A quarter-century later, ‘dark theories’ still hover over Waco siege


Highlights

Twenty-five years after the inferno that ended the Waco siege, doubts about the official version persist.

The ashes of Waco proved fertile ground for conspiracy theories and abiding skepticism about government power.

The battle between federal agents and the Branch Davidians remains a touchstone in the politics of gun rights.

It was called Operation Trojan Horse, a raid by agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in search of what they said were illegal weapons being made by a religious sect outside Waco.

The gun battle that ensued left six members of the Branch Davidians — a breakaway Seventh Day Adventist sect — and four ATF agents dead and set the stage for a 51-day siege of a communal residence known as Mount Carmel. It would end on April 19, 1993, amid tanks and tear gas, in an inferno in which 76 people, including 21 children, perished.

Even as it was happening, it generated conspiracy theories about how and why such a show of government might — and military might at that — was brought to bear with such disastrous results.

Waco — as the tragic fiasco came to be known — introduced America to David Koresh, presented by the media at the time as a sort of mullet messiah walking in the footsteps of Charlie Manson, whose cult killed, and Jim Jones, whose cult drank the Kool-Aid.

“I do not think the United States government is responsible for the fact that a bunch of fanatics decided to kill themselves,” President Bill Clinton said a few days after Mount Carmel was left in ashes.

SPECIAL REPORT: Austin officers were part of the team that tried to solve the Waco seige peacefully

The Waco tragedy rocked the early days of the Clinton administration, contributing to a Republican takeover of Congress in 1994.

It made an indelible impression in Austin on an Anderson High School senior named Alex Jones, inspiring a lucrative career, launched on Austin public access television and later moving onto the internet and radio stations around country, that has made him the world’s best-known conspiracy theorist.

It fanned the flames of the right-wing militia movement, setting Timothy McVeigh, who made pilgrimages to the site during the siege and after, on the path to blowing up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on the second anniversary of the Mount Carmel fire as payback.

The ATF raided Mount Carmel because officials believed the Branch Davidians were stockpiling weapons and illegally converting AR-15 rifles into machine guns and making grenades.

Whether the Waco siege was federal law enforcement run amok, a botched but well-intentioned effort to seize illegal weapons, or something in between is still a matter of fierce debate 25 years later.

Reopening the investigation

In 2001, Second Amendment lawyer David Hardy co-authored a book, “This Is Not an Assault: Penetrating the Web of Official Lies Regarding the Waco Incident,” detailing his years of efforts to pry information about what happened from the federal government, in concert with Michael McNulty, one of the makers of the Oscar-nominated 1997 documentary, “Waco: Rules of Engagement.”

Hardy, who had worked for a decade as a U.S. Interior Department lawyer, unearthed through a Freedom of Information request an ATF “report of investigation” of two undercover agents, who had moved in across from Mount Carmel. They went shooting with Koresh eight days before the raid, an easy opportunity to arrest him if they had wanted to.

In 1999, McNulty gained entry to a warehouse in Austin, under the control of the Texas Rangers, that housed 12 tons of Waco evidence. Hardy calls it the “Waco tragedy’s King Tut’s tomb, an enormous time capsule sealed in April 1993.” There, he found military-issue pyrotechnic projectiles for the grenade launchers the FBI had been using to deliver the CS tear gas (CS, actually a fine powder, is commonly referred to as a type of tear gas), precisely the type of rounds that can start fires and that everyone from Attorney General Janet Reno on down had denied they had used.

The revelation led Reno to name former U.S. Sen. John Danforth of Missouri, an ordained Episcopal priest and establishment Republican, as a special counsel to investigate if there had been any wrongdoing or coverup.

Danforth absolved the government of any guilt, laying all the blame at the doorstep of Koresh and his flock, who believed him to be a prophet.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: The siege at the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco

“Make no mistake: the bad acts alleged in this case are among the most serious charges that can be leveled against a government — that its agents deliberately set fire to a building full of people, that they pinned children in the burning building with gunfire, that they illegally employed the armed forces in these actions and that they then lied about their conduct,” wrote Danforth in the preface to his 2000 report.

But Danforth concluded that government agents did not start the fire at Mount Carmel, did not fire a single shot that day, did not improperly use the military and “did not engage in a massive conspiracy and cover-up.”

And, he wrote, “there is no evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of Attorney General Reno, the present and former director of the FBI, other high officials of the United States, or the individual members of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team who fired three pyrotechnic tear gas rounds on April 19, 1993.”

“Responsibility for the tragedy at Waco rests with certain of the Branch Davidians and their leader, David Koresh, who shot and killed four ATF agents, wounded 20 others, shot at FBI agents trying to insert tear gas into the complex, burned down the complex, and shot at least 20 of their own people, including five children,” Danforth concluded.

The danger in ‘dark theories’

Danforth also warned of the danger of conspiracy thinking and distrust: “Ample forums exist to nurture our need to place blame on government. Sensational films construct dark theories out of little or no evidence and gain ready audiences for their message. Civil trial lawyers, both in the public and private sectors, carry the duty of zealous representation to extremes. The media, in the name of ‘balance,’ gives equal treatment to both outrageous and serious claims. Congressional committees and special counsels conduct their own lengthy investigations, lending further credence to the idea that there are bad acts to investigate. There is even pressure on them to find some bad act to justify their effort and expense. Add to all of this the longstanding public cynicism about government and its actions, and the result is a nearly universal readiness to believe that the government must have done something wrong.”

“In today’s world,” Danforth wrote, “it is perhaps understandable that government officials are reluctant to make full disclosures of information for fear that the result of candor will be personal or professional ruin. Any misstep yields howls of indignation, calls for resignations, and still more investigations.”

In presenting his report to a special Senate panel on the Waco siege in July 2000, Danforth echoed Clinton’s observation seven years prior: “I think when people are intent on burning themselves up, there’s not much you can do about it.”

Critics castigated Danforth for applying what they said amounted to two coats of whitewash to the Waco siege.

“Danforth’s is probably the first investigation into a cover-up that justifies the cover-up,” wrote Jim Bovard, a prolific libertarian writer and columnist who has followed the Waco debate closely.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Fire brings tragic end to Waco siege

Yes, Bovard said, there have been exaggerated claims about what happened at Mount Carmel, beginning with Linda Thompson’s sensational half-hour documentary, “Waco: The Big Lie,” which came out in 1993, and was played to the jury at McVeigh’s trial to help explain what was in his head.

“You don’t need to say that the government used a flamethrower. You simply look at the fact that the government used tanks and toxic gas on its own people,” Bovard said this month.

“From my perspective, the most important lesson is to see how federal agencies can use so much deadly force against American citizens for no good reason that left scores of people dead and federal agencies paid no price, aside from budget increases,” Bovard said. “Instead, you had most of the media and most of the politicians cheering them on, in spite of the death count.”

Hardy, who in 1993 was back home in Arizona after working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said that when he heard about the Waco raid, “I knew how these things worked, and the first question in my mind was, ‘When is their House Appropriations Committee hearing?’”

Hardy saw the tragic episode as a beleaguered federal agency trying to catch some favorable notice from appropriators in budget season, willing to bend the law to do it, and do everything necessary to cover up if things go wrong.

“The paranoids have no idea how bad it is because they assume there is some gigantic conspiracy,” Hardy said. “Instead you have a bunch of these little conspiracies where an agency wants a bunch of money and knows how to get it, and they kill you just as dead as any other conspiracy.”

Lexington, Concord and Waco

On April 19, 1993, Carol Moore — a feminist, pacifist, libertarian writer and activist from Washington, D.C. — was planning on celebrating the 217th anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord. Moore is the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Col. James Barrett, the commander of the militia at Concord. She had been following the Waco standoff and after watching CNN’s live coverage of the fire, she closed herself in a storage room and wept.

“What a way to celebrate Lexington and Concord — burn to death individuals also accused of owning too many weapons,” Moore wrote in the preface to her 1995 book, “The Davidian Massacre: Disturbing Questions About Waco Which Must Be Answered,” which was published by the Gun Owners Foundation and offered a comprehensive examination of the controversies in Waco’s wake.

After seeing “Waco: The Big Lie,” Moore traveled to Mount Carmel during a visit to Texas and met some surviving Branch Davidian women.

“Writing this book has been an angering experience, as I have continued to find more and more evidence of federal crimes and cover-up of those crimes,” Moore wrote in the preface. “My research and experience have convinced me that the federal government, with full cooperation of the media and the press, destroyed a loving, committed, interracial community and family, something all too rare in our isolated, alienated, bigoted world.”

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Asked by the American-Statesman to evaluate the various Waco conspiracies and cover-up theories 25 years later, Moore began by defining a conspiracy theory as a belief that “an event or phenomenon occurs as a result of a conspiracy between interested parties; a belief that some covert but influential agency (typically political in motivation and oppressive in intent) is responsible for an unexplained event.”

“This includes not only the ‘grand plan’ but every little action, incident and coverup that advances that plan,” she said.

For Waco, Moore said, “the overarching conspiracy theory held in various permutations by most critics of the government is that an ‘out of control’ federal agency with budgetary needs decided to put on a big military-type show bringing several local agencies together. They needed a big target and the Davidians were it, so they listened to the Davidians’ enemies, dug up all the dirt they could, ignored the Davidians’ (legal) gun business and previous cooperation with law enforcement, and went in with the attitude they were at war against a domestic armed force of de facto terrorists.”

Star witness

Dick Reavis, an accomplished Texas journalist, was the lead witness at the 1995 U.S. House hearings on the Waco siege.

Republicans had just taken control of the House and were looking to use the Waco tragedy against Clinton. Democrats were just as ferociously determined to make the case that, in the words of California Democrat Rep. Tom Lantos, “only the lunatic fringe still clings to this notion that there was a giant government conspiracy that brought about this nightmare.”

“The most plausible single explanation for this nightmare is the apocalyptic vision of a criminally insane, charismatic cult leader who was hell bent on bringing about this infernal nightmare in flames and the extermination of the children, the women and the other innocents,” Lantos said.

Reavis, who covered the siege for the Dallas Observer, had just written “The Ashes of Waco: An Investigation,” a meticulous examination of Koresh, the Branch Davidians’ history and theology and what appeared to be the government’s misdeeds and missteps. From the beginning, he writes, there were misleading attempts by the ATF to implicate the Branch Davidians in child abuse — which was not within the ATF’s jurisdiction and “were repeatedly shown to be false” — and in methamphetamine production, “fabricated from the shards of a misconstrued and bygone incident.”

Unless illegal drugs were involved, the ATF couldn’t ask Gov. Ann Richards to provide them with state National Guard helicopters.

READ: 5 ‘Fixer Upper’ rentals in Waco

On the decision to use CS tear gas against the Davidians, Reavis wrote, “More than 100 nations, including the United States, have banned it for use in warfare, though governments are free to inflict it upon their own citizens.”

Reavis was not your typical Wacophile.

“I am certifiably as left-wing as anybody in Texas,” Reavis told the Statesman.

“I wrote the book with the expectation that ACLU types would agree with me because I think the whole scenario was littered with constitutional contradictions and civil liberties questions, right?” Reavis said. “But, hell no. The only people who listened to me were the gun nuts.”

When Republican congressional staffers — at the behest of the National Rifle Association — called Reavis to ask him to be the lead-off witness at the Waco hearings, he replied, “Look, you may have picked the wrong guy. I was in SDS, I have a 600-page FBI file,” referring to his involvement at the University of Texas in the Students for a Democratic Society, the New Left organization that was in the thick of the anti-war and civil rights movements of the 1960s.

The staffer said they wouldn’t bring that up at the hearing and he didn’t expect the Democrats would either.

‘Never should have happened’

The word “cult,” said James Tabor, a biblical scholar at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, is a way to cast out certain religions as “too fanatical.”

“As you know, living in Texas, every little Pentecostal church in Texas is probably too fanatical and their own preachers are having a lot of power over their members, telling them how to dress and how to behave,” Tabor said. “If you define cult as a high demand religion with a charismatic leader, you’ve named about every church in Texas.”

“Jesus was clearly a cult leader of his day — he’s telling people to leave their friends and families, sell everything they have, take up a cross, which is basically allowing yourself to be killed,” Tabor said.

On the night of the initial raid, a wounded Koresh spoke by live telephone hookup on KRLD radio in Dallas and on CNN about the apocalyptic meaning of his predicament.

Tabor was probably one of the few listeners who really understood what Koresh was talking about.

Together with Phillip Arnold, a religious scholar from Houston, and Koresh’s attorneys, who were able to meet with him at Mount Carmel during the siege, they worked out a plan — accepted by the FBI negotiators — under which Koresh would write a manuscript decoding the “Seven Seals” in the Book of Revelation, and then surrender.

READ: Taylor Kitsch stars as David Koresh in new ‘Waco’ miniseries

What was critical, Tabor said, was taking Koresh and the Davidians seriously on their own terms, instead of just “castigating him as a con man and a two-bit false messiah.”

Of the Branch Davidians holed up with Koresh in Mount Carmel, Tabor said, “They do believe there’s a final prophet that’s coming at the End of Days and they think that David is the one.”

“David was writing the manuscript,” Tabor said, right up until April 19. “It absolutely would have worked, and David wanted out, and they (the FBI) don’t even tell Janet Reno when she’s asking if there is any other way, they don’t tell her he is working on this manuscript with these two theologians.”

In a 2014 New Yorker piece on the failure of negotiations in the Waco standoff, Malcolm Gladwell provided an inventory of the veritable army amassed at the scene: “Outside the Mount Carmel complex, the FBI assembled what has been called probably the largest military force ever gathered against a civilian suspect in American history: 10 Bradley tanks, two Abrams tanks, four combat-engineering vehicles, 668 agents in addition to six U.S. Customs officers, 15 U.S. Army personnel, 13 members of the Texas National Guard, 31 Texas Rangers, 131 officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety, 17 from the McLennan County sheriff’s office, and 18 Waco police, for a total of 899 people. Their task, as they saw it, was to peel away the pretense — Koresh’s posturing, his lies, his grandiosity — and compel him to take specific steps toward a resolution.”

It all went up in flames.

“It was unnecessary, unnecessary, unnecessary and it never should have happened,” Tabor said.

‘I would not do it again’

“We should have waited them out,” Bill Clinton said in 2005 at a retrospective on his administration at Hofstra University.

Reno had been Clinton’s third pick for attorney general after it turned out his first two choices — Zoë Baird and Kimba Wood — each had employed unauthorized immigrant women as nannies. Reno was sworn into office on March 12 — two weeks into the standoff — and Clinton recalled that she was under “enormous pressure from the FBI” to let them end the siege.

“I am responsible for that because I told her, if that’s what they want to do, and she thought it was right,” Clinton said. “It was a mistake and I’m responsible. And that’s not one of those you get A for effort on.”

Reno ended up serving through the end of Clinton’s second term, making her the longest-serving attorney general of the 20th century. Before she left office, she also offered a modest mea culpa.

“We’ll never know whether it was a mistake or not, in one sense,” Reno told NPR. “But knowing what I do, I would not do it again. I would try to figure another way.”

Hillary Clinton’s role?

The very first page of “The Clinton’s War on Women,” written in 2015 by Roger Stone with Austin’s Robert Morrow, is a list of the names of those who died at Mount Carmel: “In remembrance of the 76 people, members of the Branch Davidian church, who died in their homes at Mount Carmel, Texas, on April 19, 1993, following the decisions and actions of Hillary Clinton.”

The Hillary Clinton claim is not new, and Stone devotes barely two pages in the book to laying out his circumstantial evidence.

In “Waco, a New Revelation,” the sequel to McNulty’s “Waco: Rules of Engagement,” T. March Bell, who had been an investigator with the House committee that held the 1995 Waco hearings, says he “had received anonymous phone calls from Justice Department managers and attorneys who believe that pressure was placed on Janet Reno by (Associate Attorney General) Webb Hubbell and pressure that came from the first lady of the United States.”

Bell is now chief of staff for the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services.

There is also a February 2001 Larry King interview with Clinton White House staffer Linda Tripp in which Tripp said she was with Vince Foster, the deputy White House counsel, watching CNN, when “a special bulletin came on showing the atrocity at Waco and the children. And his face, his whole body slumped, and his face turned white, and he was absolutely crushed knowing the part that he had played. And he had played the part at Mrs. Clinton’s direction. Her reaction, on the other hand, was heartless. And I can only tell you what I saw.”

Foster committed suicide three months later.

The only new information in Stone’s book about Hillary Clinton’s alleged role in the Waco siege, was that, “Senator Arlen Specter, who headed a Senate panel investigating the Waco incident, told me that credible testimony indicated that Hillary Clinton gave the ‘go order’ to Janet Reno and Webb Hubbell.”

Asked to elaborate last week, Stone, who worked on Specter’s Senate campaigns and chaired his short-lived 1996 presidential campaign, said the comment from Specter came in a private conversation with him during the Waco hearings in 2000, “which I urged him to undertake to burnish his cred on the right going into a tough Pennsylvania GOP primary.”

Of Hillary Clinton’s presumed motive, Stone said, “HRC wanted Waco off the front pages so she could do Hillarycare.”

Hillary Clinton’s office did not reply to a request for comment.

Stone, whose previous books include “The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ,” and “The Bush Crime Family,” is now a regular on Alex Jones’ InfoWars shows.

McVeigh’s motive

Stuart Wright is a sociologist at Lamar University in Beaumont. In 1995, he was the editor of “Armageddon in Waco: Critical Perspectives on the Branch Davidian Conflict.” He has written a dozen publications on the Waco siege since, with no end in sight.

“We’re still waiting on about 7,700 pages of Freedom of Information requests that have not been met,” he said.

Earlier this month, he gave a lecture on the Waco siege at Lamar University.

“The impact of Waco on American culture has been significant and far-reaching. Waco has become a symbol of government overreach and excessive force,” Wright said in his lecture. “It served to galvanize the militia and Patriot movements of the 1990s. The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 by Timothy McVeigh and fellow insurgents was carried out in retaliation for Waco. Waco now is an historical marker, a permanent part of the far-right political culture’s identity and raison d’etre.”

“Waco is the subtext of conservative and far-right resistance to gun control,” Wright said. “Think of the argument being made by the NRA and the gun lobby — we need military assault weapons and large caches of ammunition to protect ourselves from government tyranny. Before we laugh and dismiss them as crazy, think about what took place at Waco. Where do you think people would come up with a crazy idea that the government would resort to despotism to get your guns?”

“Let’s not forget that Waco was a gun raid,” Wright said. “It was a gun raid that ended in the worst law enforcement disaster in American history. It was the paranoid gun enthusiasts’ worst nightmare. And it occurred on the heels of another misguided gun raid in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, just six months before, where Randy Weaver’s wife and son were killed by federal agents.”

The botched raid on Randy Weaver, a white separatist, had tarnished the ATF’s reputation. But, in Bill Clinton, Wright told the Statesman, “I think the ATF saw a political opportunity to have somebody in the White House that would be a potential ally.”

The gun rights community was very much on edge, said Wright, who, after McVeigh’s arrest for the Oklahoma City bombing, was hired by his legal team to be their Waco expert.

“He believed that government was coming to get their guns and Waco was the ultimate attempted gun grab,” Wright said.

On March 16, 1993, McVeigh traveled to Mount Carmel, going to where other visitors gathered, by the roadblocks. He was selling bumper stickers printed with slogans like “Is Your Church BATF-Approved?”

Michelle Rauch, a reporter for The Daily Campus, the student newspaper at Southern Methodist University, approached McVeigh and interviewed him.

“It seems like the ATF just wants a chance to play with their toys, paid for by government money,” McVeigh told Rauch. “The government is afraid of the guns people have because they have to have control of the people at all times. Once you take away the guns, you can do anything to the people.”

“Government is continually growing bigger and more powerful, and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control,” McVeigh said.

The education of Alex Jones

“It became a soap opera and then watching C-SPAN and seeing the documentaries, knowing that the mainstream media went along with the lies, that was really a big formative thing, and I really wanted to tell the truth,” Jones recalled for the Statesman. “And then I was really watching when Oklahoma City happened.”

Jones said his interviewing and investigation convinced him that the Oklahoma City bombing was an “inside job” — and McVeigh the patsy.

The Oklahoma City bombing wasn’t payback for Waco?

“That’s what they set it up to make it look like — ‘Oh, the feds got hit back’ — because Waco hurt them so bad it was going to lose them the election,” Jones said. “It is a false flag. One hundred percent.”

Jones got his start on Austin public access television, and then added a radio talk show on KJFK, a gig he lost, despite high ratings, because management was put off by his obsession with the Waco siege and rebuilding the Branch Davidian church at Mount Carmel, which had become a personal crusade.

But losing the KJFK show didn’t slow him down.

By 2000, in his low-budget documentary, “America Wake Up or Waco,” the Alex Jones of today is fully realized.

“You know there’s a common thread in all of this from the (1993) World Trade Center bombing to Oklahoma City to, of course, Waco,” Jones said, standing amid the ruins at Mount Carmel. “They always destroy all the evidence and don’t let the locals in to document anything. What do they have to hide? If this is some murderous cult as the TV shows told us, then what did they have to hide?

“Why do they always destroy the remains? This building was burned to the ground. But they still bulldozed the entire foundation and pushed it up into a heap, into a monument to the wreckage of the police state. Welcome to the New World Order.”

“They drove directly in and pumped CS gas, a banned form of chemical weapon, point-blank range into children’s faces,” Jones continues. “They don’t make gas masks that fit 2- and 3- and 4-year-old children, my friends. No matter what propaganda you want to believe, those babies did not deserve to be murdered by the black ski-mask thugs.”

Jones notices another man close by also being interviewed by a video crew, amid the rubble.

Jones identifies the man as an FBI agent, as one of the Waco negotiators.

“You ought to be ashamed of yourself,” Jones says approaching the man, jabbing his fingers in his direction. “You don’t stand up for the Constitution. You stand for zip, nada, zero.”

The man appears mildly amused by Jones’ aggression.

“A revolution of peaceful information is coming, and when it comes time, you people are going to be brought up for punishment,” warns Jones, as the documentary flashes images of a nervous Nazi officer in the dock.

“Just like Nuremberg,” Jones says. “Just taking orders doesn’t cut it my friend. Do you understand me?”

“I think I’ve assessed you,” the man replies mildly

“We know the federal government destroyed Oklahoma (City). It’s proven. We know what you guys are engaged in. Just like Hitler burnt the Reichstag,” Jones said. “So you can assess me all you want. I’ve assessed you — a smiley-faced slime ball that sits there and soft-pedals and tries to placate the media.”

“We need indictments, you need to call for the indictment of Janet Reno,” Jones says, closing out his impromptu interrogation. “Are you calling for an indictment of Janet Reno — Hermann Goering in drag?”

That is followed by a gentle interview with David Koresh’s mother. Most of the last part of the documentary is devoted to the effort Jones is spearheading to rebuild the church at Mount Carmel. There are clips of local TV news stories on the rebuilding, but also a visit from Randy Weaver.

“They want to be Wyatt Earp and Bill Hickok,” Weaver says of the federal agents. “Murderers is what they are.”

In early 2000, when Reno came to Austin to speak at the University of Texas, Jones was outside protesting the “butcher of Waco” and inside asking Reno during the Q&A portion when she is going to “come clean about the mass murder” at Waco.

The crowd was with Reno, and when a woman asked her whether she was going to visit Mount Carmel, she offered a casually noncommittal reply: “I have a plane out first thing tomorrow morning, but if I get in my truck when I leave the office and have time, I’ll stop by.” Reno’s response, the Associated Press reported, was met with “thundering applause.”

‘Incendiary device’

Reavis was working for the San Antonio Express-News when Jones was rebuilding the church at Mount Carmel.

“Alex Jones said they found the incendiary device that started the fire at Mount Carmel,” Reavis recalled. “In my book I say that was a possibility that the FBI accidentally, carelessly fired an incendiary device, or maybe purposefully did it, but no such device was ever found except the one fired that morning outside the school bus area, which could not have started the fire, which didn’t start until much later.”

Reavis called Jones: “’I want to see your incendiary device,’ and they let me go to the house of the man in Round Rock who had custody of it and that man gave it to me and I brought it home and sawed it open and found a number on the inside of it and it looked to me like it was a battery, a big battery, so I called up Eveready and I said, ‘Does this number mean anything to you?’ And they said, ‘Yes, that’s one of our batteries,’ and I went to print with that in the Express-News.”

“There’s an example of the credibility of Alex Jones and them,” Reavis said.

“The conspiracy people want to explain everything so that we know what happened,” Reavis said. “I just don’t think that human beings can always know, and so they jump to conclusions.”

“I don’t know who fired first” in the initial raid, Reavis said. “And I don’t know who started the fire.”

‘That’s our history’

Asked to assess the lasting meaning of the Waco siege, Reavis paused.

“I’m not sure in the long run it means that much,” he said. “I say that thanks to my wife. I took her to Mount Carmel a few days after it burned down. And she’s Venezuelan and she looked at all the ashes and she said, ‘I never thought I’d get a chance to see what y’all did to the Indians,’ and I thought, what the hell was that? And if you notice, my book is dedicated to Sitting Bull because he was the David Koresh of his era.”

The full dedication is, “To Sitting Bull and the Ghost Dance believers.”

In 1890, the Lakota chief was shot and killed in a botched attempt to bring him in for questioning about his role in an apocalyptic Ghost Dance movement. Fourteen days later, soldiers of the Army 7th Cavalry Regiment, concerned about the Ghost Dance believers, massacred hundreds of Sioux men, women and children at Wounded Knee, S.D., for which 20 soldiers later received the Medal of Honor.

“This is one more reiteration of ‘pull the trigger too fast United States,’” Reavis said. “That’s our history.”

At the Waco siege, he said, “They didn’t have to go in after 51 days. The FBI was tired of Waco, but you don’t kill people because of that.”



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