Number 24, March 15, 1997.

It Can't Happen Here...?

Film Review: Waco: The Rules of Engagement

By Claire Wolfe


Charles Curley

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

         Live this moment:
         Your home is exploding. There is fire in every direction you turn. Several of your family have been shot dead. Some have been run over by tanks, their bodies torn in half. Your children lie dead, their muscles so convulsed from the effects of poison gas that their tiny corpses bend into backward bows. Pol Pot's Cambodia? No.
         You flee in terror toward the only escape route. Diem's Viet Nam? No.
         For weeks your house has been surrounded by armed men. They fired thousands of rounds of ammunition into your home without regard for the women and children sheltered inside. They callously killed your pets, your friends, your family. Soviet Russia? No.
         They have kept you awake every night with bright lights and the sounds of tortured animals. It's a different group of men now, but you see little difference in them. They have driven tanks over your cars and over grave of a family member. They have mooned your wives and children and flipped the bird at them. They have taunted, "Hmmm...Maybe somebody ought to buy some fire insurance." They have demanded that you come out -- while being so threatening and insolent you feared to put your family into their hands. They have lied to your children. Nazi Germany? No.
         They have accused you of child abuse. They have accused you of operating an illegal drug lab, knowing this to be untrue. They have mocked and vilified your religion. They have refused your pleas for neutral mediators. They have boasted to the media that their aim is to "own" you and to make you understand you are "impotent" in their hands. Maoist China? No.
         Some of this you know. And some you will never know. Because as you run from the three wind-driven fires set at the corners of your home you are gunned down by government agents firing automatic weapons. You are dead, my friend.

The Rules of Engagement

         Welcome to Waco, Texas, April 19, 1993. Welcome to the new documentary film Waco: The Rules of Engagement. And welcome, finally, to an honest, mainstream effort to uncover the truth about what happened on that sinister day in American history.
         The horror story above is no speculation. The facts are on film. Waco: The Rules of Engagement provides irrefutable evidence that the government has not only lied about Waco for four years -- but that government agents have lied to cover a pre-meditated mass murder. A holocaust. A religious persecution the like of which has not been seen in this country since the Mormons were hounded from Illinois.
         It's no longer a matter of a few libertarians and patriots crying, "Waco!" in the wilderness. When this film premiered at Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival in January, reviewers noted that the sophisticated, yuppish audience "remained riveted up until [the film's] disturbing final shot -- an almost unheard-of phenomenon at a Sundance screening."
         The world is about to get a wake up call. But what will people do when they discover they've woken from a pleasant dream into a nightmare reality?

The Film

         Waco: The Rules of Engagement is all the more powerful because it doesn't preach. It has no political ax to grind. Narration is minimal. Most of the story is told via the voices and actions of the participants. Major sources are: the audio recordings of the FBI and ATF negotiations with the Davidians; the home videos the FBI asked the Davidians to make (then refused to release because they might evoke sympathy for the Davidians); congressional testimony; news footage; and interviews with the local sheriff, the county medical examiner, former FBI and ATF agents and journalists who covered the story.
         Where the film does overtly manipulate the viewer's emotions, it does so mainly by showing contrasting "realities." Janet Reno says that the FBI's tanks were "no more than good rent-a-cars" -- followed by shots of those same tanks crushing walls. An FBI official denies psychological warfare -- followed by footage of searchlights and screaming animals in the night.
         David Hamilton's haunting music score effectively ties these disparate elements together and gives consistent emotional context to an otherwise rather chaotic presentation of the events.
         The movie shows several gut-wrenching photos of mutilated bodies. However, these are not chosen to shock, but to reveal crucial evidence of the causes of death. Even more disturbing are the home videos, by and of the Davidians, which show their utter ordinariness. These are particularly chilling because you know the fate of these ordinary people.
         The film reveals two federal agencies out of control at every level. From the icy inhumanity of the commanders to the crudely brutal antics of the field agents, the ATF and FBI come across more as criminal gangs than law enforcement agencies.
         Relentlessly, the movie shows, rather than tells, you what happened at Waco.


         The most powerful evidence in the film is the FBI's FLIR (Forward-Looking Infra-Red) footage, taken from surveillance planes on the day of the fire. FLIR looks like ordinary black-and-white film, but it records heat, not light.
         The Davidians' attorneys obtained the footage, and the producers had it analyzed by Edward Allard, a developer of FLIR technology. Allard's on-screen analysis is backed by a written report from Infraspection Institute, a company that analyzed the footage for CBS' 60 Minutes. Infraspection concurred with Allard, but refused further comment, citing potential political repercussions.
         FBI official Dick Rogers testified before Congress that the FBI "never fired one shot" at the Davidians. Yet the FLIR footage -- taken above the rear of the complex, which the media were not permitted to see -- clearly shows, what Allard calls "the distinctive signature" of automatic weapons fire directed at the building and its inhabitants. First, gunfire comes from tanks knocking holes in the walls. Then a round from a grenade launcher, apparently firing one of the 40 mm pyrotechnic grenades later found in the ruins.
         Immediately thereafter, fires blossom at three locations within the building where the FLIR footage shows grenades being launched.
         Then, most horrifyingly of all: FLIR footage of two figures firing automatic rifles into the Davidian's kitchen -- the one last avenue of safety through which the church members thought they could flee. If nothing else persuades you, this is clear evidence that the FBI never intended to let the Davidians escape from that building.
         The film is almost too much to endure. At two hours and 44 minutes it is also too long and chaotic. (It is now being recut and shortened.) Yet it compels you to watch. Even if you already thought you knew everything you could bear to know about the Davidian massacre, Waco: The Rules of Engagement will hold new revelations, new horrors.
         It is one thing to know more than 80 people were deliberately murdered. It is another entirely to watch as agents of the American government act like Nazis on a rampage, murdering without mercy.
         It is a film many people may not want to see. For that very reason, it is a film every thinking person should see.


"Waco: The Rules of Engagement" was directed by William Gazecki and produced by William Gazecki and Michael McNulty from research by Michael McNulty. Executive producers are Dan Gifford and Amy Sommer-Gifford.

The film is now playing limited engagements around the country. As yet, it has no distributor. For information about future screenings and video releases, visit

Claire Wolfe is a corporate communications writer and author of 101 Things to Do 'Til the Revolution.

Charles Curley worked in the film industry on television and motion pictures. He is a certified firearms instructor, and a professional web page developer.

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