L. Neil Smith's

Number 14, September 15, 1996.

Speaking the Unpalatable Truth

By Vin Suprynowicz

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

         J.K., an editor at a newspaper in west Texas, writes that my column of Aug. 30 -- which dealt primarily with the Chechen freedom fighters -- was "reprehensible and irresponsible," because in the final paragraphs "You say flat out that federal agents fired on the Branch Davidians in Waco; that is unproven stuff of conspiracists. You also then recommend Chechen-style retaliation against federal agents."
         This "betrays an attitude that goes way beyond what I consider to be reasonable, rational dissent," he concludes.
         I find it interesting that J.K. didn't bother to call me (he has my number) to ask how I determined that federal agents shot into the Waco church complex from the circling National Guard helicopters (helicopters which were only acquired, let us remember, by the transparent ruse of the ATF mission commander lying outright to the Texas National Guard, claiming he believed David Koresh was operating a methamphetamine lab -- the only circumstance under which such military equipment is supposed to be available for use against U.S. citizens on our own soil.)
         How is it that any fact is determined to be solid enough to be reported in any respectable newspaper -- eventually passing into the history books? Do reporters just happen to be on the scene of most of the holdups, plane crashes, or other unscheduled events that fill the bulk of our news accounts?
         Of course not. They interview eyewitnesses when they can - experts who have sifted the forensic evidence when they cannot. Then, when accounts disagree or seem hard to believe, they seek corroboration from other witnesses, hammering away at or finally dismissing the accounts of those who turn out to have some strong motivation to lie, and especially of those who keep changing their stories -- who can be demonstrated beyond a doubt already to have lied.
         How do I know ATF agents fired from the helicopters at Waco? I interviewed face-to-face Waco survivor Catherine Matteson, a 72-year-old Christian lady of clear eye and calm demeanor. I didn't merely talk to her over the phone, watch edited portions of her statements on videotape, or hear her when she spoke on a panel surrounded by other Branch Davidians with whom she might have wanted to stay on good terms (although those means of acquiring information are generally accepted for newspaper publication, if that's all that's available.)
         No, I asked her face-to-face, one-on-one. She told me she saw the helicopters firing down through the walls and roof of the church at Waco on Feb. 28, 1993.
         "Now, Catherine," I said -- not wanting to let such an important point go by without a little more poking -- "it was real noisy. There was gunfire down at the front of the building. The helicopter rotors themselves are pretty noisy. Probably you heard gunfire while the helicopters flew by, and you just assumed there was fire coming from the aircraft, right?"
         "No," said the 72-year-old Christian lady, looking me straight in the eye, calm and serene as if she were reporting what kind of bird she saw on the bird feeder this morning, "the helicopters were firing at us. I saw the yellow flashes. We had to get down on the floor because the bullets were coming in the window and through the walls."
         "The yellow flashes" is what experienced interviewers call a significant corroborative detail. How many 72-year-old ladies who have never been in combat, do you suppose, know that a machine gun makes a yellow muzzle-flash which can often be seen, even in daylight ... especially if it's firing directly at you?
         Catherine Matteson was never put on trial, faced no charges when I spoke with her, and doubtless never will. While she is indeed inclined to think well of her fellow church members, I submit there is no reason to assume she is lying, especially when her account is substantially corroborated by 12 other Davidian survivors, many of them under oath.
         I have also spoken to Dick DeGuerin, one of David Koresh's attorneys, face-to-face. He told me that -- before the church at Waco was burned to the ground and bulldozed to destroy the evidence, just as the Branch Davidians feared the government would do -- he was in the building, trying to negotiate a surrender. The occupants took him up to the third floor, where he saw many bullet holes in the ceiling.
         Mr. DeGuerin told me he knows enough about the behavior of bullets coming through wood that he recognized the downward-pointing splinters as a sure sign that these were exit holes caused by gunfire from above. He could not have been fooled by bullet holes "planted" by someone firing upward from inside. He also stated there was no high ground near the Waco church building from which any such fire could have come ... it had to be from the helicopters.
         Attorney DeGuerin -- who had no reason to lie to me on behalf of a client long dead -- has also repeated this under oath.
         Another Waco survivor with whom I have spoken in person, David Thibodeau, is a stocky, direct fellow who retains a hint of his native "down Maine" accent. He confirmed for me what he testified to before Congress, and also stated in a signed affidavit -- that during the initial ATF attack of Feb. 28, 1993, church member Winston Blake was killed by a bullet which -- from its trajectory through the wall - could only have come from a helicopter above.
         There are also strong indications that Jaydean Wendell, an Asian-American, was killed instantly by a single bullet which penetrated downward to her second floor bedroom that day, piercing her brain as she lay on the bed in full view of her small child, playing in the same room.
         The government contends Ms. Wendell must have been firing a rifle if she was shot ... as though bullets fired in blindly through walls and roofs can distinguish the armed from the unarmed.
         (At the Branch Davidian trial, a female ATF agent testified that the invaders' standing orders were to withdraw if fired upon, and not to return fire through the plywood walls. Although she and her partner were apparently the only agents to obey this order, no ATF assailant has ever been disciplined for raking a plywood building full of unarmed women and children with penetrating rifle fire.)

         # # #

         On the other hand, let us look at the government denials.
         Initially, the government contended such fire was an impossibility, because the helicopters in question were "unarmed."
         (These denials, mind you, tend to be "institutional." My attempts to reach individual ATF agents for interviews have always been diverted to professional "Public Information Officers" who were not on the scene, and who specialize in non-denial denials, answering with such rhetorical questions as: "Do you really believe trained government agents would behave that way?")
         Reporters like myself are carefully prevented from looking individual agents in the face to see if they sweat, dart their eyes, or display short tempers or frustration under the kind of probing questions to which the Branch Davidian survivors and attorneys happily -- and voluntarily -- subject themselves.
         However, during the recent House Waco hearings, BATF agent Davy Aguilera, who rode in one of the helicopters, testified that BATF agents in the Blackhawks had their automatic weapons with them, loaded, during the raid. Although he answered "No" when asked whether he had fired, he did disclose that agents had been told they were allowed to fire in self-defense.
         So, to get the helicopters, they lied about the "methamphetamine lab." To get the search warrant which they never tried to serve, they lied about the Rev. Koresh and his parishioners having fully-automatic weapons, while also purposely concealing the fact that the Rev. Koresh had invited them (in the hearing of a witness) to come inspect his weapons any time.
         Later, the FBI lied about the urgent need to knock down the walls and staircases (with tanks) and feed in the toxic, flammable CS gas to "end the child abuse." Throughout, they lied persistently about the helicopters being "unarmed."
         What else have the federals done to encourage us to believe they're telling the truth ... this time?
         An unsigned Treasury Department memo turned over to congressional investigators, referring to helicopters as "HCs" in its discussion of the dress rehearsal for the Waco raid at Fort Hood, Texas, reads: "HCs as a diversion. Simultaneous gunfire. Worked in Seattle. Three to four hundred meters from boundary. Hover. Practiced at Hood."
         Yet, although the agents who first denied being armed now admit they carried loaded machine guns in the helicopters and were authorized to fire, we are expected to believe they saw gunfire being returned from the church, saw four of their buddies down below being hit and falling in a wild firefight, but still refrained from firing?
         To believe this, mind you, we would also have to believe that all the video cameras recording the raid just happened to run out of tape at the point where the helicopters swooped near the building, since that's the point at which the videotapes are interrupted. All of them.
         On the audio tape of the second Branch Davidian 9-1-1 call of that day, still early in the raid, now-deceased Davidian Wayne Martin can be heard shouting excitedly: "Another chopper with more people - more guns going off. They're firing! That's them, not us." The voice identified in court as church member Steve Schneider then adds: "There's a chopper with more of them. Another chopper with more people and more guns going off. Here they come!"
         Throughout, the government machine guns (the church members had none) can be heard firing in the background.
         Such voice recordings, made while an event is actually taking place and before anyone has time to reconstruct a "better story" later on, are generally considered to be excellent evidence. Against this we have only denials by federal agents who -- if they said anything else -- would be exposing themselves and their comrades-in-arms to indictment for cold-blooded murder.
         Now there's a motivation for deception.
         Before I reached my conclusion of fact, I personally investigated this matter more fully than 90 percent of the stories which appear as factual accounts in any daily newspaper in America. An award-winning professional reporter and editor of more than 20 years experience, now writing full-time for a newspaper of more than 150,000 circulation, my sole stock-in-trade is my credibility, my insistence on reporting the truth as best I can discover it.
         That does not mean I'm infallible. I'm as capable as any human being of misunderstanding something. On such rare occasions, I file a correction as timely as possible.
         But I submit that "believing in conspiracies" does not prove one a fruitcake.
         Yes, some "conspiracists" are certifiable. If the transmission drops out of your neighbor's old truck and he blames it on space-alien radio signals, or a secret 300-year-old plot by a small cabal of international Jewish bankers, he's nuts.
         But federal prosecutors charge people with "conspiracies" all the time. One assumes they "believe" in all these conspiracies, yet no one seems to dismiss all federal prosecutors are "fruitcakes" ... even when juries finally throw out large numbers of these conspiracy indictments as unprovable or unfounded.
         A "conspiracy" is a plan between two or more parties either to commit a wrong, or to cover up wrongdoing after the fact. Conspiracies happen all the time. Of course government agents conspire to keep us from finding out about their terrible, fatal screw-ups, caused by cranking up the adrenaline levels of too many ill-trained and overarmed agents in circumstances where such tactics are totally uncalled for ... like Waco.
         But I submit that when an editor like J.K. says that my reporting of such facts is "the stuff of conspiracists," what he really means is that he has forgotten his duty to thoroughly investigate and then present all the facts, no matter how uncomfortable they may make him, his bosses, or those readers who hope to cling to their comforting delusions just a little longer.
         This was the same attitude displayed by the editors of The New York Times, when confronted with dispatches from their own European correspondents in 1941, reporting that Nazi "special detachments" were murdering vast numbers of unarmed civilian Jews in Eastern Europe.
         That esteemed paper decided either to not run the dispatches at all, or to heavily edit them and bury them in the back of the paper, because they "couldn't be true," they "had to be exaggerated," and because to play them prominently would open the newspaper to criticism that it was being used as a tool of Zionist propagandists, or that it was itself purposely conspiring to brew up a "war fever" in a United States which at the time had not yet entered the conflict.
         I submit that the obvious truth about our government's murderous behavior at Waco and Ruby Ridge and Donald Scott's ranch is similarly being self-censored by less-than-courageous editors who know there is a national disinformation campaign afoot to brand anyone who expresses concern about such matters as "black helicopter conspiracy nuts."
         That such men and women are more interested in preserving their own careers than in reporting facts which have met every standard and common-sense test of corroboration, but which are simply too disturbing to consider, should perhaps not surprise us. But it does make me ashamed to share their profession, one which in this country once went by the shining motto: "Print the truth and raise hell."

         # # #

         As to whether I "recommend Chechen-style retaliation against federal agents," I believe we move here beyond matters of professional judgment, and into purposeful misrepresentation. The word "retaliation," I believe, has been carefully chosen. If a federal agent wrongs me or mine, and some months later I plan to "retaliate" by ambushing or harming that or some different federal agent at a different place, at that point I am fighting a guerrilla war of resistance. "Retaliation," by definition, always occurs considerably later, and with forethought.
         While I do indeed fear it may eventually come to that -- should our out-of-control government keep systematically usurping the rights of a once-free people -- I consistently advise against such measures.
         But let's remember, the Branch Davidians who fired back at government agents who were charging their home and church with guns ablaze -- who did not "retaliate" at some later time, but rather immediately defended themselves and their families under extreme duress -- were unanimously found innocent by an American jury of all the capital charges.
         The San Antonio jury ruled their shooting of those federal agents was justified, and acquitted them of any wrongdoing in shooting those federals (just as Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris were unanimously acquitted of killing the trespassing federal marshal at Ruby Ridge), finding them guilty only of some relatively minor weapons charges.
         The forewoman of the Branch Davidian's jury in San Antonio -- yes, I have interviewed Sarah Bain, too, and since stayed in touch by mail - says the jury was shocked when the judge sent the defendants up for years on those minor charges. This was done over her written protest, in a letter in which she told the judge that the jury assumed the defendants would be released for "time served."
         So, American law says we are justified in firing back at men in black ninja suits who come running onto our property with guns ablaze, just as every major Western religion tells us that this is not just our right, but our duty.
         The Russian helicopters fired at the Chechen rebels, attempting to kill them in their own land. The ragtag Chechen teenagers shot down eight. They had every right to do so.
         If a helicopter swoops over my property and opens fire at me and my family, unannounced and unprovoked, I will use every means I have available (as pitiful as those are, under current legal restrictions) to try to shoot down that helicopter and kill everyone aboard, and I don't care what color uniforms the occupants turn out to be wearing. Even the Talmud instructs us -- according to my friend Aaron Zelman of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership -- that "If a man comes and attacks your family, you shall rise up and smite him."
         I wonder what alternative plan J.K. in Texas has. Will he go home to his wife and kids tonight and say "Now listen kids, honey, this is important. If government men come in a helicopter and start shooting in through the roof and windows here and trying to kill us, I want you all to know that I've decided we're not going to resist in any way. We're not going to fire back, even in an attempt to scare them away. Instead, I expect every one of you to follow my example, as I drop my trousers and kneel down on the floor with my butt up, doggie-style, to provide them with a large, soft target."
         Alternatively, I suppose he figures he can always dial 9-1-1. We're always assured that, after we're disarmed, we can count on the local police to protect us. (And the goal of the ATF is to disarm us, make no mistake. You think they sent 100 troopers to Waco to collect a $200 firearms tax?)
         Like any law-abiding citizens, the Branch Davidians dialed 9-1-1. They died two months later, still waiting for the sheriff.
         I have not been alone in reporting -- after documenting as best I can -- the real significance of Waco. Rebecca Wyatt's "Vantage Point" column in the August issue of "Guns & Ammo" magazine argues that Waco is "but a glimpse of our future" if the federal government continues to seize "illegal powers as (the) Constitution gathers dust."
         And the Gun Owners Foundation has just published Carol Moore's book "The Davidian Massacre," including her latest research on the topic, drawn from interviews with the participants, as well as trial and congressional transcripts.
         James Bovard, the eminently respectable Cato Institute scholar, frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal's op-ed page, and author of the book "Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty" - whom I personally know to be a decent and common-sense fellow - describes the author:
         "Carol Moore has done more research on Waco than anyone else. Her book pulls together many of the most shocking details of government abuses that a reader cannot find anywhere else. Anyone interested in Waco should learn much from her book."
         Autographed copies of Ms. Moore's book are available at $9 book rate ($11 first class or Canada), which includes postage and handling, from: Carol Moore, Box 65518, Washington, D.C. 20035, tel. 202-635-3739.
         I'm awaiting my copy.
         I was tempted to order one for J.K. in Texas.
         But for some reason, I doubted he would bother to read it.

Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The column is syndicated in the United States and Canada via Mountain Media Syndications, P.O. Box 4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.

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