Thursday, May 14, 1998; 4:05 p.m. EDT: BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- A federal judge Thursday dismissed involuntary manslaughter charges against the FBI sharpshooter who killed the wife of white separatist Randy Weaver during the 1992 siege at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge accepted the Justice Department argument that Lon Horiuchi was acting in the line of duty when he fired and was protected by the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which keeps federal agents from state prosecution for actions within the scope of their job.
It is now a federal agent's "duty" to shoot nursing mothers in the face.
The argument, "I vass only following orders," which failed the Nazis so righteously at Nuremberg is now enshrined in America.
Anything a federal agent does - as long as it can be stretched to be considered within the scope of his job - is now above any state law, anywhere in this land.
I just learned a few minutes ago that Horiuchi walked free. I may not be entirely coherent expressing my loathing. He had only been charged with involuntary manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter, for god's sake! It was a token charge. A slap on the wrist. Nothing but a gesture in the direction of justice. It was the least, the very least, we had a right to expect from even an unjust government.
Yet for Judge Edward Lodge, Janet Reno and the federal Justice Department, it was too much. Allow one of their own to suffer any consequence for his own actions? Never. Allow a mere rural county government to imagine it could seek even token justice against an aristocrat? Don't be absurd. We are the federal government. We are Supreme.
Horiuchi ought to die. Ought at least to spend many years in prison, thinking about what he did. Instead, he gets to go home and laugh with his FBI buddies about how he got away with it. Just like they did at Waco. Just like future assassins will, as long as they work for the FBI or ATF or Marshals Service, IRS, Forest Service, HUD...or any of the other government agencies that now arm their agents, operate SWAT teams and play with military weapons.
I don't know whether an elite sniper like Mr. Lon Horiuchi hobnobs with regular FBI troops. But I can picture Horiuchi hoisting a celebratory beer with the agent seen in Waco: The Rules of Engagement, joking (Or was it bragging?) about what a trained and powerful killer he is.
Nothing new, nothing new. There's nothing new in federal murder. Nothing new in jackboot tactics. And they've been getting away with it all along, so why should anyone be so outraged now? Just because one more judge-member-of-the-club protects one more federal good ole boy?
Objectively, I'd say it's the use of the Constitution's supremacy clause this way - to give carte blanche to any crime a federal employee cares to commit. Even a casual reading of the Constitution - by an honest person, that is - reveals that clause was never intended to turn federal agents into a privileged class, exempt from all state punishment for crimes.
But that isn't it. There's nothing new in the Constitution being abused. Nothing new in corrupt judges and twisted rulings. Nothing new in federal arrogance. Nothing new.
For me it's more personal and more difficult to express.
I know that, for a lot of people in the freedom movement, it was Waco that moved them beyond doubt and into irredeemable disgust. But for me, the horrors of Waco have seemed so huge they've been an abstraction. Unless I'm hearing tape of the little Davidian girl begging the BATF sniper/negotiator not to come in and kill her...or unless I'm seeing those very normal "religious nuts" on the videotapes they made of themselves during the siege...unless I'm watching that terrible film...my mind has never really been able to grasp, in any personal terms, what happened at Waco.
But the moment I first saw the wavering, fuzzy footage of the Weaver cabin on August 22, 1992, my heart tore out of my chest. My lungs wouldn't hold any more air.
I can't even remember, at that point, whether they'd announced that Sammy was dead. Certainly, they were still pretending they had no intention of killing Vicki. (Only later would I see the documents and hear the testimony that made it clear that getting rid of Vicki, one way or another, was a top priority, since the government perceived her as the strong, decision-making member of the Weaver family.)
All I remember is that little cabin in the woods and all the forces of the federal government brought against one isolated family. They were calling them white supremacists at that point. I didn't know whether it was true or not; in any case, it wasn't a reason for 200...400?...agents to descend upon one plywood cabin. It wasn't a reason. What was the reason? That Randy was an "illegal gun dealer" as they put it then? Two hundred agents? Four hundred? Tanks? Humvees? Helicopters? Against a single family on a mountaintop? What was the reason?
And if these people, this family in the cabin, were so evil, so dangerous, so depraved, so violent, why would hundreds of neighbors and friends stand at barricades on their behalf for days? Why would women cry for them? Why would men demand a halt?
All I knew, as I sat there in my own one-room cabin set in its own dark and isolated woods, was that, wherever the truth lay, it didn't lay in the mouths of the government spokesmen. Whatever was true or false about that family up there, everything was false about those who sought to destroy them.
And everything was false. And everything is false. And so a murderer walks free. And more murderers will walk free tomorrow. The same false and arrogant government that murdered Vicki Weaver will murder again.
They don't realize how much better off they'd be if they allowed just a few of their most public villains, like Horiuchi and the planners of the Waco raid, to receive public wrist slaps. They don't realize that if we saw even token agents receive token punishments, many of us would be appeased. "See," we'd say, "justice is done. There's hope. The system hasn't entirely failed yet."
But what can we say when, year after year, monsters walk free? They don't realize that the need for justice doesn't go away, just because justice goes away. They don't realize what a fury they turn loose in the land.
It's not their fury that will ultimately be the most terrible. Those bureaucrats with guns don't have enough true, gut passion to be furious. All they have is sadism, brutality and a cool, calculating will to power.
If rage could be measured in kilowatts or megatons, the rage of American freedom lovers would be as powerful as a dozen atom bombs. Understand. This power will go somewhere. It will drive the engine of our hope and despair. It will. You will not murder and celebrate your murders this way forever. You will not.
(c)1998 by Claire Wolfe