23 February 2018 | kenstallings-65346
An historically faithful telling!
With a complex and still controversial real life event like the standoff and assault of the Branch Davidian compound at Mount Carmel, it is vital that the producers respect history. Having seen five of the planned six episodes, it seems safe now to say that the producers have worked very hard to portray an historically fair and accurate narrative.
Certain individual details, and the names of some of the FBI officials have been changed. But, having read the two books listed as a basis for this miniseries, plus the details of the Congressional investigation reports, it is clear that these actions of artistic license have not diminished the work, but instead added to it by making probative arguments that are relevant to the actual events.
This miniseries does an excellent job of revealing the mindset of the various people who formed the critical conflict. Episode one focuses upon the horrible aftermath of the Ruby Ridge standoff, where the ATF and FBI were both sullied by Congressional investigations that made harsh recriminations against both bureaus of federal law enforcement.
The connection between Ruby Ridge and Waco is clearly portrayed in episode two, when it looks at the motivations of ATF to score positive public relations by taking down, as ATF saw it, a compound of radicals, who broke laws with regard to the manufacture of automatic fire weapons, plus practiced polygamy.
The pivotal events of the ATF raid is what set the standoff in motion, and the miniseries did an excellent job of portraying what most people think happened. The ATF squad assigned to take out the dogs killed them, and tragically, this caused other ATF agents to initiate fire upon the Waco compound. At this point, the Branch Davidians fired upon the ATF agents and repelled their law enforcement raid efforts. The loss of life was significant on both sides. The FBI then took control of the siege.
For the FBI role, portrayed in the remaining four episodes, it comes down to three competing philosophies. First, David Koresh wanted to engage in polygamy and arm up his people to face the coming Revelations calamity. The FBI's two competing philosophies are between the use of military style tactics versus the negotiation tactics of Gary Noesner. This conflict was best rendered in a meeting portrayed between the commander of the Hostage Rescue Team and Noesner, in which the HRT commander asserted a "5,000 to 1" ratio of citizens to law enforcement, and how that delicate balance only worked, "to maintain order," if the people had faith in the power of law enforcement "being bigger than it really is."
Amid the horrible misjudgments and erroneous actions this miniseries portrays, and in particular this poignant exchange between Noesner and the HRT commander, this manifesto from our Declaration of Independence came foremost to my own mind:
"That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its power in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
The lesson of Waco is for all of us, law enforcement included, to well remember these values. The truth is that law enforcement does not "derive its powers" from making the 5,000 to 1 people fear them, but instead, by continuing to earn the trust and confidence of those 5,000 to 1 people that law enforcement's actions "shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." The miniseries powerfully articulates this reality!
No one walked away from the Waco tragedy with an increased confidence in federal law enforcement. That was the most vital of all truths, and one that Congress focused upon in its many investigations.
Congressional actions compelled the FBI and the ATF to significantly modify their tactics, to align them much more with the traditional law enforcement strategies espoused by Gary Noesner, who is the tragic hero in this miniseries.
The producers of Waco deserve great credit for creating a dramatic, yet historically accurate, portrayal of this national tragedy.