"A machine-gun toting, child-molesting Jesus freak"

Readers respond to Robert Bryce's critique of the left's hypocrisy on Waco and David Koresh.

By Salon Staff

Published June 21, 2000 7:00PM (EDT)

Surviving Branch Davidians and the families of those killed in the 1993 raid want the feds to pay.

On Tuesday, testimony began in the $675 million wrongful-death lawsuit going before the court in Waco, site of the deadly standoff between cult members, led by David Koresh, and FBI and ATF agents. Lawyers for the Davidians opened with videotape of children killed in the raid -- at least 20 of the 80 people killed in the fiery incident were under the age of 16 -- stressing to the jury that those kids "never owned a gun. Never fired a gun. Never hurt anyone."

But in order to prove the federal government was responsible for those deaths, lawyers must disprove evidence from independent arson analysts, who say it was the Davidians themselves who set the deadly inferno. The outcome of the lawsuit also hinges on whether agents used excessive force in the initial raid, whether they were negligent in withholding firefighting equipment once the blaze struck the rickety compound and whether agents deviated from Attorney General Janet Reno's original plans in using tanks to storm the complex.

Today, readers respond to Robert Bryce's June 19 article, "Why does the left ignore Waco?" and weigh in with their own opinions on the government's role in the tragedy.

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Robert Bryce asserts that the left didn't support David Koresh because the Davidians were Christian "gun nuts."

This leftist didn't defend Koresh because like so many charismatic leaders, he was a sexual predator, specifically of young girls whose parents and guardians were members of his congregation. I'm not anti-Christian. I own a gun. And I'd use it to shoot any creepy Psalm-singing snake oil salesman that fucked my pre-adolescent daughter.

While I support and exercise the right to own weapons, I don't believe we have to tolerate stockpiling of weapons and conversion of semi-automatic weapons to automatic weapons. The right to own and sell guns is not unregulated.

Furthermore, all the Davidians had to do was open the door and surrender to the warrants for their arrest. They'd have had their day in court. Instead they chose to shoot at and kill ATF agents who served those warrants. They brought their fate on themselves. Any armed group who resists arrest, regardless of their political beliefs, will precipitate a violent response from the government. I'm not so naive as to call that martyrdom.

-- Beth Blankenship

Bryce's piece on Waco is superb. It shows that Salon.com, unlike the New York Times, Time, etc, is a legitimate journalistic enterprise supporting the First Amendment. Those other mainstream leftist publications have allowed themselves to become the kept whores and poltroons of the thugs in the Clinton administration.

Bryce's article is correct on all counts: Waco was about mostly unsophisticated, gun-loving, Bible-reading people -- all of which the Left loathes mightily. Most of all, however, Waco was about power.

Waco is Exhibit A on why the Founding Fathers included the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights -- all ten rights, incidentally, were patently conferred on individuals, and not on "state militias," as many leftist petty tyrants aver.

-- M. R. O'Donnell

C'mon, Robert! Catch a clue!

What is going on in the Koresh case is pure right-wing gun loon propaganda with a huge share of Monday morning quarterbacking. A lot of police in all venues are far more racist, abusive of individual rights and show the same degree of hotshot militarism as the ATF or the FBI. In fact, city, state and county law enforcement abuses, just by simple math alone, are in magnitudes worse than all federal agencies put together. The only difference is the ATF's job is to seek out and arrest gun loons who cross into criminal activity, which has been proved in the absolute that Koresh did.

I am very disappointed that many feel it necessary to do their righteous libertarian chest-pounding over this when there are many better issues to cry freedom over than vilifying the federal government for going after illegally armed right-wing, child-molesting religious cults. And no, in this case the slippery slope does not bother me. I don't really care the politics of it. Whoever it is dealing in weapons to ply their paranoia and hate should hear from my government no matter if they are Left, Right or otherwise.

-- Randall Guyton

Perhaps the Left is reluctant to support a machine-gun toting, child-molesting Jesus freak and his misguided followers who allowed their children to join him in a fiery grave. Or maybe we are smart enough to understand that opening fire on cops brings severe consequences, regardless of your religious convictions.

The real question is, why do conservatives support the police officers that gun down yet another unarmed black man, but excoriate the feds for killing well-armed (and white) zealots? Robert Bryce's article ignores this question in order to label liberals as hypocrites without exploring the issue in a meaningful way.

Rather than ignore Waco, I remember the siege as a lesson about armed maniacs getting their just deserts. If the feds incinerated every armed fundamentalist group tomorrow, I would raise my glass in celebration. Is that hypocrisy?

-- Lou Brocksen

Robert Bryce ignores the most obvious reason no one on the Left is out protesting with "Free Koresh" signs along with their "Free Mumia" signs.

Koresh is dead.

I don't know anyone on the Left that thinks the government's actions in Waco were remotely reasonable or justified. But no amount of social protest will restore the lives of the Davidians. The gap between left and right on this issue has more to do with the willingness of the right to believe loony and baseless conspiracy stories. Those on the left would like to see justice, but aren't concocting paranoid fantasies.

In the case of Mumia, the man isn't dead, yet. There is at least the possibility of preventing his murder.

-- Brian Craft

As a matter of fact, as a reader of the Nation, Z Magazine and Mother Jones, I know that all three magazines have addressed this issue, and most of my "leftist" friends agree that there was no excuse for what happened at Waco.

Who is the enemy? Who actually killed the children at Waco? As soon as someone uses the terms "conservative" and "liberal" I know I'm reading propaganda bullshit.

-- Matthew Slick

I am ashamed to admit that my government has chosen, once again, to deny its guilt, to cover up its actions, and to place blame on innocent American citizens in regard to the Waco massacre.

With the "revelations" coming out about the incendiary devices used, the military units being used against American citizens, and the other lies being told by the government, some high-ranking officials need to lose their jobs and be prosecuted for abusing their powers. Janet Reno has abused her office numerous times and needs to be restrained. From Ruby Ridge to Waco to Elián Gonzales, she bypasses the judicial system and uses extreme measures far too often.

We do not live in a military state. We have rights as American citizens and we must stand up and declare that what is happening is not right and we are not going to allow it to continue. But be careful, some police agency may break down your door, declaring you to be a member of a radical group that intends to overthrow our democratic form of government. I say we lost control of "our democratic form of government" quite some time ago and something needs to be done to take it back.

-- Rich Grubbs

I think most Americans believe the Davidians got what they deserved, [that they were] a group of religious nuts holed up with a bunch of guns and accused of molesting children.

The kook-right didn't used to mind if the ATF and the FBI got out of control back in the 60's, as long as their targets were minorities, blacks, Indians, Hispanics, Middle Easterners.

But if it's a white guy, no matter how evil he is, no matter what harm he has done to how many people, because he's "a Christian" and because he stockpiled automatic weapons to use against the government, the kook-right takes up his cause like he was St. Francis of Assisi. God, guns and football. Boy, Texas really is a whole other country.

The notion that David Koresh and the Davidians were some kind of heroes, unjustly persecuted by the government, is so obviously and painfully absurd, it's nearly impossible to take the whole thing seriously.

The Repubs are rousing the rabble and they will pay for it, one way or another. I think it will be by losing the Congress and the Presidency in November. Democracy has a way of reining in that kind of hypocrisy and excessive partisanship.

-- Eric S. Lee

Salon Staff

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