Fifteen Years After Waco

Here’s my article commemorating the Waco tragedy fifteen years ago. It covers a number of bases—the right to revolution, the problem with liberals and conservatives, the public ideology of statism, the police state, and so forth—but here’s just one excerpt from it relating to the recent FLDS affair in El Dorado, Texas:

Waco still matters. Not just because it has become the paradigmatic symbol for federal police power gone out of control. Not just because it starkly demonstrates the American government’s militarism unleashed against its own people. Not just because it showcases the propensity of politicians and law enforcers to deceitfully cover and obscure their wrongful actions. No, Waco’s still important mostly because it shows exactly what happens when people resist the unjust incursions of their own government, including under democracy.

Consider, in contrast, what has happened quite recently in Texas. This time, state and local officials seized 416 children from the Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints (FLDS) Church. The supposed justification was the abuse of minors, but there is in any event no reason to assume these children would be less abused in the custody of the Texas government, whose foster system has been rife with child rape, poisonings and murder.

This mass seizure of children featured officials “wearing body armor and carrying automatic weapons, backed by an armored personnel carrier.” The militarization of domestic police has infected every level of American government, down to the local. The Texas police were ready to conduct a warlike raid of the Fundamentalist Mormon home, and the particular justification for it has shifted from a specific report of abuse (still unconfirmed, and possibly a prank) to a more general one, just as the rationale behind Waco shifted (from a methamphetamine lab, to illegal guns, to child abuse).

Thank goodness the family under siege this time around did not forcibly resist, because it could have ended violently, with many of those kids not just kidnapped, but killed.

Anthony Gregory is a former Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the Independent books American Surveillance and The Power of Habeas Corpus in America.
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