Yesterday the Associated Press (AP) reported ridiculous conspiracy theories about the Waco Davidians as if they were credible.
In an article published by the wire service titled “Agents visit Davidian site 15 years after botched raid” an AP reporter wrote, “The government claims the Davidians committed suicide by setting the fire and shooting themselves. But survivors say the blaze was started by tear gas rounds fired into the compound by government tanks, and that agents shot them ” even those fleeing the burning building.”
This AP report reflects more than just bias by totally ignoring the facts as repeatedly established through numerous investigations and years of litigation surrounding the Waco Davidian Standoff.
Not even noted by AP are the two congressional investigations that found such survivors claims to be totally false.
Republicans, not particularly friendly with President Clinton or his Attorney General Janet Reno, concluded within their report that such conspiracy theories about Waco were completely false. Here are some excerpts:
- The Davidians started the fire.
“The evidence presented to the Subcommittees conclusively demonstrated that three distinct fires began in three separate parts of the Branch Davidian residence within a two minute period on April 19. In light of these facts, the Subcommittees conclude that the fires were intentionally set by Branch Davidian members in order to destroy the structure. Supporting this conclusion is that fact that the fire review team found that a number of accelerants were present in the structure, including gasoline, kerosene, Coleman fuel, and other accelerants.
Given that these accelerants were used to contribute to the spread of the fire, the Subcommittees conclude that the Davidians used them as part of a plan to destroy their residence.”
- The use of “tear gas” (methylene chloride) specifically did not cause the fire.
“One of the theories forwarded to the Subcommittees comcerning the origin of the fire is that methylene chloride, a chemical used as a dispersant to carry the CS riot control agent injected into the Branch Davidian residence, may have ignited and started the fire. During the hearings Dr. Quintiere testified that it was his opinion that the methylene chloride in the CS agent neither caused nor contributed to the spread of the fire.
In light of this testimony, and the other information reviewed by the Subcommittees concerning the flammability of methylene chloride, the Subcommittees conclude that the presence of methylene chloride in the Branch Davidian residence did not cause the fire nor contribute to its spread.”
- The Davidans could have left the compound freely, but chose to stay and die instead.
“Throughout the morning of April 19, none of the Davidians left their residence. After the fire broke out, however, nine persons left the building. This indicates that at least some opportunity existed for the Davidians to safely leave the structure had they wanted to do so. One of those who escaped the fire left the residence almost 21 minutes after the breakout of the first fire. Clearly, some means of escape from the residence existed for a significant period of time after the fire broke out.
An important question, however, is whether the Davidians might have been overcome by smoke and prevented from leaving the residence. The autopsies of the Davidians indicate that deaths from smoke inhalation or asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning accounted for only half of the Davidians who died in the residence. The other causes of death were gunshot wounds, burns, or other trauma. Thus, even after the fires began to consume the structure, at least half of the Davidians were not so affected by the smoke and fumes from the fire that they were physically unable to leave the structure.
Additionally, the location of the bodies of the Davidians indicates that few of the Davidians actually attempted to escape the building. Many of the bodies were huddled together in locations in the center of the building. Few of the bodies were located at points of exit from the building, and the cause of death of several of the bodies at exit points were self-inflicted gunshot wounds or gunshots from very close range.”
The subsequent independent Danforth Report came to the same conclusions.
- Government agents did not start the fire at Waco;
- Government agents did not shoot at the Branch Davidians on April 19, 1993;
- Government agents did not improperly use the United States military;
- Government agents did not engage in a massive conspiracy and cover-up. 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 twenty others, shot at FBI agents trying to insert tear gas into the complex, burned down the complex, and shot at least twenty of their own people, including five children.
Likewise, the Davidian survivors legal claims for damages were repeatedly rejected.
In 2000 a jury cleared the government of any wrongdoing. Their unanimous answers:
1. Did the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms use excessive force when its agents tried to serve search and arrest warrants on Feb. 28, 1993, at the sect’s compound? In particular, did agents fire at the compound either indiscriminately or without provocation in the gunbattle that broke out?
Jury’s answer: No.
2. Did the FBI act negligently in any of the following ways during its tear-gassing operation on April 19, 1993: By driving tanks into the building in ways that violated the Washington-approved gassing plan? By starting or contributing to the spread of the fire? By deciding not to have any plan to fight any fire that might break out, despite a directive from Attorney General Janet Reno to have “sufficient emergency vehicles”?
Jury’s answer: No.
And subsequent appeals by survivors and their lawyers to retry their claims ended in failure.
It seems strange that an AP reporter prefers to rely upon conspiracy theories rather than the facts as repeatedly established by the courts and Congressional Record.
But for anyone familiar with the sad history of destructive cults, such as Jonestown and Heaven’s Gate, the fiery deaths of the Waco Davidians is not an anomaly, but rather fits well within the historical context of other cult mass suicides.
And any responsible journalist should place the blame where it actually belongs, which is with cult leader and psychopath David Koresh, not the federal government.
This seems to be an uncomfortable truth that many people are unwilling to accept.
That is, the fragility of the human mind, which is far more vulnerable to undue influence than some of us would like to believe.
By allowing this bad reporting to pass through unedited Associated Press not only neglected journalistic integrity, but helped to perpetuate myths about Waco.