Archive for December, 2012

Final Handout

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

UNIVERSITY OF MARY WASHINGTON

Waco

A Photographic Memoir

Alex Young

11/26/2012

Professor Nabil Al-Takriti

I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work. Signature:


Waco
A Photographic Memoir

Author’s Note

In the nearly twenty years since the siege in Waco, Texas captured the nation’s attention; there has been no shortage of opinions, commentary, or analysis relative to what happened. The story of the siege at Waco is a story of extremes. At the very least there are two factions: one argues that the Branch Davidians were a group of brainwashed cultists who committed suicide. The other says that the federal government overstepped its authority and killed people needlessly. The actual story however is much more complicated and intricate than just these two views.
Naturally, the question persists: What is the true story? As one reviews the details of this story, one finds that everything that seems clear is bent, and everything that seems bent is clear; which serves to underscore the importance of not simply basing one’s judgment on superficial considerations.
The purpose of this handout is to give you, the audience, a more intimate understanding as to the history of this group and the events which have given it infamy. My hope is that this will make you think as well as feel, with equal rigor and intensity on both counts.

WARNING:
This handout contains some imagery of a graphic, violent, and disturbing nature. The reasons for the inclusion of these images are not for the purposes of exploitation or disrespect; but rather to serve to underscore the importance of these events and the unfortunate losses of life. Also, to underscore a more fundamental tenet of pursuing the path of history. Doing this work requires that you forfeit the luxury of inhabiting the world in a superficial way. It demands that you force yourself to look at and to consider aspects of something that other ordinary everyday people have the luxury of dismissing as a consequential aspect of daily life. It is what I call the luxury of ignorance. Please consider these images in the spirit intended.

“Facts are the enemy of truth.”
-Don Quixote


• In 1929, Victor Houteff (1885-1955), a short, 140-pound Bulgarian immigrant, a one-time hotelkeeper & Maytag washer salesman claimed that he had a new message for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He published his opinions in a book entitled The Shepherd’s Rod. This drew the ire & scorn of the Los Angeles SDA and he was excommunicated from the church.

In May of 1935, Houteff established his congregation’s new home near Waco, Texas. Up to the early 1940’s his group was referred to as The Shepherd’s Rod. He soon changed the name of his association to the Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists. The term “Davidian” refers to the kingdom of David. Houteff directed his group to evangelize Adventists exclusively.

The humble beginnings are shown in the very first building ever built in 1935. It served as a camp kitchen. It caught fire five years later in 1940.

Over time the Davidian Seventh-Day Adventist Association grew. Here is one of the main buildings around the late 1940’s. In 1957, two years after Houteff’s death, all of it was sold and the Davidians moved to the New Mt. Carmel.

On April 22, 1959, all Davidians gathered at the New Mt. Carmel for Armageddon, the Bible’s predicted final battle between good and evil was nigh. “When the appointed (or anointed) hours came that afternoon,” a journalist who was on hand wrote, “somewhere between 3 P.M. and dark, it was a bit pitiful to view the massive, collective disappointment. Of the thousands there, more or less, only one of them was relieved. Me[!]’ In the month following what can only be called the Lesser Disappointment, most of Florence [Houteff’s] followers began to filter away.”



After the Lesser Disappointment, the Davidian Association was in danger of disappearing. However, Benjamin L. Roden (1902-1978), an oil field worker, claimed to have received his own message from God, splitting the Dravidian Church. Out of this he formed Branch Dravidian Seventh-day Adventists Association. “Branch” refers to the new name of Christ. “After the Lesser Disappointment, while dispatching others across the seas to Israel, Roden stayed in Texas, Building his base. His wife Lois (1915-1986), took charge of some thirty families who settled in Israel. In 1964, she too returned to Waco.” The combined effort of these two helped to sustain the Pentecostal sect. In 1978, Ben Roden died leaving leadership of the group to his wife Lois. Around this same time, Lois claimed she received a divine message showing her that the Holy Spirit is feminine in gender, causing some controversy in the group.

“Mr. Retardo”

In 1959, the same year of the Lesser Disappointment, Vernon Wayne Howell was born the illegitimate son of fourteen year old Bonnie Clark. “Young Vernon was a special case, even inside a troubled family. Most people who knew him before he came to Mt. Carmel thought of him as only half-bright. Childhood friends had given him the nickname “Mr. Retardo,” and sometimes he played the part. “There’s not a grade in school that I didn’t fail in,” he bragged.” He dropped out of school in the ninth grade.

In 1981, at the age of 22, Vernon Howell came to live at Mt. Carmel with an interest in theology. Lois Roden took young Howell under her wing as an understudy. Shortly thereafter, Lois allowed Howell to begin to teach his own message, opening the door for him to build a following. Also during this period, young Howell began having a sexual relationship with Lois. One day Lois announced that God had impregnated her through Howell’s seed as a divine conception. However, Lois soon announced that she had lost the baby.

In 1983, Vernon married Rachel Jones, the daughter of a prominent Davidian family. This helped to further solidify his place and reputation among the Davidian community. They would eventually have two children, a son Cyrus and a daughter Star.

“The Mad Man of Waco”

During Passover in 1984, a split developed within the group, with a majority-faction loyal to Howell. George Roden, Lois and Ben’s mentally unstable son, who was vying for dominant control over the group, drove Howell and his followers off at gunpoint. Howell led his followers to Palestine, Texas, where they lived in a makeshift camp in school buses, tents, and plywood shacks. Lois Roden, who was still formally the leader of the Branch, traveled back and forth for months trying to salvage the group. This dispute remained unresolved even after her death in November of 1986. By this time, George was alone at Mt. Carmel. “Desperate to justify his claims to leadership, George looked for a way to demonstrate that God was on his side. He dug up the casket of Anna Hughes, a one-armed believer who had been buried at Mt. Carmel nearly two decades earlier. The “Antitypical Immanuel” then issued a challenge: Whoever could raise Anna from the dead, Roden proposed, would be revealed as the rightful leader of the Branch.” In 1987, George was arrested for violating a 1979 restraining order barring him from living on Mt. Carmel. In 1989, he was convicted of murder in Odessa, Texas.

Mt. Carmel, Waco, TX, 1989-Perry Jones, David Jones, & Vernon Howell

In April of 1988, Howell and his followers moved back to Mt. Carmel. In August, Howell received what he called the Revelation of the New Light. This revelation dictated that all women were to be subject to him by God’s will, therefore all of the marriages were to be dissolved and all women were to become his wife. Also this required that Howell had the obligation to beget 24 children who were to become the heads of the new Eden.

Mt. Carmel as it looked just prior to the building of the Bible House.

In 1990, after a pilgrimage to Israel, Howell, led by the conviction that God had anointed him to be a contemporary Cyrus and free God’s chosen people, legally changed his name. His first name to David, honoring the Hebrew King David; and his last name to Koresh, after the messiah Koresh mentioned in the Book of Isaiah. What he claimed was not to God or Jesus, but rather a new messiah. The Sinful Messiah. And he would say, “My sins are more than the hairs of my head.” Koresh’s teachings focused primarily on the Seven Seals and his ability as the “Lamb of God” to open and reveal their meaning to the righteous. Koresh purported this contention by using the Book of Revelation as the primary lens through which to interpret the Bible.

Mt Carmel Center

This is a scale model of the building as it existed at the time of the siege. This became the iconic image in most of the general public’s mind at the time of the siege. On the next page is a blueprint of the interior of the structure. The “compound” as it was called by federal law enforcement agencies and the media was actually a ramshackle collection of recycled plywood from dilapidated cottages, and a few walls of sheetrock. Most of the building was without running water or electricity.

David’s sermons, or Bible study sessions would sometimes last anywhere from 7-16 hours. Usually they would end with him leading a band in a Christian rock song. While many of the Davidians supported the congregation by working odd jobs around Waco, money was always in short supply. Koresh along with Paul Fatta soon found out that buying and selling firearms was a lucrative source of income. With this, in 1990, the Davidians started selling and buying firearms. However, soon there would be questions raised as to the legality of his practices, business and other wise.

“History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.”
- Napoleon Bonaparte

The Siege

On February 28, 1993, agents of a federal law enforcement agency The United States Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, or ATF, sought to execute a search warrant on the property of a place known as Mount Carmel Center ten miles northeast of Waco, Texas. It was home to a small Pentecostal sect identified simply as “The Branch Davidians.” A gun battle ensued between the ATF and the Davidians that would become the longest standoff in U.S. law enforcement history. The end result was four agents and six Davidians were killed, along with many others wounded.

BATF agents take cover behind vehicles parked in the front courtyard while returning fire from the Davidians. The BATF operation was called “Showtime.”

Though it has never been satisfactorily established who fired the first shot, one scenario has it that possibly the BATF fired first to prevent the dogs from getting in the way. The front yard of Mt. Carmel was fenced in where the Davidians kept a fawn, an Alaskan malamute, and her four pups. All of whom were killed.

The raid plan called for a dynamic entry of the building through three separate entry points including entry through the second story windows of the room believed to be where the firearms were kept.

After nearly two hours of shooting, a truce was declared. The agents were instructed to hold their fire, leave the property, and then there would be further discussion of what to do. Here the agents gather up their dead and wounded and retreat.

Among the dead were four BATF Agents:
Steve Willis, 32; Todd McKeehan, 28
Robert Williams, 26; Conway LeBleu, 30

Peter Dale (“Perry”) Jones (1929-1993); David Koresh’s Father-in-Law.

Among the dead were six Davidians including Perry Jones, Koresh’s Father-in-Law. The exact circumstances surrounding Perry’s death remain a source of debate. According to the Davidians Jones was shot by the BATF and then begged to be killed as an act of mercy. However, his autopsy revealed that he died as the result of a craniocerebral trauma due to a single gunshot wound of mouth. But all of the autopsies are suspect because they were stored in a faulty cooler at the Fort Worth medical examiner’s office which caused them to decompose beyond any chance of further examination.

Afterwards, both the Davidians and the Federal Government dug in for a siege

In February, 1993, prior to the ATF raid the Mt. Carmel community had around 130 members, including 45 women and 35 children. Between March 1st-March 25, 1993, 35 Davidians exited Mt. Carmel: 9 women, 5 men, & 21 children. The children were remanded to the custody of The Department of Children & Family Services. Social worker Janice Sparks said, “The children appear to be very smart, very well cared for.” This seemed to further dispel the notions of child abuse.

By mid-March, negotiations had begun to break down. As such the FBI & ATF decided to escalate the situation by resorting to tactics such as psychological warfare. This involved helicopters whizzing overhead during the day. By night, flashing blinding floodlights coupled with loud noises. The noises consisted of horrible sounds such as chainsaws, rabbits being slaughtered, or Nancy Sinatra singing songs. The horror! The horror!

The Davidians were granted almost no access to members of the outside media outlets. As such, their only real way of communicating a message to the wider outside world was by hanging a sheet outside the window of the residential tower.

During the siege, many people traveled to Waco, Texas to get in on the excitement. Among them was a young Army officer named Timothy James McVeigh.

On February 28, 1993, Koresh was shot in the wrist and lower left side of his abdomen. The image above is taken from a video tape the Davidians made because the FBI gave them a camera and asked them to talk about themselves. This is the only filmed record of the Davidians during the 51 day siege. Above Koresh holds one of his 17 children, Mayanah Schneider age two, as she recites her ABC’s. Both died in the fire.

Day 51

On April 19, 1993, the FBI implemented their final plan to bring an end to the standoff. The plan called for demolition and gas insertion of the building over a 48 hour period. If the tanks took fire from the Davidians they were then allowed to escalate the situation. As the tanks inserted gas and began knocking walls in, the negotiators kept saying over the PA system, “We will not be entering the building! This is not an assault!”

The tear gas used at Mt. Carmel was not regular teargas. Instead the FBI used something called CS gas. CS gas is not actually gas. It’s a chemical powder used for stripping paint which contains methylene chloride. Effects include, though are not limited to, nausea, vomiting, and disorientation. CS is flammable, and when burned, it produces hydrogen cyanide, the same gas used to execute prisoners on Death Row. The backward twisted corpse of this child, identified as three year old Crystal Martinez, shows what cyanide does to the human body. It makes the muscles contract so violently that they can actually bend backwards breaking bones. CS gas was banned from use against foreign enemies by an international agreement in 1969. Usage of CS gas is considered a “crime against humanity” and is punishable by prison and severe penalties.

At around 12:30 PM, after the last insertion of CS gas, three separate fires occurred in three separate locations within a three minute period. The fire quickly consumed the building aided by wind gusts of up to 40 miles per hour and the venting caused by the holes caused by the tanks. Within an hour Mt. Carmel had become Golgotha: “The Land of Skulls.” It has never been satisfactorily established who or how the fire started.

“The Bunker”

The only structure to survive the fire was a steel reinforced concrete room the FBI called, the Bunker. The Bunker was an old church records vault which had survived fire years earlier. It’s also where the women and children went to take cover figuring it was the safest place inside Mt. Carmel. The FBI gassed the Bunker for two hours. The only way in or out was the doorway shown above. Some of the children were found still in their mother’s arms.

“The Lost Davidians”

All totaled, 83 Davidians remained inside Mt. Carmel until the very end; among them 35 women, 25 children, and 27 men. On April 19, 1993, 32 women, 21 men, and 21 children (plus two stillborn fetuses) perished. Only nine people survived, including 6 men and 3 women.

Among the survivors was 52 year old Cive Doyle who had joined the group in 1966. Unfortunately, Doyle’s daughter Shari, aged eighteen, did not survive.

Alleged cause of death: gunshot wound, left posterior head. Shari’s father said that if his daughter shot herself to avoid burning to death he did not blame her, nor does he believe that God would either.

David Koresh

Autopsy photograph of the remains of David Koresh
Alleged cause of death: massive craniocerebral trauma due to gunshot wound in mid-forehead

Because the public was bombarded with images, both print and electronic, such as this one, there was never any serious consideration of the other sides to this story. Here this cover of Time Magazine seems to symbolize the most enduring image most of the public continues to have of this group and its leader.

In May of 1993, a telefilm titled, “In the Line of Duty: Ambush in Waco” premiered on NBC. Less than a month after the siege ended. The screenwriter, Phil Penningroth, has since disowned the screenplay.

On April 19, 1995, a massive truck bomb destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, killing 168 people, 19 of whom where children. It was part of a plot orchestrated by Timothy James McVeigh. When asked later McVeigh cited the events in Waco as part of his motivation. The Davidians placed a memorial stone on the grounds of their rebuilt church to demonstrate that they do not condone anyone killing others in their name.

In the wake of the events surrounding the Oklahoma City Bombing, The United States Congressional House Judiciary Committee held hearings into the events of what took place at Waco, to ascertain exactly what took place.

Special Agent Robert Rodriguez, who was working undercover trying to gather intelligence for the ATF, to determine if there was in fact any illegal activity going on at Mt. Carmel, testified. With tears in his eyes he looked over at Commanders Chuck Sarabyn and Philip Chojnacki sitting to his left and said,
“Those two men know what I told them, and they knew exactly what I meant. And instead of coming up and admitting to the American people right after the raid that they had made a mistake, that the element of surprise had been lost, that the agent had advised them that they knew they were coming. Instead of doing that, they lied to the public and in so doing, they just about destroyed a very great agency.”

Out of the Ashes

In April, 2001, the Davidians rebuilt their church out back behind where the original building stood.

In Memoriam

The Davidians wanted to show that the loss of life was senseless no matter who you were.

The Davidians Today

“One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic.”
-Joseph Stalin

“In a sense, it’s easy in one way to look at a list of 1500 people who died on the Titanic. That number is actually meaningless. It’s so large that it’s meaningless. Its 1500 numbers! Its only when you stop and think that every single, solitary name on that list of victims was a human being just like you or I. Had dreams and hopes and wishes and happiness and sadness. And they were all cut short by the Titanic Disaster.
-George Behe
Vice President; Titanic Historical Society

For Those Who Were Lost…

February 28, 1993
Winston Blake, 28; black British
Peter Gent, 24; white Australian
Peter Hipsman, 28; white American
Perry Jones, 64; white American
Michael Schroeder, 29; white American
Jaydean Wendell, 34; Hawaiian American
Steve Willis, 32; white American
Todd McKeehan, 28; white American
Robert Williams, 26; white American
Conway LeBleu, 30; white American

April 19, 1993
Katherine Andrade, 24; white American
Chanel Andrade, 1; white American
Jennifer Andrade, 19; white American
George Bennett, 35; black British
Susan Benta, 31; black British
Mary Jean Borst, 49; white American
Pablo Cohen, 38; white Israeli
Abedowalo Davies, 30; black British
Shari Doyle, 18; white American
Beverly Elliot, 30; black British
Evette Fagan, 32; black British
Doris Fagan, 51; black British
Lisa Marie Farris, 24; white American
Raymond Friesen, 76; white Canadian
Sandra Hardial, 27; black British
Zilla Henry, 55; black British
Vanessa Henry, 19; black British
Phillip Henry, 22; black British
Paulina Henry, 24; black British
Stephen Henry, 26; black British
Diana Henry, 28; black British
Novellette Hipsman, 36; black Canadian
Floyd Houtman, 61; black American
Sherri Jewell, 43; Asian American
David M. Jones, 38; white American
David Koresh, 33; white American
Rachel Koresh, 24; white American
Cyrus Koresh, 8; white American
Star Koresh, 6; white American
Bobbie Lane Koresh, 2; white American
Jeffery Little, 32; white American
Nicole Gent Little and unborn child, 24; white Australian
Dayland Gent, 3; white American
Page Gent, 1; white American
Livingston Malcolm, 26; black British
Diane Martin, 41; black British
Wayne Martin, Sr., 42; black American
Lisa Martin, 13; black American
Sheila Martin, Jr., 15; black American
Anita Martin, 18; black American
Wayne Martin, Jr., 20; black American
Julliete Martinez, 30; Mexican American
Crystal Martinez, 3; Mexican American
Isaiah Martinez, 4; Mexican American
Joseph Martinez, 8; Mexican American
Abigail Martinez, 11; Mexican American
Audrey Martinez, 13; Mexican American
John-Mark McBean, 27; black British
Bernadette Monbelly, 31; black British
Rosemary Morrison, 29; black British
Melissa Morrison, 6; black British
Sonia Murray, 29; black American
Theresa Nobrega, 48; black British
James Riddle, 32; white American
Rebecca Saipaia, 24; Asian British
Steve Schneider, 43; white American
Judy Schneider, 41; white American
Mayanah Schneider, 2; white American
Clifford Sellors, 33; white British
Scott Kojiro Sonobe, 35; Asian American
Floracita Sonobe, 34; Philipino
Gregory Summers, 28; white American
Aisha Gyrfas Summers and unborn child, 17; white Australian
Startle Summers, 1; white American
Lorraine Sylvia, 40; white American
Rachel Sylvia, 12; white American
Hollywood Sylvia, 1; white American
Michelle Jones Thibodeau, 18; white American
Serenity Jones, 4; white American
Chica Jones, 2; white American
Little One Jones, 2; white American
Neal Vaega, 38; Asian New Zealander
Margarida Vaega, 47; Asian New Zealander
Mark H. Wendell, 40; Asian American

Epilogue
“One of the dangers inherent that we must confront, time and time again, in our considerations of the history of our national narrative, is to paint everything in very bold, broad strokes; in very black and white terms; to create a lot of, oftentimes, unnecessary polarities. It seems that more often than not, we make those choices at our own peril.”
-Alex Young

Bibliography

The images & information contained within this handout were taken from a myriad of sources which the author takes no credit for. These sources include though are not limited to the following resource materials listed below.

Breault, Mark, & Martin King. Inside the Cult: A Member’s Chilling, Exclusive Account of
Madness and Depravity in David Koresh’s Compound. New York: Penguin Group,
Signet, 1995.

Doyle, Clive, Catherine Wessinger, & Matthew D. Wittmer. A Journey to Waco: Autobiography
of a Branch Davidian. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc., 2012.

Haldeman, Bonnie, & Catherine Wessinger. Memories of the Branch Davidians: The
Autobiography of David Koresh’s Mother. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2007.

Hardy, David T. & Rex Kimball. This Is Not an Assault: Penetrating the Web of Official Lies
Regarding the Waco Incident. Bloomington, Indiana: Xlibris Corp, 2001.

In The Line of Duty: Ambush In Waco, DVD. Patchett Kaufman Entertainment; Directed by Dick
Lowry, 1993; 2003.

Kopel, David B. & Paul H. Blackman. No More Wacos: What’s Wrong With Federal Law
Enforcement and How to Fix It. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 1997.

Linedecker, Clifford L. Massacre at Waco, Texas: The Shocking Story of Cult Leader David
Koresh and the Branch Davidians. New York: St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 1993.

Martin, Shelia, & Catherine Wessinger. When They Were Mine: Memoirs of a Branch Davidian
Wife and Mother. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2009.

Michel, Lou, & Dan Herbeck. American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City
Bombing. New York: Harper, 2001.

Moore, Carol. The Davidian Massacre: Disturbing Questions About Waco Which Must Be
Answered. Virginia: Gun Owners Foundation, 1995.

Newport, Kenneth G. C. The Branch Davidians of Waco: The History and Beliefs of an
Apocalyptic Sect. Oxford University Press, 2006.

Penningroth, Phil. Aug 25, 2001. Righting Waco: Confessions of a Hollywood Propagandist.
Killing The Buddha: M’m, M’m, God! http://killingthebuddha.com/mag/dogma/righting-
waco-confessions-of-a-hollywood-propagandist.htm (accessed Nov 30, 2011).

Reavis, Dick J. The Ashes of Waco: An Investigation. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.

Stern, Kenneth S. A Force Upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of
Hate. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1996.

Tabor, James D. & Eugene V. Gallagher. Why Waco?: Cults and the Battle for Religious
Freedom in America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

Thibodeau, David, & Leon Whiteson. A Place Called Waco: A Survivor’s Story. New York:
Perseus Books Group; PublicAffairs, 1999.

Waco: A New Revelation, DVD. MGA Films, Inc.; Directed by Jason Van Vleet, 2003.

Waco: The Rules of Engagement, DVD. Fifth Estate Productions; Directed by William Gazecki,
1997; 2003.

Walter, Jess. Ruby Ridge: The Truth and Tragedy of the Randy Weaver Family. New York:
Harper Perennial, 2002.

Wright, Stuart A. Armageddon in Waco: Critical Perspectives on the Branch Davidian
Conflict. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Final Paper

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

University of Mary washington

Waco

The Truth

 

Alex Young

12/5/2012

Professor Nabil Al-Takriti

 

I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.  Signature:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            The story of the siege at Waco is a story of extremes.  In the nearly twenty years since the siege in Waco, Texas captured the nation’s attention; there has been no shortage of opinions, commentary, or analysis about what happened.  When an event of such size, scope, and significance occurs, the standard rule is that a certain amount of time has to elapse before we can begin to see it with clarity.  This standard is what is referred to as the concept of historical distance.  However, the further away this particular event becomes, the more we seem to lose grasp of the situation with clarity.  At the very least there are two factions: one argues that the Branch Davidians were a group of brainwashed cultists who committed suicide.  The other says that the federal government overstepped its authority and killed people needlessly.  The actual story, however, is much more complicated and intricate than just these two views.

            Here are the basic facts: on February 28, 1993, agents of the federal law enforcement agency the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, or ATF, sought to execute a search warrant on the property of a place known as Mount Carmel Center ten miles northeast of Waco, Texas.[1] It was home to a small Pentecostal sect identified simply as “The Branch Davidians.”[2]  The group was a split, an offshoot, of The Seventh Day Adventist Church; advent meaning the second coming of Christ.[3]  They were led by a young, dynamic, high school dropout, born a bastard, whom they viewed as a messianic leader.  His name was David Koresh.[4]  The Davidians studied the Bible as literal truth, and believed that Armageddon, the Bible’s final conflict between God’s chosen people and forces of an armed apostate power called “Babylon,” was nigh.[5]  A gun battle ensued between the ATF and the Davidians that would become the longest standoff in U.S. law enforcement history.[6]  The end result was four agents and six Davidians were killed, along with many others wounded.[7]  Afterwards, a 51 day siege was waged between the Davidians and the Federal Government. 

            On April 19, 1993, after 51 days of standoff, Federal Agencies of the ATF and FBI led a final assault on the Branch Davidian complex, Mount Carmel, using tanks and teargas.[8]  In the end, the building erupted in flames. On the day of the final assault there were 83 Davidians left inside Mount Carmel.  Among them 74 died in the fire, including 21 children (plus two stillborn fetuses), and nine survived.[9] 

            The conventional narrative that the general public knows is that the Branch Davidians were a cult led by a charismatic shepherd whose apocalyptic vision led his flock to their fate, which ended in a fiery mass suicide.[10]  Over the course of the last twenty years, a body of new information has come to the fore that has led many to dig deeper into the nature of what exactly happened.  So much surrounding the specifics of the events that happened during the siege in Waco has been a source of fierce debate and even more intense speculation.  So much so, in fact, that it is difficult to separate the facts from the fiction.

            In order to understand the historical and cultural significance of the events in Waco in the spring of 1993, one must understand the events that both preceded and followed in its wake.  During the 1980s and 90s, a new wave of social, political, and religious radicalism swept across the American landscape.  Led by extreme rightwing elements, primarily associated with Neo-Nazis and the Militia Movement, most of these individuals centered their efforts and livelihood in rural parts of the American Midwest.[11]

            In August, 1992, survivalist Randy Weaver and his family remained held up in his remote mountaintop cabin, due to his refusal to appear for federal firearms charges.  An eleven day standoff ensued between the Weavers and the Federal Government.  In the end, three people died: a U.S. Marshall, Weaver’s wife Vicky, and his fourteen year old son Sammy.[12]  Afterwards, it was determined that the Federal Government had overstepped its authority and issued a financial settlement with the Weavers.[13]

            In March, 1993, during the standoff in Waco, a young army officer and survivalist traveled to Waco to see what was happening.  His name was Timothy McVeigh.  Two years to the day after the fiery inferno consumed the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, McVeigh brought his revenge to Oklahoma City.  This led to the deaths of 168 people, including nineteen children.  McVeigh, when asked later, cited the events at Ruby Ridge, Idaho and Waco, Texas as being his two primary motivations for bombing the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.[14]

            In the immediate aftermath of the tragic events in Waco, most media accounts of the Davidians took their lead from the official reports issued by the FBI in their daily press conferences.  A prime example of this is Clifford L. Linedecker’s book Massacre at Waco Texas: The Shocking True Story of Cult Leader David Koresh & the Branch Davidians (1993) first published in July, 1993.  Only three months after the siege ended.  This was well before any real time had passed in order for any real sort of perspective on these events could evolve.  This makes Linedecker’s treatise highly questionable in its analysis.  This is only one of “several books, all essentially supportive of the government’s positions, published by commercial houses in the wake of the April 19th fire.”[15]  Although while his book is characteristic of what people thought at the time, and continue to think even now, this left out much of the story.  Members of the media were never allowed to come and talk directly to the Davidians and allow them tell their side of the story without going through the FBI.  Due in no small part to this, there was never any sense of trying to tell the American public who the Davidians really were.[16]  Most of what the public saw and heard about the Davidians were either lies, misstatements, half-truths, or exaggerations.  The key point that this illustrates is that the perception and the reality do not always go hand-in-hand.  And consequently, the truth becomes skewered in the process.

Beginning in 1995, in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, which occurred two years to the day after the fire that consumed the Branch Davidian complex, new versions of the story began to be published.  These newer versions of the story sought to paint a more rounded, in-depth portrait of what actually happened.  These included works such as The Ashes of Waco: An Investigation (1995), by Dick J. Reavis, a reporter for the Dallas Observer.  Reavis gives us the story the daily press did not.  A definitive, critical, in-depth examination of “what happened at Mt. Carmel, near Waco, Texas, from both sides-the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) and the FBI on one hand, and David Koresh and his followers on the other.”[17]  In that same vein, Why Waco?: Cults and the Battle for Religious Freedom in America (1995), by James D. Tabor and Eugene V. Gallagher, carefully studies and analyzes the theology and biblical doctrines that were central to the Davidian’s philosophy.  Lending credibility to their arguments, Tabor is a University of North Carolina religious studies professor who served as a consultant to the Davidian’s attorney’s during the siege.  That, coupled with the fact that Tabor and Gallagher challenge the notion that the Branch Davidians were a cult by speaking to how the previous two decades of anti-cult awareness shaped public perception about unconventional religious groups.  Another book that helps to underscore the importance of scratching beneath the surface of these events is Stuart A. Wright’s Armageddon in Waco: Critical Perspectives on the Branch Davidian Conflict (1995).  In his anthology of essays, Wright draws on commentaries from some of the leading scholars in sociology, history, law, and religion to explore all the facets of this confrontation.[18] 

Credence must also be paid to the role that the media played in shaping the public’s perception of what happened.  One of the first film commentaries ever made about this story was a telefilm, produced by NBC as part of a franchise, which premiered in May of 1993.  Less than a month after the siege ended.[19]  The film was titled In the Line of Duty: Ambush in Waco.  In this film, Tim Daly, of Wings fame, assumes the lead role as David Koresh.  His portrayal is very much in sync with the image most know by way of the news media in its critique of Koresh and his group.  This was based on what the Federal Government told the public in its daily press conferences.[20]  Koresh is portrayed as a fiery, fiercely megalomaniacal person.  Who will stop at nothing to bring about a final confrontation between God’s People, the Davidians, and the forces of an armed apostate power called Babylon, or the Federal Government.  The climax of the film comes at the end with an epic gun battle between the ATF and the Davidians; which shows that the Davidians fired in unison dressed in black shrouds.[21]  In the epilogue the filmmakers state that Koresh and his group “died by fire as he had willed.”[22] 

In 1997, four years after the siege and two years after this more critical body of literature began to appear, documentary filmmakers joined the discussion.  That year, William Gazecki directed an Emmy Award winning, Academy Award nominated documentary called Waco: The Rules of Engagement (1997).  This film was the first serious, sensible, critical film analysis that tried to raise public awareness of things that had been left out of much of the public discussion.  In this film, Gazecki makes great efforts to try and help clarify what really happened, what remains uncertain, and what has been made up or exaggerated.  This is achieved by drawing on eyewitness testimony, commentary from scholars and journalists, and archival and evidentiary materials.  This source helped to round out the portrait in a more nuanced, factually based manner.

In that same vein, is Jason Van Vleet’s 2003 film Waco: A New Revelation.  What distinguishes Van Vleet’s film from Gazecki’s is that A New Revelation includes the commentary of former officials of from the FBI, CIA, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, and the Texas Rangers.  In the commentary tract, the filmmakers make reference to the fact that the officers of these agencies have been harassed.[23]  This adds another layer of intrigue to this story.

 What these sources represent is an evolution in the way this story has been considered and covered by both the media and more analytical research.

            Of course, this serves to underscore that there remain to this day many questions related to the specifics of what happened.  Who fired the first shots?  Why were tanks used against American citizens on American soil?  Why was the ATF allowed to continue its participation, along with the FBI, in the standoff?  Why was the back of Mt. Carmel closed to television cameras?[24]  Who authorized, and why is it, that toxic tear gas fired into the building on the final day of the siege; especially due to the fact that there were still 21 children in the building?  On the final day of the siege, why did the FBI say: “This is not an assault!  We will not be entering the building!” and then go knocking in the walls with tanks, including the front door?  How and who started the fire?  To this day, these questions still do not have answers.

            Over the last twenty years it is clear that our understanding of the complexity of these events has grown profoundly.  However, our understanding is greatly impeded by the fact that so much has either been lost or remains hidden.[25]  The central problem of this story is one of perspective.  Given the multitude of angles and aspects to this drama, it is crucial to note that no one side is entirely right or wrong.  Personally, I think the truth falls somewhere in the middle.  What that truth is, that remains the shade of gray.  What serves to complicate our understanding of these events, even further, is the fact that in today’s world we have a wealth of not just information, but misinformation.  In 1993, most of the American public received their news from only three to four major TV outlets.  Now in the age of the internet with all of these different media outlets there is no shortage of opinions on any given subject.  Just because someone has an opinion does not necessarily mean that they have a point.[26] 

            So what is the truth?  There are no easy answers.  We seem to be no closer to any real sort of conclusion about what really happened.  The more time passes, the more peripheral our focus becomes to the point of something myopic.  Whenever the subject of Waco comes up there are always assumptions.  Most of what seems clear is not as clear as people think.  The truth is I am not sure that we will ever know for sure what actually happened.  It becomes even more difficult as time passes for us to find out what actually happened.  This story is much more complicated than what most people assume.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Breault, Mark, & Martin King. Inside the Cult: A Member’s Chilling, Exclusive Account of

Madness and Depravity in David Koresh’s Compound. New York: Penguin Group,

Signet, 1995.

 

Doyle, Clive, Catherine Wessinger, & Matthew D. Wittmer. A Journey to Waco: Autobiography

of a Branch Davidian. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc., 2012.

 

Haldeman, Bonnie, & Catherine Wessinger. Memories of the Branch Davidians: The

Autobiography of David Koresh’s Mother. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2007.

 

Hardy, David T. & Rex Kimball. This Is Not an Assault: Penetrating the Web of Official Lies

Regarding the Waco Incident. Bloomington, Indiana: Xlibris Corp, 2001.

 

In The Line of Duty: Ambush In Waco, DVD. Patchett Kaufman Entertainment; Directed by Dick

            Lowry, 1993; 2003.

 

Kopel, David B. & Paul H. Blackman. No More Wacos: What’s Wrong With Federal Law

Enforcement and How to Fix It. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 1997.

 

Linedecker, Clifford L. Massacre at Waco, Texas: The Shocking Story of Cult Leader David

Koresh and the Branch Davidians. New York: St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 1993.

 

Martin, Shelia, & Catherine Wessinger. When They Were Mine: Memoirs of a Branch Davidian

Wife and Mother. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2009.

 

Michel, Lou, & Dan Herbeck. American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City

Bombing. New York: Harper, 2001.

 

Moore, Carol. The Davidian Massacre: Disturbing Questions About Waco Which Must Be

Answered. Virginia: Gun Owners Foundation, 1995.

 

Newport, Kenneth G. C. The Branch Davidians of Waco: The History and Beliefs of an

Apocalyptic Sect. Oxford University Press, 2006.

 

Penningroth, Phil. Aug 25, 2001. Righting Waco: Confessions of a Hollywood Propagandist.

            Killing The Buddha: M’m, M’m, God! http://killingthebuddha.com/mag/dogma/righting-

            waco-confessions-of-a-hollywood-propagandist.htm (accessed Nov 30, 2011).

 

Reavis, Dick J. The Ashes of Waco: An Investigation. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.

 

Stern, Kenneth S. A Force Upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of

Hate. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1996.

 

 

Tabor, James D. & Eugene V. Gallagher. Why Waco?: Cults and the Battle for Religious

Freedom in America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

 

Thibodeau, David, & Leon Whiteson. A Place Called Waco: A Survivor’s Story. New York:

            Perseus Books Group; PublicAffairs, 1999.

 

Waco: A New Revelation, DVD. MGA Films, Inc.; Directed by Jason Van Vleet, 2003.

 

Waco: The Rules of Engagement, DVD. Fifth Estate Productions; Directed by William Gazecki,

            1997; 2003.

 

Walter, Jess. Ruby Ridge: The Truth and Tragedy of the Randy Weaver Family. New York:

Harper Perennial, 2002.

 

Wright, Stuart A. Armageddon in Waco: Critical Perspectives on the Branch Davidian

Conflict. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.



[1]  The purpose of the warrant was to arrest Koresh for the possession of 48 illegally modified weapons for the purpose of distribution and profit.  Curiously however, 2/3 of the search warrant was for child abuse and statutory rape.  The ATF has no jurisdiction over the latter offenses.  Waco: The Rules of Engagement, DVD, 1997; 2003.

[2]  Waco: A New Revelation, DVD, 2003.

[3]  Waco: The Rules of Engagement, DVD, 1997; 2003.

[4]  Dick J. Reavis, The Ashes of Waco (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995)

[5]  Waco: The Rules of Engagement, DVD, 1997; 2003.

[6]  Waco: A New Revelation, DVD, 2003.

[7]  One of the six Davidians killed was one of the church elders, Perry Jones, 64; David Koresh’s legal father-in-law.  Koresh and survivor Clive Doyle reported that Perry was wounded by bullets that came through the front door.  According to survivor David Thibodeau: “I didn’t know if Perry had died from his wounds, or if he killed himself, or if he’d gotten one of the guys to put him out of his suffering.  Kathy Schroeder later claimed that Neal Vaega killed Perry as an act of mercy and that she heard David give Neal permission to do this.  Perry’s body [along with three of the other five] was preserved from damage during the fire because we buried him beneath the dirt floor of the tornado shelter, and the official autopsy reported that Perry was killed by a single bullet wound fired point-blank into his mouth.  But all of those autopsies are suspect.  Stored in a faulty cooler at the Fort Worth medical examiner’s office, Perry’s exhumed body partially decomposed before examination.”  David Thibodeau & Leon Whiteson, A Place Called Waco: A Survivor’s Story (New York: Perseus Books Group, 1999), 176-188.

[8]  The teargas used at Mt. Carmel was CS gas, which contains Methylene Chloride, not regular teargas.  Effects include, though are not limited to, nausea, vomiting, and disorientation.  “A U.S. Army toxicologist [U.S. Atty. Gen. Janet Reno] consulted unaccountably assured her that the gas would “cause temporary distress but no lasting damage.”  And in the rush of events climaxing during the second week of April, Reno later admitted that she hadn’t known then that the U.S. was a signatory to the international convention banning the use of CS gas in warfare.”  Ibid., 257.

[9]  Ibid., 355.

[10]  Even though it has never been satisfactorily established who or how the fire was started.  In the Line of Duty: Ambush in Waco, DVD, 1993; 2003.

 

[11]  Specifically, parts of Montana, Colorado, and Idaho.  Kenneth S. Stern, A Force Upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of Hate (New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1996).

[12]  Jess Walter, Ruby Ridge: The Truth and Tragedy of the Randy Weaver Family (New York: Harper Perennial, 2002).

[13]  Lon Horiuchi, the officer who shot and killed Vicky Weaver, at Ruby Ridge, also held a sniper position at Sierra 1, the sniper post in front of Mt. Carmel, the Davidians home.  He reported that there was no sniper fire from Sierra 1 on April 19th, the final day of the siege, and there were four expended shell casings found on the floor.  Waco: A New Revelation, DVD, 2003.  Ibid.

[14]  The Davidians rebuilt their church and placed a memorial stone in recognition of the 168 lives that were taken in the Oklahoma City bombing to show that they disavow anyone killing others in the name of their lost love ones.  Lou Michel & Dan Herbeck, American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing (New York: Harper, 2001).

[15]  Dick J. Reavis, The Ashes of Waco (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), 301.

[16]  Since the American media only knew what they were being told by the FBI, the story was really only one-sided in its consideration of the Davidians.  Several times during the siege, the Davidians tried to get the negotiators to allow members of the media to come in and mediate between the Davidians and the FBI due to breakdowns in the negotiating process.  Waco: The Rules of Engagement, DVD, 1997; 2003.

[17]  Ibid., Dust jacket; Front Flap.

[18]  Stuart A. Wright, Armageddon in Waco (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), Cover; Back Flap.

[19]  Phil Penningroth is the author of this film’s screenplay has since disowned it.  Penningroth, http://killingthebuddah.com/mag/dogma/righting-waco-confessions-of-a-hollywood-propagandist.htm.

[20]  Ibid.

[21]  While the film mentions at both the beginning and ending epilogue that the events of this film were still being investigated at the time, it still goes so far as to say that Koresh and his group “died by fire as he had willed.”  Even though it has never been satisfactorily established who or how the fire was started.  In the Line of Duty: Ambush in Waco, DVD, 1993; 2003.

[22]  In the Line of Duty: Ambush in Waco, DVD, 1993; 2003.

[23]  Waco: A New Revelation, DVD, 2003.

[24]  On the day of the final assault, there was a FLIR [Forward Looking Infrared] camera flying three miles overhead.  A FLIR camera records thermal signature patterns as opposed to a regular camera which records light.  It recorded the only footage we have of what went on at the back of Mt. Carmel.  The footage shows tanks ramming into the gymnasium and also shows thermal signatures consistent with both gunfire and pyrotechnic detonations directed into the building, even during the fire.  The fire that consumed Mt. Carmel was actually three separate fires that began in three separate locations within a three minute period, after the tanks made their last insertion of teargas into the building.  Waco: The Rules of Engagement, DVD, 1997; 2003.

[25]  Author’s Note: By hidden I mean information remains classified for various reasons.

[26]  Author’s Note: This of course brings up questions of credibility.  How do we know what constitutes a reliable source; especially when one of the players in this drama is the United States Federal Government? 

Final Paper

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

University of Mary washington

Waco

The Truth

 

Alex Young

12/5/2012

Professor Nabil Al-Takriti

 

I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.  Signature:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            The story of the siege at Waco is a story of extremes.  In the nearly twenty years since the siege in Waco, Texas captured the nation’s attention; there has been no shortage of opinions, commentary, or analysis about what happened.  When an event of such size, scope, and significance occurs, the standard rule is that a certain amount of time has to elapse before we can begin to see it with clarity.  This standard is what is referred to as the concept of historical distance.  However, the further away this particular event becomes, the more we seem to lose grasp of the situation with clarity.  At the very least there are two factions: one argues that the Branch Davidians were a group of brainwashed cultists who committed suicide.  The other says that the federal government overstepped its authority and killed people needlessly.  The actual story, however, is much more complicated and intricate than just these two views.

            Here are the basic facts: on February 28, 1993, agents of the federal law enforcement agency the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, or ATF, sought to execute a search warrant on the property of a place known as Mount Carmel Center ten miles northeast of Waco, Texas.[1] It was home to a small Pentecostal sect identified simply as “The Branch Davidians.”[2]  The group was a split, an offshoot, of The Seventh Day Adventist Church; advent meaning the second coming of Christ.[3]  They were led by a young, dynamic, high school dropout, born a bastard, whom they viewed as a messianic leader.  His name was David Koresh.[4]  The Davidians studied the Bible as literal truth, and believed that Armageddon, the Bible’s final conflict between God’s chosen people and forces of an armed apostate power called “Babylon,” was nigh.[5]  A gun battle ensued between the ATF and the Davidians that would become the longest standoff in U.S. law enforcement history.[6]  The end result was four agents and six Davidians were killed, along with many others wounded.[7]  Afterwards, a 51 day siege was waged between the Davidians and the Federal Government. 

            On April 19, 1993, after 51 days of standoff, Federal Agencies of the ATF and FBI led a final assault on the Branch Davidian complex, Mount Carmel, using tanks and teargas.[8]  In the end, the building erupted in flames. On the day of the final assault there were 83 Davidians left inside Mount Carmel.  Among them 74 died in the fire, including 21 children (plus two stillborn fetuses), and nine survived.[9] 

            The conventional narrative that the general public knows is that the Branch Davidians were a cult led by a charismatic shepherd whose apocalyptic vision led his flock to their fate, which ended in a fiery mass suicide.[10]  Over the course of the last twenty years, a body of new information has come to the fore that has led many to dig deeper into the nature of what exactly happened.  So much surrounding the specifics of the events that happened during the siege in Waco has been a source of fierce debate and even more intense speculation.  So much so, in fact, that it is difficult to separate the facts from the fiction.

            In order to understand the historical and cultural significance of the events in Waco in the spring of 1993, one must understand the events that both preceded and followed in its wake.  During the 1980s and 90s, a new wave of social, political, and religious radicalism swept across the American landscape.  Led by extreme rightwing elements, primarily associated with Neo-Nazis and the Militia Movement, most of these individuals centered their efforts and livelihood in rural parts of the American Midwest.[11]

            In August, 1992, survivalist Randy Weaver and his family remained held up in his remote mountaintop cabin, due to his refusal to appear for federal firearms charges.  An eleven day standoff ensued between the Weavers and the Federal Government.  In the end, three people died: a U.S. Marshall, Weaver’s wife Vicky, and his fourteen year old son Sammy.[12]  Afterwards, it was determined that the Federal Government had overstepped its authority and issued a financial settlement with the Weavers.[13]

            In March, 1993, during the standoff in Waco, a young army officer and survivalist traveled to Waco to see what was happening.  His name was Timothy McVeigh.  Two years to the day after the fiery inferno consumed the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, McVeigh brought his revenge to Oklahoma City.  This led to the deaths of 168 people, including nineteen children.  McVeigh, when asked later, cited the events at Ruby Ridge, Idaho and Waco, Texas as being his two primary motivations for bombing the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.[14]

            In the immediate aftermath of the tragic events in Waco, most media accounts of the Davidians took their lead from the official reports issued by the FBI in their daily press conferences.  A prime example of this is Clifford L. Linedecker’s book Massacre at Waco Texas: The Shocking True Story of Cult Leader David Koresh & the Branch Davidians (1993) first published in July, 1993.  Only three months after the siege ended.  This was well before any real time had passed in order for any real sort of perspective on these events could evolve.  This makes Linedecker’s treatise highly questionable in its analysis.  This is only one of “several books, all essentially supportive of the government’s positions, published by commercial houses in the wake of the April 19th fire.”[15]  Although while his book is characteristic of what people thought at the time, and continue to think even now, this left out much of the story.  Members of the media were never allowed to come and talk directly to the Davidians and allow them tell their side of the story without going through the FBI.  Due in no small part to this, there was never any sense of trying to tell the American public who the Davidians really were.[16]  Most of what the public saw and heard about the Davidians were either lies, misstatements, half-truths, or exaggerations.  The key point that this illustrates is that the perception and the reality do not always go hand-in-hand.  And consequently, the truth becomes skewered in the process.

Beginning in 1995, in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, which occurred two years to the day after the fire that consumed the Branch Davidian complex, new versions of the story began to be published.  These newer versions of the story sought to paint a more rounded, in-depth portrait of what actually happened.  These included works such as The Ashes of Waco: An Investigation (1995), by Dick J. Reavis, a reporter for the Dallas Observer.  Reavis gives us the story the daily press did not.  A definitive, critical, in-depth examination of “what happened at Mt. Carmel, near Waco, Texas, from both sides-the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) and the FBI on one hand, and David Koresh and his followers on the other.”[17]  In that same vein, Why Waco?: Cults and the Battle for Religious Freedom in America (1995), by James D. Tabor and Eugene V. Gallagher, carefully studies and analyzes the theology and biblical doctrines that were central to the Davidian’s philosophy.  Lending credibility to their arguments, Tabor is a University of North Carolina religious studies professor who served as a consultant to the Davidian’s attorney’s during the siege.  That, coupled with the fact that Tabor and Gallagher challenge the notion that the Branch Davidians were a cult by speaking to how the previous two decades of anti-cult awareness shaped public perception about unconventional religious groups.  Another book that helps to underscore the importance of scratching beneath the surface of these events is Stuart A. Wright’s Armageddon in Waco: Critical Perspectives on the Branch Davidian Conflict (1995).  In his anthology of essays, Wright draws on commentaries from some of the leading scholars in sociology, history, law, and religion to explore all the facets of this confrontation.[18] 

Credence must also be paid to the role that the media played in shaping the public’s perception of what happened.  One of the first film commentaries ever made about this story was a telefilm, produced by NBC as part of a franchise, which premiered in May of 1993.  Less than a month after the siege ended.[19]  The film was titled In the Line of Duty: Ambush in Waco.  In this film, Tim Daly, of Wings fame, assumes the lead role as David Koresh.  His portrayal is very much in sync with the image most know by way of the news media in its critique of Koresh and his group.  This was based on what the Federal Government told the public in its daily press conferences.[20]  Koresh is portrayed as a fiery, fiercely megalomaniacal person.  Who will stop at nothing to bring about a final confrontation between God’s People, the Davidians, and the forces of an armed apostate power called Babylon, or the Federal Government.  The climax of the film comes at the end with an epic gun battle between the ATF and the Davidians; which shows that the Davidians fired in unison dressed in black shrouds.[21]  In the epilogue the filmmakers state that Koresh and his group “died by fire as he had willed.”[22] 

In 1997, four years after the siege and two years after this more critical body of literature began to appear, documentary filmmakers joined the discussion.  That year, William Gazecki directed an Emmy Award winning, Academy Award nominated documentary called Waco: The Rules of Engagement (1997).  This film was the first serious, sensible, critical film analysis that tried to raise public awareness of things that had been left out of much of the public discussion.  In this film, Gazecki makes great efforts to try and help clarify what really happened, what remains uncertain, and what has been made up or exaggerated.  This is achieved by drawing on eyewitness testimony, commentary from scholars and journalists, and archival and evidentiary materials.  This source helped to round out the portrait in a more nuanced, factually based manner.

In that same vein, is Jason Van Vleet’s 2003 film Waco: A New Revelation.  What distinguishes Van Vleet’s film from Gazecki’s is that A New Revelation includes the commentary of former officials of from the FBI, CIA, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, and the Texas Rangers.  In the commentary tract, the filmmakers make reference to the fact that the officers of these agencies have been harassed.[23]  This adds another layer of intrigue to this story.

 What these sources represent is an evolution in the way this story has been considered and covered by both the media and more analytical research.

            Of course, this serves to underscore that there remain to this day many questions related to the specifics of what happened.  Who fired the first shots?  Why were tanks used against American citizens on American soil?  Why was the ATF allowed to continue its participation, along with the FBI, in the standoff?  Why was the back of Mt. Carmel closed to television cameras?[24]  Who authorized, and why is it, that toxic tear gas fired into the building on the final day of the siege; especially due to the fact that there were still 21 children in the building?  On the final day of the siege, why did the FBI say: “This is not an assault!  We will not be entering the building!” and then go knocking in the walls with tanks, including the front door?  How and who started the fire?  To this day, these questions still do not have answers.

            Over the last twenty years it is clear that our understanding of the complexity of these events has grown profoundly.  However, our understanding is greatly impeded by the fact that so much has either been lost or remains hidden.[25]  The central problem of this story is one of perspective.  Given the multitude of angles and aspects to this drama, it is crucial to note that no one side is entirely right or wrong.  Personally, I think the truth falls somewhere in the middle.  What that truth is, that remains the shade of gray.  What serves to complicate our understanding of these events, even further, is the fact that in today’s world we have a wealth of not just information, but misinformation.  In 1993, most of the American public received their news from only three to four major TV outlets.  Now in the age of the internet with all of these different media outlets there is no shortage of opinions on any given subject.  Just because someone has an opinion does not necessarily mean that they have a point.[26] 

            So what is the truth?  There are no easy answers.  We seem to be no closer to any real sort of conclusion about what really happened.  The more time passes, the more peripheral our focus becomes to the point of something myopic.  Whenever the subject of Waco comes up there are always assumptions.  Most of what seems clear is not as clear as people think.  The truth is I am not sure that we will ever know for sure what actually happened.  It becomes even more difficult as time passes for us to find out what actually happened.  This story is much more complicated than what most people assume.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Breault, Mark, & Martin King. Inside the Cult: A Member’s Chilling, Exclusive Account of

Madness and Depravity in David Koresh’s Compound. New York: Penguin Group,

Signet, 1995.

 

Doyle, Clive, Catherine Wessinger, & Matthew D. Wittmer. A Journey to Waco: Autobiography

of a Branch Davidian. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc., 2012.

 

Haldeman, Bonnie, & Catherine Wessinger. Memories of the Branch Davidians: The

Autobiography of David Koresh’s Mother. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2007.

 

Hardy, David T. & Rex Kimball. This Is Not an Assault: Penetrating the Web of Official Lies

Regarding the Waco Incident. Bloomington, Indiana: Xlibris Corp, 2001.

 

In The Line of Duty: Ambush In Waco, DVD. Patchett Kaufman Entertainment; Directed by Dick

            Lowry, 1993; 2003.

 

Kopel, David B. & Paul H. Blackman. No More Wacos: What’s Wrong With Federal Law

Enforcement and How to Fix It. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 1997.

 

Linedecker, Clifford L. Massacre at Waco, Texas: The Shocking Story of Cult Leader David

Koresh and the Branch Davidians. New York: St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 1993.

 

Martin, Shelia, & Catherine Wessinger. When They Were Mine: Memoirs of a Branch Davidian

Wife and Mother. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2009.

 

Michel, Lou, & Dan Herbeck. American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City

Bombing. New York: Harper, 2001.

 

Moore, Carol. The Davidian Massacre: Disturbing Questions About Waco Which Must Be

Answered. Virginia: Gun Owners Foundation, 1995.

 

Newport, Kenneth G. C. The Branch Davidians of Waco: The History and Beliefs of an

Apocalyptic Sect. Oxford University Press, 2006.

 

Penningroth, Phil. Aug 25, 2001. Righting Waco: Confessions of a Hollywood Propagandist.

            Killing The Buddha: M’m, M’m, God! http://killingthebuddha.com/mag/dogma/righting-

            waco-confessions-of-a-hollywood-propagandist.htm (accessed Nov 30, 2011).

 

Reavis, Dick J. The Ashes of Waco: An Investigation. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.

 

Stern, Kenneth S. A Force Upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of

Hate. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1996.

 

 

Tabor, James D. & Eugene V. Gallagher. Why Waco?: Cults and the Battle for Religious

Freedom in America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

 

Thibodeau, David, & Leon Whiteson. A Place Called Waco: A Survivor’s Story. New York:

            Perseus Books Group; PublicAffairs, 1999.

 

Waco: A New Revelation, DVD. MGA Films, Inc.; Directed by Jason Van Vleet, 2003.

 

Waco: The Rules of Engagement, DVD. Fifth Estate Productions; Directed by William Gazecki,

            1997; 2003.

 

Walter, Jess. Ruby Ridge: The Truth and Tragedy of the Randy Weaver Family. New York:

Harper Perennial, 2002.

 

Wright, Stuart A. Armageddon in Waco: Critical Perspectives on the Branch Davidian

Conflict. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.



[1]  The purpose of the warrant was to arrest Koresh for the possession of 48 illegally modified weapons for the purpose of distribution and profit.  Curiously however, 2/3 of the search warrant was for child abuse and statutory rape.  The ATF has no jurisdiction over the latter offenses.  Waco: The Rules of Engagement, DVD, 1997; 2003.

[2]  Waco: A New Revelation, DVD, 2003.

[3]  Waco: The Rules of Engagement, DVD, 1997; 2003.

[4]  Dick J. Reavis, The Ashes of Waco (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995)

[5]  Waco: The Rules of Engagement, DVD, 1997; 2003.

[6]  Waco: A New Revelation, DVD, 2003.

[7]  One of the six Davidians killed was one of the church elders, Perry Jones, 64; David Koresh’s legal father-in-law.  Koresh and survivor Clive Doyle reported that Perry was wounded by bullets that came through the front door.  According to survivor David Thibodeau: “I didn’t know if Perry had died from his wounds, or if he killed himself, or if he’d gotten one of the guys to put him out of his suffering.  Kathy Schroeder later claimed that Neal Vaega killed Perry as an act of mercy and that she heard David give Neal permission to do this.  Perry’s body [along with three of the other five] was preserved from damage during the fire because we buried him beneath the dirt floor of the tornado shelter, and the official autopsy reported that Perry was killed by a single bullet wound fired point-blank into his mouth.  But all of those autopsies are suspect.  Stored in a faulty cooler at the Fort Worth medical examiner’s office, Perry’s exhumed body partially decomposed before examination.”  David Thibodeau & Leon Whiteson, A Place Called Waco: A Survivor’s Story (New York: Perseus Books Group, 1999), 176-188.

[8]  The teargas used at Mt. Carmel was CS gas, which contains Methylene Chloride, not regular teargas.  Effects include, though are not limited to, nausea, vomiting, and disorientation.  “A U.S. Army toxicologist [U.S. Atty. Gen. Janet Reno] consulted unaccountably assured her that the gas would “cause temporary distress but no lasting damage.”  And in the rush of events climaxing during the second week of April, Reno later admitted that she hadn’t known then that the U.S. was a signatory to the international convention banning the use of CS gas in warfare.”  Ibid., 257.

[9]  Ibid., 355.

[10]  Even though it has never been satisfactorily established who or how the fire was started.  In the Line of Duty: Ambush in Waco, DVD, 1993; 2003.

 

[11]  Specifically, parts of Montana, Colorado, and Idaho.  Kenneth S. Stern, A Force Upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of Hate (New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1996).

[12]  Jess Walter, Ruby Ridge: The Truth and Tragedy of the Randy Weaver Family (New York: Harper Perennial, 2002).

[13]  Lon Horiuchi, the officer who shot and killed Vicky Weaver, at Ruby Ridge, also held a sniper position at Sierra 1, the sniper post in front of Mt. Carmel, the Davidians home.  He reported that there was no sniper fire from Sierra 1 on April 19th, the final day of the siege, and there were four expended shell casings found on the floor.  Waco: A New Revelation, DVD, 2003.  Ibid.

[14]  The Davidians rebuilt their church and placed a memorial stone in recognition of the 168 lives that were taken in the Oklahoma City bombing to show that they disavow anyone killing others in the name of their lost love ones.  Lou Michel & Dan Herbeck, American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing (New York: Harper, 2001).

[15]  Dick J. Reavis, The Ashes of Waco (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), 301.

[16]  Since the American media only knew what they were being told by the FBI, the story was really only one-sided in its consideration of the Davidians.  Several times during the siege, the Davidians tried to get the negotiators to allow members of the media to come in and mediate between the Davidians and the FBI due to breakdowns in the negotiating process.  Waco: The Rules of Engagement, DVD, 1997; 2003.

[17]  Ibid., Dust jacket; Front Flap.

[18]  Stuart A. Wright, Armageddon in Waco (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), Cover; Back Flap.

[19]  Phil Penningroth is the author of this film’s screenplay has since disowned it.  Penningroth, http://killingthebuddah.com/mag/dogma/righting-waco-confessions-of-a-hollywood-propagandist.htm.

[20]  Ibid.

[21]  While the film mentions at both the beginning and ending epilogue that the events of this film were still being investigated at the time, it still goes so far as to say that Koresh and his group “died by fire as he had willed.”  Even though it has never been satisfactorily established who or how the fire was started.  In the Line of Duty: Ambush in Waco, DVD, 1993; 2003.

[22]  In the Line of Duty: Ambush in Waco, DVD, 1993; 2003.

[23]  Waco: A New Revelation, DVD, 2003.

[24]  On the day of the final assault, there was a FLIR [Forward Looking Infrared] camera flying three miles overhead.  A FLIR camera records thermal signature patterns as opposed to a regular camera which records light.  It recorded the only footage we have of what went on at the back of Mt. Carmel.  The footage shows tanks ramming into the gymnasium and also shows thermal signatures consistent with both gunfire and pyrotechnic detonations directed into the building, even during the fire.  The fire that consumed Mt. Carmel was actually three separate fires that began in three separate locations within a three minute period, after the tanks made their last insertion of teargas into the building.  Waco: The Rules of Engagement, DVD, 1997; 2003.

[25]  Author’s Note: By hidden I mean information remains classified for various reasons.

[26]  Author’s Note: This of course brings up questions of credibility.  How do we know what constitutes a reliable source; especially when one of the players in this drama is the United States Federal Government? 

Soboul & Furet: Feuds Over Feudalism

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Someone once said, ” A real revolution begins in the mind!”  With the possibility of a few exceptions (i.e. our American Version), This idea is best exemplified in our considerations of The French Revolution (1789-1799).  This period was marked by tremendous political and social upheaval; largely due to a change in the hearts and mindset of the people.  This change led to the a complete reexamination and application of government, society, and religion.  From the storming of the Bastille to the abolition of feudalism.  From the overthrow of the monarchy and the National Constituent Assembly.  Everything changed!  As with any major development in the history of mankind, there is no shortage of opinions, commentary, or analysis relative to this drama and it’s wider long-ranging consequences.  Two scholars who have contributed to this discourse are Albert Soboul and Francois Furet.

 In “The French Revolution in the History of the Contemporary World,” Albert Soboul viewing this through the lens of a capitalist perspective, postulates the theory that The French Revolution was not only a struggle between classes for freedom; but also a vital necessity for the advent of modern capitalism in french society.

In “The French Revolution Revisited,” Francois Furet argues things a little differently.  His contention is that the bloodshed of The Revolution was all for not.  Even in the years following The Revolution, the same patterns continued even under individuals like Napoleon. 

It’s all a matter of perspective!

Thompson & Time

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

E.P. Thompson in his article “Time, Work-Discipline, & Industrial Capitalism,” examines how the way humanity tells time has evolved over the course of time itself.  As a scholar influenced by the Marxist School of Interpretation, Thompson assumes the position that as opposed to having been either influenced, or created, by individuals, both infamous as well as anonymous, history has been shaped, and in some ways solidified, by the changing of trends; both practically and philosophically over time.  To this end, he analyzes the way time was tracked before the advent of electricity.  Thompson contends that in more agrarian societies, defined primarily by farming and trading, the measure of time was determined by how long it took for an egg to cook, or the various aspects of daily work routines.  Prior to the advent of Industrial Capitalism, an individuals workday was not measured by standardized periods of time because their labors, specifically the fruits of, were not grouped in with the collective efforts of others.  As the world found itself more in the throws Industrial Revolution, a more systematized standard for measuring time was necessary.  This was vital to determine two key criteria: productivity and profit.  Hence: “time is money,” as Thompson claims.  Put simply: the measuring of time is necessary to determine how much profit a business can make and how much a worker should be paid according to his worth.

The Fun of Footnotes

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

In “The Footnote from De Thou to Ranke,” Anthony Grafton examines, in a very dynamic way, a dynamic that contemporarily is a standard practice: footnotes!  What distinguishes Grafton’s examination is the element of humor which is utilized to great effect.  This is evidenced by the fact that Grafton goes so far as to compare footnotes to toilets and the sewers.  They perform an unpleasant though all to necessary function.  However, they are not viewed with the veneration and respect they deserve until there’s a problem.  Grafton, being a responsible, if somewhat cuckoo of a scholar, also purports his assessment by explaining, in as much detail as necessary, the evolution of this tool.  Grafton offers a brief glimpse into the history of this truly vital tool which today we simply take for granted.  I think what Grafton offers is the essence of why we need this tool.  The author may understand what they mean, however that doesn’t mean that the audience will understand you.  Nor does it necessarily mean that they have to agree with you.  What this tool offers is a road-map by which we can track the trail the author has taken to arrive at his conclusions.  This helps us to do this work in a more scientific way.  It consists of research, facts, feelings, thoughts, arguments, analysis, and semi-conclusions.  Ultimately, this work is up to us and it is crucial that we conduct it in a way that others can understand.

Good vs. Bad Website

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Here’s an example of a bad website:

www.carolmoore.net/waco

 Here’s an example of a good website:

http://www.public-action.com/SkyWriter/WacoMuseum/

Good vs. Bad Website

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Here’s an example of a bad website:

www.carolmoore.net/waco

 Here’s an example of a good website:

http://www.public-action.com/SkyWriter/WacoMuseum/

Final Paper

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Here is my final paper on the Abraham Lincoln Brigaderesearch paper draft II

Martin Guerre

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Natalie Davis wrote The Return of Martin Guerre, a story about a man who goes off to war. Years later, a man returns and claims he to be Martin Guerre; the town goes about living, but is soon confused with the return of a second man claiming to be the true Guerre.

Davis’ story is told through using writing conventions like conjecture, which some, like Robert Finaly, take issue with. In Finaly’s opinion, one cannot write a true historical record by using conjecture. Finaly’s opinion is that only records and true events should be used when writing about a historical incident.