Public Response and Speculation After Waco

The Opinion page article "The Tragedy After Waco - Public Response," April 27, is one of the best articles I have read so far following the recent Waco tragedy.

It asks the worthy question: Why were agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) in Waco, Texas? It seems that the government has now presented the public with reports of possible child abuse. Though a heinous crime, child abuse is not a federal offense and should not have been dealt with by federal officers.

Furthermore, a group in possession of illegal firearms does not warrant becoming the target of a 51-day siege by government officers, followed by death. Such details support the valid question: Why was this religious group singled out for onslaught of the government? It is even more disturbing that the public is accepting the outcome. Sarah Taylor, Portland, Ore.

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The author's view of events during the siege in Waco, Texas, shows a strong and incorrect antigovernment bias as well as a shortsighted lack of respect for public opinion. As one of the majority who agrees that this was a tragedy created by and finished off by the cult members themselves, I am offended.

The author speculates that the Branch Davidians' "real crime ... was their stubborn refusal to bow to conventional orthodoxy and official authority."

Possession of an illegal arsenal of this scope is also a real and serious crime. There can be no mistake that the Davidians were ready and expecting to use it, and perhaps it would have caused greater loss of life than what occurred. I am reassured when conventional authority is looking out for our interests and is willing to risk their lives.

The behavior of the Davidians brought this tragedy on themselves. If we are to credit their statements, they died believing they were headed into paradise. And they, not the ATF, will have to explain this to their Maker. G. Robert Thompson, Caldwell, W.V.

In the Opinion page article, the author asks many valid questions regarding how our government reacted to the Branch Davidian situation.

It was truly a human tragedy to the extent that many lives were lost. There will be much blame to go around and the author has already started his list, citing various United States government agencies. Curiously, David Koresh's name is absent from this list. Perhaps this is indicative of our times, but I am troubled by this omission. David Hefner, Bishop, Calif.

Regarding the editorial "The Waco Victims," April 21: It is somewhat surprising to see the soft tone the Monitor took with David Koresh. To dignify him as a "misunderstood messiah" is ludicrous. To put any blame on the ATF and the FBI is unfair. There is only one person to blame - Mr. Koresh. He manipulated and ruined more than 100 lives all for his own ego. Shirley B. Berg, Detroit

Waco was not about "religious freedom." It was about government knowledge of an assault arsenal large enough to start a small civil war, which was commanded by a hypnotized and clearly unbalanced personality, who misused Holy Writ to justify his delusions. Also it was about sufficient allegations of abuse within that compound, warranting entry much sooner than it actually happened. Susan Sykes, Southfield, Mich.

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