(Mint Press) – In a letter to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Attorney General Eric Holder stated that the president does have the authority to use military force on any American citizen on American soil. The attorney general, however, did qualify this by saying that the president can do so only in “an extraordinary circumstance.”
“The U.S. Attorney General’s refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening,” Paul said in a press release Tuesday. “It is an affront the constitutional due process rights of all Americans.”
As of Wednesday, Paul is filibustering the confirmation of John Brennan to be the head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Last month, when Paul originally made the threat, he announced he would filibuster Brennan “until he answers the question of whether or not the president can kill American citizens through the drone strike program on U.S. soil.” Brennan told Paul in response that “the agency I have been nominated to lead does not conduct lethal operations inside the United States — nor does it have any authority to do so.”
As defined in Holder’s response, these “extraordinary circumstances” involve foreign attacks on American soil — the last two being the 9/11 attacks and the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The use of deadly military force is classified as “entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no president will ever have to confront,” according to Holder.
But none of this is entirely new. Twenty years ago, the United States used lethal force to stop a perceived domestic threat. In Waco, Texas, a separatist branch of the Seventh Day Adventists — the Branch Davidians — stood off against armored deployments of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Texas National Guard, who were attempting to serve an arrest warrant on the Branch Davidians’ leader, David Koresh, on weapon charges and execute a search warrant.
It has been standard practice that lethal force shall be used by law enforcement only when it is needed to protect the lives of the innocent and minimize the impact a dangerous force has on the populace. As such, it is neither “hypothetical” nor “unlikely to occur” the thought that an American president may order a drone strike or any other conveniently accessible means to put down a perceived threat.
The attack on the Branch Davidians’ Mount Carmel Center ranch and the resulting blaze that culminated the government’s siege was televised live nationwide.
Seventy-six Branch Davidians died in all, including 18 children. There were no apologies for the tragedy from the federal government.
In the whole of the raid, the federal government used two Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopters, nine M3 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, four M728 Combat Engineering vehicles, two M1A1 Abrams battle tanks, one M88 tank retriever, one Britten-Norman Defender surveillance plane and a host of support vehicles.
The raid on Waco
Branch Davidians — which, in many ways mirror Messianic Judaism — resulted in a schism of the Davidian Seventh Day Adventists in 1955, which itself was a reform movement in the Seventh Day Adventist Church in the 1930s. The Branch Davidians inherited and embraced the Seventh Day Adventists’ apocalypticism, believing that they were living in the “end times” — the time immediately before the final divine judgment that is the prelude to the second coming of Christ.
As such, the group was ready to die. Their teachings prophesied that a major conflict with the American government will precipitate the apocalypse. The group was dangerously prepared to meet any outside threat with reciprocal force and possible self-destruction.
On Feb. 27, 1993, the Waco Tribune-Herald began its “The Sinful Messiah” series on Koresh, which confronted the church leader with claims of statutory rape, physical abuse of children, polygamy and the stockpiling of illegal weapons. The United Parcel Service (UPS) contacted the ATF to inform the bureau that a shipment of gunpowder, grenade casings and firearms were received at the Branch Davidians’ Mount Carmel Center ranch.
An investigation was launched, which included the placement of an undercover agent with the Branch Davidians. Koresh discovered the undercover agent, but didn’t expose him until the day of the raid.
Based on the claim that Koresh was operating a methamphetamine lab (an unproven and verifiably false claim), the ATF received a search warrant for the Mount Carmel Center ranch that expired Feb. 28, 1994.
When the ATF — who was flanked by the media — arrived at the Mount Carmel site, the Branch Davidians were ready. Some were praying and making death preparations while others were arming themselves. The ATF tipped off the Davidians by asking a mailman for directions to the ranch, who happened to be Koresh’s brother-in-law.
No one is sure who fired first, but at the end of that first day, four ATF agents were killed and 16 were wounded. It is unclear how many Branch Davidians died or were injured, but it is known that Koresh was hit. A 1999 federal report classified the Davidians’ response as “defensive violence.”
The report states: ”The violent tendencies of dangerous cults can be classified into two general categories — defensive violence and offensive violence. Defensive violence is utilized by cults to defend a compound or enclave that was created specifically to eliminate most contact with the dominant culture. The 1993 clash in Waco, Texas at the Branch Davidian complex is an illustration of such defensive violence. History has shown that groups that seek to withdraw from the dominant culture seldom act on their beliefs that the end time has come unless provoked.”
What followed was a 49-day siege that ended April 19, 1993 when Attorney General Janet Reno authorized an assault to liberate the children from the facilities. A barrage of .50 caliber fire and CS gas grenades tore the facilities apart and may be the cause of the fires that ultimately set the complex ablaze and caused it to collapse, killing all inside.
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