A Weak Week

As the Politicians Turn

Oddly disconnected from the real world of politics, the presidential campaign pokes along on its own narrow bandwidth. Last week we saw Boring Gore taking a leaf out of Clinton’s book and getting a shot in the arm with new masturbation instructor–wannabe TV babe–author Naomi Wolf. There was Vietnam POW and hero John McCain looking really trashy, shooting a TV ad among the graves at Arlington Cemetery. Failing a pop quiz—which Bill Bradley refused to take—Shrub Bush admitted he might not be a genius but still had plenty of common sense and could run the nation real good. Boola boola.

There was dapper little Gary Bauer, whom you might hate because he’s a Christer, but whom all Washington loves because he had a girl alone in his office for hours. (Gary’s wife says he wasn’t doing anything bad and to leave him alone.) And there was Steve Forbes doing what he does best, being a rich weenie. Go tiger!

Meanwhile, the world was being reconfigured in time for the millennium. Vladimir Putin, the former Soviet spy and now prime minister, who, it turns out, ran the horrendous East German Stasi secret police from a post in Dresden, is busily crushing Chechnya and starting the process of reclaiming Russia’s sphere of influence in the territories of the former Soviet Union—an initiative that has elevated Putin at home, and promises to reestablish tensions with new NATO members like Hungary along frontiers of the old Soviet bloc.

Judge Penfield Jackson’s Microsoft findings of fact—quite distinct from legal findings—might turn out to be an economic blueprint for the next century, as observes, but more likely they’ll be a blip on the economic screen, rearranging the chairs in cyberspace. Instead of the Microsoft Titanic, may be there will Baby Bell–like missile cruisers. One thing is certain: The Microsoft case itself does not reflect any real interest by the Clinton administration in a stiffer prosecution of antitrust policy. The government had to be persuaded to bring the case to begin with—partly by the writings of people like federal judge Stanley Sporkin and consumer advocate Ralph Nader. Far from constituting a road map, the Micro soft case is an exception. The true path-setting act of the Clinton administration’s antitrust policy is the president’s approval of the grandiose banking act recently passed by Congress, which allows banks and investment companies to merge with insurance companies and other financial institutions to form the greatest concentration of economic power in this century.

Film for Thought

Military Action at Waco?

Mike McNulty’s new, expanded version of his original documentary (Waco: The Rules of Engagement), entitled Waco: A New Revelation and previewed last week in Washington, offers a fresh, intriguing look at Waco, making a convincing case that military personnel actually participated in the final assault. In a riveting two hours of documentary footage, taken largely from the government’s own archives, the filmmakers make a strong case that the government—far from practicing defensive measures to protect unarmed women and children—mounted an attack using military operators to squash the Davidians. Footage of helicopter machine guns spitting fire into the compound, and sniper pits with empty shell casings in the dirt below gun ports, belie any government claims of defensive fire.

The filmmaker raises the possibility that FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi, the man who killed Randy Weaver’s wife, Vicky, in 1992 (and was accused of negligence in the killing, but later exonerated), was with the Blue sniper squad at Waco. This ought to be grist for former senator John Danforth’s inquiry. The documentary presents experts who suggest the government may have placed a special charge atop a bunker to kill the women and children gathered for protection within. The filmmakers additionally suggest the fires set in the compound drove women and kids to an exit where they were gunned down like sitting ducks by Feds.

The most powerful sequence shows a tank rolling up to the compound and suddenly disgorging two figures from its underbelly. The figures deploy to the right of the tank and you see quick muzzle flashes as they apparently shoot into the compound. It was producer Mike McNulty who first brought to light the presence of the Delta Force unit at the Waco compound. The film argues military operators were in the attacking tanks, and the attack described above certainly has the earmarks of a military assault with professional soldiers—certainly not the half-assed, crazy shooting of the ATF agents with which the film begins.

If the military actually ran ground operations at Waco, they did so on command of the Joint Chiefs, who, in turn, were working on orders from—or at least in concert with—the White House. At the screening, the filmmakers passed out declassified Pentagon papers from the Joint Chiefs ordering military units to Waco to “provide the FBI with the requested equipment and two technical operators. The equipment will be used for defensive purposes only (to protect the lives of law enforcement personnel).” The first person who ought to be questioned about this is the then chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell.

Another major narrative voice in the film be longs to a former CIA official—and the CIA, as re ported here last week, apparently was to some extent involved. It is normally illegal for either the military or the CIA to actively participate in domestic civilian affairs. The filmmakers hope to have the first public screening at the Sundance festival early next year; it ought to air on national TV. Politicians and entertainment industry moguls who babble on about violence should see the real stuff. This documentary footage, obtained in part from the government, shows a man sifting through the Waco rubble, pulling the burned and mangled body of a child from the debris. As he lifts the body, an arm falls off, the spine crumbles. The searcher frantically tries to find some place to put the little body down before it disintegrates.

The filmmakers try to trace the government’s decisions on Waco back to Vince Foster, deputy counsel at the White House, who, according to his wife, felt so guilty about killing kids he turned a gun on himself. From Foster they move to Hillary, who, they suggest, may have disappeared key papers in the case and herself been the person to issue the orders. The evidence here is pretty thin.

If Danforth and Congress are in any way serious about getting to the bottom of the Waco scandal, they’ll have to discipline Pentagon brass, including the nearly sanctified Powell. Everyone in Washington knows that will never happen.


Leave the Kid Alone!

Here is the text of that Halloween story penned by Christopher Beamon, a 13-year-old seventh-grader in the Texas town of Ponder, who got a grade of 100 from his teacher, but went to jail because a judge said he made terrorist threats.

“My flashlight went out and I heard someone right behind me and I turned in a very slowly scared way and boom the lights came on and the doorbell rang. I walked very slowly and creepy and turned the knob ding dong the door bell went again. I said just a minute and I will be right there and I looked through the little hole in the door and Robin said Boo. I told him to come in and have a seat and we both wated and wated for Ismael because he was supposed to bring the (ounce) so we could get high but half an hour later still no Ismael so I got the idea of freeon and we grabbed a bag and a knife and ran out back to the airconditionar. We througth the bag over the nostle and covered it tightly and used the knife to press the volv. We started to hear something after we got high so we ditched everything we quickly run to the door to see who it was and there wasn’t anybody there then we heard someone at the back door to see who it was I thought it was a crook so I busted out with a 12 guage and Ismael busted out with 9 mm and we step off the porch and this bloody body droped down in front of us and scared us half to death and about 20 kids started cracking up and pissed me off so I shot Matt, Jake, and Ben started laughing so hard that I acssedently shot Mrs. Henry. Ismael saw somebody steeling antifreeze so Ismael shot over ther near the airconditonar and hit some body [indecipherable word] also scattered out and went home and my mom drove up and everything was back to normal but they didn’t have any heads.”

Christopher spent five days in prison before a lawyer hired by his mother got him sprung early. In an interview before the boy was released, Denton County juvenile court judge Darlene Whitten refused to discuss specifics, but told the Dallas Morning News she takes any statement or threat of bodily harm very seriously. “I do want people to under stand that, just like making a threat at an airport, a threat in a school situation is very serious, even if it was in jest,” she said. “The system has got to take such words in an earnest way.” 

Additional reporting: Kate Cortesi