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Thread: Biker/Drug Dealer-Turned-Pastor has Vowed to Track Down and Kill Africa's most Notorious Warlord

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    Biker/Drug Dealer-Turned-Pastor has Vowed to Track Down and Kill Africa's most Notorious Warlord

    This is a long article but well worth the read. Best line:

    Childers and his militia drove into the city, where they found Kony’s mother. “So, I hear you’re trying to meet my son,” she said to Childers. “No, ma’am,” he replied. “I’m not trying to meet your son. I’m trying to kill him.”

    The Lord’s Resistance Army—a murderous rebel group made up mostly of Ugandans, and led by a crazed warlord named Joseph Kony—today ranges across the jungles and scrubland of Uganda, Congo, Sudan, and the Central African Republic. Its ranks may be depleted, but the remnant deals death wherever it goes. U.S.-backed military forces are trying to hunt Kony down. So is a Pennsylvania-based evangelical preacher named Sam Childers—a biker and former drug dealer who has found his calling in this quest for a killer. Last year the author joined Childers as he continued his hunt for Kony. It is a story of pursuer and pursued, each believing that God is on his side.

    It’s two a.m., and we’re barreling down a deeply pocked dirt road in Southern Sudan. In the cool of night, the temperature is nearly 100 degrees. Sam Childers, 46, is behind the wheel of a chrome-tinted Mitsubishi truck. Christian rock blares on the speakers. He has a Bible on the dash and a shotgun that he calls his “widow-maker” leaning against his left knee. His top sergeant, Santino Deng, 34, a Dinka tribesman with an anthracite complexion and radiant black eyes, sits in the passenger seat, an AK-47 across his lap. I sit in the back. Since leaving the town of Mundri, headed toward the Congolese border, we’ve been driving for two bone-jarring days on roads littered with the charred wrecks of armored vehicles and fuel tankers, remnants of battles past. A truck follows close behind, carrying 15 men from the small militia group under Childers’s personal command. The convoy is on its way to a Sudanese town called Maridi. In the area we’re passing through, just hours ago soldiers from the Lord’s Resistance Army (L.R.A.) hacked 15 villagers to death with machetes, then disappeared into the bush. Intelligence sources from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army—the ragtag military wing of the breakaway government of Southern Sudan—have indicated that elements of the L.R.A. are now headed to Maridi. Childers wants to intercept them, and kill their leader.

    The unflappable Ugandan driving the militia truck wears a torn white pro-life T-shirt emblazoned with a picture of a fetus, a gift from Childers. Most members of his militia are born-again Christians whom Childers has baptized himself. Childers switches from Christian rock to Aerosmith’s “Livin’ on the Edge,” turning up the volume. He’s getting close to his prey. “Let’s do this,” he says. To remove the L.R.A.’s cover, villagers have set fire to the elephant grass on either side of the road. Behind us, the past disappears in a cloud of dust. Ahead, the headlights peer down a fiery tunnel. Sergeant Deng, in the passenger seat, turns around to me and says, “God’s assassins.”

    Sam Childers is known in these parts, and back home in Pennsylvania, simply as the Reverend Sam. He is not your typical evangelical Christian missionary, nor, as a white American, is he your typical African warlord. Childers is a former drug dealer and outlaw biker, with tired eyes framed by grizzly muttonchops and a walrus mustache. He claims divine justification for what he does. In firefights, he says, God sometimes tells him when to shoot. He speaks country-singer American, with plenty of grit, and he recounts, over and over, the same stories from his bar-brawling days. He lifts weights, favors army fatigues, and keeps a .44 Magnum tucked in the small of his back. Harley tattoos stretch down his thick arms, and “Freedom Fighter” is airbrushed on the back of his truck. He once owned 15 pit bulls. He seems suited more to bending steel in a motorcycle shop than to saving souls in Sudanese villages.

    In 1992, Childers was born again, having promised his wife he would come to Jesus if God granted them a child. A child was born. Leaving behind a life of drugs and crime, Childers set up a hardscrabble church in rural Pennsylvania. In 1998 he used his meager savings to take his first missionary trip to Sudan. He ended up near the border with Uganda, where a complicated and bloody conflict—one of Africa’s so-called forgotten wars—has been raging since 1987. At the center of the fighting is the Lord’s Resistance Army, a guerrilla group led by a Ugandan named Joseph Kony. The L.R.A.’s stated goal is to overthrow the Ugandan government and install a theocratic state based on the Ten Commandments. That effort has entailed systematically ignoring at least one of the commandments, Thou Shalt Not Kill. Most of the others have been breached as well. This forgotten war is the continent’s longest running. It spills across the border from Uganda into Southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo as the L.R.A. scours the region for conscripts and supplies.

    What transformed Childers into a zealot was, as he later wrote, “a metal disk about the size of a dinner plate.” A land mine had been placed along a road near the town of Yei, and a child made the mistake of stepping on it. Childers happened upon the torso. In time, he liquidated his construction business, sold his pit bulls, auctioned his antique-gun collection, and mortgaged his home to help pay for regular trips to Sudan, where he began spending most of his time. He became obsessed with the fate of the thousands of children who have lost their parents to the fighting. In due course he would set up an orphanage in Sudan. But it was Joseph Kony who grabbed his attention. “I found God in 1992,” Childers says, in what is by now a ritual formulation. “I found Satan in 1998.” He has vowed to track Kony down and, in biblical fashion, to smite him. He has been trying for years. But this specific ambition has led to a broader entanglement in the region’s conflicts. Childers is now helping to feed and supply the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (S.P.L.A.), and he has made his home in Uganda available to the rebels for a radio-relay station. An arms depot stands at the heart of his orphanage. Childers also maintains his own paid militia force—a platoon of seasoned fighters recruited from the S.P.L.A.—and for his efforts, he says, the government of Southern Sudan has named him an honorary commander, the only white man to achieve that distinction. The Ugandan and Southern Sudanese militaries give Childers wide latitude to roam an increasingly bloody militarized zone.

    It is hard to know what his African allies make of this Bible-wielding biker from the Alleghenies. Before setting out on his most recent hunt for Kony, Childers had ordered his men to bow their heads in prayer and ask for God’s help. No one remarked on the irony of one man’s invoking divine sanction in order to kill a man who also invokes divine sanction. I once asked an S.P.L.A. officer about Childers and his activities, and he said simply, “He is a man of God. That’s what I can say to you. He is a man of God.”

    Altar Boy, with Machete
    A tall Dinka named James Majok Mam, 28, has fallen asleep on my shoulder. Perhaps the rumble of the S.U.V. made him drowsy, but it might also have been Childers’s droning on about the feature film that he hopes will be made about his life, a proj ect advanced by a Hollywood agent. The soldiers in the vehicle begin talking about moments when they thought they might kill Kony. There was the time they captured an L.R.A. soldier believed to be part of Kony’s inner circle. Childers wanted to sedate the man and surgically implant a transmitter so he could be tracked when he returned to the base camp. An S.P.L.A. commander overruled Childers and dealt with the man the old-fashioned way—he executed him.

    Then there was the time Childers and his men lay in wait for three days with sniper rifles on a cliff overhanging the road to Juba, the de facto capital of Southern Sudan. Kony was expected to pass by on his way to peace talks. When Kony failed to show, Childers and his militia drove into the city, where they found Kony’s mother. “So, I hear you’re trying to meet my son,” she said to Childers. “No, ma’am,” he replied. “I’m not trying to meet your son. I’m trying to kill him.”

    To understand Sam Childers you have to understand his nemesis. Born in the early 1960s, Joseph Kony grew up in the town of Odek, near the city of Gulu, in northwestern Uganda. A quiet child and a former altar boy, he was best known in Odek for his skill at the Larakaraka, a traditional Acholi dance. By age 12 he became a healer, and by 1987 he had appointed himself a prophet to his fellow Acholi people, forming what would become the Lord’s Resistance Army. The government in northern Sudan soon began backing the L.R.A., to counter the Ugandan government’s backing of the S.P.L.A.

    Initially, the Lord’s Resistance Army enjoyed popularity among the Acholi, who were marginalized when Uganda’s current president, Yoweri Museveni, seized power in 1986. That support dissipated as Kony began terrorizing the countryside with a ruthlessness reminiscent of the Khmer Rouge. Over the next two dec ades, the L.R.A. forced two million people to flee to squalid refugee camps in northern Uganda and Southern Sudan. The L.R.A. has also abducted more than 30,000 children, turning the boys, some as young as eight, into soldiers, and the girls into sex slaves. The aim, according to the L.R.A.’s twisted theology, was to purify the Ugandan people. For years, in the countryside of northern Uganda, children left their villages at dusk to walk miles, usually barefoot and parentless, into the closest towns, where they slept in better-protected schools and parks to avoid being abducted. At dawn, they trekked back home. They were known as “night commuters.”

    Non-commuters risked a terrible fate. I met a boy named Louis who had been kidnapped by the L.R.A. at age 10. He escaped a year later and was taken to Childers’s orphanage. With a thousand-yard stare, the boy sat on a wooden bench in a schoolhouse and told me about life under what the locals call the “Tong Tong,” or “Cut Cut” (the phrase refers to the practice of amputating hands and feet as a form of punishment). After being taken one night from his hut, Louis, now 13, said he was bound with a rope to five other children and frog-marched through the forest back to an L.R.A. camp. At one point, the soldiers stopped them in order to watch an “initiation.” An older woman had fallen behind, and the soldiers ordered the woman’s 10-year-old son to kill her. “He hit his mother on the back of her head until she was dead,” said Louis, demonstrating with his tiny hands how the boy had swung the log. In all likelihood, people at the orphanage say, Louis is the child in his own story.

    Even for a region with a vivid memory of Idi Amin, the L.R.A.’s brutality manages to shock. Soldiers in dreadlocks routinely cut off the lips, noses, and breasts of villagers to deter informants. Women are raped, then forced to watch as their infants are bayoneted. Kony cites biblical precedent to explain why it is sometimes necessary to murder his own people. In his camps he exudes a Jim Jones aura of fear and awe. Some of those who have escaped describe a pious man who plays with children and treats his 50 “wives” with respect. Others conjure a mercurial monster who, for obscure reasons, decreed an injunction against eating white chickens and chops off the feet of people seen bicycling. “I’ve been in a hundred countries and seen almost as many conflicts and humanitarian disasters,” Jan Egeland, the former United Nations undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, told me. “I’ve never seen an evil like Kony’s.”

    Kony smears his troops with mystical oils that he says will protect them from bullets. He is known to speak in tongues, and, like Childers, claims to have received military advice from the Holy Spirit. He named one of his sons “George Bush,” after the American president. In 2005 the International Criminal Court in The Hague indicted Kony and his top echelon for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, and kidnapping.

    Forced by Ugandan troops deep into a swampy and overgrown no-man’s-land in Congo, Kony was largely on the defensive for about three years. But after several failed attempts to coax him into peace talks, and continued L.R.A. attacks, the Ugandan government lost patience, and in December 2008, it decided to bomb the L.R.A.’s encampment. The mission was a disaster. Despite active assistance from the S.P.L.A. and covert help from the U.S. military—a team of 17 Pentagon advisers and analysts provided satellite phones, intelligence, and $1 million in fuel—the Ugandan troops failed to cut off the escape routes. Kony’s fighters, estimated to number between 600 and 1,000, splintered into smaller groups and slipped away like a metastasizing cancer. Marauding from village to village, the various groups moved from Congo into Southern Sudan, burning and butchering along the way. In one Congolese village, they attacked a Catholic church on Christmas day, killing about 50 worshippers. Perhaps because of the holiday timing, this act received worldwide attention. Over the next few weeks, as many as 1,000 civilians were murdered, mostly with machetes and clubs, because Kony is short on ammunition. According to Childers’s contacts in the S.P.L.A., one of these splinter groups, perhaps with Kony himself in charge, now had Maridi in its sights.

    Preacher, with Machine Gun
    Sam Childers grew up in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and when his high-school alumni bulletin recently printed an item noting that he had become a preacher, people took it as a joke. “I always thought he was a little crazy and more violent than anyone I ever met,” says Scott Wagner, 47, who Childers told me had been one of his best friends back then. “Honestly, I think at one time he might have been the Antichrist.” Childers was one of three boys, sons of an ironworker father and a stay-at-home mother. His family moved from state to state following big construction proj ects before settling in Minnesota. Childers never liked school, but it gave him the chance to get out of the house and do what he loved: drink alcohol and smoke pot. By eighth grade he was using LSD and amphetamines. Before long he was into heroin and other drugs, as both a user and a dealer. By 16, townies had dubbed him “Doc” because he was so adept at finding veins for shooting up. That same year, Childers left high school and moved out of the house. He began carrying a sawed-off shotgun around with him. Using drug money to buy his first big motorcycle, he was soon riding with the Outlaws, the Hells Angels, and the Pagans.

    “My life was a cesspool in those days, and I loved every minute of it,” Childers says. He compares himself to the biblical figure Ishmael, whose wild spirit, he says, drove women into transports of desire. “It was insane. I would have five girls in a single night. I mean, seriously, I could have had your mother if I had wanted her.” He glares at me, a speck of food stuck in his mustache, as if I don’t believe him. More than the drugs and sex, it was the violence that fed Childers. Two of his high-school friends recall how Childers used to blame his anger on something his mother had done when he was five years old. Childers had been invited to a local Indian powwow, and his mother thought it would be fun to dress him as a cowboy. The joke didn’t go over well, and the Indian kids beat Childers up. According to the high-school friends, he vowed it would never happen again. When I ask Childers about the incident, he walks to a filing cabinet in his church office and pulls out a faded newspaper clipping, with a photo of him in his cowboy getup. “Yeah, I’m still ticked about that,” he says.

    In his autobiography, Another Man’s War, Childers pre sents himself as a fighter on behalf of the helpless—from the streets of Grand Rapids to the jungles of Africa. He says that his father, a former Marine, taught him a simple rule: “He told us boys he would beat us if we started a fight and he would beat us if we walked away from one.” Old friends paint a very different picture. “He would walk up to guys and start hammering them,” says Norman Mickle, a former biker buddy. “He never really needed a reason.”

    “I wasn’t sure if I could trust him,” Scott Wagner says. And then one night he found out. After a party, he and his girlfriend were the only ones left with Childers in an empty house. The three were lounging in the living room when Childers suddenly pulled Wagner aside and demanded to have sex with his girlfriend. He gave Wagner three seconds to leave—without the girl. “It was heading to something pretty terrible,” Wagner remembers. After pleading proved ineffective, Wagner pulled out what was left of his night’s supply of drugs and offered it as ransom. Childers took the drugs and vanished.

    Today, when he is not in Sudan, the Reverend Sam—together with his wife, Lynn, a former stripper—serves as the spiritual leader of the Shekinah Fellowship Church, in deeply depressed Central City, Pennsylvania. It was Lynn, whom Childers met during a drug deal at the Fox Hole bar, in Orlando, Florida, in the early 1980s, who calmed him down. Lynn found religion, and then Childers did, too. Even Ishmael eventually repented, in Childers’s version of the story. As a boy, Childers had lived briefly just across the highway, Route 160, from where his church stands now. Up the road, the steel mills and coal mines have long since closed. Two nearby prisons, the Somerset and Laurel Highlands State Correctional Institutions, and the Wal-Mart distribution center, in Bedford, are the area’s largest employers. From the outside, the Shekinah Fellowship Church looks more like an abandoned high-school auditorium than like a place of worship. The outer walls are open-faced insulation, a shrine to Tyvek.

    On Sunday mornings, Childers does not behave like a swaggering vigilante. A tear rolls down his cheek as he talks about his mission to Africa. Some 30 or so parishioners hang on every gesture, every word. They know about the arms dealing. They know about the pursuit of Kony. Dressed in black jeans, biker boots, and a black blazer over a Harley-Davidson T-shirt, Childers stands behind a chrome-plated podium. A guitarist, drummer, and small choir stand to the side of the stage. Several menacing young men—former and current members of the biker gang the Outlaws—stand at the back of the church. Tattooed and wearing steel-tipped boots and ZZ Top beards, they look like younger, tougher versions of the preacher. The older men seem broken, not a trace of aggression left in their bones. Several arrive in cars without mufflers that barely make it up the steep gravel driveway. They park next to Childers’s red Hummer. The older men are overweight and slow to stand. Two of them have small oxygen tanks at their sides. Some of the older women wear Steelers jackets as they file in, dog-eared Bibles in hand.

    “Who am I to deserve all this?,” Childers intones, waving his hand over the expanse of the church as if over the Seven Cities of Gold. It’s an odd question to pose to this weathered congregation, whom he refers to as “a bunch of hillbillies,” intending to include himself. He goes on: “Who am I to have movie stars coming to visit us? Who am I to have this new church and a best-selling book? Who am I?” Childers explains that God himself one day gave him the answer to that question: “You are the servant of me.”

    Another Man’s War is not a self-effacing work. The reference to movie stars is shorthand for a handful of celebrities, such as the actress Sandra Bullock, the motorcycle builder Jesse James, and the country singer John Rich, who have taken an interest in Childers and helped him raise money. Sebastian Roche, an actor in the soap opera General Hospital, has been preparing a documentary about Childers, to be called Machine Gun Preacher. With slender good looks and a slight French accent, Roche is the type of person that Childers’s biker acolytes might beat up for sport. He met Childers two years ago at a charity event for Sudan. Likening him to Dog, the Bounty Hunter, Roche sees Childers as the embodiment of two archetypes Hollywood always falls for: the high-school delinquent and the gutsy do-gooder. “Actors love Sam for the same reason they love U.F.C. fighters,” he adds. “He’s the real deal. He doesn’t fantasize or pretend to do dangerous stuff—he actually does it.”
    Second half of the article here: http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/f...?currentPage=3

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    How very christian of him.

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    Quote Originally Posted by uskrewed View Post
    How very christian of him.
    I was thinking the same thing....

    Not that I'm against what he is doing, I just don't like blatant hypocrisy.

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    The hypocrisy doesn't bother me as much as the fact that he has an arms depot in the middle of an orphanage and that he is aiding in the arms proliferation in Africa. I think he's well intentioned but another arms dealer is the last thing that that region needs.

    He also seems pretty full of himself.

    Still, one of the more interesting stories I've read in a while
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    Pretty good read, curious to see how long it will take for him to get killed or succeed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by uskrewed View Post
    How very christian of him.
    You shitting me? God has a massive hard on for killing your enemies in his name.

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    Don't agree with the religious stuff but I commend what this guy is doing. Can't believe what some kids have to endure in this world.
    [IMG]http://i45.tinypic.com/168tljb.jpg[IMG]

    Sig too big, maximum file size is 1 mb

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    I have lots of Seniority aedeos b.a.'s Avatar
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    What the fuck bump shit is this?

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    Quote Originally Posted by RonPaul2012 View Post
    What the fuck bump shit is this?
    But I've never heard of this story but he reminds me of Mr. Eko from Lost
    Last edited by vin2themax; 8/22/2011 at 11:16 am.
    This is a Sig.

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    I'm starting to post schmedes2's Avatar
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    Just a friendly bump after this probably
    http://forums.entensity.net/showpost...56&postcount=5

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    Quote Originally Posted by schmedes2 View Post
    Just a friendly bump after this probably
    http://forums.entensity.net/showpost...56&postcount=5
    yes
    [IMG]http://i45.tinypic.com/168tljb.jpg[IMG]

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    has kony been killed or captured?

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    Quote Originally Posted by craigeX View Post
    has kony been killed or captured?
    Nope, still at large.

    There have been a couple high profile arrests of other rebel leaders who operated in the same area and with similar tactics, most notably Laurent Nkunda of the RCD-Goma (and later NDCP) and several high-ranking members of the FDLR.
    Last edited by Dapper Dan Man; 8/22/2011 at 5:54 pm.
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    You say he is full of himself.. With a sweet ass beard/mustache thing like that he deserves to be. Aside from the fact that he is a badass and kicks ass to help the kids.

    They should make an action figure of this dude!!

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    They are making a movie about this set to be released later this year.

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    I want to see that movie and if he wants to help kids and kill people that's his bag and I can't judge a man for doing his thing

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    I thought this was a pretty good article that demystifies Childers story:

    Machine Gun Menace
    Hollywood shouldn't glorify this bible-thumping, pistol-packing vigilante.

    "The Lord I serve is the living Lord Jesus. And to show you he's alive, I'm going to send you to meet him right now!" from Another Man's War, by Sam Childers

    As a blockbuster plot, it's hard to beat: The Rev. Sam Childers was on a mission from God. In an effort to escape the demons of a misspent life of petty crime and violence, he left his bad-boy biker ways behind and dove headfirst into one of the world's bloodiest civil wars, armed to the teeth, personally rescuing child soldiers from the grasp of a brutal African militia. Childers then sold his worldly possessions to build an orphanage to house the rescued children and is now going after the man responsible for their suffering -- and by the grace of God he will, with great vengeance and furious anger, kill him. Personally.

    That's how Sam Childers tells his life story. He's also the hero of Machine Gun Preacher, Hollywood's latest take on the "white man saves Africa" theme. The movie stars Gerard Butler of 300 fame as Childers and was directed by Marc Forster (Monster's Ball, Quantum of Solace); it opens throughout the United States on Friday, Sept. 23. But as is often the case with Hollywood movies based on supposedly true stories, the whole truth is more complicated. Blockbuster movies turn rough situations into smooth narratives where the good guys know what needs to be done -- and do it, damn the consequences. In the real world, though, actions ripple out and even the best-intentioned amateur humanitarian can make a bad situation worse.

    The movie is based on Childers's 2009 memoir, Another Man's War. He tells his life story in a rambling, disjointed mishmash of personal redemption and righteous African crusade. Childers starts at the beginning: He was a biker gang member who loved to fight and always had a sawed-off shotgun within reach; he used and sold drugs and once stabbed a hitchhiker. Then he found Jesus Christ. He kicked the drug habit, turned his life around, and went on a mission trip to Sudan.

    Childers first went to southern Sudan in 1998, when the area was being ravaged by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a brutal guerrilla group led by Joseph Kony that was infamous for abducting children, forcing the boys to fight and the girls to become sex slaves. There are no doubts that Kony is a callous, despicable theocratic thug -- and likely a madman -- responsible for taking thousands of innocent lives but Childers's account of his intersection with the man is troubling.

    In his memoir, Childers tells the story of building an orphanage in Nimule, a small town near the Sudan-Uganda border. Between constant appeals for donations, Childers expounds shallowly on Sudan's recent history, rails against radical Muslims, brags about his guns, and offers pointers for conducting armed rescue missions (tip: tape two AK-47 clips together to speed reloading.) Childers says he started leading a heavily armed posse of Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers to rescue Kony's child soldiers by force. And, apparently, he set out to track and kill Kony himself.

    It would take a miracle for all of Childers's claims to be completely true, starting with the SPLA story. In his book he describes leading a group of SPLA soldiers who call him their commander. The SPLA begs to differ: As Childers was touring the United States to promote his book and raise money for his charity, an SPLA spokesman released a statement saying, "The SPLA does not know Sam Childers ... the SPLA is appealing to those who are concerned to take legal measures against Sam for ... misusing the name of an organization which is not associated with him."

    After I quoted this news release on my blog, one of Childers's backers sent me a scan of a "letter of support" that SPLA Lt. Gen. Obuto Mamur Mete purportedly sent Childers. That letter simply states that Childers runs an orphanage in Nimule and is authorized to possess a pistol and rifle for personal security -- a far cry from stocking an arsenal and running armed raids to kill Kony. Then last month, the Daily Mail quoted the same Lt. Gen. Mete as telling the Sunday Times, "Sam Childers was responsible for an orphanage in southern Sudan; that was all. His claims to have fought alongside us are a lie. He has never even seen the LRA."

    There are pictures of Childers on his website, guns in hand, with current or former SPLA forces. And perhaps he did indeed take a handful of irregulars on these ill-planned missions. It's also possible that the SPLA's disavowal of Childers is part of attempts to be seen as more legitimate, especially now that it is the official military of the world's newest country, South Sudan. (Last year, the SPLA announced it would demobilize all of its own child soldiers.)

    Or these inconsistencies may be just the tip of the iceberg. After I initially wrote about Childers, I spoke with him by phone, hoping to clarify some prior public statements. Various interviews have described him showing off his cache of pistols, machine guns, grenades, and RPGs. In a must-read Vanity Fair profile, Childers claimed to have sold weapons to "factions in Rwanda and Congo." I wanted to know more about his weapons -- from where he got them and to whom he sold them. But in our conversation, Childers denied having ever sold weapons to anyone in Africa.

    It has been only a few months since another memoir of an American saving children in a war-torn country -- Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea -- was revealed to be a massive fraud. When the story broke, many people close to Mortenson said that they had quietly expressed doubts for years about his tales and the management of his charity. Perhaps they feared rocking the boat, upsetting the cult of personality that had grown around him -- and wasn't Mortensen's heart in the right place, anyway, even if there were some worrying inconsistencies in his story? Didn't he do some good too?

    But let's put aside the question of whether every word of Childers's book and his recent interviews is true. It's his narcissistic model of armed humanitarianism that we should be worried about. In his book, Childers describes a scene in which he and his gang of SPLA soldiers drive toward a group of LRA militiamen, firing indiscriminately -- at God's urging, of course. It may look cool on the big screen, but this crosses a line from humanitarianism to misguided vigilantism. Childers's underlying assumption seems to be that the region's conflicts would end if the good guys could just kill enough bad guys. This assumes not only that the good guy can magically discern who the bad guys are, but that killing -- from attacking the LRA to selling weapons -- doesn't fuel future conflict.

    Childers justifies his tactics with a shop-worn thought experiment. "Just for one moment imagine if [that child] was yours and I could go stop it," he asks.

    But by conflating humanitarian work with Wild West-style vigilantism, Childers makes the world more dangerous for the many aid workers risking their lives to do good in places like South Sudan. The anonymous aid worker who writes the widely read blog Tales from the Hood makes this point: "We [aid workers] very often go into insecure places where our presence and the associated suspicion that we may have ulterior motives puts not only us, but our local colleagues and those we're trying to help at greater risk, too.... Every time [Childers] puts up another video of himself jumping into his white SUV with an AK47 across his lap, he increases the likelihood that I or someone I care about is going to get shot."

    Hollywood loves a hero. And now that the silver screen has its Rambo-preacher-orphan-saver, there may be no stopping the Machine Gun Preacher. Even if many American Christians skip the movie because of its R rating, his Angels of East Africa charity will likely reap donations galore.

    What's next for Sam Childers? He said he wants to set up operations in Somalia (no way that could go wrong). In the end, perhaps it's Childers himself who says it best. "Who on earth would give money to some pistol-packing ex-biker dude who might be as crazy as the rebel leader he was after?" he writes. Alas, too many already have.
    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/article...enace?page=0,0
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