The 20th Anniversary of the Birth of the US Police State

All too many commentators cite the 2001 terrorist attacks and subsequent legislation such as the patriot act, formation of the TSA, etc. as the birth of the US police state. The US government’s murder of innocent US citizens on US soil during the Waco incident in the spring of 1993 should be considered the true birth of the police state.

Anthony Gregory of the Independent Institute wrote an excellent article titled “20 Years Ago Today: Operation Showtime” that reminds us of this horrific event.

On February 28, 1993, the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Bureau raided the home of the Branch Davidians, a religious sect just outside Waco, Texas. The agency, which has suffered bad press due to sexual harassment and racial discrimination scandals, made sure reporters were there to witness its planned heroics and dubbed the raid “Operation Showtime.”

The agents sought to apprehend sect leader David Koresh, whom they deemed a dangerous cult leader, but who, as an integrated member of the community, they could have easily arrested peacefully on his regular jog or during one of his frequent visits to the bar. Indeed, not only had they monitored Koresh for over a year; he had befriended them, shown them a tour of his place and his weapons, and gone shooting with them.

But a quiet arrest would not serve public relations as much as a histrionic military-style raid, for which planning had begun under the George H.W. Bush administration, even employing a model of the Davidians’ home. A little over a month into the Clinton administration, the ATF conducted its planned assault, which resulted in instant tragedy and embarrassment.

There is controversy as to who fired first, but the agents attempted to break into the home, and as a gunfight ensued, four ATF officials were killed. When the ATF ran out of ammunition, the Davidians allowed them to leave the property in peace. A standoff began, stretching into April, and the FBI took over. The FBI waged psychological warfare and employed military tactics against the Davidians, then on April 19 pumped CS gas into the home, drove a tank through it, and fired incendiary devices, which it only admitted doing in the late 1990s. The home went up in flames and almost 80 Davidians died, including about two dozen children.

The rest of the article can be read here.

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