Waco Rising: David Koresh, the FBI, and the Birth of America’s Modern Militias

Holt. Jan. 2023. 288p. ISBN 9781250840523. $29.99. POL SCI
Former sports journalist Cook augments his track record of producing thrilling exposés of recent phenomena (Kitty Genovese; The Burning Blue) with this fast-paced, vivid retelling of the U.S. law enforcement siege of the Branch Davidian millenarian sect’s compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993. After a deadly shootout and 50-day standoff, tear gas flooded the compound and tanks broke down walls, while FBI loudspeakers blared, “This is not an assault.” The siege left 86 dead, including four federal agents and 20 children, after the compound was engulfed in flames. Attorney General Janet Reno and President Bill Clinton later expressed regret for the decision to teargas the compound. Cook excoriates the government’s handling of the situation but also leaves no doubt about the toxicity of the sect and its leader, David Koresh, who accumulated both guns and child brides. Waco galvanized the U.S.’s far-right militia movement, radicalizing domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Squeezed into a couple of final chapters, this analysis of Waco’s ramifications deserves a whole book unto itself. Cook interviews many survivors and agents involved.
VERDICT Thrilling, evenhanded, and liable to resonate with readers drawn to true crime and current events.
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