On February 28, 1993, the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) launched the largest assault in its history against a small religious community in central Texas. One hundred agents armed with automatic and semi automatic weapons invaded the compound, purportedly to execute a single search and arrest warrant. The raid went badly; four agents were killed, and by the end of the day the settlement was surrounded by armored tanks and combat helicopters. After a fifty-one day standoff, the United States Justice Department approved a plan to use CS gas against those barricaded inside. Whether by accident or plan, tanks carrying the CS gas caused the compound to explode in fire, killing all seventy-four men, women, and children inside.
Could the tragedy have been prevented? Was it necesary for the BATF agents to do what they did? What could have been done differently? Armageddon in Waco offers the most detailed, wide-ranging analysis of events surrounding Waco. Leading scholars in sociology, history, law, and religion explore all facets of the confrontation in an attempt to understand one of the most confusing government actions in American history.
The book begins with the history of the Branch Davidians and the story of its leader, David Koresh. Chapters show how the Davidians came to trouble authorities, why the group was labeled a “cult,” and how authorities used unsubstantiated allegations of child abuse to strengthen their case against the sect.
The media’s role is examined next in essays that considering the effect on coverage of lack of time and resources, the orchestration of public relations by government officials, the restricted access to the site or to countervailing evidence, and the ideologies of the journalists themselves. Several contributors then explore the relation of violence to religion, comparing Waco to Jonestown.
Finally, the role played by “experts” and “consultants” in defining such conflicts is explored by two contributors who had active roles as scholarly experts during and after the siege The legal and consitutional implications of the government’s actions are also analyzed in balanced, clearly written detail.