Mar 28

Sacred and Profane

For many years after the event, I always remembered the date. April 19, 1993. Recently, I just think about how the event changed a lot of things in America and how it brought a change in me. The world should never forget what happened and the world should know and understand much more than the federal government’s version of what took place on that awful day.

In his article titled, Sacred and Profane, Malcolm Gladwell, writing for New Yorker magazine, attempts to shed some light on the context of events that lead up to what happened that day in April 1993.

From the article, excerpt from Clive Doyle’s account as told in his book; “A Journey to Waco,” (Clive) Doyle’s memoir, is an account of what it means to be a religious radical—to worship on the fringes of contemporary Christianity. Doyle takes the story from his childhood in Australia through the extraordinary events of 1993, when some eighty armed agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms raided the Mount Carmel community, in an effort to serve a search and arrest warrant on Koresh, on suspicion of violating federal firearms rules. “I want you all to go back to your rooms and stay calm,” Doyle recalls Koresh saying, as federal agents descended on Mount Carmel. Doyle goes on, “I could hear David’s steps going down the hall toward the front door. . . . Then all of a sudden I heard David say: ‘Hey, wait a minute! There are women and children in here!’ Then all hell broke loose—just a barrage of shots from outside coming in. It sounded like a bloodbath.”

In the resulting gun battle, four A.T.F. agents and six Davidians were killed. The F.B.I. was called in. The Davidian property was surrounded. An army of trained negotiators were flown to the scene, and for the next fifty-one days the two sides talked day and night—arguing, lecturing, bargaining—with the highlights of their conversations repeated at press conferences and broadcasts around the world. The Waco standoff was one of the most public conversations in the history of American law enforcement, and the question Doyle poses in his memoir, with genuine puzzlement, is how a religious community could go to such lengths to explain itself to such little effect.”


Gladwell’s writing is insightful for those unfamiliar with the case, but it falls short with respect to imparting a clear understanding about ATF history of shoddy investigation and general lawlessness. Neither does he mention the media complicity in reporting only the government version of events. Waco made it clear that investigative journalism from the major media outlets in America is dead.

20 years after Waco, we know more than we ever knew before and the evidence is still clear that the federal government of U.S. violated the law at multiple levels, resulting in the death of 82 people. Furthermore, these egregious violations of law by government agents went completely unpunished. Gladwell’s analysis is far too clinical and neglects the real ugliness of Waco.

I care not one wit about the spiritual beliefs of any man or woman. Each individual must answer to his/her conscience and to his/her family. The individual’s beliefs are no concern of mine as long as he does not harm or defraud anyone else. My concern and consternation about Waco are the underlying implications for the basic human right of self defense in a society that purports to operate under the rule of law.

My personal belief is that the Branch Davidians had every right to defend themselves and to return fire upon the agents who unlawfully attacked them in their home. My position is supported by Texas State law– allowing for use of deadly force to compel unlawful arrest. Further, I believe the greatest mistake made by the Davidians was to permit the ATF request for a cease-fire, allowing the ATF to collect their wounded. Trusting federal agents at their word proved to be a fatal error. Killing every single ATF agent on the property was justified. When the ATF decided to act unlawfully, they became a lawless gang of criminals and should not have been granted any courtesy.

I am not alone when I say that this was the worst act of lawlessness perpetrated by federal law officers in American history. There were 25 children burned to death in that place, because of the over-zealous, hasty and arrogantly authoritarian attitude of federal agents. Not one of those agents of government suffered as much as one day in jail! In fact, many of them retired with extraordinary benefits shortly after.

For more on the Waco debacle, you can read my post from last year that links to James Bovard’s excellent piece.

The complete and utter lack of accountability of those actors involved with this lawlessness has festered to create a sentiment among many in the U.S. heartland; “No More Free Wacos!”

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