Here's an article that lays the whole sorry affair out:
Is Your Church BATF Approved? A Review of the Government Assault on the Waco Branch Davidians � 2005 by: Peter Kershaw
Is Your Church BATF Approved? A Review of the Government Assault on the Waco Branch Davidians � 2005 by: Peter Kershaw
The Waco debacle in 1993, involving David Koresh, the Branch Davidians, the Bureau Of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is one of the most disturbing chapters in the whole of American history. There are valuable lessons to be learned � lessons which must be learned � should we wish to avoid future Waco incidents. Tragically, the most important lessons have largely gone ignored, while the peripheral and often irrelevant issues are what most people have focused their attentions on.
David Koresh received the brunt of the blame for the incident, while BATF and FBI culpability has largely been ignored, if not deliberately avoided. Controversial "cult" figures are attractive targets for public ridicule, and dead cult leaders make for especially convenient subjects of scorn. No one is eager to defend an heretic...
The Waco incident is a case study in false witness testimony. Few events in the history of U.S. federal law enforcement can match Waco for cover-ups, falsification, deception, fabrication, manipulation, subterfuge and obfuscation. The government, having so much to lose in terms of reputation, was chiefly responsible for instigating the blame game. It's a game they play well, and a game they usually win; but it's not one they could routinely win without having so many complicit participants.
Chief among their shills are the mainstream secular media. No surprise there, especially in their treatment of David Koresh � the secular press will never pass up an opportunity to demonize a "religious fanatic." Also eager to vilify any alleged "cult" leader are the secular "anti-cult deprogramers," as well as the Christian "heresy hunters" and Christian "counter-cultists."
However, what is surprising is the fact that the majority of Christian media outlets also joined in the game, often repeating verbatim whatever the government told them about David Koresh. Add to the list of players a number of Christian radio and television personalities. ...
Until the full truth is known, and the facts widely exposed about Waco, we can never hope to learn anything useful from it; and unless we can learn something useful, there's every likelyhood that it can and will happen again. With a desire to be a "true witness," I present herein some exculpatory evidence on David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, as well as some disturbing evidence about the BATF and the FBI.
Waco: There's a Lot More To the Story Than You've Been Told
The deadly government assault on the Branch Davidians at Mount Carmel Center near Waco, Texas is one of the greatest atrocities ever committed by federal agents in U.S. history. While there are many good and honorable men and women employed by the federal government, the Waco incident clearly demonstrates that not all of them are always so good and honorable.
The first lesson to be learned from Waco is that the American People must demand, and achieve, a much higher degree of accountability from their public servants. Unchecked power always results in tyranny, and tyranny inevitably results in needless death.
The BATF and FBI, and even members of the U.S. military, not only assaulted American citizens, but at least half the Branch Davidians killed were foreign nationals, including British, Israeli, Filipino, Canadian, New Zealand, and Australian citizens. Most Americans are oblivious to the fact that Waco proved an international public relations disaster for the feds. Among the 82 killed were 22 minor children and 2 pre-born babies. Of the 58 adults, 32 were women.
Although I am frequently asked about government onslaughts on the First Amendment rights of specific churches and religious groups, only rarely have I been asked about the government's assault against the Branch Davidians. This appears to be because few Christians think of the Branch Davidians as a religious group that lived in a religious community. Rather, the Branch Davidians are usually characterized as a "dangerous cult," and Mount Carmel Center was a "compound."
Marginalizing the Branch Davidians as a "lunatic cult" dehumanizes them in such a way that serves to vindicate the government's assault against them. Not surprisingly, the government itself played a major role in popularizing the notion that the Branch Davidians were a "dangerous cult group," and some went so far as to allege that they weren't a religious group of any kind:
"This was not a religious group. This was a group of criminals engaged in serious violations of Federal criminal laws. . . though they might call it religion, there is no protection for any group that attempts or in fact does manufacture machineguns and grenades in this country."
Ron Noble, Undersecretary of Treasury for Law Enforcement
Ron Noble's comments before Congress are indicative of the prevailing attitude of federal law enforcement. Though every federal agent must take an oath "to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States" � a covenant between the People and their federal government which guarantees numerous legal protections from the tyrannies of despotic government � that same government frequently exempts itself from affording the accused due process of the law. Such deprivations they excuse under "special cirsumstances," asserting that for certain people and certain groups "there is no protection." The BATF and FBI acted as judge, jury and executioner of the Branch Davidians.
Indeed, the Waco assault demonstrates just how far the federal government is willing to go to strip a group of people of their legal rights. When Treasury Undersecretary Ron Noble uses the phrase, "no protection" he means that literally � NO protections, whatsoever. With such malice of forethought it's little wonder the BATF raid on Mount Carmel Center, and the subsequent FBI assault, proved so disastrous.
If the Branch Davidians were legitimate suspects of any federal crimes, they were still entitled to due process under the law, regardless of what the government thought of their unconventional religious beliefs and practices. Contrary to Treasury Undersecretary Ron Noble's despotic assertions about how our legal system works, there is no act or belief system of any kind where an alleged perpetrator can be stripped of his legal protections. Even serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who committed acts of necrophilia and cannibalism, got his day in court. The BATF and FBI treat cannibalistic serial killers with greater regard than they did the Branch Davidians.
Not only did hundreds of federal agents violate the religious liberties and the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the Branch Davidians, they also committed some of the most heinous crimes ever perpetrated by federal agents in U.S. history. They sought to justify their crimes on the basis that the Branch Davidians held to some "crazy religious beliefs" and, amazingly enough, many Christians are of the opinion that such justifications are sufficient....
Such federal atrocities, though disturbing, aren't necessarily surprising, if we believe the biblical doctrine of the total depravity of man:
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)
However, in practice, most American Christians deny the doctrine of total depravity, and this is most clearly evidenced by the trust and confidence they place in their federal government. Most Christians today believe the humanist doctrine that man is inherently good. Therefore, their federal government is also inherently good. Placing their faith in the federal government necessitates exonerating the despotic actions of that government and, thus, the Branch Davidians must have deserved what they got � death.
If you ask the typical American Christian, "Who were the Branch Davidians and who was David Koresh?", the standard response is, "The Branch Davidians were a crazed cult group and David Koresh was a mad cult leader who brainwashed his followers. David Koresh was like Jim Jones and the Branch Davidians were under his complete control. They lived in seclusion in a compound, armed to the teeth with hundreds of illegal weapons. They were abusive toward their children, and the government went in to save the children. Rather than giving themselves up, they set fire to the compound and committed ritualistic mass suicide."
How did Christians reach such conclusions, and where did they get their information? From the press. And where did the press get its information? From Janet Reno. And where did Janet Reno get her information? From the FBI. Does it seem logical that Christians would place their trust in such institutions and believe them? No, yet that's exactly what opinion polls show that most did, and continue to do.
The second lesson to be learned from the Waco disaster is that believing humanist doctrines, such as the inherent goodness of man, will inevitably produce tragic results. Once those results materialize a continued belief in the inherent goodness of man will only enable the criminal perpetrators to get away with their crimes. Unpunished criminals will go on to perpetrate further crimes. A classic example of this is Lon Horiuchi, the FBI Hostage Rescue Team sniper who murdered Vicki Weaver at Rubi Ridge, Idaho as she clutched her infant baby to her breast. Horiuchi received a commendation and, only a few months later, was assinged to head another sniper team at Waco, Texas.
Christian televangelists, such as Pat Robertson, repeated pretty much the same story as the mainstream press. The same Christian leaders who had so often claimed that they cherished religious freedom betrayed religious freedom by siding with the very government that had pulverized religious freedom under its tank treads, and then incinerated it in a fiery inferno. It calls into question what those Christian leaders actually mean when they speak of "religious freedom." Numerous Christian leaders rushed to judgement, both ridiculing the Branch Davidians as "mad cultists" and praising the federal government for keeping the rest of us safe from alleged terrorists.
"Countercult experts," such as Hank Hanegraaff of the Christian Research Institute, along with other CRI staff members, proved themselves loyal courtiers of the feds by placing all blame for the Mount Carmel Center slaughter on David Koresh, thus exonerating the actions of the BATF and the FBI. They wrote scathing articles and books attacking David Koresh as a sexual deviant with a Messiah complex who cruelly beat children. Whatever the feds said, Hanegraaff and his CRI staff were sure to parrot. However, as "The Bible Answer Man" should know, "people who live in glass houses shouldn't cast stones." 1
Countercultists, like Hank Hanegraaff, are often referred to as "heresy hunters," and for good reason. By the way in which Hanegraaff and his CRI staff excoriate David Koresh, many readers were likely to think, "Koresh was so evil I'm glad the government went after him the way they did. The world is a safer place without him." Yet, rather than rushing to judgement based upon an hysterical emotional appeal, we need to carefully examine the evidence to see if it has any merit.
In his article, Hanegraaff asks the loaded question:
"Why would anyone want to follow such a mad Messiah?"
If indeed David Koresh was "mad," the obvious conclusion must be that his followers were also either mad or brainwashed. And what are some of the indicia of madness or being brainwashed? Hanegraaff provides a doctrinal short-list of items, the very first of which is:
K = King James Version Only. Koresh mistakenly believed that the King James Version (KJV) was the only acceptable translation of Scripture.
There are many KJV-only Christians in America, certainly thousands, and probably even hundreds of thousands. Under Hank Hanegraaff's litmus test, any KJV-only preacher could be a madman cult leader, and any KJV-only church could be a mad or brainwashed cult group.
Prophets of the Apocalypse, David Koresh & Other American Messiahs, written by Christian Research Institute staff members Kenneth Samples, Erwin de Castro, Richard Abanes, and Robert Lyle, is even yet more problematic. Prophets of the Apocalypse is a case study in how a group of men can masquerade as "researchers" while doing nothing more than constructing an artificial argument to arrive at a predetermined conclusion. These CRI hatchet-men consistently rush to judgement against David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, while carefully avoiding any criticism of the federal government. Could such contemptuous men, who have so little appreciation for keeping the Ninth Commandment, be capable of producing credible research?
If CRI staff hadn't taken credit for the book, bona fide researchers could easily assume that it was written by National Enquirer staff. Large portions of the book are comprised of nothing but speculation, inference, inuendo, and the hearsay testimony of often less than credible witnesses, such as disaffected former Davidians who had left Mount Carmel Center long before the government's assault. Aside from an interview with David Thibodeau (an interview so brief that it could hardly qualify as an "interview"), the book is devoid of interviews with Mount Carmel Center survivors. The bibliography is especially telling as to the thoroughness of CRI's "research" � over three-quarters of the entries are nothing but newspaper and magazine articles of the secular mainstream press. The book calls into question CRI's definition of "research."
One of the authors' principal sources is Marc Breault, a former resident of Mount Carmel Center who had departed several years prior to the government's assault. The book attempts to portray Marc Breault as a credible source of information, when in point of fact Breault is anything but that. For example, Breault claimed to have been a sentry and to stand armed guard at Mount Carmel Center. Yet, Breault is legally blind! Marc Breault's blindness also calls into question how he could have been an "eye witness" to so many breathtaking allegations that he made against David Koresh, including allegations of things that supposedly occurred long after Breault had left Mount Carmel Center. Marc Breault publicly acknowledged that his departure was acrimonious, that he had a "vendetta" against Koresh, and that he intended to become a "cult-buster." Yet, CRI "researchers" conveniently omit this, as they did Marc Breault's blindness.
There are nine survivors of the Mount Carmel Center holocaust, including David Thibodeau and Clive Doyle, yet evidently these real witnesses, who were actually there before, during, and after the seige, weren't deemed worthy of legitimate interviews by CRI "researchers." However, the testimony of a blind and disgruntled former Branch Davidian is featured prominently, including accounts of alleged child beatings. Samples, de Castro, Abanes and Lyle state, "Vernon long held that children eight months and older ought to be disciplined by having their bottoms beaten with some type of paddle," and "The beatings lasted thirty to forty-five minutes" (pg. 58). They allege such beatings left the children black and blue with their bottoms bleeding.
If such beatings had occurred, it would have been impossible to conceal the evidence left on those little bottoms from the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Child Protective Services. Both agencies went to Mount Carmel Center, on more than one occassion, to investigate Marc Breault's hearsay allegations, and both agencies cleared Koresh of any wrongdoing. This is a matter of public record, yet CRI "researchers" fail to make mention of it.
In writing Prophets of the Apocalypse it's apparent that these men approached the subject with an agenda to vindicate the government. As such, all of their "research" was skewed to examine only those facts which placed the government in the best possible light, while ignoring the mountain of facts which showed the government to have been ruthless and diabolical. All of their "research" efforts, regardless of how lacking or speculative the evidence, are devoted toward portraying David Koresh in the worst possible light. Their strategy involves fomenting hysteria to elicit the reader's hostility against this "mad Messiah," while carefully avoiding a critical and logical examination of the cold, hard facts. Such conduct is far more consistent with the modus operandi of tabloid hacks, rather than legitimate researchers.
In Chapter 5, The Final Option, they dismiss, with no explanation, the possibility that the feds may have deliberately set the buildings alight. They also dismiss, again with no explanation, the possibility that the Army tanks, which bashed holes in the walls of Mount Carmel Center, might have run over or knocked down some of the approximately 30 gas laterns the Branch Davidians used, thus accidentally starting the blaze.
As far as CRI "researchers" are concerned, the Branch Davidians committed suicide by setting their home and chapel on fire. And what do they produce for evidence to support their predetermined conclusion? "The keys to the puzzle are notes contained in ex-member Robyn Bunds' Bible, which we obtained approximately three weeks before the siege's end." Samples et al attempt to decipher the margin notes of Robyn's Bible; but just as they are very selective in all other cases about what evidence they will "research," they very selectively examine only those notes dealing with God's judgement by fire. How convenient.
These tabloid inquisitors ask, "What did Robyn mean by her cryptic notes? Although somewhat puzzling, these clues provide important insights into Koresh's thinking that led to the fiery tragedy of April 19." Yet each and every one of their so-called "important insights" are hedged by such terms as, "strongly suggest", "is hinted", "it appears that", "indicating", and "aparently." Though having nothing but speculation to go on, these tabloid sleuths arrive at the conclusion that, even though David Koresh taught that suicide resulted in eternal damnation, the Branch Davidians must have committed suicide.
Since their book asks the question, "What did Robyn mean by her cryptic notes?", one would suppose that, being the "Christian" and honest "researchers" they hold themselves out to be, that the first person they would seek to interview would be the author of those margin notes, herself. Oddly enough, however, they never bothered to interview Robyn Bunds (or at least if they did they fail to make mention of it). Again, such practices are commonplace among gossip-sheet columnists and tabloid writers, but are hardly the makings of any credible researcher.
Robyn Bunds joined with other Branch Davidian survivors in bringing a wrongful death lawsuit against the government. Robyn Bunds believed at the time, and believes to this day, that the government was responsible for the fires. She also believes that the Branch Davidians, because of their religious beliefs, were incapable of committing suicide. On October 1, 1993 she publicly accused the BATF and FBI of killing the Branch Davidians:
"I know there were things going on there that weren't right. But they're dead now. What's the point?. . . It's okay to save them, try to do something, but what you did was kill them."
According to CRI, the Branch Davidians committed suicide by not only deliberately setting their buildings on fire, they also committed suicide by shooting themselves, and one another, in the head. Indeed, autopsies showed the cause of death of at least twenty Branch Davidians, including David Koresh, to have been by gunshot to the head. Furthermore, the coroner determined they were dead sometime before the fire broke out � no smoke residue was found in their lungs.
Notwithstanding CRI's self-serving (or rather government-serving) "research," Branch Davidian beliefs about suicide make it unlikely that any of the Branch Davidians would have committed suicide. The question then is who was responsible for the assassin-style shootings of twenty Branch Davidians, and how was it accomplished with no apparent resistance? This is just another of the many vital questions that Christian Research Institute "researchers" very conveniently avoid asking.