The Delta Force Was There

by Alexander Cockburn And Jeffrey St. Clair

Amid NATO military supremo Wesley Clark’s onslaught on the civilians of Serbia the question arose: did Clark hone his civilian-killing skills at Waco, where the FBI oversaw the largest single spasm of slaughter of civilians by law enforcement in US history, when nearly a hundred Branch Davidians died amid an assault by tanks, flame-throwers and snipers.

The tanks were from Fort Hood, where Wesley Clark was, in early 1993, commander of the Cavalry Division of the US Army’s III Corps. In our last issue we cited a congressional report commissioned in the aftermath of Waco which described how Texas governor Anne Richards had consulted with Clark’s number two at Fort Hood. Then, on April 14, there was a summit at the Justice Department in Washington, where Attorney General Janet Reno, top Justice Department and FBI officials and two unnamed senior Army officers reviewed the final assault plan scheduled for April 19.

The two Army officers at the Justice Department that day were Colonel Gerald Boykin, and his superior, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the head of Special Forces at Fort Bragg. Though Clark (who had served with Schoomaker) was not directly involved in the onslaught on the Branch Davidians, the role of the US Army in that affair throws into harsh relief the way prohibitions against the use of the US military for civilian law enforcement can be swiftly by-passed.

Boykin and Schoomacher were present because the Army’s Fort Bragg-based Combat Applications Group-popularly known as the Delta Force-had been enlisted as part of the assault team on the Branch Davidian Compound. It appears that President Clinton had signed a waiver of the Posse Comitatus Act, with the precedent being Ronald Reagan’s revocation of the Act in 1987, allowing the Delta Force to be involved in suppressing the Atlanta prison riot.

The role of the Delta Force, the identity of the two Army officers, the revocation of Posse Comitatus all form part of the disclosures of a forthcoming documentary film, Waco: A New Revelation, put together by part of the team that produced an earlier, excellent film, Waco: Rules of Engagement. Following our questions about Wesley Clark’s possible involvement at Waco, producer/researcher Mike McNulty called us with some details of his new documentary-directed by Jason van Fleet and due to be released in July.

After energetic use of Freedom of Information Act enquiries, plus research in three repositories in Texas holding evidence from the Waco inferno, plus other extensive investigations, McNulty and his team have put together an explosive file:

? 28 video tapes from the repositories show that in the final onslaught on the Waco compound were members of the US military in special assault gear and with name tags obscured. As noted above, Clinton’s revocation of the Posse Comitatus Act made this presence legal. McNulty isolates Vince Foster as the White House point man for the Waco operation.

McNulty cites Foster’s widow as saying that the depression that prompted the White House lawyer’s death was fueled by horror at the carnage at Waco for which the White House had given the ultimate green light. Foster was writing a Waco report when he died. McNulty says that some documents about Foster and Waco were among those removed from his office after his death, later to surface in a White house store room sheltering archives of the First Lady.

The film, McNulty says, discloses how the federal assault team placed explosives on top of a compound bunker whither the feds believed the Branch Davidian leaders might flee. Material evidence collected by McNulty shows that the FBI/Delta assault force bombarded the compound with pyrophoric – i.e. fire-causing – projectiles.

Erosion of Posse Comitatus Act prohibitions on the involvement of the US military in law enforcement here is particularly sinister. The congressional report on Waco showed that some Army officers were extremely disturbed at requests for military assistance by the FBI, and there were some acrimonious exchanges at the time. The drug war, needless to say, has been a prime solvent in this process of erosion. One factor is the malign cross-fertilization occurring when these so-called “elite units” – the Army’s Combat Application Group, the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team, the Navy’s SEALs – all train together, along with SWAT teams from police forces across the country. Thousands of law enforcement officers have now cut their teeth on the homicidal commando techniques most flagrantly displayed by the killers assembled in the British SAS, members of which were also present at the Waco siege. The Rambo mindset now saturates law enforcement, and even the rangers in Fish and Game Departments now pack heat. Both CounterPunch editors have had the experience of being asked to down their fly rods and produce ID, by young Fish and Game rangers with semi-automatics on their hips.


AWOL from Albania?

Chris Sorochin, a CounterPuncher in Brooklyn, tells us of the momentous climax to a visit he recently paid to Hitler’s mountain retreat, Berchtesgaden. As Chris and his companions stood surveying the vertiginous spectacle so savored by the Fuehrer, their attention was seized by a helicopter which rose to eye level, as the pilot surveyed them. Knowledgeable chopper buffs in Chris’s party identified the helicopter as an Apache.
Recycle, Then Kill

As Nato airstrikes flattened oil refineries and showered depleted uranium across Yugoslavia, the US Army mounted a gung-ho pr campaign touting its new sensitivity to the environment. The Army’s green credo, “Sustaining the Land We Defend”, is displayed in a glossy ad in Soldier magazine depicting an M-16 toting soldier, equipped with night-vision goggles, striding across the earth. The text of the ad proclaims: “The Army’s ability to train effectively and meet the highest standards in service to America depends on your actions as soldiers today. By considering the environment in everything you do, you help sustain the Army’s training lands, protect the nation’s natural resources, and ensure a safe and healthy environment for fellow soldiers, their families and our civilian communities”. The ad urges soldiers “to follow environmental guidelines” during drills because “readiness depends on healthy landscapes and training ranges”.

In an era when many enlisted men are on food stamps, the Army tells soldiers to recycle at every opportunity, noting that it “lightens the load on America’s landfills, decreases the Army’s disposal costs and helps installations pay for quality of life programs”. The Army, ever vigilant when it comes to fighting wasteful spending, notes that “preventing pollution reduces waste and save millions of dollars for readiness”. Alas, the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory cites the Pentagon as being one of the top ten polluters in the nation. This is probably an gross understatement, since the Army is exempt from many reporting requirements and there is little legal recourse to compel the military to clean up its mess. When it comes to dump sites, no company comes close. A report by the Military Toxics Projects shows that there are more than 11,000 hazardous waste dumps at the Pentagon’s 900-plus sites in the United States. Cleanup has taken place at less than 400 of the dumps. Somehow we don’t think this is what Ed Abbey had in mind when he called for a new generation of eco-warriors. CP

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch. 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.

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