‘One of the most public conversations in the history of American law enforcement.’

Malcolm Gladwell:

In the government’s eyes, the Branch Davidians were a threat. The bureau trained spotlights on the property and set up giant speakers that blasted noise day and night—the sound of “rabbits being killed, warped-up music, Nancy Sinatra singing ‘These Boots Are Made for Walking,’ Tibetan monks chanting, Christmas carols, telephones ringing, reveille.” Doyle writes, “I got to where I was only getting about an hour or two of sleep every twenty-four hours.”

Outside the Mount Carmel complex, the F.B.I. assembled what has been called probably the largest military force ever gathered against a civilian suspect in American history: ten Bradley tanks, two Abrams tanks, four combat-engineering vehicles, six hundred and sixty-eight agents in addition to six U.S. Customs officers, fifteen U.S. Army personnel, thirteen members of the Texas National Guard, thirty-one Texas Rangers, a hundred and thirty-one officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety, seventeen from the McLennan County sheriff’s office, and eighteen Waco police, for a total of eight hundred and ninety-nine people. Their task, as they saw it, was to peel away the pretense—Koresh’s posturing, his lies, his grandiosity—and compel him to take specific steps toward a resolution.

A fascinating piece of writing. I don’t think Gladwell’s mild assertion that the Branch Davidians were just misunderstood, mishandled peaceable religious folk is totally proven here. But there’s certainly another side of the story that isn’t told nearly as often.