Apocalypses Theme
"All I smelled was rotten bodies," Texas Ranger, Roy Coffman said
during his testimony at the murder and conspiracy trial of 11 Branch Davidians.

The dead were found in the rubble of the April 19 fire that destroyed the
compound, killing more than 75 Branch Davidians, including the sect's leader,

David Koresh, and 17 children. Perhaps the worst case of the federal
government's overreaching in American history, the 1993 Waco tragedy has caused

Americans to ask the question of how much military involvement will citizens
allow in their everyday lives before they lose their rights as individuals. In

February, 1993, 4 federal agents were killed in an assault on the compound of
the Branch Davidians, a cult group just outside of Waco, Texas. The Bureau of

Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (the ATF), a unit of the Treasury Department
implemented the operation on the grounds that members of the Branch Davidians
possessed illegal firearms and explosives and committed physical and sexual
abuse, especially against children. Their goal was to arrest David Koresh, a
self-proclaimed apocalyptic prophet and the leader of the cult, and seize the
group's weapons. After this disaster, in which about a half-dozen cult members
died and several federal agents were wounded, the ATF was replaced by the FBI,
whose reputation for professionalism promised a quick resolution of the conflict
and an end to the siege. It seemed as if America could breathe a sigh of relief.

Negotiations began, and soon some of the Branch Davidians left the compound. Yet
the talks ultimately ended up breaking down and finally ended. All utilities
including water, electricity, and telephone were cut off. Davidians were then
bombarded with a psychological attack which included 24 hours of glaring from
high powered lamps that kept the compound lit all night, and 24 hours of blaring
music that included sounds ranging from Buddhist monks chanting to rabbits being
killed. This barrage was intended to weaken the will of those inside the
compound who were now largely cut off from contact with the outside world. On

April 19, the FBI, in what appears to have been a terrible decision, began
another assault. It included knocking holes in the outer walls of the compound's
buildings with a tank and spraying tear gas into the interiors. Of course, the

FBI did not describe this as an assault, but as closing the periphery and
increasing the pressure on cult members to surrender. In particular, the FBI
hoped that the women would pack up and leave with their children--that their
maternal insticts would take over . Instead the compound went up in flames. Over

75 cult members were burnt alive in a blaze that the FBI says was started by
cult members. Some factors point to this being a mass suicide, yet surviving

Branch Davidians have said that the fires started when the assault on the walls
of the compound spilled fuel from kerosene lamps. Six years after the Waco siege
came to its violent end, citizens are angry and shocked about details just
recently unfolding concerning the raid that left more than 75 dead. Allegations
that military personnel were present and participated in the raid on the

Davidian compound raise serious questions about mingling of military and
civilian forces in direct violation of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which
forbids such deployment. Just one day after the siege ended in flaming terror,

President Clinton gave the American people a glimpse of what to expect from the
government. The government could not be responsible for, "the fact that a
bunch of fanatics decided to kill themselves," he said. He then warned that
"there is, unfortunately, a rise in this sort of fanaticism across the
world. And we may have to confront this again." The tragedy at Waco by no
means is the first or only example of violations of Posse Comitatus, but it does
prove the volatility that can result from mixing special- operations troops and
civilian law enforcement. Separation of civilian and military forces has long
been an American tradition but under the guise of the "war on drugs"
and "war on terrorism," Congress in the last two decades has enacted
legislation allowing military intervention in civilian law enforcement, which
many believe violates the law. The distinction between military and civilian
forces can rarely be identified. Every law enforcement officer, office, agency
or department in the United States lives by the same use-of-force policy. Police
may use force only to the level necessary to neutralize a situation and may use
deadly force only to protect themselves or the lives of others. They are trained
to consider individual rights of the citizen, regardless of