Friday, May 8, 2015

Tim McVeigh, Oklahoma City, and the Branch Davidian siege

Tim McVeigh, a U.S. Army veteran who earned a Bronze Star during the first Gulf War, was present during the Waco siege. He sold bumper stickers that read: "Is your church ATF [Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms] approved?" He set the bomb that destroyed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. He planned the attack for April 19, 1995 -- exactly two years after the Waco assault. It is not possible to understand his motivations for the OKC bombing without examining the Waco siege, as Gore Vidal shows in this excellent 2001 article from Vanity Fair.


Vanity Fair
"In a week’s time “the Oklahoma City Bomber,” a decorated hero of the Gulf War, one of Nature’s Eagle Scouts, Timothy McVeigh, was due to be executed by lethal injection in Terre Haute, Indiana, for being, as he himself insisted, the sole maker and detonator of a bomb that blew up a federal building in which died 168 men, women, and children. This was the greatest massacre of Americans by an American since two years earlier, when the federal government decided to take out the compound of a Seventh-Day Adventist cult near Waco, Texas. The Branch Davidians, as the cultists called themselves, were a peaceful group of men, women, and children living and praying together in anticipation of the end of the world, which started to come their way on February 28, 1993. The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, exercising its mandate to “regulate” firearms, refused all invitations from cult leader David Koresh to inspect his licensed firearms. The A.T.F. instead opted for fun. More than 100 A.T.F. agents, without proper warrants, attacked the church’s compound while, overhead, at least one A.T.F. helicopter fired at the roof of the main building. Six Branch Davidians were killed that day. Four A.T.F. agents were shot dead, by friendly fire, it was thought.
There was a standoff. Followed by a 51-day siege in which loud music was played 24 hours a day outside the compound. Then electricity was turned off. Food was denied the children. Meanwhile, the Media were briefed regularly on the evils of David Koresh. Apparently, he was making and selling crystal meth; he was also—what else in these sick times?—not a Man of God but a Pedophile. The new attorney general, Janet Reno, then got tough. On April 19 she ordered the F.B.I. to finish up what the A.T.F. had begun. In defiance of the Posse Comitatus Act (a basic bulwark of our fragile liberties that forbids the use of the military against civilians), tanks of the Texas National Guard and the army’s Joint Task Force Six attacked the compound with a gas deadly to children and not too healthy for adults while ramming holes in the building. Some Davidians escaped. Others were shot by F.B.I. snipers. In an investigation six years later, the F.B.I. denied ever shooting off anything much more than a pyrotechnic tear-gas cannister. Finally, during a six-hour assault, the building was set fire to and then bulldozed by Bradley armored vehicles. God saw to it that no F.B.I. man was hurt while more than 80 cult members were killed, of whom 27 were children. It was a great victory for Uncle Sam, as intended by the F.B.I., whose code name for the assault was Show Time."



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