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Waco Siege 20th Anniversary And 18 Years Since Oklahoma City Bombing By Timothy McVeigh

19/04/2013 12:15 BST | Updated 19/04/2013 17:40 BST

The Boston marathon bombing and the massive explosion at a fertiliser plant in Waco, Texas, have made this week a particularly grim one for America.

Unfortunately, US domestic terrorism and the town of Waco are no strangers to the news.

In the early hours of a Texan Monday morning 20 years ago today a 51-day stand off between the FBI and a heavily armed Messianic cult came to an end.

waco oklahoma

The Mount Carmel Center ablaze

The ensuing gunfight and blazes that resulted, 76 people died including 28 children.

Twenty-three of the dead were British.

David Koresh, formerly known as Vernon Wayne Howell, was the leader of the cult, an offshoot of a Protestant sect known as the Branch Davidians.

Koresh had changed his name in honour of two biblical kings and convinced his followers he was to lead the second coming in the forthcoming Apocalypse he had prophesied.

david koresh waco

David Koresh

He also convinced the male members to observe a life of celibacy while he had sexual relations with their wives in order to establish a "House of David".

A local newspaper had written a feature on Koresh. The opening paragraph says:

If you are a Branch Davidian, Christ lives on a threadbare piece of land 10 miles east of here called Mount Carmel. He has dimples, claims a ninth-grade education, married his legal wife when she was 14, enjoys a beer now and then, plays a mean guitar, reportedly packs a 9mm Glock and keeps an arsenal of military assault rifles, and willingly admits that he is a sinner without equal

The Branch Davidians lived in a compound in the Texan town of Waco. They came to the attention of the Alcohol, Firearms and Tabacco (AFT) department who believed they were stockpiling weapons and making methamphetamine.

An initial raid on 28 February by the ATF ended in a firefight which killed four ATF agents and five Branch Davidians.

A siege now ensued led by the FBI. Despite using sleep deprivation techniques, cutting power to the compound and shooting holes in their water tower, the occupants refused to leave.

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The view from the ground

During this period a 24-year-old Gulf War veteran called Timothy McVeigh visited the compound. He would come to the attention of the world in devastating style two years later.

The decision to force entry was made, ostensibly for the welfare of the children who were inside, on 19 April.

Tear gas was pumped into the compound followed by heavily armed FBI agents and armoured vehicles.

Around noon three fires had broken out which quickly spread through the compound's buildings suffocating and burning all those inside, including Koresh.

The actual sequence of events is still disputed. Doubt remains over who fired the first shots and whether the fires were deliberate or could have been prevented.

Waco Siege, 1993

After the siege had ended McVeigh returned to the scene in Waco. Incensed by what he saw as federal suppression of US citizens he decided to take revenge.

Along with another conspirator, Terry Nichols, McVeigh constructed a massive 3.2-tonne truck bomb.

On the second anniversary of the Waco siege, 19 April 1995, the bomb was detonated outside the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building which housed a number of government agencies.

timothy mcveigh

Timothy McVeigh

It also had a creche and among the 168 people killed in the blast including were 19 children under the age of 6.

In letters written whilst incarcerated, McVeigh wrote:

Remember Dresden? How about Hanoi? Tripoli? Baghdad? What about the big ones — Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

The truth is, the US has set the standard when it comes to the stockpiling and use of weapons of mass destruction.

Hypocrisy when it comes to the death of children? In Oklahoma City, it was family convenience that explained the presence of a day-care center placed between street level and the law enforcement agencies which occupied the upper floors of the building. Yet, when discussion shifts to Iraq, any day-care center in a government building instantly becomes “a shield.” Think about it.

Whether you wish to admit it or not, when you approve, morally, of the bombing of foreign targets by the US military, you are approving of acts morally equivalent to the bombing in Oklahoma City..

McVeigh was executed in 2001 for what was the worst incident of terrorism on US soil until 9/11. Nichols was sentenced to life in prison.

Waco Siege, 1993

Oklahoma is still a jumpy city...