Even though it is disturbing to consider that the Branch Davidian cult members holed up in their heavily fortified compound outside Waco may have enough supplies to last a year or more, there should be no more shedding of blood if at all possible.
It’s understandable that some people want to get the standoff over and return to their normal lives following last Sunday’s deadly shoot-out at the Branch Davidians’ Mount Carmel compound 10 miles east of Waco. By all indications, it could be a long wait. But that is preferable to more loss of life.
Since the tragedy, FBI negotiators joined the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents who were in charge of serving federal firearms warrants against the cult. Federal officers have surrounded the compound. As the standoff stretches into a week, FBI negotiations have resulted in the release of a number of women and children from the compound. Every release represents a hopeful sign that the crisis can be resolved peacefully.
During Sunday’s assault on the Mount Carmel compound, four ATF agents were killed and 15 were wounded. A still-undetermined number of Branch Davidians also were killed and wounded. Certainly the bloodshed should end, and that is the goal of the ongoing negotiations between the FBI and cult leader Vernon Howell, also known as David Koresh. The pressure to take direct action to root the Davidians from their stronghold will grow as time passes.
Besides the wear and tear on the nerves of the federal officers and the nearby residents caused by a prolonged standoff, the cost of a lengthy siege could be tremendous. That is unfortunate, but it still is better than running the risk of more people getting killed and wounded.
There are still women and children inside the compound. Although Howell has said no adults are being held against their wills, it is not actually known what control is being exercised over the cult members remaining within the compound. Former Branch Davidians have said Howell has not released any of his own children and is unlikely to do so. No doubt the children can be considered innocent victims in the standoff. Nothing should be done that would risk their lives.
Former Branch Davidians also have criticized the lack of knowledge shown by the federal agents concerning Howell and his message. The FBI negotiators are experts in hostage negotiations, but they are not experts in Howell’s version of Branch Davidian theology. Perhaps the negotiators should consider accepting the assistance offered by former Davidians and others who also want to resolve the standoff peacefully.