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Wesley Clark and Waco

by ALEXANDER COCKBURN And JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

Originally Published June, 1999

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.

Waco Update: The Delta Force Was There

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.

 

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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