DEFENDING AMERICA
David H. Hackworth
May 9, 1995

TALK TO THE PEOPLE

The Oklahoma City bombing was a significant shot in a fledgling but fast growing storm of insurgency sweeping across America. Unless the issues which have alienated too many citizens from the federal government are corrected, the mistrust, anger and militancy will only increase. More armed revolutionists will emerge from their dark world to attack symbolically selected targets with bullets and bombs in an ever-expanding tornado of home-grown violence.

The first rule in countering insurgency is to find out the causes for the dissatisfaction, anger and frustration. In the 1700s, the British ignored Patrick Henry's and fellow insurgents' repeated complaints about paying taxes without representation, forced housing of redcoat soldiers and mistreatment of colonists by the Crown. Had the King listened to the indignant drumbeat, the revolution might not have happened.

Had our leaders asked the South Vietnamese peasants why they were willing to die attempting to overthrow the Saigon government, they would have heard, "Government troops come to our village, abuse us, rape our daughters, impress our sons into their corrupt army, tax us unjustly, steal our rice and ducks. When we complain, they jail and torture us for being revolutionaries." If those in Washington, like Robert McNamara, visited and listened to the Vietnamese paddy people instead of just jawing with the brass in ivy towers, we wouldn't have gotten involved in that bloody, unwinnable civil war.

No one knows exactly how many Tim McVeighs are out there fuming and plotting, or the number of disgruntled citizens who have lost faith in our government and joined groups such as the Michigan or Montana Militias or the Southwest-based Patriots.

Mistrust of government, if ignored, has its own perils. The king of France and the czar of Russia didn't listen to their people's complaints, and it cost them not only their empires, but their lives as well.

In the 1920s, a few angry fanatics who identified with Hitler's mad rages joined his Brown Shirts and went on to take over Germany and almost the world. A decade later, China's Mao Tse-tung and Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh started with only a few revolutionary followers and ended up whipping superpower-supported states and installing Communist regimes.

Our politicians, from the White House to City Hall, must not play the blame game or make the growing dissent on the part of millions of our citizens a political issue. They must be motivated not by fear, but by finding out what the hell the problems are and solving them. They must concern themselves with why so many citizens in our great land are upset, why they're arming themselves and why they're joining organizations and networks resembling those that raised up against the British in 1776, and those that toppled the French, Russia, German, Chinese and South Vietnamese governments.

Many citizens believe our government is out of control and no one in the system -- from the top down -- is ever held accountable; only the governed have to play by the rules, and if they don't, they're the only ones who get a knock at the door.

Jefferson Morley recently wrote in the Washington Post, "...as long as democratic accountability is in doubt, the citizenry, not just government office buildings, will remain vulnerable."

Government accountability should start with Waco and the Weaver shootout. An independent commission needs to re-examine the Branch Davidian massacre. The central question that begs answering is, Why was excessive force used? The USMC was prepared to use non-lethal weapons against Somalians last March. Why couldn't those same weapons be used against Americans holed up at Waco?

A similar commission needs to readdress the killing of Randy Weaver's wife. Why would a federal agent, who clearly saw Mrs. Weaver through a ten-power sniper scope and knew she was holding a baby, not a weapon, kill her? Surely, if the agent felt an irresistible compulsion to pull a trigger, a rubber bullet, sticky gum or nausea gas would have been a more appropriate response.

These examples of federal overkill and apparent cover-up must be investigated and the people must be told the truth. If those responsible failed in their duties and further undermined the public trust -- from Janet Reno down to the federal sniper -- they must be held accountable.