Remember the Alamo. Remember the Maine. And now, for some, Remember Waco.
When the Mexican army attacked the Alamo in 1836, “Remember the Alamo,” became the call to arms for Texans to rise up and defeat the Mexicans. When the U.S. battleship Maine exploded in Havana Harbor in 1898, “Remember the Maine” became the battle cry for war against Spain.
And now the name of Waco, Texas, stirs the blood of people who would rise up and defeat their enemy. The very name conjures up their fears and anger, inspires their methodical training in isolated rural camps with assault weapons and explosives.
But this time, the enemy is us, our own government. Federal authorities say Waco was seared into the mind of Timothy McVeigh, the man accused of bombing the federal building in Oklahoma City last Wednesday. The blast was on the second anniversary of Waco.
Like the Alamo, Waco apparently also has become a sort of shrine.
“McVeigh had been so agitated about the deaths of the Branch Davidians in Waco,” said a federal affidavit detailing the charges against him, “that he personally visited the site. After visiting the site, McVeigh expressed extreme anger at the federal government.”
Soon after the explosion, federal offices in New York and Washington received anonymous faxes that mentioned “Waco” and “baby killers.”
“The rallying cry is ‘No More Wacos,”’ said Rick Eaton, a researcher at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Waco, of course, was the home of the Branch Davidian cult headed by David Koresh.
Alarmed by reports that the cult was stockpiling a huge arsenal of weapons, agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided the compound on Feb. 28, 1993 to search it. The resulting shootout left six cult members and four ATF agents dead.
After a 51-day-long standoff, federal authorities used armored vehicles to pierce the walls of the compound and blast in tear gas. A fire started, set by the federal attack, according to survivors, or by the cult itself, according to authorities. Regardless, more than 80 people died in the inferno, including 25 children of cult members. The date was April 19, 1993.
To most of America, the attack and ensuing fire was a tragedy.
But to thousands of disgruntled, angry Americans, Waco was the ultimate sign that the federal government planned to come with force to take away the very weapons they need to defend themselves against enemies imagined or real. Waco was the catalyst that brought them together into dozens of extremist self-appointed paramilitary groups scattered around the U.S.
The Waco attack cemented a fear started when federal agents tried to arrest Idaho white separatist Randy Weaver in 1992 on federal firearms charges. The shootout at Weaver’s mountain cabin left a deputy U.S. Marshal and Weaver’s 14-year-old son dead. The next day, a government sniper shot and killed Weaver’s wife as she held their 10-month-old son. (*See memo field)
The paramilitary groups cite “Waco and the Randy Weaver siege as evidence the federal government will stop at nothing to impose its will on the public,” said Tom Halpern, a spokesman for the Anti-Defamation League.
The two men questioned by the FBI, James and Terry Nichols, both have ties to the Michigan Militia. The paramilitary group also sees the Waco incident as an ominous sign that the federal government wants to Martin said both Nichols brothers believe the federal government wants to disarm citizens so it can consolidate its power.