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Was Clark at Waco?

by Alexander Cockburn And Jeffrey St. Clair

On February 28, 1993 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms launched its disastrous and lethal raid on the Branch Dividian compound outside Waco, Texas. Even before the raid, members of the US Armed Forces, many of them in civilian dress, were around the compound.

In the wake of the Feb 28 debacle Texas governor Anne Richards asked to consult with knowledgeable military personnel. Her request went to the US Army base at Fort Hood, where the commanding officer of the US Army’s III corps referred her to the Cavalry Division of the III Corps, whose commander at the time was Wesley Clark. Subsequent congressional enquiry records that Richards met with Wesley Clark’s number two, the assistant division commander, who advised her on military equipment that might be used in a subsequent raid. Clark’s man, at Richard’s request, also met with the head of the Texas National Guard.

Two senior Army officers subsequently travelled to a crucial April 14 meeting in Washington, D.C. with Attorney General Janet Reno and Justice Department and FBI officials in which the impending April 19 attack on the compound was reviewed. The 186-page “Investigation into the Activities of Federal Law Enforcement Agencies Towards the Branch Davidians”, prepared by the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight and lodged in 1996 (CR 104 749) does not name these two officers and at deadline CounterPunch has so far been unable to unearth them. One of these officers had reconnoitered the Branch Davidian compound a day earlier, on April 13. During the Justice Dept. meeting one of the officers told Reno that if the military had been called in to end a barricade situation as part of a military operation in a foreign country, it would focus its efforts on “taking out” the leader of the operation.

Ultimately tanks from Fort Hood were used in the final catastrophic assault on the Branch Davidian compound on April 19. Certainly the Waco onslaught bears characteristics typical of Gen. Wesley Clark: the eagerness to take out the leader (viz., the Clark-ordered bombing of Milosevich’s private residence); the utter disregard for the lives of innocent men, women and children; the arrogant miscalculations about the effects of force; disregard for law, whether of the Posse Comitatus Act governing military actions within the United States or, abroad, the purview of the Nuremberg laws on war crimes and attacks on civilians.

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net. Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

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