the Davidians. The FBI drivers got so caught up with the power of their tank-like vehicles that they even crushed a car belonging to a member of the press corps, rolling over it again and again until what remained was a mass of metal the thickness of a trash can lid. Apparently it was revenge for the ATF’s blown cover. In those heady early days of the siege, the FBI explained with a straight face that the tank had simply gotten away from its driver. E AGENCY’S STRATEGY was in timidation through tactical confrontation. They raced the Bradleys right past the compound’s windows, initially terrorizing many of the children inside. Powerful searchlights were set up to sweep across the buildings at night in an effort to induce sleep deprivation. When the Davidians put heavy blankets across the windows, huge banks of loudspeakers arrived. All night long the FBI played tapes of Gregorian chants punctuated by the sound of rabbits screaming as they were being slaughtered. The sound of the chants drifting across those dark Texas fields is something I will never forget. Meanwhile, the FBI negotiators were trying to nurture a fragile relationship with Koresh, and the childish harassments of the tactical team were not helping. But inside the hierarchy of the FBI, the commanders of the negotiating team played second fiddle to the tactical experts. The seeds of the Branch Davidians’ final destruction were sown in this disparity of bureaucratic clout. Hour after hour, night and day, the FBI negotiating team talked on the phone to David Koresh. Gradually, they became convinced that the leader of the Branch Davidians was a “delusional psychopath,” who genuinely believed in his own deity and in his prophesies. But tactical experts like Jeff Jamar, who was the agent in charge of the siege operation, scoffed at that interpretation. Jamar believed that Koresh was a “sociopath,” a conman who knew damn well he wasn’t a prophet and who was simply taking his followers and the FBI for a ride. In Jamar’s view, Koresh had created Mt. Carmel as an elaborate scam, his biblical teachings and prophesies simply a clever cover for his unceasing self-promotion. Jamar pointed to the fact that Koresh was the only one who got to smoke, drink, live in air-conditioned comfort and have sex with the women. That sounded like Jamar’s idea of a pretty good con job. It was not an idle debate. If one believed that Koresh were a true believer just waiting for the opportunity to see his apocalyptic prophesies realized, confrontational tac tics carried with them a serious risk of catastrophe. On the other hand, if one concluded that Koresh were simply an imaginative charlatan with a bent for the Bible, a showdown was probably the best strategy to get him to fold his hand and come out. Con artists take a bye when the going gets too rough. It’s not hard to understand why Jamar preferred his analysis. A delusional psychopath who is holding 80 people hostage doesn’t leave a man of action much room for maneuver. In order to stick to his guns, Jamar had to disregard the warnings of well-informed experts both inside and outside the FBI. ONE OF THE MOST compelling was Dr. Bruce Perry, Chief of Psychiatry at the Texas Children’s Hospital. During the early days of the FBI siege, the Department of Human Services brought Perry to Waco to minister to the 21 Davidian children who’d been released from Mt. Carmel. From repeated interviews with the children, Perry got an all-too-clear insight into the prevailing mindset of Koresh and the Davidians still holed up inside the compound. In an interview, Perry described his sessions with the children. “Over time we began to realize that all of these children had a sense that there would be an apocalyptic end to what was happening there. They talked about explosions, fires, and were very secretive and seemed quite smug about what was going to happen, as if they knew and we didn’t. Over the next couple of days we began to get some insight into these ‘secrets’ and realized that all of these children thought that their family members inside the compound were going to be killed in an apocalyptic end and that they then were going to return from the dead and kill all of the bad guys and afterward they’d be reunited with their parents. We had recurring themes of fires and explosions and a sense of finality.” Perry says that he was stunned by the children’s calm and macabre conviction of inevitability: “Almost to a child, when we asked about their parents the children said that their parents were dead, even though their parents were not dead at the time.” Perry felt compelled to share with the FBI his newly acquired insights into the psychology of the Davidians. He began meeting with the FBI negotiating team. Perry confirmed their instincts that Koresh was delusional and that his doomsday prophesies should be considered a serious threat to the success of the mission. Over time Perry learned that the tactical team saw Koresh as a con-man and he did all he could to debunk that notion. IRONICALLY, PERRY’S influence may have unintentionally helped to seal the fate of the Branch Davidians. During the first few weeks of the siege, he was alarmed by the FBI’s confrontational pos ture and he repeatedly advised caution. He believes his input may have been part of the reason the FBI eventually allowed de fense lawyers to go inside and meet with Koresh. But Perry says that when Dick DeGuerin and Jack Zimmermann emerged from Mount Carmel and mentioned possible book and movie deals as a means to pay for their ser vices, agent Jamar’s view of Koresh as a con man was set in stone. In an interview soon after the fire, FBI negotiator Clint Van Zandt confirmed that from that point forward the key FBI hierarchy believed that Koresh would care more about potential profits than his prophesies. “When it came time for a resolution, Koresh’s idea of movie deals and book deals or anything else that he may have discussed with his attorneys,” Van Zandt said, “would be the driving force to bring him out.” Despite the outcome, Jamar, who has 1. now retired, remains resolute: “I believe that he was a con man to the end.” For two months the leading players in this tragic dramathe Davidians, the ATF, and the FBIoccupied center stage in the consciousness of America. At the congress sional hearings, however, they’ve been reduced to the role of bit players, pawns in a political charade. The heartbreaking story of Koresh’s rape of Davidian child Kin Jewell becomes, in the hands of Democrats, a secret weapon which they use to ambush the unsuspecting committee majority. Instead of honoring the integrity of ATF undercover agent Robert Rodriguez, who had the courage to stand by the truth while his commanding officers vilified him and lied to protect their careers, the Republicans try to intimidate and humiliate Rodriguez, requiring him to sit at the same table with the men who tried to bury himjust a small service for the NRA. It seems that whenever the federal government and the Branch Davidians converge, darkness results. Jamar believed that Koresh was a sociopath, a con-man who knew damn-well than he wasn’t a prophet and who was simply taking his followers and Nye FBI for a ride…that Mount Cannel was an elaborate scam… 4 AUGUST 11, 1995
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