‘Waco: American Apocalypse’ Presents Most Objective View Of 1993 Standoff

Thirty years have passed since the standoff at Mount Carmel outside Waco, Texas when the Branch Davidian compound erupted in flames following a 51-day standoff with federal agents and law enforcement. Who was to blame? That’s been the biggest question that people have been asking themselves since April 19, 1993.

I’ve researched a lot of David Koresh and what happened. All I can say is that the man knew his days were limited. While the law enforcement screwed up, it could have been easily ended if a reporter hadn’t gotten lost. Or it could’ve been a lot worst. There is never a simple answer.

Tiller Russell directs a three-part docuseries Waco: American Apocalypse on Netflix and it has to be the most objective series I’ve ever seen. Normally, a filmmaker will have an agenda and gear the documetary toward one way. That’s not the case here. Russell interveiws both sides and it must’ve taken a lot of convincing with some interviewees, considering that Branch Davidians Kathy Schroeder and David Thibodeau are still adamant to this day that the government overstepped their limits.

Heather Jones, a child, at the compound, who was constantly abused by Koresh is the most tragic character in the series. She lost her family, but yet that was her life up until then. You can see the anger and sadness at Koresh as well at the federal agents. She is the most human face of the tragedy.

Russell gives a more intimate look at the events that happened during the standoff by interviewing local reporter John McLemore as well as former FBI agent Gary Noesner and others who all give their opinions on what happened. And while they’re is a lot of finger-pointing, I’m glad that Russell doesn’t give much attention to the people who showed up to oppose the government. However, you can’t not mention Timothy McVeigh who was actualy filmed in news coverage.

But Russell doesn’t answer the question of why there was no outrage when the police firebombed a Philadelphia neighborhood in 1985. Mainly, because it was a predominantly black neighborhood and with the exception of a few people, it was mostly white people at Mount Carmel. And that’s probably why authorities didn’t bother them until there were questions about the weapons they had in their possessions.

I’ll give Russell credit for not romanticizing Koresh the way the 2018 miniseries Waco did. It’s hard to rationalize a grown man having sex with girls, minors, who are 12 or younger than that. It also shows you how far down the rabbit hole Schroeder has gone as she rationalizes it as saying that in their congregation, girls become women at 12. It’s sick and disgusting. And Russell lets Schroeder and Thibodeau dig their own graves.

At the same time, people like McLemore and Noesner are very candid in their opinions of the authorities. McLemore was near the compound on Feb. 28, 1993 the day the stand-off started and found himself diving and ducking for cover from the gunfire. And Russell more or less leans toward the authorities’ report that someone from inside the compound fired first. The images of dead or wounded ATF agents is undeniable. It doesn’t matter who fired first. For what it’s worth, they had a warrant and they were going to execute it.

But like I said, Russell doesn’t shy around from saying the way things were handled were done poorly. A sniper, Chris Whitcomb, said at one point he had the perfect opportunity to shoot Koresh but he didn’t do it because he didn’t have the authority. Maybe it would’ve ended the stand-off or erupted in worse gunfire. He says as the compound was burning, someone tried to fire at them as their last moment of defiance. Whitcomb also criticizes how the powers that be hadn’t set up an effective perimeter. And while some people have blamed the use of tear gas as starting the fire, Russell shows that three fires were started almost simultaneously at three different areas.

Let’s face it, Koresh knew he was going to jail for prison, child abuse, rape and child sexual abuse. He wasn’t coming out of the prison no other way but feet first. He shamelessly made his followers kill themselves because he didn’t want to go to prison. And if Thibodeau who was one of the few people who made it out of the compound was so adamant about Koresh, he wouldn’t have ran out so quickly.

The sad part is the Waco standoff led to the Alfred P. Murrah bombing in Oklahoma City on this same date, April 19, 1995. It took the events of 9/11 for some people to step back and realize that being part of the militia groups are the same as the terrorists. What we’ve seen with Jan. 6, 2021 is the same danger that Koresh brought to the Waco area. I really wish Russell had focused more on Koresh’s past rather than giving a summary because he was by no means the second coming of Christ. He was a conman who did what a lot of conmen do, they go after their prey and find what they can exploit. He wanted to have sex with many women and he wanted to exploit the Second Amendment to live by his own set of laws.

If Koresh actually cared for his people, he would’ve released them all. He didn’t. Because he didn’t care about them. He only cared about himself.

What do you think? Please comment.

Published by bobbyzane420

I'm an award winning journalist and photographer who covered dozens of homicides and even interviewed President Jimmy Carter on multiple occasions. A back injury in 2011 and other family medical emergencies sidelined my journalism career. But now, I'm doing my own thing, focusing on movies (one of my favorite topics), current events and politics (another favorite topic) and just anything I feel needs to be posted. Thank you for reading.

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