OKLAHOMA CITY – A story in The Atlantic today highlights the case of evangelical Christian and Republican operative Peter E. Waldron, a shady character –some say a spy – who spent more than a month in a Ugandan prison on terrorism charges several years ago.
And the shocker? Waldron, freed via intervention by the Bush administration, back in 2006 when the incident took place, is an “evangelical organizer who helped (U.S. Rep. and presidential candidate) Michele Bachmann win the Ames Straw Poll” in Iowa this past weekend.
So, who is Peter E. Waldron? The Atlantic tells us that he is an “international man of mystery” who may or may not have been a covert CIA operative working in Uganda for several years, putting out the Africa Dispatch newsletter for a time.
It was believed he was involved in gunrunning and supporting Congolese rebels who sought to “set up a political party here based on Christian principles.”
So, where have we heard about evangelical operatives and politicians interfering in the affairs of Uganda and other African nations? Oh, yes, in Jeff Sharlet’s fascinating book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.
“The Family,” officially known as “The Fellowship,” is a secretive, Jesus-centric organization that includes Democrats and Republicans alike who meet privately and discuss problems or issues in their lives in a Godly environment.
But some say there is more to The Family than meets the eye. That could explain why members of Congress, who are in their ranks, prefer not to discuss the decades-old, DC-based organization.
Sharlet’s book was the one that exposed the involvement of folks like Oklahoma’s very own U.S. Sens. James Inhofe and Tom Coburn.
Both men are involved with “The Fellowship” and Inhofe has taken a keen interest in Uganda, making numerous trips to that small, African nation over the past dozen or so years.
In 2009, the Radio Free Oklahoma program interviewed author Sharlet about “The Fellowship” (aka “The Family), particularly about the Oklahoma political connections and their implications. At the heart, of course was Sen. Inhofe, seemingly obsessed with Uganda.
His explanation for going to Uganda and the African continent so much on the American taxpayers’ dime? “I’m a Jesus guy, and I have a heart for Africa,” he told The Oklahoman’s Chris Casteel in 2008.
But it has been more than that, in all fairness. Inhofe has sought to “(play) an active role in the faith-based aspect of (their) anti-AIDS campaign,” according to Casteel’s story.
And then there is that recent, draconian, anti-gay legislation in Uganda – believed to be connected to The Fellowship’s evangelical Christian involvement in Uganda – that would have led to extradition of pro-gay Ugandans, life sentences or death for those who are gay or are connected to gay people in Uganda.
The Ugandan legislator who introduced the bill, according to The Fellowship’s Bob Hunter, speaking to Terri Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air,” talked to members of U.S. Congress linked to The Fellowship and they warned the Ugandan legislator it was a bad idea. Hunter said The Fellowship had nothing to do with it.
Referring to the book C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy, also by Jeff Sharlet, Gross notes that Inhofe went to Nigeria in 1998 and met with Gen. Sani Abacha, the nations brutal dictator, and, using his influence as a U.S. Senator, which carried some weight, and as it turned out Inhofe decided to use that “Jesus thing” and to tell Abacha to his face that “I came all the way across the Atlantic and down to sub-Saharan Africa to tell you in the spirit of Jesus that we love you.”
Inhofe would be noted as saying that Abacha went with it and “prayed to Jesus” with Inhofe and another congressman. Sharlet, however, says that the real interest at the heart of their meeting had more to do with oil than a Christian conversion.
Gross, in her 2009 interview with The Fellowship’s Bob Hunter, asks if Inhofe crossed a line, coming to Nigeria as a U.S. Senator but then saying he came as “a friend” and a “Christian.”
And beyond that there is a troubling link to all of this – the anti-gay positioning of the evangelical movement. Consider Sen. Tom Coburn’s alarmist statements in 2004 against “lesbian debauchery” in schools in southeastern Oklahoma.
And back to Michele Bachmann. She has made some pretty outrageous anti-gay statements in the past decade, saying it is “of Satan,” is “dysfunctional,” a “disorder” and more. The “Queen of Rage,” as noted in a recent Newsweek cover story, deftly avoided answering questions this past Sunday on Meet the Press regarding her past statements about gays and lesbians.
So, what of Bachmann’s mysterious “faith and values” promoter Peter E. Waldron?
Well, in addition to leading Advancing America’s Freedom, Christians Restoring America’s Greatness, Cities of Faith Ministries, the Contact America Group and The Save the Family Foundation, he has also, according to The Atlantic, “worked for the Reagan/Bush; Bush/Quayle; Bauer; McCain; and Bush/Cheney presidential campaigns. All men of God, that bunch.
The man likes being connected to political power and has been for approximately three decades. Clearly he sees something in Bachmann at this stage of the game.
Waldron’s seemingly horrific experience in Ugandan custody has already been made into an equally awful film: The Ultimate Price: The Peter E. Waldron Story. Between the stilted dialogue, excessive scenes showing him (or a companion) being beaten mercilessly or placed in front of a ragtag firing squad, the trailer alone ranks as one of the worst ever made.
The deep-voiced narrator asks in the trailer: “Was he a spy? Was he a missionary? A businessman? A mercenary? A bounty hunter? Who was Peter Waldron?”
If you can get past the bad acting, you have to wonder why Waldron is promoting this curious vanity project, especially when The Atlantic tried to get Waldron to admit that he, was in fact, Peter E. Waldron, he declined to do so, only saying he was there in Iowa working to build Bachmann’s “faith-based organizing” there and in South Carolina.
What does the Bachmann campaign really know about the shady character? Well, her press spokeswoman, Alice Stewart, told The Atlantic: “Michele’s faith is an important part of her life and Peter did a tremendous job with our faith outreach in Iowa. We are fortunate to have him on our team and look forward to having him expanding his efforts in several states.”
So, alleged spook Peter E. Waldron is allowed to continue “reaching out” to potential voters of an evangelical bent who may not know that Waldron has a long history of Christian fundamentalist activity overseas which may or may not have been cover for CIA activities.
The worlds of the CIA and Christian fundamentalism working together? Don’t be surprised. It’s happened before. Look at the accusations against the Wyclifffe Bible Translators (aka Summer Institute of Linguistics) that “courted right-wing dictators, aided the CIA, destroyed indigenous cultures and ignored genocide.” Pretty heavy accusations. And they have been denied as noted in a 1995 article in Christianity Today.
Consider this: In 2007, investigative reporter Daniel Hopsicker broke a fascinating story headlined “Pirates of the Caribbean: Christian fundamentalists and the CIA.”This one fcoused on the covert, “Christian fundamentlaist” Agape Flights program operating out of the Sunshine State and into the unseen corners of the Caribbean and beyond.
Hopsicker, who has reported on the mysterious activities at the infamous “Mena Airport” in Arkansas, back in the 1990’s, wrote: “A mysterious missionary support organization flying weekly ‘relief flights’ to Haiti from the airport in Venice, Fla. may be providing ‘cover’ for CIA covert operations in the Caribbean, the Mad Cow Morning News has learned.”
And then, according to 2006 reports by the Cannonfire blog, there is the creepy, cult-like fundamentalist Christian missionary group Youth With a Mission (YWAM), which, while a 501 (c) 3 tax exempt organization, they are notoriously anti-gay and clearly connected to “The Company.” YWAM’s founder, Loren Cunningham, has a son named David Cunningham, who in addition to being a high-ranking YWAMmer, also directed the controversial and misleading film for ABC, The Path to 9/11, back in 2006.
Interestingly, at that time it was one of the few films to ever be allowed to film inside CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.The CIA wouldn’t want to assist in deceiving the American public via a work of fiction as promoted by the cult-y, CIA-connected YWAM organization, now would it?
Director Cunningham would later tell The University of Alabama Crimson White student newspaper (of which your humble scribe was a reporter back in 1998) that “we have our CIA consultants and Clinton has his.” This was in response to allegations in the film that Clinton dropped the ball on the Al Qaeda threat.
But back to Michele Bachmann and her spook-in-residence there in corn country. One could say she is acting out of Christian charity. But then how to explain her unwavering support for the unending ‘war on terror”? Where does Jesus fit into all of that?
Yep, it is becoming clear that at least one leading presidential candidate has handlers and maybe there is more to her looking like she a hapless victim of mind control.