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There have been many documentaries that I have seen in which it appeared that the law was on the wrong side of the fence - The Thin Blue Line and Paradise Lost come to mind first and foremost. But this is the first film that had me seething with anger after I saw it. It seems blatantly clear to me from the evidence presented in this film that what happened at Waco was at the very least an unprofessional and sloppy mess on the part of the FBI and AFI, and at the very worst an act of murder. Like most people, when the siege at Waco was occurring I assumed that David Koresh was a completely evil madman who was leading a violent cult. After seeing this, I think that Koresh was more likely a slightly unbalanced and confused guy who inadvertently caught the attention of the U.S. government through his eccentric actions. Sure, there were lots of weapons at the Branch Davidian compound. But none of it was illegal. It was absolutely heartbreaking to see the video footage of the people inside the compound, all of them seeming to be very nice and harmless. And it was angering to see the callous testimony of the men in charge of the government forces on the Waco site, the clueless testimony of Janet Reno, and the partisan defense of the attack on Waco, a defense led by a few of the committee Democrats. Standing out most in my mind was NY representative and current U.S. senator from NY Charles Schumer. I voted for the man when I lived in NY state - I'm a Democrat, pretty left-leaning too. After seeing his actions on this committee, I wish I could go back in time and vote for D'Amato instead! For anyone remotely interested in the government, this is a very crucial film, a must see. I even think this should be shown in classes - it's that important.
I'm neither a Lawyer or a Law Enforcement Officer but as a fellow Filmmaker I must recommend this Documentary for many reasons. First off, a government controlled press kept America briefed during the so-called seige. The FBI & ATF spun the Korish Story into making us believe he was out of control and a cop killer. My take is that Korish had started to believe too much of his own preachings and lost control of his flock and p***ed off City Officials in WACO, Texas... leading to possible gun possession charges but to come down on the guy like they did is a dark day I'll never forget. This Doc from lots of footage from a WACO TV Station shows our Government in a post Ruby Ridge environment again making up its own "Rules" to "Engage" the so-called enemy, in this case mainly Women & Children. The fire that develops and finalizes the case for Janet Reno is as disgusting as the reality of the hundreds of chard remains of innocent christians that couldn't find their way. For any of us Americans that think that Law Enforcement is set up to work within the laws better think twice after WACO and hopefully this will be a lesson for all to learn from so it won't ever happen again.
After watching "Waco: The Rules of Engagement" I was just sitting in disbelief of what I was witness to. A big cover up by the FBI, a massacre by gung-ho/trigger happy government agents? I clearly remember the Waco standoff, I was 17 years old at the time and watched it all on CNN. I remembered reflecting about all the children as I watched the Mount Camel compound burn in April 1993. I remember feeling sorry for the children, but clearly felt that it was the fault of their evil leader David Koresh and the other Davidians. Gazecki's film shows clearly and beyond doubt, even though it is biased, that the FBI lied over and over again. I think that this film was a big contributor to the reopening of a new investigation of the incident in 1999. The outcome of this new investigation was in some sense predictable, the judgement relied on fact that was just as grey as the facts that the Davidians presented. I was very disappointed about the verdict, because as far as I know it didn't take into account all the lying, misinformation and evidence cover-up by the FBI and other officials. Why have no one be prosecuted for hampering the work of the Texas Rangers investigators? Why were they allowed to contaminate the crime scene and bulldoze the compound shortly after the incident? These are questions that I haven't been given answers to by the government. Most importantly, what about the children? In this new investigation I haven't been informed about who was responsible for spraying the CS flammable tear-gas into a compound with many hazards for igniting this gas and I haven't found any answer to whether the children's muscles contracted due to the effects of the gas, while they were alive. If they did, I would surely think that the Janet Reno or who ever was in charge of the raid should be indicted for mass-homicide or manslaughter. The question that was raised by Gazecki, but not mentioned is; Was is a direct plan for the people in charge and their tanks to cut holes and burn the building down with intent? (a plan that would have been accomplished with 112% efficacy) or were the officials in charge so incompetent, that their were unaware of the consequence of their actions? Both are equally frightening. Even if the Davidians set fire to the compound, the officials in charge surely provided them with the opportunity to do the job. If the officials in charge knew, as they claimed, that the Davidians would set fire to the compound, why the f did the tanks cut all the holes in the building making it into a furnace and why didn't they have plans to deal with the fire that they knew would occur? Dark questions that still won't go away The final and most relevant issue of this film, is the way that the Davidians are demonized by the government through the media, who just feeds it in to the public. I clearly remember the resentment I felt for the evil Davidians that I saw on CNN in 1993. Now that I'm older I can see a clear line of communication coming out of the government every time they are gearing up for a massacre of civilians along with the intended targets. Demonizing people with words like; "they have different unlawful values then us" "they don't enjoy freedom" and "they are a threat to our freedoms and way of life" makes them so much easier to kill
If you want to see real evidence of what a misguided and unchecked government can do to "un-popular" people, this movie provides it. Read what some people are saying about the "Patriot Act" passed after 9/11 and then watch this movie. Is it worth it? Do we really want to give away our freedoms to these people? Regardless of what you saw on TV, you are not fully informed until you watch this movie. I apologize for quoting another reviewer, but it needs repeating: Roger Ebert of Siskel & Ebert said, "What's interesting is if you're looking for people who are unbalanced zealots... you don't find them among the Branch Davidians, you find them among the FBI and the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; those are the people in this movie who deserve to be feared, I think." I think every person responsible for 9/11 needs to be brought to justice, but I think the government has not shown a history of honoring it's duty to protect people's rights, and this movie proves it in dramatic fashion.
Absolute must see documentary for anyone interested in getting to the bottom of this story. Told with unflinching eye and with gripping style. If you think conspiracy theories are for paranoid disturbed people, this could change your mind. Something for you feds too: A good model for government coverups! If you like your news all tidy and easy to consume this is not for you.
Rules of Engagement is one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. It is well constructed, superbly pieced together, and provides excellent footage to back up the assertions that it takes on. The movie's best quality is that it is not based on being sympathetic to the Dividians as much as it enlightens the audience to the blatant governmental mistakes and lies that surrounded the entire situation. I'm left with feelings of disturbing anxiety and extreme anger over the way that the government handled and then covered up a tragedy of this magnitude. The cover up is what left me really fuming. It is one thing to make a mistake in an operation and admit guilt, but another to look the American people squarely in the eye and lie to them. I guess it shouldn't surprise me with the history of our beloved country that has seen the JFK assassination, the Vietnam War, and other significant events that smell so bad of a cover up that you have to hold your nose every time you drive through Washington D.C. The footage from an airplane with special heat sensing technology and the autopsies on some of the bodies clearly show that the FBI is lying to the public. One of the things that I try to stay aware of when watching a documentary such as this is that I am usually only receiving testimony from one point of view. But again, that is without a doubt one of the brilliant successes of Rules of Engagement. It presents its evidence in such a concluding fashion that even if you were presented with statements from the FBI how could you really believe them. I remember clearly when the standoff was taking place the way the media presented the Dividians as this crazed group of cult rebels with David Koresh, the self professed reborn Jesus Christ, as their leader. None of this was truly factual but rather story spun from bits and pieces of facts. They were simply standing up for there rights to bear arms and practice their religion as American Citizens. If you were the ATF and you wanted to search the compound is attacking the building with a unit of men who are armed with rifles and bullet proof suits the way to go about doing it? If you are the FBI why engage in psychological warfare and offer little in actual negotiation to help solve the situation? Why pour gallons of harmful gas if you want to save children? Why open large holes within the compound structure when you know the possibility of starting a fire? Why lie about not firing weapons when it can be clearly shown on video? Unless. Unless you wanted to see the situation end up the way it did. The scene at the end when the Dividians Star of David flag blew off the flagpole into the fire and the ATF's was shortly thereafter raised up was an emotional climatic scene that made my head shake in disgust and my stomach turn uncontrollably. The filmmaker William Gazecki deserves one my highest congratulations. It takes a lot of guts to make a movie like this and I am sure there have been many repercussions from the government for it as well. Because of people like him the public can be shown real truth rather than crap that gets filtered through a media that presents information that can hardly be considered genuine. When I think back to how I felt at the time toward the Dividians because of the media's representation of David Koresh and how I felt after seeing this movie it is truly amazing. It reminds me of the line from the bible of a man who was healed by Jesus and asked by the elders how it happened "before I was blind but now I can see" he kept telling them. Do yourself a favor and watch this movie. You may have to look for it but it is truly something special.
"Waco: The Rules of Engagement" is a devastating indictment on the ATF, FBI and the US government, roundly demonstrating their culpability in the deaths of innocent men, women and children in the most abhorrent of crimes against humanity. With the just now resolved siege in Russia the details of this documentary are even more significant. Sure, it is a one-sided document (I'm starting to think there is no such thing as an objective documentary) but the case is made so clearly and overwhelmingly that no defence could be applied to mollify the responsibility of those liable for this heinous massacre. Yet, it is not only a condemnation of the law enforcement procedures and personnel but also of the gung-ho culture of America and the reliance on violence as a medium for punishment, revenge and "justice". The propagation of lies in the wake of the massacre is even more disturbing, suggesting that even when the truth is eventually wrenched from the quagmire of reprehensible fabrication it still remains largely useless against those who should be held accountable.
Waco: Rules of Engagement does a very good job of not drawing conclusions
for its viewers. It simply presents interviews, footage from the
footage of the Congressional hearings, phone conversations, expert
testimony, etc. and allows you to draw your own conclusion.
I hardly intend to imply that the data presented here was done with 100% objectivity but it is very convincing. You won't like Koresh any more after you see this than you did before, but I tend to think that you will come to believe, as I now do, there is much that we were not told about what happened before and during the standoff.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There's no reason to have more sympathy for Koresh and the Branch
Davidians than for any other sect -- or any less, for that matter.
These sects are like populations through which an altruistic gene has
spread -- all love and self sacrifice -- and then there appears a
mutant defector who has the selfishness gene and subverts the
population. Christianity led to the Medicis; communism led to Stalin;
"Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite" wound up with Napoleon; and The People's
Temple gave us Jim Jones.
Koresh seems to have done what so many charismatic leaders have done before and after him. He speaks smoothly, he reasons intuitively, he flatters his flock, and somehow or other he emerges as the guy who can have sex with anybody he wants, just like Father Divine, Jim Jones, or hundreds of others. Not to say that he's a fraud. He may very well genuinely believe in what he preaches. He may really think that he is a conduit for God's messages and that he will live forever. All it takes is a slightly imbalanced mind.
It's a pretty good documentary and gives us the view from both sides of this preposterous conflict. Actors "reenact" the events in Waco, although there are interviews and inserts of the "real people" involved. (These reenactments are becoming so common that they may be our new version of the inexpensive B feature.) Even taking into account the sincerity of the Davidians' religious beliefs, the sect doesn't come across as looking in any way particularly admirable. Koresh is boffing everybody's wife and an underage girl or two and getting them proudly pregnant. Sounds bad, but so what? The human family is a malleable thing and until the globalization of Western values polygyny (multiple wives) was more common than monogamy. We can disapprove if we like but the sect was hardly a danger to society. Unlike its fearful collection of guns, its social structure deserves a collective shrug.
Instead the might of the federal government was brought down on the sect members and resulted in several deaths on the side of law enforcement and many deaths, including children, on the part of the sect members.
Armored vehicles rolled around the compound. Annoying music was blasted towards them. Koresh agreed to surrender, then backed down, then released some of the children, and no one seemed to know how the scenario would play out. A team of negotiators were making some progress in dividing the group but another FBI team, trained to attack, interrupted the negotiations and did what they were trained to do and the results brought the stand-off to a satisfying climax on TV.
Indeed, there were times when the incident seemed to be largely media driven. Reneging on a promise is anticlimactic. It ruins the dramatic scenario we think real events should adhere to. If the other side doesn't come across, you force them to. (This is known as "first-order change" in counseling circles.) Janet Reno's comment on the conflict was, "We couldn't wait forever." Why not? Why not deescalate, remove the tanks, isolate the compound, leave behind a working team of FBI negotiators and an armed emergency force, and just wait? Because the media would stop covering it? Because the public would be disappointed at the lack of closure? That seems to have been part of the motive for the attack.
People who don't think "the cult brought it on themselves and deserved what they got" are liable to think "Janet Reno mismanaged the affair." But the problems illustrated in this documentary don't belong to just Koresh or Reno or the federal government. They are part of American national character. We are a "can do" nation, much more than a "can think" nation. Talking to an adversary is a sign of weakness. We "negotiate from strength." Or, as John Wayne might have put it, "Talkin' words is fer wimmin." We can see this psychological dynamic at work on the world stage today as we demolish other cultures in order to democratize them.
As it turned out, the initial problem was to separate the sect members from their gun collection. And we good people certainly managed to do that.
The film someone had to make.
Waco: The Rules of Engagement dissects the evidence behind the standoff in Waco, Texas that led to the destruction of the Branch Davidian homestead and the alleged government cover-up.
The first thing you need to know about this film: you will see brief but disturbing photos of the victims bodies. This is not done for shock value, but to illustrate points about the way they died, as if you were present at the coroner's inquest.
The second thing you should know about this film: at two and a quarter hours, it's pretty ponderous - especially if you already followed the events closely at the time. If you are unaware of any of the events other than what was reported in the mass media, or if the only side of the story you are familiar with is the official government report, this may be essential viewing. If, on the other hand you want a more concise (albeit unapologetically one sided) version of events, you should see "Waco: The Big Lie".
In summary, this is pretty much the definitive documentary about this tragic event, and is very sobering, but as a work of film-making, could test your patience, especially if you have a short attention span. And it's at times superfluous for those who watched the CSPAN hearings and the 60 Minutes reports.
Perhaps someday someone will make a documentary that covers some of the stranger aspects of this story, such as the bizarre chain of events that led up to the ATF raid or the psychological warfare tactics the FBI used blasting rock music at the sect, and their charismatic leaders (all rock musicians themselves) picking up their instruments and turning their massive amplifiers outward to blast their own music right back at them.
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