A Place Called Waco Hardcover – 20 Aug 1999
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Thibodeau, one of only four Branch Davidians to live through the Waco disaster and not be sentenced to jail, has produced a surprisingly balanced and honest account of his time as a Branch Davidian. Thibodeau, a struggling rock-'n'-roll drummer, met David Koresh and his right-hand man, Steve Schneider, in Los Angeles. Though initially suspicious of their religious message, Thibodeau eventually moved to Texas to live in Koresh's community. Though the Branch Davidians were branded as a "cult" by the media, Thibodeau's engaging, frank, intimate writing forces even the most critical reader to take seriously the religious commitments of Koresh's followers. In a particularly disarming passage, Thibodeau quotes scholar Nancy Ammerman, describing her own shift from viewing the Branch Davidians as a cult to realizing how similar many of Koresh's teachings were to that of many millenarian movements. As Thibodeau notes, had things turned out differently, "the name 'Branch Davidian' might one day have become as unremarkable as 'Mormon' of 'Adventist,' and David Koresh would be just another William Miller; a patch in the crazy quilt that is American fundamentalism." Readers will want to pay special attention to Thibodeau's lengthy treatment of sex among the Branch Davidians, where he discusses the in-name-only marriage into which he entered at Koresh's bidding and his own struggles to observe Koresh's command that men be celibate. He also takes on Koresh's sex life, addressing the leader's practice of taking many women in the community, including Thibodeau's wife, Michelle, as concubines. (Michelle, the younger sister of Koresh's wife, became Koresh's lover at the age of 12, and like the other women in the "House of David," she bore his children.) Neither sensationalist nor defensive, this will make satisfying reading for anyone interested in the April 1993 tragedy. (Kirkus Reviews)
Top Customer Reviews
I certainly found it revealing after official versions of what happened at Waco, which, at best were aimed at putting the Davidians in the position of religious loonies,drug addicts ,arms merchants,child beaters and molesters in an attempt to cover their own screwups,and mishandling of the whole sorry episode.
A classic case of 'the nail that sticks up, will be hammered down.People did not understand the Davidians,who did not conform to the norm. As often happens in these cases, a witch or warlock hunt ensued, to the disgrace of U.S.A. law enforcement agencies.
Whatever your view on what took place at Mount Carmel,the book is sure to be well worth a read
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Thibodeau was right there, in the middle of the standoff with ATF and FBI agents, so his perspective is unique from others who have written about the event from the outside. Starting with the time when he first met David Koresh while playing in various bands in Los Angeles, Thibodeau talks about his interest in the Branch Davidians and explains what got him involved in the group; why he became interested in religion after never having much interest or instruction during his youth; why he decided to follow Koresh and his teachings; why he decided to stay at Mt. Carmel during the siege; how he handled the media and press following his escape from the fire; and his post- Mt. Carmel life, touring the country as an informational speaker.
Thibodeau has a lot of anger to share in this book, not toward Koresh or the other members of the religious group, but toward the press and the U.S. government. He fully admits that Koresh wasn't perfect and that certain actions taken by Koresh (like sleeping with young girls) wasn't right and should have landed him in jail. But above all, he is most scornful of the media and the U.S. government. The members of the media acted like lap dogs during the siege, reporting on anything told to them by the ATF and FBI as if it were absolute truth. Thibodeau and the other members of the Davidians were saddened and angered by, for example, the reference to their group as a cult and the reference to their building as a compound. The various government reporting agencies promoted these terms to turn the public against the Davidians. Thibodeau is correct in his assertions about the government's actions in this area, and he makes some good points about this. It is true that Koresh himself was a little strange, but he was no real threat and the things he taught were hardly radical. If his teachings qualify the Branch Davidians as a cult, then many mainstream Protestant groups would also be cults. It is known, too, that the FBI deliberately prevented the release of a video tape that featured the different members of the group talking to the camera about their families and lives because the FBI was worried that, once the public saw this tape, they would see that these people were pretty ordinary and it would sway public opinion over to the Davidian's side.
The government's handling of the investigation was purely political, with Democrats taking the side of the ATF and FBI, in order to protect the Clinton administration, and the Republicans taking the side of religious freedom in order to make Clinton and his administration look bad. Thibodeau talks about how sickening it was to watch this unfold. No one really seemed to care about truth or justice. All they cared about was protecting their own fellow politicians or making the opposing politicians look bad.
The writing in this book is excellent, and Thisbodeau was very wise in making the decision to hire a professional editor to help with the work. Other victims of well- publicized tragedies have also written books, but many of them rely on their own amateurish writing skills to carry them through, often resulting in a book that is sub-par at best and that often fails to be as effective as it could have been. The writing in this book, thanks to the assistance of Leon Whiteson, is nearly flawless and it kept my attention throughout the reading.
Thibodeau spends his time touring the nation now, giving speeches to different groups around the country about what happened and what needs to be done in the future to prevent any more Wacos. He shows some strong courage in writing this book, openly admitting that certain actions taken by his own friends were wrong and were deserving of punishment. But he places the bulk of the blame on the ATF and FBI for starting all the trouble in the first place. Like Ruby Ridge, Waco is yet another example of what can happen when government power goes unchecked. And Thibodeau makes a strong case for reigning in the power of government in this well- written, personal book about the tragedy at Waco that killed more than eighty people.
Amazingly, Thibodeau does not present an "all or nothing" approach to the the scenario. He deserves high commendation and praise for his willingness to look at himself, his former leader, his friends and family within the group as well as the government officials involved with the tragedy from a critical perspective. He lets no one off (least of all himself) with a simple cursory glance and attempts to help the reader understand the tragedy from a fresh perspective.
This was a truly enlightening book and I highly recommend it to anyone with more than a casual interest in religious freedom or the events that occured at Mt. Carmel in 1993. Congratulations Mr. Thibodeau, in spite of the agony you have endured, you have succeeded in applying a vivid human face and a balanced view to a very complex and difficult situation.
One of the government's tiresome claims was that the attack was necessary to prevent child abuse. The actions taken belie this fallacious defense. To force the final confrontation, Reno's raiders sprayed the complex with a potent form of tear gas recently rejected by the U.S. Army as inhumane. This was accompanied by sniper fire, a tank assault and the suspiciously started conflagration. Willingly murdering several little children in an unprovoked dragoon does seem to reduce Clinton and Reno's repeated vocal concerns for the children to shameless hypocrisy. The Constitution does not allow for this type of treatment of those who fall out of favor with our leaders, even when the victims are suspected-or convicted felons. Unfortunately that document has largely been ignored by our current president and his epicene attorney general. If they followed it, they could not justify confining, nearly starving, and then obliterating a group of American citizens. Six decades ago in Europe another elected leader provided similar treatment to those he deemed unworthy. He imprisoned them in places like Dachau and Auschwitz.
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