From: John Graham, Seattle
Concerning Waco: A cop come up behind me with a flashing red light. The cop thinks I ran a red light. I think I didn't. The cop orders me to pull over and come out of my car. I speed up. The cop tries to force me to stop. I pull a gun. The cop shoots out my tire. I drive into a light pole and am killed. Who is at fault?
This was a quick reaction to those who seem to hold David Koresh blameless for the series of events that occured at Waco. It is absurd to "forget" that no matter what the circumstances, resisting arrest necessarily puts one at risk. At the same time I was profoundly dismayed when I heard that Federal agents had decided to storm the compound. I think that the Government has an obligation to go to extraordinary lengths to protect the lives of innocents, and it seems obvious to me that whatever the outcome might have been, a direct assault increased the risk of fatalities. Thanks for your depth.
From: A. Gray
I think it is important to review government actions, especially in the area of law enforcement. However, I believe it is a travesty that so much emotional energy has been wasted on trying to allocate blame for the demise of David Koresh and his misguided, lost cult of followers. The only person who bears the primary responsibility for the demise of Koresh's followers is Koresh himself. In addition, Koresh's naive, lost followers, bear a large measure of responsibility for their own deaths. They willingly gave up their freedom of thought and action to a delusional, messianic maniac who used the threat of violence, sexual exploitation, and ritualized child abuse of members' young daughters to control his "flock" and fulfill his sick sexual obsessions and pedophilia. They allowed themselves to be deluded, used and sacrificed like lambs by an obvious psychopath.
There is no doubt that it was tragedy that his followers died during the Waco seige, although probably through their own Jonestown like mass suicide. However, it is important not to forget that this self professed messiah had every opportunity to turn down the heat of the confrontation and give himself up to agents of the American legal system for trial. To excuse or in any way justify Koresh's violent, muderous resistance of federal agents serves to undermine the foundations of our Democracy and the legal foundation on which this nation is built. Such apologists for Koresh, or the Ruby Ridge White Supremacist fanatics, are either naively serving the interests of anti-government anarchists, or actively trying to undermine the very governmental institutions that serve as the backbone for our nation. Finally, if everyone resisted legal authorities with gunfire, as in the Waco or Ruby Ridge episodes, our society would rapidly collpase. This disintegration of our society would herald an unprecendented Hobbesian state that we all would eternally regret! This is a potentiality that all Americans must actively resist. Accordingly, as Americans, we must eternally struggle to maintain and enhance the ties that bind us together as a nation. Thus, to maintain these ties, we must also be willing to support our governmental insititutions, including those agencies now under attach for the Waco and Ruby Ridge incidents. We can guide these governmental bodies towards reform when needed without self-destructively seeking to dismantle or eliminate these bodies. In spite of their flaws, our governmental institutions continue to serve and protect our common rights and interests as Americans.
Dear Mr Boyer:
Excellent documentary on the seige at Waco!!! A few comments and questions. I taped and have viewed the show three times, so far. And it comes to mind. Just why the Government's interest in Korish and the Davidian? And why could'nt the problem be handled locally? Agent R.J.Craig came across as the most perceptive person of all that were shown. His prediction of disaster were well founded. And of the three main agents shown, he seem to understand who and were Korish was coming from. Agent Byron Sage was also sensitive to the situation and the people involed excluding Korish. As well as the local Sheriff. One observatiopn that comes continually to mind. It seems that any large Government law enforcement agency dealing with off beat religious, political groups such Waco, Ruby Ridge Idaho and Philadelphia's Move Group. That they are not prepared (or trained)to deal with the complexity and personality involed, which acts as a catalyst for the resulting full scale disasters. One question what happened to Agents Jamar, Craig and Sage?? Did you have full access to them? Did their careers end with the seige at Waco? It seemed that throughout the seige that HRT and HNT people were at continual odds with each other. Which added confusion, mistrust and bad blood, that took something away from the problem at hand. I appreciate your approach your hard work in bringing the truth about what went on during the seige at Waco. Keep up the good work. Sorry if I bent your ear!!! Thank You. Sincerely, Jim Cook
From: James Jarnagin -- firstname.lastname@example.org
I don't think you really completely understand what happened at Waco. After spending several months with one of the Branch Davidians as a cellmate, I think I completely understand what happened here. Koresh had developed an acute case of the Jerusalem syndrome after having visited Israel. He fantasized about his chosen purpose and leader of this religious group. His good friend, Paul Fatta, was a gun collector/trader. Koresh began to convince Fatta that his religious efforts must be tied to a militia. This militia was the keystone to his freedom. The opportunity to encourage pregnancies with the women in the compound, could only increase the number of his followers the fastest possible way. Guns would ultimately allow a sense of privacy and proteection from state and federal law prohibiting sex with minors. The ATF were showcasing their new squad and weaponry without thinking about the defensive possibilities of Koresh. This tactic cost the lives of four ATF and many religious followers. ATF knew that Koresh purchased hardward and grocery supplies twice and week and signed the bill or paid cash himself at those retailers. They could have waited and avoided this clash.
Date: 10/20/95 11:12 AM
From: E. Renoux
You covered the breakdown in FBI command and control over the situation well. You did not go into the problems the negotiators had in understanding the different world view of the BDs and their unwillingness to seek assistance from Biblical scholars. You also did not expose the BATF rational for the initial raid and the legality of the involvement of the military in the initial assault. I understand the time constraints but a followup program would be of interest to me.
Black Hawk, CO
Date: 10/20/95 4:45 PM
From: Chad E. Litton
I am greatly disturbed by the inability of the mainstreamor liberal press to take into consideration the constitutional and religious implications of this event. My masters thesis (Creation of a Cult: Media Representations of the Branch Davidians) shows a consistent lack of clear, critical treatment of this event. I am grateful for the ability to search through some of your data, but it would have been nice for you to put less emphasis on the government's view of the events. It would have also been nice if you could have shown some interest in the problems of the trial of the Branch Davidians. I think this is a good start but it is not enough to get at the extreme tragedy of this event.
Date: 10/22/95 8:12 PM
From: Alice Mercer
Your advertising for this show bordered on bait and switch. You promised information that would tell what really happened at Waco, suggesting (1) definitive conclusion(s) and (2) That the story was different than what we had heard up to this point.
There were no surprises, and no clear answers. You end the program with the statement that the F.B.I. lost, but no one still can answer, why?
I have no quarrel with this conclusion or the lack of definitive answers about what happened at the end, etc. but your ads were more worthy of the 11 O'clock news than PBS, with their suggestions that never panned out.
Although the ending of this stand-off was horrific, I still have not heard any good alternatives fully explored either in your piece or elsewhere. They were suggested with state- ments from the Tac Squad that they be more aggressive sooner and from the negotiators, who felt their efforts to work with Koresh were undermined, but neither was convincing.
Date: 10/21/95 12:06 AM
From: wm golson
All the lives lost and money spent for weapons violations. It does not ad up. Occasionally our government uses excessive force simply to show that it can. I hope that this kind of symbol-making will not happen again.
Date: 10/21/95 8:09 AM
From: J.C. Fraser-Paige
I can't say I enjoyed your Frontline piece on Waco. It is impossible to watch the unfolding tragedy and enjoy it. I do find it fascinating, and more balanced than much I have seen. I don't always agree with the positions taken by Frontline producers - they are usually far too liberal for my taste - but this was an exception.
As a police officer and a trainer of new recruits for my department, I will use some of the information I got, both from the program, and from the web page. I have spent very little time surfing the 'Net, but the offer to avail myself of source material , pictures and sound was just too good to pass up. It prompted me to download and set up the Internet files from Microsoft.
I find some of the comments on the feedback page interesting. I could read the obvious criticism leveled at the government for their handling of the siege. The reasons for the initial contact were outside the parameters of the story. Of course the ATF made a series of mistakes. I don't think it was done to grab headlines, but it was wrongheaded from the get-go, nonetheless. It was impossible to miss the anguish on the faces of the negotiators, and on the face of the man in charge. The sheriff, perhaps the noblest member of law enforcement there, was overwhelmed by what he had seen.
Thank you for a good evening of television, followed by some interesting time on the "Net.
Jamie Fraser-Paige, San Francisco, CA
Date: 10/21/95 12:06 AM
From: Kevin A. Kling
After watching the Waco program, I am overwhelmed with sorrow for all parties involved.
How could this have happened here? Are we not the same country who figured out the intricacies of the atom, and put a man on the moon? All during the program I kept telling myself - why don't they (the FBI HRT) back off? The people in danger (namely the women and children) have no control of the situation, and the decision maker (Koresh) is obviously bent on confrontation.
I support the FBI, the ATF, and the Police/Sherrif's department. Their anguish over what happened is second only to the families who lost loved ones. I know that those people had only the best intentions - but come on...
The reason we had to act was that the children were being beaten? And Ms. Reno, or anyone else does not remember who informed them of it? This smells like the LADP nightmare (Furman/VanAdder) saying that they went over the wall, not because OJ was a suspect, but that he was in danger...
We are all in danger when we start to use the end to justify the means... This country was founded on a principle that ensures that some guilty people will never be brought to justice, to protect the innocent. We have to accept the fact that sometimes it will take a long time for justice to be served...
We have to be willing to wait, and not force it to fit our time schedule.
Date: 10/20/95 1:35 PM
From: Anthony B. Cramer
I watched the Waco episode the other night, and was very impressed with its balance and thoroughness. However, I do have one quibble - as a rare liberal who is also a gun enthusiast, I was struck by the reference early in the broadcast to the Davidian arsenal including a ".50-caliber cannon." There is no such weapon. The term "cannon," although richly descriptive of any large firearm, is usually used in military circles to refer to heavy armaments larger than .60 caliber (the smallest cannon in the U.S. inventorythat I'm aware of fires 20-mm shells, roughly .80 caliber). The.50-caliber machine gun, to which the story was probably referring,has been a mainstay of military arsenals for most of this century;although certainly a fearsome weapon, it should be noted that.50-caliber big game rifles have been in civilian use for more than100 years and remain available to this day.
At the time of theCivil War, non-military weapons firing .50 or .60-caliber shot(or larger!) were not unknown. This remains a minor semantic pointgiven the show's focus on FBI procedure rather than the gun-controlaspects of the story. I only mention it because such errors serve to reinforce the perception in gun circles that the media, gun-control advocates, and liberals in particular know nothing about guns. I also took some issue with the last line of the broadcast, about the mistake of allowing Koresh to write the ending. I'm not convinced there was any way of preventing that - even if everything had gone right for the FBI the compound might still have been torched, given that Koresh seemed hell-bent on staging his own peculiar little Armageddon.
Thus, sadly, there may never have been any hope of preventing the tragic and horrible death of so many children. I do not fault the government for the gas attack -the situation had dragged on for so long that something had to be done.I do fault the government for what your report highlighted so well -the fact that the negotiation and hostage rescue teams were working at cross purposes, doubtless prolonging the situation and snuffing out what faint hope there might have been for a negotiated end or atleast the release of the children. I've seen chilling echoes of your report through the Ruby Ridge hearings and can only hope the various agencies learn from their mistakes. The paramilitary machismo of some of the agents in each incident is not encouraging.
Date: 10/22/95 8:13 PM
From: Brian Uitti
Thanks for the balanced picture of the tragic events. Each of [us] can make up our own minds on the conclusions.
From: Bob Engelhart
Thanks to everyone at Frontline for creating such a wonderful series. It's so refreshing to get an unbiased account of the issues. I wish your program was on more often. However, please don't sacrifice quality for quantity.
Date: 10/18/95 1:07 AM
Well, it's great. One of the more useful and pertinent web pages I've run across. The show (WACO) was excellent. I've enjoyed trying the audio of Koresh and the Sheriff on the web page.
Keep up the good work! I'll see if I can't contribute more this year to PBS, I know ya'l