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Getting On : Literature Reviews

Learning Lessons from Waco

from GoldenMic - Thursday, June 16, 2005
accessed 1035 times

Learning Lessons from Waco (J. S. Docherty, 2001, Syracuse University Press) is actually pretty well written. I was initially interested by the title, and expected this to be yet another whiny apologetic complaining about a poor new religious movement that was unfairly abused by the government. In fact, I personally believe the government WAS way out of control in this case, but I also know that David Koresh was much more than an innocent little preacher, and I have met some of those Branch Davidians. Frankly, those that survived are STILL his crazy sycophants and they still ignore and explain away Koresh’s sexual abuses and the cultic nature of what was happening there.

However, this book made no attempt to justify Koresh’s position, or the government’s. Instead, Docherty examined the question of why things went so wrong during the siege. Her main finding is that the two sides were both operating from completely different world views, engaged in "a dialogue of the deaf resulting in mutual miscomprehension that carried lethal consequences".

I think this book is important in analyzing how one’s world view can make a meaningful dialogue near-impossible. I know I’m not anywhere near the first person here to notice that there is a huge gulf between the cult and its second generation, as represented here on this site, and I recently saw where "True" asserted that the problem is TF’s Mafia-like power and its inherent evil. I don’t disagree with that analysis, but I also think that little substantive work has been done to approach this problem from the "clashing world view" perspective. For those of us interested in actually achieving change, is it possible that we need to develop a language and an "engagement strategy" that bridges the two camps, allowing our complaints and even their responses to stop falling on deaf ears? I think that is what Safe Passages is trying to achieve with its use of "the international rights of the child", and their hope is that TF might be willing to make changes and submit to review for the sake of their children’s well-being, but I also know TF has not appeared to demonstrate any commitment to those principles beyond lip-service, and so far, no language has been developed to allow actual dialogue or change to occur.

Docherty suggests that there are 8 things that can be done to improve a dialogue with "barricaded subjects", people locked away, physically or psychologically, and some of the points may be relevant, but I still wonder if it is even possible to engage in a dialogue with people who are convinced they serve god, and convinced you are serving the system. With both sides having no real respect for the other’s values or world view, how can a "positive narrative" emerge? Unfortunately, this book points out the problems better than it provides any real solutions, except that it does offer some valid critiques and suggestions for how law enforcement could avoid making "critical incidents" like Waco even worse.

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from Phoenixkidd
Wednesday, June 22, 2005 - 17:49


I know what I am saying here, will go against the grain and sentiment that most of us ex-gen have. But everytime I hear the word, Waco, Texas, ATF, Branch Davidians or even that song, "These Boots were Made for Walking" etc.. I cringe.

Yes, I cringe at the thought that a government can force people out of their home, be it a multi-family shared compound or whatever at gunpoint and declare all out war on its own, simply on charges of possessing too many arms. Granted it was unsafe but I remember reading every transcript, news article, and judge ordinance on this case and many others. Granted I think the local and Federal government went way to far, and to think of the torture those children had to endure, makes me mad. You know they finally died, being melted alive in that bus that was buried.

Trust me I am no NRA, or separatist, anarchist or any of the kind. I just think the local government and ATF didn't do enough to negotiate before they came in with Tanks. THey tried to negotiate after the initial assault but by that time it was all out war. They even used enemy tactics, such as mind torture, sleep deprivation and literally lay seige on their own citizens.
(reply to this comment)

From Lance
Wednesday, June 22, 2005, 18:16

I agree! There really is no excuse for the deaths of all those people. I don't care if they were cult members. The government is responsible and did a piss poor job of handling the entire situation..(reply to this comment
From GoldenMic
Wednesday, June 22, 2005, 19:27


I, too, agree. The government's actions in this case were reprehensable. I remember Attorney General Reno saying she had no choice because she thought little kids were being sexually abused, even though the warrant was based soly on weapons charges, and the result of all that concern was to burn a bunch of children to death! Meanwhile, the so-called "cult expert" they called upon was Rick Ross, an uneducated, gung-ho, self-aggrandizing religious zealot, and his inane suggestions were based on his certainty that these "devil worshipers were all going to commit ritualistic suicide", which only panicked the FBI into over-reacting even more.

Lance is right, even cult members didn't deserve such idiotic strategy and decision-making. To add insult to injury, this only ended up giving the surviving Branch Davidians a perfect sense of persecution and vicimization, resulted in tons of donated money for the poor little survivors, and they can now deflect every question about the oppression and abuse by re-directing questions back to the government's bizarre assault upon its own citizens. (reply to this comment

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