cover image Waco: David Koresh, the Branch Davidians, and a Legacy of Rage

Waco: David Koresh, the Branch Davidians, and a Legacy of Rage

Jeff Guinn. Simon & Schuster, $29.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-9821-8610-4

Journalist Guinn (War on the Border) documents in this comprehensive and judicious account the 1993 raid by ATF agents on the Branch Davidians’ Mount Carmel compound near Waco, Tex. In 1992, the ATF gathered evidence that sect leader David Koresh and his followers were illegally purchasing and altering guns with the intent of selling them or using them in a plot “to bring about the end of the world.” Though the ATF’s plan to seize the weapons hinged on the element of surprise, when that was lost—a tipped-off TV cameraman asked someone he didn’t know was a Branch Davidian for the compound’s address—ATF commanders decided to go ahead anyway. Four federal agents were killed in the resulting gunfight, which devolved into a seven-week standoff that ended after the compound was destroyed in a fire (Guinn suggests the blaze was either an accident or started by the Branch Davidians). Seventy-six Branch Davidians died in the conflagration, including Koresh, who appears to have been shot in a murder-suicide pact with a high-ranking member of the sect. The disaster inspired Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City, and Guinn also persuasively links it to the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Scrupulous and frequently enthralling, this is a sobering account of a tragedy woven into the fabric of modern America. (Jan.)