WACO: AMERICAN APOCALYPSE is a new Netflix documentary series with three episodes. There is quite a lot of “never before seen” footage that brings new light to some of the events. This new Netflix docu-series is billed as “the definitive account of what happened” and I feel like this just might be true.
Sure, there are still many unknown elements, but we get to witness many moments from several sides, which helps paint a more nuanced and complete picture. Unfortunately, it’s also a picture where everybody seemed to have their own agenda. Something that resulted in many deaths that seem (at least to a point) preventable.
The bloody siege took place in 1993 in Waco, Texas. The release of this new Netflix documentary series coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Waco siege. It was an increasingly desperate situation that lasted for 51 days – from February 28 to April 19.
Cult leader David Koresh of the Branch Davidians faced off against the federal government in the 51-day siege. The beginning of the conflict included the biggest gunfight on American soil since the Civil War. 51 days later, it ended in an inferno that was shown live on national television.
Just prior to this significant fire that burned the compound known as the Mount Carmel Center to the ground, the FBI crashed through walls with tear gas. All while stating “This is not an attack” which seems extremely counterintuitive when you watch them actually attacking the building.
I’m not saying they shouldn’t have made the assault on the Branch Davidians’ compound in Waco. But the way it happened and saying “This is not an attack” while crashing through the walls of a building is difficult to read as anything but an attack. What I mean is simply that I can understand why the people holding up in the building didn’t trust the FBI.
Waco: American Apocalypse is essentially all about God and guns in America. The freedom to worship as you like and to have a whole lot of guns. It’s mentioned more than once that it’s no surprise this tragedy played out in Texas. After all, it’s a state that is known to have an extremely high “guns per capita” number.
In this Netflix documentary, there is a strong focus on both the religious element and that of guns (and other weapons). You’ll see recently unearthed videotapes from inside the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit located close to the compound. Also, there’s raw news footage never previously released to the public and FBI recordings.
All of this means you’ll have to decide for yourself who you believe in and trust.
There are intimate and very revealing interviews with people from all sides of the conflict. This includes one of David Koresh’s spiritual wives. Her interview alone makes it clear that religious brainwashing can last forever. And there’s hope when we hear from the last child released from the compound alive. Her interview just might be the most heartbreaking moment.
Also, there’s a sniper from the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, who clearly wanted to pull that trigger and blames himself for not doing it. Finally, there are interviews with the actual FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit Chief and key journalists covering the story. The interviews with members of the ATF tactical team who watched their colleagues die are also very insightful.
This was in the shootout that happened on day 1 of the 51-day siege. And the ATF tactical team members did not want to go through with the planned search because they feared it would end badly, which was obviously the right call.
All these elements combined paint a picture that is complex in extreme and unfortunate events. Also, it is riddled with miscommunication and the desire to handle things in very different ways. It’s actually quite scary how much departments within the FBI did not agree on. They wanted very different approaches and outcomes.
When watching this, it’s obvious that the diplomatic approach lost. Not because it didn’t work, but because the “hands-on”-approach was chosen instead.
Waco: American Apocalypse is out on Netflix on March 22, 2023.