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Academy Award nominated Best Documentary, WACO: The Rules of Engagement addresses conspiracies behind the Waco siege (Feb-April 1993) involving an unorthodox Christian group – The Branch Davidians, US Federal/Texan state law enforcement and the US military. The film goes back to the shootouts and the 51 day standoff including the fire that destroyed the compound in which 76 people died including charismatic leader David Koresh.
Director, William Gazecki, uses archival footage from the siege as well as courtroom footage from the ensuing trial to present a view that The Branch Davidians were the victims firstly of a botched raid by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and then later the heartless and calculated work of the FBI, who over-saw a covert strategy to end the stand-off. Gazecki interviews a range of religious, psychological and technical experts and suggests that although extreme and marginalised for their beliefs, the Branch may in fact not have been operating as a cult as the government had claimed, but that they were a valid religious group practicing under First Amendment freedoms and exercising their rights as American citizens under the constitution. They were not breaking the law by owning firearms and holding irregular religious beliefs, yet 76 people died in a siege following the government raid on their compound.
It’s hard not to watch this film without questioning the approach that was taken and suspecting that the bitter dispute surrounding the events has arisen because some perspectives have not been fairly represented. Indeed the greatest question posed by this film is: what are the rules of engagement?
Watch WACO: The Rules of Engagement and decide for yourself.