In the movie "Rules Of Engagement," the Oscar-nominated documentary about the massacre at Waco, Harvard psychiatrist and lawyer Alan Stone says that when he was first appointed by the Justice Department to the panel investigating Waco, he "thought the main problem would be to understand the psychology of the people inside the compound. "After I got into it," he says, "I quickly became aware that the psychology of the people outside the compound was more important to coming to an understanding of the problem."
The Davidians had undergone an assault that began on Feb. 28, 1993, with the ATF shooting of their Alaskan Malamute, Fawn, and her four pups in a pen outside the compound. Shooting dogs is apparently a pet tactic of the ATF who did the same at Ruby Ridge, killing Randy Weaver's Golden Retriever. Though someone in the initial Waco assault was trigger-happy, it is still unclear whether the shooting was started by the Davidians or the ATF. The steel door through which the initial shots were fired survived the fire, but is now missing. One of the Davidians, Wayne Martin, a black Harvard law graduate can be heard in "Rules of Engagement" calling 911 from inside the compound begging for help. "They're shooting, they're shooting!" he yelled. "We're under fire! There are women and children in here! Tell them to call it off! I have a right to defend myself!" he yelled as the sounds of gunfire popped on the 911 tape. Alas, though the ATF had brought fax machines and their public relations office had notified reporters of the upcoming raid that they referred to as "Showtime," they had brought no fire trucks, ambulances, phones or radios! The 911 operator sounded desperate. Though he could hear gunfire, he was unable to get through.
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Even an arrest by constituted officers of the law can be legally resisted if the arresting officers use excessive force. A jury in San Antonio ruled that the four dead ATF agents were killed by the Davidians, who had lost six of their own that day, in self-defense. Though no good reason has ever been given for the huge show of force in the initial ATF raid, other than that it was a massive publicity stunt to offset the ATF's growing reputation as a rogue agency a few weeks before their appropriations hearing, Henry Ruth, one of three independent reviewers of the Treasury Department's Report on Waco, said, "part of the ATF's motive, never stated but definitely there, was to enforce the morals of society; to enforce the psyche of right-thinking by retaliating against these odd people."
There is no need to believe in any widespread conspiracy theory regarding government behavior at Waco. The government went to Waco, armed not with not a conspiracy, but with an attitude and a set of beliefs that, after the ATF agents were killed, hardened into a mission of revenge. Though the Hostage Rescue Team was there, and there were at least 25 children inside, rescuing hostages was a strategy abandoned in favor of a military assault. "A negotiation strategy was abandoned in favor of a military mentality," said Alan Stone, "nor was there any third party brought in who could speak the same language as the Davidians. The attitude was to show them who's boss." When David Koresh's grandmother appeared at the standoff, telling agents she was sure she could bring him out, she was refused permission to speak with him. "I hope she has told him good-bye," one of the agents was overheard saying as she walked away.
Though it's still not clear who started the final fire, it's obvious to anyone who sees "Rules Of Engagement" that the FBI engaged in extensive psychological warfare and had fire on its mind. At night, the Davidians were harassed with Nancy Sinatra singing, "You keep thinking that you'll never get burned. Well, I just got me a brand new box of matches, and what I got you ain't got time to learn. These boots are made for walkin', and that's just what they'll do. One of these days these boots will walk all over you." An FBI negotiator asked the Davidians if they had any fire extinguishers inside the house. The answer came back that there was one. "Somebody just better buy some fire insurance," said the negotiator.
"The (FBI) saw all this as working from a military point of view because the people inside weren't shooting back," says Stone, "but they didn't realize they were driving the Davidians to a point of desperation."
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Democratic pollster, Pat Cadell, said recently that Janet Reno is a example of Affirmative Action in reverse. If she wasn't a woman she would have been fired long ago, he said. "Rules of Engagement" shows a clueless Reno testifying before Congress that the tanks knocking over the walls at Waco were unarmed, and just "pieces of equipment similar to a good rent-a-car," she said. "Tanks going into a building were like rent-a-cars?" asked an incredulous congressman. More recently, we learn that the Justice Department held back from Congress the 49th page of an FBI report saying they had used pyrotechnic devices at Waco, and hid the probability that the Delta force was active in the shootout at Waco. Mike McNulty is producer of a new Waco documentary which he says shows agents' machine guns firing on the Davidians as they tried to emerge from the inferno. Rep. Dan Burton is having the film analyzed for accuracy.
Alan Stone says one "of the most inadequate parts of the Justice Department's report is their failure to describe the decision-making process at the Command Post. I think that is unpardonable. There is nothing in the investigation of what was going on in Washington where they had a situation room constantly in touch with Waco. High officials of the FBI and Clinton administration were making the decisions. What were the communications? What were the decisions?"
John Danforth said his mission will be to answer the dark questions -- did the government kill anyone, and was there a cover-up. He should add to his mission a requirement that the FBI and ATF and others rethink their rules when engaged in a standoff against American men, women and children so that such reckless and murderous government overreactions cannot be repeated.