ABSTRACT: Eight years after the 1993 standoff between federal law enforcement agents and the Branch Davidians, “Waco” has become a shorthand reference to the tragedy that claimed the lives of more than eighty people. After internal investigations by the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Justice, two trials, two sets of congressional hearings, the publication of numerous books and articles, and the production of documentary films, we are no closer to bringing closure to Waco than we were in 1993. To understand why Waco has not gone away, it is useful to combine a model of conflict that focuses attention on the motivational power of symbols and narrative with a model of trauma that operates at the collective and not just the individual level.

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