Summary of Article
Marked for Death
Published in Jerusalem Post, October 14, 1994
Even though David Thibodeau looks like any one of the young people who pass through the streets of Jerusalem every day, he is not like them. His soul bears the scars of the inferno that engulfed the Mt. Carmel Center in Waco, Texas on April 19, 1993. Thibodeau is one of the 9 survivors of that fire.
Eighty-seven people are believed to have been killed, but the exact number is still unclear, he says.
April 19, 1993 was the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. It was also the day President Bill Clinton dedicated the US Holocaust Memorial in Washington as a reminder that such an event should never happen again.
"What happened was providential, to wake up the people in America," says Thibodeau, who feels that Koresh actually prophesied the Waco tragedy.
Despite the horror and the feeling that the Davidians were abandoned to their fate by all concerned, Thibodeau, who came here on a visit recently, says he feels strong. He believes the US authorities, the press, and foreign governments conspired to cover up the truth.
He says this must be so because there was little comment about the relatively large number of black people (about a third of the total number) who died during the incident. Had American blacks realized how many blacks died, they would have risen up as they did after the 1992 acquittal of four white police officers involved in the Rodney King beating, according to Thibodeau.
He says that Britain did not intervene on behalf of British subjects in the Mt. Carmel Center, even though one third of Mt. Carmel's residents were British subjects. Had the British attempted to protect the interests of its subjects, the FBI would not have been so hasty about attacking the complex.
"[The British government] didn't say, 'Hey! Thirty of our people are in there.' There was no political pressure on the American government," he says.
Thibodeau speaks with almost clinical detachment about events of April 19 which resulted in so many of his friends dying.
"I was in the church area, the place where we heard music, the main meeting room," he says. Thibodeau had been listening to a local radio station which had been sympathetic to the Branch Davidians. He was taking notes and when he heard the attack begin, he immediately donned his gas mask--but continued taking notes. Then he heard a news bulletin which chilled his bones.
The radio quoted the FBI saying that its agents had been hit by 80 to 100 gunshot blasts. The report went on to say that due to the presence of the women and children, the federal agents had not returned the fire.
"My heart literally dropped in my chest," he recalls. "I had heard no gunshots. I knew this was the final lie and they were preparing the American people for a massacre and we were marked for death."
About an hour later he saw a tank crash through the front doors, pushing back a piano which had been placed up against it. Time seemed to move very slowly, as he saw one after another of his friends die before his eyes. [The Post article does not state the cause of these deaths Thibodeau says he witnessed.]
Thibodeau tried to reach the children - whom he believes were in a buried bus which the group had prepared as a shelter - but with stairways wrecked and sheets of flame all around him, it was impossible.
He staggered out the door and looked back to see Mount Carmel engulfed in flame.
"I knew that my friends were dying and I only hoped the kids were safe in the bus," he remembers.
Thibodeau remembers lying on the ground while an FBI agent stood over him and asked where the women and children were. Thibodeau said he thought they were in the bus, whereupon he heard another FBI man tell his colleague that they had tear-gassed the bus.
Thibodeau claims he now knows that the FBI pumped close to 1,000 units of CS tear gas - a highly flammable tear gas so lethal that it is illegal - into the compound.
Fifty-one days earlier, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) had unsuccessfully stormed the complex. A few days earlier, the Davidians had noticed new neighbors: five men, all in their late 30s, who said they were college students.
"We thought it was funny for five grown men to be in a small, two-room house, especially when they drove a $ 40,000 car and wore Rolex watches, but we gave them the benefit of the doubt," he says wryly.
Koresh welcomed the undercover agents, apparently believing that they might become convinced of his message. In fact, Thibodeau says, the records now show that at least one agent told his superiors they should call off the raid, since the Davidians were doing nothing wrong and because Koresh knew the raid was planned.
A local paper began a seven-part "expose" of the Branch Davidians only a day before the ATF raid. Neither Koresh nor any of the Davidians had been contacted by the paper for interviews before the series ran. Thibodeau says the timing of the series was not a coincidence.
"No matter what David Koresh may, or may not, have been guilty of, that search and arrest warrant (held by the US Federal Department of Alcohol, Drugs and Firearms) only had his name on it," Thibodeau says of the ATF raid.
The ATF agents could have gotten Koresh while he was out jogging, or during one of his many trips into Waco, Thibodeau says. Instead, the ATF forces used helicopters, firing into the buildings containing men, women and children. The use of military equipment by the US government against a building occupied by women and children is reminiscent of the Gestapo and Nazi Germany, Thibodeau charges.
"The bottom line is that nothing David Koresh did, even if all the rumors (about Koresh and the Branch Davidians) were true, could justify that action against people living in an isolated area, studying the Book," he claims.
Pablo Cohen, a Jerusalem resident and the only Israeli at the complex, died in the FBI raid. In fact, one of the few items which the FBI allowed into the complex during the siege was a Pessah haggada, sent by Shulamit Cohen, Pablo's mother.
Cohen was a musician who had played the guitar. Koresh also played the guitar; Thibodeau played the drums.
"Pablo wanted to play [with the band] so badly that he agreed to play the bass because David needed a bass player," Thibodeau recalls. "He pushed himself so hard that within a year he began to think like a bass player, a very good bass player."
Cohen fit in well, says Thibodeau. "A lot of people were fascinated with him because we were studying Torah and here was a real live Jew, if you will, raised in the tradition," Thibodeau says. At the same time, Cohen had traveled all over Europe as a street musician, so he knew Americans.
Thibodeau recalls Cohen came to the complex during the "Atonement season." It was at times like that, during the Jewish High Holy Days, when Koresh would give his deepest biblical studies. Cohen was one of the group's most devoted students of scripture.
Since the tragedy, he has dealt with the pain and anger by keeping busy. There are people to help, he says. One is a five-year-old girl who lost her fingers in the fire. He went on a series of speaking engagements to raise money for her.
Thibodeau sees it as his job to make people aware of what happened. His faith is still strong. "The tanks destroyed my friends. They did not destroy my faith," he says. He adds that his friends in jail are also strong in their faith, to some extent because of what happened in Waco.
Thibodeau speaks of Koresh in a matter of fact manner, as an admiring student might speak of a distinguished teacher. According to Thibodeau, Koresh had a talent for harmonizing scripture with the wisdom given to him about God. He emphatically denies that Koresh brainwashed him or pressured him in any way.
"When I first met him, he spent a month with me," he says. "Then he sent me home, to my family, to talk with family, or a priest or a rabbi, to see what they can show [me] . He did that with everybody. I think that was a fair test."
The Davidians were not critical of those who had left the community, nor was there any effort to cut members of the community off from others who were not part of it.
Thibodeau speaks openly of the community's sexual life. Koresh definitely had more than one wife, believing that as in biblical times, this was reasonable for one to whom God had given wisdom. The profusion of wives created many more day-to-day problems for Koresh than he might have otherwise had.
"After all," Thibodeau says with the sort of humor that typifies him, "you're dealing with extreme characters." Koresh loved children and wanted to have as many as possible, Thibodeau says.
About Koresh, Thibodeau says "Some people considered him a prophet, some people considered him inspired. I like to say that he was a man who God inspired to reveal the seventh seal (mentioned in the New Testament Book of Revelations) ," he says.
Thibodeau adds that that Koresh never claimed he was Jesus Christ. "However, when he spoke, he talked the Book like he had lived it - or been there. That's how truthful and real his studies were."
Does he consider Koresh the messiah? Thibodeau says in a sense yes, because Koresh was the fulfillment of a section or portion of the Book, the sixth seal.
Dr. James Tabor, a professor in comparative religion at the University of North Carolina and an expert on the Branch Davidians, says there is a syndrome known among social scientists as "failed prophecy," as when a predicted end of the world does not occur. In such cases, there are usually some followers who lose faith, while the others are strengthened in their convictions.
However, the Branch Davidians do not face this challenge, since in their view the catastrophe at Waco was the fulfillment of prophecy, an event which was to precede the end of the world, Tabor says.
Thibodeau says that, to his knowledge, none of the survivors who were in the complex when it was attacked have changed their beliefs as a result of the tragedy.
Thibodeau says the surviving Davidians are waiting to see what happens next. They are attempting to retain the land on which the Davidian complex was located, and filing appeals for members sentenced to prison terms. Thibodeau, however, is convinced that the end of days is at hand.
"There is no regrouping (of the Davidian community) because David was the sign that these are the final days and God's kingdom will be established on Mount Zion. What happened on Mount Carmel was a sign, a wake up call for the world. When the kingdom is set up, the people on Mount Carmel will be justified," he says.
Thibodeau will not give a date on which the world will end, but Tabor says he believes the Davidian date is based on a passage in Daniel and is to be 1,350 days after Koresh's death on April 19, 1993 - or in the fall of 1996.
But Thibodeau says everyone will know when the end of the world is at hand, since there will be war and earthquakes, "the end of probation for the world."
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Many people who distrust the mainstream media have turned to alternate news sources, some of which are Internet based. Unfortunately, many of these alternate sources of news simply promote an alternate series of lies. These alternate lies are of course dressed up as "exposés." But you can easily tell the phonies from the real thing. The information in the Waco Holocaust Electronic Museum is an acid test.
Does your news source promote Mike McNulty's video, Waco: The Rules of Engagement or wring its hands because the Davidian law suit against the government failed? (See Waco Documentary Is A Hoax! and Waco Suits for Waco Suckers.) Does your alternate news source carry promotional pieces about rebuilding the Davidian church in Waco and mouth nice words about "healing"? (See The Cover-up Church.)
Remember, since ancient times, inquiries into questionable deaths have started with the bodies of the victims. If your news source won't give you an honest and full account of the forensic information on Waco, or if it does not have a link to the Waco Holocaust Electronic Museum ... your alternate news has failed a fundamental acid test.
All original material is copyright 1996-2000 by Carol A. Valentine,
on loan to Public Action, Inc.
Postal Address: Carol A. Valentine, PO Box 10933, Burke, VA 22009
This page last updated February 28, 2001.