Nineteen years ago, just outside Waco, Texas, the FBI demonstrated once again that the state at its core is a killing machine. Monarchy, democracy, or republic – any government as conventionally defined is a legal monopoly on violence. The state is always inclined toward oppression, division, conquest, and bloodshed, because these are its tools of trade.
Matters are no different here. The myth of a free America was always seen with bitter irony by those not blessed by such freedom. In the founding generation, as half a million labored in slavery, many who fought in the Revolution genuinely believed in liberty, but for the ruling elite who chided them on, liberty was hardly more than a slogan. This has always been true of our political leaders. The Father of the Country was a centralizing slaveowner. Old Hickory talked up freedom as he threatened war on South Carolina and forced the Cherokee to flee from their ancestral land on a barbarously murderous walk of shame. The Great Emancipator turned America into a military dictatorship and abolished the revolutionary right of secession. Wilson’s New Freedom was cover for a Prussianized war machine generating revenue for his profiteering buddies on Wall Street. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms failed to include the freedom not to be drafted or interned in a concentration camp. Ronald Reagan threw the word freedom around as he trained Latin American torturers and raped the Bill of Rights in the name of fighting drugs. The United States has never lived up to its rhetoric.
But the events from February 28 through April 19, 1993, still stand out in my mind as a watershed. It was the post-Cold War regime’s coming of age, signifying a major event in cultural history.
Everything about Operation Showtime was brazen, and it seemed like an overreach even by some of the government’s establishment defenders. Yet today Washington’s fixers must look back at these embarrassments as a hiccup at most, as growing pains on the way to establishing a militarized law-and-order apparatus of nearly unlimited power. That this stepping stone was reached on the eve of the Internet era, right before the old media began its decline in influence, was most convenient for the police state and its solidification.
The propaganda against the Branch Davidians was perfectly tuned to appeal to the masses, each adjustment in frequency coming just in time to keep the people listening. Religious fanatics with a meth lab, armed and dangerous, abusing their children – few wanted to stand up for these people during the siege. Even fewer wished to identify the Davidian response to the original raid for what it was: self-defense. The Davidians fired on the ATF so long as the ATF fired upon the Davidians, and when the ATF ran out of ammo, the Davidians held their fire. The government’s officials were the aggressors. What followed were fifty-one days of psychological warfare designed to isolate the Davidians – from water, from food, from the press, their lawyers and family – and break them down like any wartime enemy.