therefore legal. As no such amending has been conducted, the gun laws which Waco intended to enforce were violations of Article V as well as the second amendment, and were, therefore, obviously to me, unconstitutionally illegal.
If we do not follow an extensive list of laws, as citizens, there can be serious legal consequences. Our federal government, on the other hand, only has a single, short list of laws known as the constitution. When they break their simple list of laws, as shown in rural west Texas, the citizens are still those who end up paying the price.
Important factors to consider.
Twenty days after the encounter began, four agents had been killed and many others wounded with no surrender in sight. This is the point at which a tank launched two tear gas shells into the building. The shells had incendiary properties. The BATF denied that such shells had been fired until, years later, investigators concluded that they had, in fact, had been. The FBI stuck to the claim that the Davidians were responsible for starting the fire; something which I believe to be the wildest "conspiracy theory" to come out of this incident. In an infared video of the burning building, flashes of light appear to suggest that the BATF continued to fire into the burning building, something which they deny occurred. Paul Beavers, who in the British military had an "extensive" amount of experience with thermal imaging, was hired by CBS news to assess the video. Through his assessment of different aspects of the video, Beavers seemed to state with certainty that this is indeed footage of continued gunfire. If this gunfire truly continued, as combat professionals, the agents would have known full well that this would pin anyone from escaping the blaze. By considering their perspective, I assume that the BATF had had enough, and intended to exterminate what they viewed as little more than a group of violent, uncooperative cultists who had killed their fellow agents. The vast majority of the blame for the Waco tragedy certainly rests upon Koresh. After negligence, lying, and tragedy, however, no government officials have been held accountable for the events which took place at the Branch Davidian compound.
What the Davidians were not.
The Branch Davidians were a cult, a group driven to have faith in the words of a manipulative lunatic claiming to be a prophet. They were also fathers, sons, daughters, and mothers; many of which were not involved in the violence. What I truly want you to understand, however, is what Branch Davidians were not; aggressors. They existed peacefully, exercising their first amendment right to freedom of religion alongside their unamended second amendment right to bear arms without infringement. They were people whose religious beliefs were largely founded upon Christian principles and the Bible. A leader, convincing from his charisma to his memorization of the Bible, the entire new testament by age 14, convinced them that the world would soon face the end of times. They were armed for what they believed was an impending apocalypse, a belief which in and of itself is not violent. If the government had not provoked this sentiment for political gain, the Davidians would have continued to live peaceful, free lives they desired. If the government had not fulfilled Koresh's prophecy, they would have never faced Armageddon.
I believe that the events which occurred between February 28 and March 19, 1993 were textbook acts of government-sanctioned domestic terrorism.