When reports claimed that a chemical attack killed 70 civilians in Syria earlier this month, the Trump administration was quick to place the blame on the Syrian government—despite having no evidence—and they claimed that the horror of such an atrocity deserved retaliation in the form of targeted airstrikes.
While the United States military maintained that the 120 missiles launched in the attack destroyed a facility that was used to produce chemical weapons, witnesses on the ground in Douma, Syria, claimed that the airstrikes actually destroyed a cancer research facility.
U.S. intelligence officials have since admitted that the attack was carried out despite the fact that the United States had no proof that the Syrian government had carried out a sarin gas attack. Instead, the U.S. acted before an investigation could be conducted, and as is usually the case with reported gas attacks in Syria, proof has yet to be found to show that President Bashar al-Assad was responsible.
If the idea that a government would use chemicals to kill dozens of its own citizens is so abhorrent that the U.S. would risk World War 3 to take a stand against it, then it must mean that the U.S. would never do the same thing to its own citizens, for fear that it could be subjected to a similar response from another country—right?
However, on April 19, 1993, there was a government that used chemical weapons on its own people, and nearly 80 men, women, and children died as a result. But the attack was not carried out by the Syrian government and it did not happen in the Middle East. It took place in Waco, Texas, and it was perpetrated by the United States government.
It all started as the government began looking for ways to obtain a warrant to search the 77-acre plot occupied by a group called the Branch Davidians when they heard rumors that the mysterious cult was stockpiling weapons and modifying them with illegal parts in preparation for the end of the world.
Branch Davidian leader David Koresh was accused of having multiple underage wives, sexually abusing the young daughters of his members, and ultimately holding cult members against their will. But an investigation conducted by Child Protective Services in 1992 concluded that no one was being held against their will and there were no signs of child abuse.
The case against the Branch Davidians continued to grow, and as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) looked for more evidence against them, Koresh was also accused of running a meth lab on the property. Although no evidence of this was ever found, it served as a legal pretext for ATF agents to receive military training, in order to initiate a raid on the property.
ATF agents attempted to serve a search warrant at the property on Feb. 28, 1993, and they were met with gunfire from the Branch Davidians. They returned fire, and four ATF agents and six Davidians were killed as a result. After the shootout, the FBI joined in and the agencies launched a standoff for the next 51 days.
During the siege, federal agents cut off water and electricity to the compound, and in their attempt to get Koresh to surrender, the Houston Chronicle reported that the agents tortured the remaining members by “using tanks to crush vehicles in front of the compound, playing loud music and flooding the area with bright lights at night to increase pressure on the Davidians.”