WINNER: TOP 25 LIBERTARIAN DOCUMENTARIES
NOMINEE: ACADEMY AWARD BEST DOCUMENTARY
A critical examination of the 1993 BATF raid in Waco, Texas. [Dir: William Gazecki/ 165 min/ Documentary-Educational/ Democide, Propaganda]
If you’ve ever wondered what actually happened in Waco, why and how the government was able to kill dozens of people who had never been convicted of anything, watch this film. Step by step the government’s version of the story is unraveled, and in its place is left a holocaust that can only be attributed to an incredible abuse of state power.
One of the most important accomplishments of the film is to rehumanize the Davidians, who had been so successfully dehumanized by the feds. As video clips taken at the time of the siege reveal, the Branch Davidians were certainly very religious people but were not mesmerized, or nut-cases, or gun-toting white-supremacists. In interviews shown here they are reasonable, happy, well-educated, and multiracial. Koresh is more off the deep-end, but even he seems just obsessed, not insane. This rehumanization is important because part of the intelligentsia’s disinterest in Waco has to do with its disconnect from stereotypical images of religious gun-toting types.
Next the film addresses the charges against Koresh that initially justified the government’s interest. It succeeds in diminishing those charges but probably not to everyone’s satisfaction. Koresh likely did have sex with young girls but no less than age fourteen, which, as the local sheriff in the film points out, is technically common law marriage with parents’ permission. As for the charge that the Davidians were stockpiling weapons in preparation for an expected conflict with the world, testimony reveals that they operated a legitimate gun business and held an inventory for it (a fact that I had never heard before) in a state where guns are so common they reportedly outnumber people by a wide margin. In any case, most of the Davidians had nothing to do with guns.
Finally, the film deals with the actual events. The BATF’s initial assault was a fiasco and ended in a truce in which the Davidians allowed the BATF to retreat without firing a shot at them (again something I heard for the first time). The government seems to have acted with less honor. After subsequently filling the Branch Davidian buildings with flammable toxic gas, which quickly burst into an inferno, BATF snipers apparently shot freely into the burning structures. The BATF says the Davidians set the fire themselves, but, as the film points out, the Davidians—who were if anything religious—were religiously opposed to suicide.
All of this is a wonderful summation of the case against the government at Waco. It’s well organized, it appeals at both an intellectual and emotional level, and it’s supported both by extensive video footage and expert testimony. The high quality of this film, and its consequent Academy Award nomination, has given it credibility with all corners of the political spectrum and so has taken the message of what really happened at Waco to audiences that would not normally have heard it. If you’re looking for a film to demonstrate to skeptical friends that the feds are capable of abusing their power—this is the one.
External Reviews of Waco: The Rules of Engagement
“Whatever happened at Waco, these facts remain: It is not against the law to hold irregular religious beliefs. It is not illegal to hold and trade firearms. It is legal to defend your own home against armed assault, if that assault is illegal. It is impossible to see this film without reflecting that the federal government, from the top down, treated the Branch Davidians as if those rights did not apply.”
How to See It
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