Child Abuse at Waco

"For the sake of the children" has emerged as one of the most dangerous phrases in American politics. President Clinton has invoked children's alleged dependence on the federal government not just for his putatively child-oriented programs (such as the misnamed Department of Education), but also for issues that have only a tenuous connection to children, such as his prohibition on semiautomatic firearms, or his antiterrorism proposals for greater wiretapping and for trials with secret evidence. The most ironic of all the administration's claims about its love for children, however, is its persistent assertion that the BATF and FBI attacks on the home of the Branch Davidian children in Waco, Texas, were noble efforts to protect the children from child abuse. And, it turns out, there really was child abuse at Waco, although not exactly as described by the government.

Child protection was, according to the government, the reason why the FBI could not wait to see if Koresh would keep his promise to surrender after completing a written exposition of the Seven Seals of the Book of Revelation. In April 1993, Attorney General Reno had repeatedly rejected the FBI's request for permission to end the siege by gassing the Branch Davidians' home. But at one of the FBI-Reno meetings, someone pushed the hottest of Janet Reno's hot buttons.

According to a later Justice Department report, sometime in the week...

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