Worth A Look: 9.52%
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Total Crap: 6.35%
2 reviews, 51 user ratings
|Waco: The Rules of Engagement
by Chris Parry
When the religious freaks of the Waco Texas-based Branch Davidian sect were surrounded by the FBI and ATF a few years back in a ten day stand-off, I'll admit it, I was one of those millions who wondered what was taking the feds so long to go in and sort the wackjobs out. I mean, wasn't cult leader David Koresh a child molester, a bigamist, and sitting on a veritable stockpile of weaponry that he was threatening to use? Well, that's the story we were told by the feds, but the reality is somewhat different if you change a few words. Let's change 'cult leader' to 'religous preacher', 'child molester' to 'alleged child molester', 'bigamist' to 'ladies man', and let's change 'weaponry stockpile' to 'gun dealer's inventory'... suddenly Koresh isn't such a nutbar. And after viewing this documentary it's more than clear that the only nutbars at Waco were sitting in tanks, poking holes in Koresh's walls.The mark of a good documentary is not when it reaffirms what you already knew, but when it completely blows away everything you knew and turns long-formed opinions on their head. When it comes to Waco, my opinion had always been the popular one - they were weird, they killed themselves, so be it. Consider my perspective now corrected.
"Damning evidence that the US Government is nobody's friend."
The Branch Davidians are always portrayed as a cult, but really, what makes up a cult? If a cult is a band of folks who are into a religion that strays from the norm, The Davidians don't qualify nearly as much as the Southern Baptists. If a cult forces people to stay somewhere against their will, or brainwashes them into doing something weird, the Davidians again miss the cut since nobody in the Waco compound was there involuntarily. Sure, David Koresh was a weirdo, but have you seen the leadership of the Catholic League? Hello, froot loops!
So what was the problem at Waco? Well, the AFT figured Koresh had guns. Lots of guns. More guns than a religious zealot should have. They were probably right, but since Koresh was a gun dealer (a 100% legal profession in the USA), he was within his rights to have those guns, and duly said so.
But then the rumors started; Koresh was a child molester. The kids in the compound were in danger. Koresh thought he was God. Koresh was ready to explode in a volley of gunfire. Over the course of a few weeks, Koresh was basically painted as the quintessential lunatic bad guy, and all of us cried loudly that he needed to be brought to justice.
Why? Because we fear the weird. The ATF fears the weird too, and rather than go in to calmly investigate the situation, they opted to raid the ranch with many guns aimed. Who shot who first is always going to be a mystery, but the Davidians claim they were shot at and duly shot back, killing a dozen or so ATF agents at the loss of only two of their own.
Bad move? Mayhaps, but surprisingly enough it might not have been an illegal move. According to US law, if you're being attacked by a federal agent illegally, you're entitled to defend your home with deadly force. See, the feds don't just uphold the law, they have to follow it too, which means if they don't have a warrant and they fire a round of ammo, you can fire back. And this most excellent documentary shows in no uncertain terms that the AFT not only didn't have a valid warrant, they also did anything but uphold the law at Waco.
What you know is what you've been told - the Davidians were wacked, they shot at agents, the agents tried to be delicate about things, but after ten days or so the cult committed suicide by setting fire to themselves en masse. While that load of excrement is the official government position, Waco: Rules of Engagement takes the amazing loopholes in that story and exposes them up and down to be one of the most ham-fisted government cover-ups since Jack Ruby put a slug in Oswald.
The reality of the Waco stand-off is that the government agencies were out of control, scared, seeking revenge, devoid of leadership, engaging in torture tactics and ultimately responsible for the murder of 70 people. Oh sure, you Right Wing types are rolling your eyes about now, thinking I've fallen for some cheap conspiracy theory, but I'd like to see you explain the following actions:
* The FBI claims they didn't fire a round of ammunition at the Davidians compound - ever, yet infra-red footage shows they were firing into the building, both before and as it burned, from the backs of tanks.
* The FBI poked holes in the compound with those tanks, then over six hours injected tear gas into the building. When the place was filled with children. SIX HOURS of teargas.
* The gas is flammable, the gas grenades explosive, and the firing of them at people potentially lethal in itself. After they filled the building with this stuff for six hours, they then fired bullets into it. Yet they claim the Davidians decided (after ten days of not committing suicide) to commit mass suicide by setting fire to themselves. The fire could never have been a result of adding a spark to a room full of flammable gas now, could it?
* In the leadup to the big burn, feds played sounds at the Davidians 24 hrs a day from loudspeakers. Sounds designed to irritate, anger, deprive of sleep and frighten those inside. Sweet sounds like, oh, rabbits being slaughtered. And songs, like Nancy Sinatra's These Boots Are Made For Walking ("one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you...") Yet they claimed they were trying to be delicate and peaceful throughout.
* When the agents watched the Davidians bury two of their dead, the feds then proceeded to drive tanks over those graves, back and forth, repeatedly. While they were telling Koresh and his people that they'd be looked after if they just came out peacefully.
* When the tanks weren't doing donuts over fresh graves, they were rolling over the cars and boats of those in the building, tearing down their trees, and pushing in the occasional wall.
* When the building caught on fire, agents fired into the flames. Forensic evidence says dozens of the dead died from gunshot wounds. The feds say those must have been self-inflicted, even though agents were clearly seen in infra red footage to be firing upon those trying to escape the flames.
* Bodies retrieved from the flames can be clearly seen to have been run over by tanks... inside the building. The burning building, at that.
I could go on and on about missing video tapes taken by independent forensic scientists, or reports from Texas Rangers about how the feds were destroying the crime scene as they were trying to investigate it, or how the feds prevented the fire department from putting out the flames, or how first-hand accounts tell of agents mooning the Davidians from their tanks as negotiators tried to convince the Davidians that the agents could be trusted to take their children to safety.
But the most damning evidence of all is the tapes of the negotiations between the two parties involved. It's clear that what's going on outside and what the negotiators are saying are two very different things, and over the course of this documentary you can not possibly take any standpoint other than feel that the feds were out to scalp Koresh from the get-go. They expected to take him down on the first raid, but when his people kicked their ass, they got ornery and decided to not only kill these people, but make them suffer for every hour until their last.
And the exclamation point on that claim is the fact that as the Waco compound burned and all inside it became ash, the ATF ran the agency flag up the Davidian compound flagpole. Ugh.
A dispicable period in American history is made even worse by the congressional whitewash that followed, and full credit to the makers of this documentary for telling the story properly, without bias, and in a way that proves without shadow of doubt that right was wronged this day.
If you had the FBI and ATF in court for murder, this documentary would be enough to convict. My only beef with it would be some of the background music tends to detract from the importance of the piece, but chances are you'll be too busy being sickened by the corrupt US political system to notice.If you're one of those folks that believes that the government is covering up things on a daily basis, this documentary will add fuel to your fire in a major way. But if you consider yourself a patriot and believe the government is only looking out for your best interests, I defy you to view this film and not find your view altered.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1503&reviewer=1
originally posted: 04/27/03 17:47:51