Since the release of the miniseries “Waco” on Netflix, it’s quickly jumped to the top 10 on the platform in the past month. The documentary is a chilling and horrifying look into the real-life events that happened during the 51-day siege between a cult and federal agents, resulting in the deaths of 82 people.
The miniseries itself is fantastic, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in history or government. The cast really makes every moment intense and realistic. At times I felt the need to remind myself that most of this documentary is just acting and not real footage, although they used real footage many times throughout the series.
At the beginning of the series, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives along with the FBI had just recovered from a botched siege at Ruby Ridge in Idaho where they murdered a man’s wife, kid and dog. Both agencies wanted a chance to regain trust in the American public after this.
Their next target was a compound that belonged to a religious cult called Branch Davidians, led by David Koresh. Koresh had been illegally stockpiling weapons according to the ATF. Their first raid resulted in a shootout between ATF agents and cult members, causing four agents and six civilians to be murdered. But that was just the beginning of the ensuing 51-day standoff.
Over the next month, the FBI and ATF repeatedly tried to negotiate with Koresh and his followers. They even tried to use psychological tactics to bring them out. The siege officially ended when the FBI sent tanks and used tear gas, which is illegal even on terrorists—and these were American citizens.
The gas was non-lethal, but it is highly incendiary, and caused a massive fire that engulfed their entire compound trapping people inside. The fire killed 76 people, including 25 children.
The documentary does a great job of showing how the government’s response was wrong no matter how you put it. What the ATF and FBI did was not only immoral, it was illegal. They had no conclusive evidence of weapons stockpiling or kids being abused, yet terrorized innocent people. And to make matters worse, they tried to cover up as much evidence as possible.
I think where the documentary lacks is showing more about David himself, as they show him as a sympathetic person. In reality, Koresh was more than likely an evil person. He was polygamous and married a girl who was just 14. He absolutely should have been held accountable for his actions. I think the way the government acted was reprehensible, but to show Koresh as this hero is silly, especially since he was the person that ultimately got everyone killed because of his stubbornness.
What I found most interesting is that Waco was supposed to be the exact opposite of what really happened. The ATF and FBI were actually trying to save their reputation among the public, but did the opposite. It only heightened tension and mistrust between the public and law enforcement. The results of Waco and Ruby Ridge are directly linked as reasons for the Oklahoma City bombing just two years later, on the exact day the siege ended in Waco, killing 168 people. The terrorist responsible believed the government should pay for murdering innocent people. I wish this was talked about in the miniseries, however, it was not.
Overall I was fascinated by this miniseries. It has a lot of raw emotions and does an excellent job of representing both sides in a fair manner.