"The public must be put in its place, so that it may exercise its own powers, but no less and perhaps even more, so that each of us may live free of the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd." ~ Walter Lippmann
It"s My Party, and They"ll Lie (and Kill) If They Want To
On August 21, 1992 , agents of the United States government laid siege to the Ruby Ridge, Idaho home of Randy Weaver. By evening of the following day, Weaver had been severely wounded by a shot in the back. His 13-year-old son, Sammy, and his wife, Vicki, had been shot to death, and his friend Kevin Harris had also been severely wounded when the bullet that killed Vicki Weaver passed through her and hit him in the chest. Randy Weaver's alleged crime: possession of weapons that the U.S. government had deemed him unfit to possess. A jury later concluded that the government had entrapped Weaver into producing the illegal weapons. In other words, the government had already decided that Weaver was a criminal deserving of imprisonment or death, so it manufactured evidence of weapons violations in order to justify the murder or wounding of nearly everyone in the Weaver house.
Conservatives' response to this incident? Outrage.
Even ten years after the fact, for example, National Review Online published an article called 'Remember Ruby Ridge,' in which Timothy Lynch referred to the incident as 'a scandalous series of events that opened the eyes of many people to the inner workings of the federal government.' After recounting the tragic events of August, 1992, and the subsequent lies and cover-ups, Lynch explained why we must keep alive the memory of Ruby Ridge:
A new generation of young people who have never heard of Ruby Ridge are now emerging from the public-school system and are heading off to college and will thereafter begin their careers in business, education, journalism, government, and other fields. This generation will find it hard to fathom that the federal government could have killed a boy and an unarmed woman and then tried to deceive everyone about what had actually occurred and, in some instances, rationalize what did occur. That is why it is important to remember Ruby Ridge. Someone needs to remind the young people (and everyone else) that it really did happen ' and that it will happen again if the government is not kept on a short leash.
On February 28, 1993 , agents of the United States government laid siege to the Waco , Texas , home of David Koresh. A brief raid on that day killed six members of Koresh's religious group, the Branch Davidians, who also lived in the Koresh compound. By the end of the day on April 19, 1993 , at least 80 Branch Davidians, including women, children, and Koresh himself, were dead as a result of another raid by government agents. David Koresh's alleged crime: possession of weapons that the U.S. government had deemed him unfit to possess. Later investigations determined that there was no evidence that Koresh had stockpiled any illegal weapons; furthermore, Koresh had cooperated with federal investigators on previous occasions and could easily have been arrested on any of his frequent trips outside the Davidian compound. In other words, the government had already decided that Koresh was a criminal deserving of imprisonment or death, so it manufactured evidence of weapons violations in order to justify the murder or wounding of nearly everyone in the Koresh house.
Conservatives' response to this incident? Outrage.
At WorldNetDaily, Linda Bowles wrote that the Waco incident 'was a tragedy that would have toppled most civilized governments, or at least resulted in the resignation of a few top-level scapegoats'but not in an America where justice is routinely mangled, the Constitution is ignored and corruption thrives in high places.'
Ann Coulter, never one to mince words, referred to the 'lies, cover-ups, deceptions, and law-breaking by government agents at Waco .'
On March 19, 2003 , after a nearly 13-year siege known euphemistically as sanctions, agents of the United States government began an assault on the Iraq home of Saddam Hussein. The siege had already killed tens or even hundreds of thousands of Iraqis; as of this writing, the assault by agents of the U.S. government has killed at least 13,000 Iraqi civilians. Saddam Hussein's alleged crime: possession of weapons that the U.S. government had deemed him unfit to possess. Subsequent investigations determined that Hussein did not possess the stockpiles of illegal weapons that the U.S. government had claimed he did but that much of the intelligence on which the U.S. government had based its claims was, to put it kindly, 'faulty.' In other words, the government had already decided that Hussein was a criminal deserving of imprisonment or death, so it manufactured evidence of weapons violations in order to justify the murder or wounding of vast numbers of people in the Hussein 'house.'
Conservatives' response to this incident? Jubilation accompanied by derision and smearing of anyone who dared disagree with the government.
I needn't even provide examples here. Unless you've been living on Mars for the past two years, you've heard them all a hundred times. If you really must have proof, though, just visit NationalReview.com, Instapundit.com, or WorldNetDaily.com; or, if you don't want to waste your valuable web surfing time, tune in Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or any of their innumerable clones. You'll soon hear what a great thing the mass murder of Iraqis has been and continues to be, and how the issue of the phantom WMD in Iraq is entirely irrelevant.
What explains this radical reversal on the part of conservatives? Why do those who claim to base their opinions on immutable principles'as one of Limbaugh's bumpers says, 'With Rush, principle still matters''take a position on Iraq that is the polar opposite of their position on Ruby Ridge and Waco , despite the fact that the three incidents are remarkably similar?
(One might counter that there is a huge difference between the first two and the third in that Hussein was a threat whereas the others weren't. Keep in mind, however, that the feds told us at the time that both Weaver and Koresh were threats, at least to their neighbors if not to the entire country, because of the combination of their unconventional opinions and their alleged illicit weapons. The parallels to the Iraq propaganda are, in fact, quite remarkable.)
The first answer to the questions posed above is that most people, be they conservatives, liberals, communists, or libertarians, don't recognize the parallels among the three incidents. Indeed, I just came to the realization a few days ago, which led me to write this column.
The second, and probably more accurate, answer is that conservatives perceive Ruby Ridge and Waco to be the fault of Democrats, primarily Bill Clinton and Janet Reno. (Although the Ruby Ridge incident took place during the George H.W. Bush administration, most of the lies and cover-ups took place under Clinton .) When Democrats lie and abuse power, conservatives are only too happy to report it and lambaste the politicians for their criminality.
On the other hand, since conservatives perceive'and rightly so'the Iraq war to be the responsibility of Republicans, primarily George W. Bush, not only do they not wish to report the lies and abuse of power, but they actually lead the cheers for the administration's criminality!
In short, principle takes a back seat to politics. The conservative response to a government crime depends first and foremost on which wing of the Government Party is perpetrating it.
In a June 13, 2001, piece on the Ruby Ridge incident he co-authored for National Review Online, Instapundit Glenn Reynolds argued against Clinton administration Solicitor General Seth Waxman's assertion that '[f]ederal law-enforcement officials are privileged to do what would be otherwise be unlawful if done by a private citizen.' Reynolds and co-author Dave Kopel argued instead that [w]hen federal officials operate outside the Constitution, they operate outside any legal authority that makes them different from ordinary citizens. An ordinary citizen who fires on someone who isn't reasonably seen as a threat faces prosecution for murder, or at least manslaughter. . . . An FBI sniper who shoots when there is no immediate threat is outside the Constitution and deserves no special protection from the law.
Notice that Reynolds and Kopel stated that the law and the Constitution apply to all federal officials, which presumably includes the president. Given that, perhaps Reynolds, possibly the Web's most notorious warblogger, and other kill-'em-all-and-let-Allah-sort-'em-out types might wish to reconsider their support of a war which was conducted outside the bounds of the Constitution and which consisted solely of agents of the U.S. government shooting 'when there [was] no immediate threat.' I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that, however'that is, unless John Kerry moves into the White House next January.