Thursday, June 28, 2012

"51 Days" - No Use For A Name, 1995 (punk)

51 days without a trace or an indication
That his God would soon be here
To take them all away
Waiting for the final day and for the God
Who never came
They all ended up in flames

Moved by the power of a charming leader
With the love of God and the hatred of humanity
Led to a place where he could hide and lead
The blind, only to find tragedy
Having his way with all the women
'Cause his death would soon be here
Living his life in a dream
85 people, 23 children, and a lot of them were his
His to the end, never be free

He promised them eternal life
If they'd walk into a fire
Now we see the charred remains
Apocalyptic funeral pyre
I guess he got what he desired
All in 51 days

If the 90's taught us anything, it was that it was finally OK to openly discuss the dark side of humanity. As punk rock began to break free of its Underground restraints, we started to learn a little more about ourselves as a race. While the words and texture of modern music punched holes in the facade of our happy-go-lucky feelings, in 1995, San Jose's No Use For A Name added a chapter to the music-history books with "51 Days"...the number of days surrounding the events of Waco, TX.

Vernon Wayne Howell was born in Houston, the son an unwed mother. He grew up in Dallas and according to his grandmother "was dyslexic." After dropping out of school in the ninth grade he moved to Tyler, Texas and at the age of 18 joined an Adventist Church. However, after repeated conflicts with the Adventists he moved to Waco, where he found an obscure communal group known as the Davidians. Lois Roden was then the group's aging leader, and Howell's lover. But eventually, Howell would effectively replace her, as Roden's health and power diminished. After her death Howell traveled to Israel, where he claimed American forces would soon invade and begin Armageddon. After those predictions failed, a heated power struggle erupted between Howell and Rodin's son, and ended in a hail of bullets, with his opponent being convicted of murder and sentenced to a mental facility.  After his trial was declared a mistrial in the 1987 fiasco, Howell paid the back taxes on the group's Mt Carmel religious compound, and established himself as the Messiah and new leader of the group. He changed his name to David Koresh:  David, symbolizing the restoration of the Davidic Kingdom, and Koresh as supposedly the Hebrew pronunciation for the Babylonian king Cyrus, who allowed the Jews to return to Israel. Koresh's new prophetic role was set and he proclaimed the final conflict would now begin in Texas.

David Koresh's leadership of the Branch Davidians in Waco, TX began and ended in violence.   As the cult's new leader, Koresh believed he was charged with establishing and protecting his Biblical "House of David."  He purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of military munitions, which were kept at the group's compound for their civilian use.  In 1992, a UPS delivery agent reported a suspicious package, addressed to the group's Mt Carmel home, which had broken open during shipping.  The mishap revealed a shipment of firearms, inert grenade casings, and black powder.  UPS contacted the McLennan County Sheriff's Office, and upon further inspection, Chief Deputy Daniel Weyenberg contacted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, who began a formal investigation, digging deeper into residential complaints of the sound of automatic gunfire coming from the compound. Agents began surveillance on Mt Carmel immediately, which included having a man on the inside posing as one of Koresh's faithful.

Following a lengthy investigation, ATF agents were able to obtain warrant to search the religious compound, citing not only the suspicion of the possession and use of illegal arms, but also the possible presence and operation of a meth lab.  After the religious group failed to cooperate, answer questions, and resisted federal orders to execute the search, investigators planned a raid on the compound.  The raid was scheduled for March 1, 1993, and while those inside the compound knew it was inevitable, the element of surprise was wasted by a nosy reporter, who was tipped off by a local mail carrier who just happened to be David Koresh's brother-in-law.  After news concerning the raid began to spread, federal law enforcement officials began to reorganize their activities; however, so did Koresh, ordering several male followers to arm themselves while the women and children took cover.  To catch them by whatever surprise they could, ATF officials launched their raid on Mt Carmel a day early.

No one knows who fired the first shot.  Each side maintains they heard shots from the other side before returning fire.  Whether it was accidental is uncertain; however the fire fight that ensued on February 28,1993 left four ATF agents and six Branch Davidians dead and several wounded, Koresh being one of them within the first few minutes of the altercations.  Upon learning of the death of four federal officers,  FBI officials took over and ordered the ATF to pull back.  The next 51 days would become a standoff between federal officials and the religious cult.  Federal officials began to negotiate the release of innocents in the ordeal, believing they made headway when Koresh agreed to allow women and children to leave the compound.  Koresh bargained for more time, stating he was writing religious documents, and it was believed that he would soon surrender, however as the stalemate continued, law enforcement found negotiations to be more and more difficult.  Frustrated by Koresh's followers loyalty and refusal to leave the area, including the children, federal agents turned to US Attorney General Janet Reno apprising her of the deteriorating conditions. She, in turn, brought the case to then-President Bill Clinton.  The response, based on the intelligence given, was to give the FBI the green light.

Tired and frustrated for waiting, on April 19, 1993, the FBI began another assault on Mt Carmel.  Initially, federal agents mounted an unarmed assault, flooding the compound with CS (tear) gas, and using loudspeakers to encourage Davidians to leave and not to fire on unarmed government vehicles.  Though several cult members did open fire on the officers, the FBI's response was more CS gas. Still no Davidians left the building, choosing instead to weather out the attack with their gas masks in a cinder block room.  Around noon, fires began to break out in different parts of the compound.  As the fires spread, they prevented escape, and any Davidians that had remained in the compound were trapped.  Only nine people managed to escape.  Those remaining inside, inducing children, were either buried alive by rubble, shot, or suffocated by the fire. In total, 85 Davidians died...23 of them were children.

Note: This is a highly controversial topic, and this blog isn't in the habit of muddying up the water, primarily for lack of space.  As with all controversies, there are plenty of sources to read & debate the "who shot John".  The purpose here was to objectively depict an historical event.