As Mr. Koresh Suggested, God Will Have to Sort That Out

Last Friday was a big day for Our Town

Danforth made a lengthy presentation, waited to hear all the questions offered in the formal press conference and even hung around for follow-up questions. As federal security types -- clad in suits, earphones in place -- stood watchful around the edges, in the doorway and down the hall, members of the local and national media huddled around Danforth, asking about pyrotechnic projectiles and just who was to blame for what during the Waco conflagration. Danforth's 149-page interim report took 10 months to complete, involved 16 lawyers and 38 investigators, and cost $12.5 million, about the same price as the Forest Park golf course. It clearly blames the Branch Davidians for the fire. Danforth navigated his way through Friday's media inquiry by not letting the queries stray to anything before the April 19, 1993, catastrophe, avoiding any questions about what preceded or caused the 51-day standoff.

In picking Danforth to head the Waco investigation, Attorney General Janet Reno went for a retired senator known for his veracity, a conservative Republican who is an ordained Episcopal minister. This is also the man who is so religious and righteous that before Clarence Thomas testified at his acrimonious Supreme Court confirmation hearing, he, Thomas and Thomas' wife stood in the senator's bathroom, held hands and prayed as Danforth played a tape of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing "Onward Christian Soldiers." This, of course, was not the theme song of the Branch Davidians, 80 of whom died in what to them may have seemed to be Masada-like martyrdom.

The subtext of Danforth's report was that if the Waco episode had any valuable lesson, it was that government should come clean about what it knows. When federal authorities refused to admit early on that three pyrotechnic rounds had been fired at the Mount Carmel compound, it tainted their credibility. "We want them to learn from this experience the importance of candor, even about very small things," said Danforth, stating that the three rounds shot hours before the flames started had nothing to do with the fire. "Yet government officials were not open enough then: They weren't candid enough, they didn't tell, they knew things and they didn't disclose those things, and the result of that is that those who want to believe the worst about government say, 'Aha, this is something that is really bad.' And if government lies about one thing, it will lie about everything, so everything is suspicious. I think the lesson is that government has to be open."

But this all started when the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms cowboys staged their Feb. 28 raid. Four ATF agents were killed. If they wanted to bust Koresh, they could have done so on one of his frequent trips to town to buy auto supplies as he customized "muscle cars" for future sale. They could have pulled over his black Camaro without calling out the TV-news vans. And if the goal was to find out about illegal firearms, well, that sure as hell didn't work out, did it?

FLOTSAM & JETSAM: What formerly was known as Library Ltd., at the corner of Forsyth Boulevard and Hanley Road in Clayton, and now known as Borders Books & Music-Clayton soon won't be there anymore. Well, not soon, but by September 2001. The Borders store will be relocated to the Brentwood Promenade, that spread of shops at Highway 40 and Brentwood Boulevard, where there's now a Target, a PetSmart, and so on. You know -- where the historically black settlement of Evans Place was bulldozed; you can't miss it.... A meeting to discuss the impending doom of the South Side National Bank building at Gravois Avenue and Grand Boulevard is set for 7 p.m. Monday, July 31, at St. Pius V Church, 3310 S. Grand Blvd.... The irrepressibly chatty Alvin A. Reid, editor of the St. Louis American, will appear on ESPN Classic at 7 p.m. Wednesday as part of a special about former Cardinal center-fielder Curt Flood.... With the season more than half over, here's this year's first Mike Shannon koan. During a game against the Giants just before the All-Star break, Mike had this to say on a two-out, bases-empty walk: "The two-out walk has broken many camels' backs." OK. If it's he last little thing to happen before a disaster, then it's the straw that broke the camel's back. But a two-out walk as the first bad thing to happen in an inning? What is the sound of one hand holding a Busch?

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