The latest from Mike Vanderboegh:
By Mike Vanderboegh
28 February 2008
The holiest of all holidays
are those kept by ourselves
in silence and apart;
the secret anniversaries of the heart.- - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"And this is America?"
Noun. Returning with the year, at a stated time; annual; yearly; as, an anniversary feast. . .
From the Latin Anniversarius; annus year + vertere, versum . . .
1. The annual return of the day on which any notable event took place, or is wont to be celebrated; as, the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
2. The day on which Mass is said yearly for the soul of a deceased person; the commemoration of some sacred event, as the dedication of a church or the consecration of a pope.
3. The celebration which takes place on an anniversary day.
Source: Websters Dictionary
So which of these is the anniversary of the Waco raid?
Celebration? Consecration? Commemoration?
Perhaps, you may come to understand as I do, that it is a little bit of all three.
Fifteen years ago today, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms decided to execute a "dynamic entry" on a religious community in Texas. I'm not going to bore you with the reasons that the ATF claimed made it necessary to attack Mt. Carmel. If you can find the pearl of truth in all the excrement of official lies told to the media and the Congress, you're a better man than I, Gungha Din.
But let's go back in time to that morning, 28 February 1993. There were three helicopters buzzing the rear of Mt. Carmel, trying to distract the Davidians from the two long horse trailers being pulled onto the property from the road in front. These were packed with ATF agents in raid gear. The dogs are barking. Koresh, who knew the ATF was coming opens the front door. Agents leap out. The dogs are executed (ATF agents always have been big pet killers) and with those shots a general exchange begins. Koresh is wounded. Agents run to the back with ladders to enter a second-story window.
This is how it sounded to the local sheriff's 911 dispatcher:
911 Operator: Hello?
Wayne Martin: Yeah, there's 75 men around our building and they're shootin' at us at Mt. Carmel.
Operator: Mt. Carmel?
Martin: Yeah, tell 'em there're women and children in here and to call 'em off.
Operator: I hear gunfire.
Martin: It's Wayne!
Operator: Wayne . . . Tell me what's happening, Wayne.
Martin: We got women and children in danger!
Martin: I'm under fire . . . tell 'em to call it off.
Martin: Tell 'em to pullback . . . I have the right to defend myself. They started firing first. . . Martin: We're under fire!
Operator: OK, stand by while I make contact with the forces, OK?
Operator to dispatcher: We need to get . . . try the ah . . . ah, radio band one more time on our frequency. Did you call DPS?
Operator: Hold on just a minute, Wayne.
Operator on other phone: Hello . . . no I have not . . . and, and ah . . . nobody's responding to the damn radio. They're wantin' everybody to back off and talk. I'm tryin' to get . . . uh . . . What radio frequency, they told me the radio van. We're not getting a response. (hangs up phone) I can't believe this.
As Dick Reavis, author of The Ashes of Waco, later mused, "They were being attacked by the government and their first instinct was to call 9-1-1."
I don't know how the American people can stand by and watch the things they planned. We have people out here; we have all these people: women, children, tiny babies. These men in came here and they started firing on us. The bullets came through the walls and people were killed, people were injured. And this is America? -- Davidian Lorraine Sylvia, killed 19 April 1993.
"Men from Mars"
Davidian Steve Schneider: (There's) a chopper with more of 'em, 9-1-1.
911 Operator: What?
Schneider: Another chopper with more people and more guns goin' off . . . Here they come! Operator: Alright, Wayne.
Schneider: (WE) aren't firing! That's not us, that's them!
Operator: OK . . . The . . . alright. . .
The first Davidians to die are killed by fire from the helicopters, who have moved in overhead. The Davidians fire back. Two of the helicopters are forced to break off the engagement and land after being hit numerous times. Later, after the Republicans take over the House of Representatives, hearings are held. The subject of aerial fire on a structure full of innocents is raised, and cavalierly dismissed by Jim Cavanaugh the Dallas ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) and one of the bright boys who planned this raid.
Charles E. Schumer, US Congress, New York (D): . . . is there any way that somebody could believe that justifiable homicide . . . could be used as a defense here?
James Cavanaugh, ATF Special Agent: No, Mr. Schumer . . . Assertions that we had helicopters, or men from Mars shooting at them is nonsense. Our agents were laying on the ground shooting at a tower three stories high. Should we be surprised there are bullets on the roof?
Schumer: Of course, I agree with you, Mr. Cavanaugh.
Cavanaugh also testifies:
And when we drove up the Davidians opened fire, and I am sickened by any other assertion. I sat there and I watched it. And the gunfire came from those double white doors. I watched it. It's unbelievable, but that's what happened. And anybody else who says anything different; they shot first. And if I thought that an ATF agent would drive up in front of a structure and shoot, I'd throw my badge in the garbage. It didn't happen.
Cavanaugh insisted the Davidians fired first, that it was an "ambush." There were Davidians of military experience in Mt. Carmel that morning. They knew the ATF was coming. Had they been disposed to "ambush" the federal gun cops, they could have certainly done so with murderous efficiency. Had they known what was to be their fate, here is what they could have done. Indeed, here is how I would have done it, had I the ability to see the future:
An L-shaped ambush is the easiest of maneuvers, one understood by the most inexperienced GI. In addition, the ATF presented the easiest of targets, all packed in as they were in those nice big horse trailers. The long leg of the L was, of course, the front of the building. The short leg was provided by out-buildings and vehicles parked near the building. Men inside the building could have been detailed to kill the drivers (immobilizing the vehicles) and to fire at the exits of the trailers - forming "murder holes" just as efficient as those in the landing craft at Omaha Beach facing German MG-42s on the bluff on 6 June 1944. Other men inside the building could have been detailed to riddle the soft-sided, canvas-topped trailers, killing all the other agents trapped inside. Men on the short L could have killed anyone who managed to leap from the trailers. Snipers on the second floor would then engage supporting forces to the rear, and return the fire of the helicopters that Cavanaugh testified were not engaged. None of this would have required automatic weapons. Aimed semiautomatic rifle fire would have accomplished it just as handily. Probable result: 75 plus dead ATF agents. Had it been a true ambush, that is how it would have worked.
One other point -- before we leave the Land of Might-Have-Been -- is that today, fifteen years later, it is not necessary to see the future to anticipate how such raids will be conducted. We now know what Waco Rules are: They can do anything you can't, or won't, stop them from doing -- including killing you, your family, your friends or your entire church congregation down to old men, women and children -- and they will do it without legal consequence to themselves.
One final point regarding Cavanaugh's "Men from Mars," the helicopters that he insisted under oath never fired at the Davidians: we have evidence that they did in fact fire at a building packed full of innocents, and that evidence comes from none other than Jim Cavanaugh.
On a tape of the phone negotiations after the shoot out, Cavanaugh tries to get David Koresh to trust him.
Cavanaugh: Well, I think we need to set the record straight, and that is that there was no guns on those helicopters. There was National Guard officers on those helicopters . . .
Koresh: Now Jim, you're a damn liar. Now let's get real.
Cavanaugh: David, I . . .
Koresh: No! You listen to me! You're sittin' there and tellin' me that there were no guns on that helicopter!?
Cavanaugh: I said they didn't shoot. There's no guns on . . .
Koresh: You are a damn liar!
Cavanaugh: Well, you're wrong, David.
Koresh: You are a liar!
Cavanaugh: OK. Well, just calm down . . .
Koresh: No! Let me tell you something. That night be what you want the media to believe, but there's other people that saw too! Now, tell me Jim again. You're honestly going to say those helicopters didn't fire on any of us?
Koresh: I'm here.
Cavanaugh: What I'm sayin' is . . . now I listened to you, now you listen to me, OK?
Koresh: I'm listening.
Cavanaugh: What I'm sayin' is that those helicopters didn't have mounted guns. OK? I'm not disputing the fact that there might have been fire from the helicopters. If you say there was fire from the helicopters and you were there that's OK with me. What I'm tellin' you is there was no mounted guns, ya know, outside mounted guns on those helicopters.
Koresh: I agree with you on that.
Cavanaugh: Alright. Now, that's the only thing I'm sayin'. Now, the agents on the helicopters had guns.
Koresh: I agree with you on that!
Cavanaugh: You understand what I'm sayin'?
Koresh: I agree with you.
Cavanaugh: OK, OK. So see, we're not even in dispute and Steven's getting all worked up over it. Koresh: Well, no. What the dispute was over, I believe Jim, is that you said they didn't fire on us from the helicopters.
Cavanaugh: Well, what I mean is a mounted gun . . . like a, you know, like a mounted machine gun.
Koresh: Yeah. But like that's beside the point. What they did have was machine guns. Cavanaugh: OK. I don't know what they had. They were armed. The people inside had pistols or rifles . . .
Koresh: We agree.
Cavanaugh: OK, alright, that's good, that's good, we agree. So how ya doin' otherwise?
I guess I don't have to tell you that even though the "Men from Mars" apparently did exist, Cavanaugh has yet to throw his badge in the garbage as he said he would. Neither has anyone charged him with perjury or contempt of Congress. It wouldn't occur to the Democrats to discipline a lying ATF agent and the Republicans are far too timid to try.
"The first 15, 20 minutes, it was get the job done, shoot the video. And then when you see people getting shot, and hear people screaming, and the bullets hitting . . . You could start hearing people being hit and screaming and yelling. You could see people getting hit . . . I have two daughters, I started thinking about my daughters. I started wondering how the heck am I gonna get outa here?" -- Dan Maloney, KWTX-TV, Waco, interviewed in the documentary Waco: Rules of Engagement
At Mt. Carmel that morning, five Davidians are killed and four ATF agents. The ATF is driven out of the second floor window entry and back down to the ground level. They shelter behind their vehicles, maintaining fire but gradually running out of ammunition.
As Cavanaugh testified, with real angst in his voice:
Nobody was going to get us out. The McLennan County Sheriffs office, who always did a good job, in this case, could not get us out of this. We couldn't call 9 1 1; I mean we couldn't call anybody. . . . They were throwing everything at us. Their guns sounded like cannons. And our guns were pop guns. We had 9 millimeters; they were hitting us with 223s, AK-47's, 50 millimeters. It was more than you can imagine.
You know, experts in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder have a term called "Anniversary Response." AR is defined as a sudden unexpected rush of memories, intense emotions and feelings of grief related to the anniversary of a traumatic event. The National Center for PTSD further defines it as:
"An increase in distressing memories of the event in the days leading up to and/or on the anniversary of traumatic events. . . These memories may be triggered by reminders, but memories may also seem to come from out of the blue while at work, home, or doing recreational activities. . . .An increase in distress around the anniversary of a traumatic event is commonly known as an "anniversary reaction" and can range from feeling mildly upset for a day or two to a more extreme reaction in which an individual experiences significant psychiatric or medical symptoms."
For the surviving Davidians, especially those tiny few who made it out of the fire alive, this day must be one of those "secret anniversaries of the heart," topped only by 19 April. I imagine Cavanaugh must have his own "anniversary response." After all, he is human and he was one of the raid planners. It was at least in part on his authority that the ATF field agents attacked the Davidians using idiotic tactics with full knowledge that the raid was blown. Surely, he feels some annual twinge of regret for the blood on his hands.
Maybe "anniversary reaction" led to this story that appeared in today's Waco Tribune:
Federal agents stop by Davidian compound
By Ken Sury
Thursday, February 28, 2008, 10:15 AM
Today marks 15 years since the Branch Davidian standoff began at Mount Carmel when the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms attempted to execute a search warrant at the compound. Gunfire was exchanged, resulting in the deaths of four ATF agents and six Davidians.Staff photographer Rod Aydelotte, who was among the Trib staffers covering the siege and subsequent 51-day standoff in 1993, said four carloads of federal agents left the compound this morning after paying their respects to the ATF agents who died a decade and a half ago.From there, they joined an estimated 100 law officers at the police memorial at Indian Spring Park for a similar ceremony.
Do you suppose they also said a prayer for the Davidians who died that day?
Do you suppose they had any regrets?
Do you suppose that any of them wondered why?
Do you suppose that any of them chose to remember that a Texas jury later acquitted the surviving Davidians of murder charges, finding that they had acted in righteous self defense?
The experts say that anniversary reaction can involve days, weeks or even months prior to the anniversary date of anxiety, anger, nightmares, flashbacks, depression or fear. Common AR responses may also include regret, sadness, frustration, flashbacks, headaches, sleep disturbances, eating disorders, avoidance of reminders of the disasters and reflections on the way in which life has changed. We may hope that the ATF has reflected on the lessons of 28 February 1993. We may hope, but we shouldn't count on it.
"Don't shoot! Don't shoot!"
What I wonder most of all, is whether Cavanaugh and the federal agents who went back to the scene of their crime 15 years later remember what I remember as the defining image of 28 February 1993.
After about approximately 2 hours we heard that there was a truce. We heard ATF agents say "Don't shoot! Don't shoot!" -- Dan Maloney, KWTX-TV, in Waco: The Rules of Engagement.
Mike McNulty's documentaries on Waco, of which Rules of Engagement was the first, contain many images, most of them profoundly disturbing, disheartening and infuriating. But there is one bit of film shot by Dan Maloney and his cameraman that stands, I believe, as the Davidians' finest moment.
The ATF, you see, ran out of ammunition. Of all the stupidities of the raid, surely this represented the greatest danger to the attacking agents on the ground.
They were out.
The Davidians were not.
Had the Davidians wished to do so, they could have taken revenge for their dead 15 times over and the ATF would have been powerless to do anything about it. If ambush and murder had been their intentions as Cavanaugh and his fellow ATF "Good Ol' Boy Gang" members later claimed, the Davidians could have wiped them out at this moment, but they didn't.
What happened was that the ATF, out of ammunition, begged their erstwhile victims for a truce and the Davidians, satisfied that they had repelled the assault on their home, let them go.
It was a good thing that the ATF faced David Koresh that day and not Sam Fuller's squad from the 1st Infantry Division of World War II. Sam, who survived the war and went on to make movies like Steel Helmet, Fixed Bayonets (one of my personal favorites) and the autobiographical The Big Red One, once told an interviewer that his squad "never accepted the surrender of a Kraut with an empty rifle."
Fuller figured that if the German were truly sincere about surrendering, he would do so before exhausting his ammunition. If not, Fuller and his buddies would send the offending Kraut to Valhalla without further ceremony.
Not being hardened combat veterans but merely oddball Christians, the derided and despised "religious cult fanatics" let the ATF go. And go they did, backing away slowly with their hands in the air, captured for posterity by the lens of the KWTX-TV camera.
And this is what I thank the Davidians for. This is the image that I review every 28th day of February: the big, bad ATF, whipped by a bunch of untrained American armed citizens; begging for their lives and being allowed to leave in peace.
Cavanaugh and the ATF may have their own "secret anniversaries of the heart" on this date. But this image of their defeat and their shame, courtesy of the Branch Davidians, is my own anniversary of the heart.
Think what you will about Koresh and the Davidians. Deride their whacky beliefs and their gullibility in following the "sinful messiah," as Koresh was labeled by the Waco Tribune. Think them stupid, venal or worse.
But cherish this moment they gave us.
Cherish this anniversary of their brief little victory. A predatory federal agency was defeated, frustrated and shamed. It left with its hands in the air and its tail between its legs, whipped by its own stupid arrogance, the Law of Unintended Consequences and a few armed Davidians. No matter what the Davidians were or what happened to them after, no matter if you disagree with them theologically (as I do) -- in that moment they were one with the Englishmen of old defending their castle, the Minute Men at Concord, the Texians at the Alamo and the veterans who defeated the corrupt political machine in the Battle of Athens, Tennessee in 1946 - they were Americans showing the rest of us that the Imperial Feds could be rebuffed by the defensive use of arms.
It is good that the ATF remembers this day. Maybe in doing so they will remember the shame of their defeat and be made cautious thereby.
If not, let us -- the men and women of the American armed citizenry -- remember that moment when the ATF was humbled, with hands in the air, shouting "Don't shoot! Don't shoot!"
Let us always remember.
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