Few overseas may realize it, but the prototype of the current war-disinformation campaign was tested in the U.S. in 1993. And it worked. Look for a replay in Iraq.
1993…a curious year in the U.S…the first attack on the World Trade Center, the attack by Federal authorities on a religious group in Waco, Texas (near the ranch of George W. Bush), and–of minor import–the year I was run out of the journalism business.
The massacre of nearly 100 men, women and children of the Branch Davidian Sect (an offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventist Church) in Waco reportedly started with a complaint to the U.S. Justice Department by the ADL-related Cult Awareness Network.
At once, the new concept of “embedded” journalism was put into effect. Journalists were segregated and kept apart from the action on a so-called “carnival hill”–too far away to really see what was going on. These reporters dutifully reported what they were told at government press conferences and virtually no mainstream media voices contradicted them. Part of this was due to the fact that Bill Clinton was president, and many Democratic reporters felt a need to be loyal to their party, and part was due to the increasing corporate centralization of media control. Among the accusations howled daily by this crowd–ALL of which later turned out to be false:
David Koresh was operating a methamphematine lab
David Koresh was a polygamist and child molester
Children had been molested at the church (previously ruled out by Texas officials)
A substantial tunnel network existed on church property
Koresh had .50-Cal. machine guns
Koresh had .50-Cal. armor-piercing ammunition
Koresh had either biological or chemical weapons
Koresh planned to overthrow the U.S. Government
(Some decent conservatives termed this as “demonization”.)
After passing several opportunities to peacefully arrest the “cult” leader, the Feds launched a 300-man shooting assault on the church, including 20-mm cannon fire from a helicopter. Koresh was wounded and several Federal agents were shot, although it has been argued that the killings were from friendly crossfire. A 51-day siege of the church (now termed a “compound”) was launched. Razor wire was strung around the church, loud music and lights were put on every night, power and water were cut off, food was denied those inside, and Red Cross representatives were not allowed inside to check on the welfare of the children.
While constantly reassuring Americans through the “embedded” reporters that the situation would be resolved peacefully, and even allowing some of the children to have milk and eventually allowing a small number of Davidians to come out (these were later given stiff Federal prison sentences, despite assurances to the contrary, and defense experts mysteriously died while preparing vital defense evidence) the Federals apparently had other ideas.
After about a month, I recall my wife telling me–after she had heard that others trying to leave the church and surrender had been driven back by stun grenades and gunfire–“they’re going to kill those people.”
“No way,” I replied. After all, the “embedded” reporters said all Koresh wanted to do was to make a prophesy and unlock a “key to scripture” and he would come out.
Well, my wife was right. One day (well before the deadline Koresh had been given) there was a massive assault with armored cars and Delta Forces. The rest is history. Most of the church members were either burned to death or shot at close range. Only a few survived, and these were jailed also.
I am constantly reminded of Waco when I hear the current stream of cynical outright lies about prisoner shootings, uprisings and the like in Iraq. True, Saddam Hussein may be a bad man to some, but how many leaders could resist using “weapons of mass destruction” (if they actually had them) when two thirds of their country was in the hands of an invading force? The “embedded” reporters say Saddam has got to be the most evil man that ever existed–just like David Koresh was briefly. Koresh and Saddam were both wounded in the initial attack. I’m only afraid we may get the same ending in Baghdad.