One of the most infamous standoffs in American history ended when employees of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (and possibly the Army’s Delta Force) launched a tank and gas attack on the Branch Davidian’s Mount Carmel religious center and communal home northwest of Waco, Texas. After a few hours of toxic “riot control” gas being pumped into the church, Mount Carmel became engulfed in flames. A few people escaped, but 79 people who lived and worshipped Christ died there, including pregnant women and children.
Waco revealed the pathological nature of America’s imperial psyche.
CNN News Anchor Sharyl Attkisson spoke with reporter Bonnie Anderson on April 19, 1993 as the M1A1 Abrams tanks were smashing the church and filling it with CS powder dissolved in methylene chloride. “Bonnie, were there any indications that this D-Day was coming?” Attkisson asked.
D-Day!? D-Day 1944? The event whose size historian Stephen Ambrose put into perspective:
“Operation Overlord, the invasion of German-occupied France in June 1944, was staggering in its scope. In one night and day, 175,000 fighting men and their equipment, including 50,000 vehicles of all types, ranging from motorcycles to tanks and armored bulldozers, were transported across sixty to a hundred miles of open water and landed on a hostile shore against intense opposition.”
Whatever Waco was, it wasn’t that. FBI employees had a couple tanks, sure, but they weren’t landing tens of thousands of men on a “hostile shore” to free Europe from Nazi domination. They were destroying a church and home filled with American civilians and their foreign national guests.
The FBI didn’t even lose one of their tanks or take any casualties. The Allied armies lost almost 5,000 men on the beaches of Normandy. Over one hundred allied tanks were destroyed.
The inciting incident of the Waco Siege was the attempted implementation of a no knock arrest and search warrant raid by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) on February 28, 1993. Of the seventy-six ATF employees who participated in the raid, four were killed and several were seriously injured when the Davidians began shooting (or rather, shooting back). Six Davidians were also killed.
KWTX News Reporter John McLemore witnessed the shootout. In the new documentary Waco: American Apocalypse, he said, “It was like going to the theater and watching a war movie. But it was real life.”
The documentary portrays the ATF raid as a tactical mistake and the ATF employees as valorous soldiers fatally misused by their dimwitted commanding officers. It plays The White Buffalo song “Wish It Were True” over images of terrified ATF employees retreating from Mount Caramel. The song lyrics include:
Country, I was a soldier for you
I did what you asked me to
It was wrong and you knew
Of course, these aren’t soldiers. They’re not storming an enemy fortress. This isn’t war. Someone should have told the ATF commanders that when they were planning the “dynamic entry” of the church. In World War II, more than twenty American generals and admirals were killed by the enemy. On the other hand, no high-ranking ATF employees were killed at Waco. As in our post-colonial wars, they merely sent young men to kill and die over lies.
Hollywood made a pro-government television movie about the tragedy called In The Line of Duty: Ambush In Waco. Imagine if Saving Private Ryan had been titled Ambush In Normandy. A better name for the tv movie would have been When Cosplay Goes Wrong.
According to a congressional report:
“…images of the tanks and other military vehicles gave the impression that the FBI was using excessive force together with military weapons and tactics against U.S. citizens.”
That’s a good impression. What Americans should take away from Waco is that a nation either gives up its empire or lives under it. And living under empire doesn’t mean roads, schools, and effective bank regulations. It means dead children.
Lest we’re tempted to believe Attkisson’s D-Day comment was not supremely representative of a pathological American-Normandy Complex, consider the following.
In the opening hours of the completely unnecessary Operation Desert Storm (the largest military alliance since World War II), a group of Army Pave Low and Apache helicopters took off from bases in Saudi Arabia, entered Iraq and blew up two air defense radar installations. The helicopter strike force call sign? Task Force Normandy.
In congressional testimony, Attorney General Janet Reno said, “These tanks were used to protect FBI agents who were on the front line.” Ah yes, “the Front.” Remember that if you find yourself on the wrong side of a law enforcement perimeter.
Many Americans likened the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. They were both surprise attacks that killed almost 3,000 people. However. our naval base in Hawaii was attacked by the Japanese Empire using almost four hundred military aircraft launched from an armada of almost seventy naval vessels while 9/11 was carried out by nineteen outlaw commandos using four highjacked U.S. commercial airliners as weapons. The site of the destroyed World Trade Center became “Ground Zero,” as in what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The subsequent boatlift of almost 500,000 people from Manhattan became the American Dunkirk. We are dramatic people.
In a discussion with Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters about America’s ongoing support for the nightmare in Ukraine, CNN’s Michael Smerconish invoked World War II. “What about our role as liberators?” he asked.
“You have no role as liberators,” Waters replied.
But that’s not going to stop the empire. It’s great at pretending. I hypothesize that at a certain level, Americans needed 9/11. We got to relive some of the greatest hits of World War II all in one day! And then we got to send our young men to land on the metaphorical beaches of Normandy. The empire has shown a similar excitement over Russia’s war in Ukraine, flirting with the possibility of an outright nuclear exchange.
We’re always looking for “beaches” for our soldiers. Pray to whatever god you’ve got they don’t land at your door.