Fresh Interest in Peter Waldron, Now Working as Michele Bachmann Staffer

Early in 2006 I wrote a couple of blog entries (here and here) about Peter Waldron, a veteran US Christian Right activist who had been arrested in Uganda allegedly in possession of illegal guns and mysteriously released a few weeks later. Waldron has now come to fresh attention as a staffer for Michele Bachmann; Garance Franke-Ruta at the Atlantic reports:

…On Saturday, Waldron told The Atlantic in Ames that he was a staffer for Bachmann and responsible for her faith-based organizing both in Iowa and South Carolina. But he also declined repeatedly to give his name.

…On his website, Waldron says he was “falsely accused of being a spy by the Uganda government’s secret police,” leading to his arrest. One man who knew Waldron in 2004 told The St. Petersburg Times in 2006 that Waldron had told him he used to work for the CIA, and the question of whether or not Waldron has worked as a spy is prominently teased in the trailer for the movie based on his life now being promoted on his personal website.

(Andrew Rice, the man who spoke with the Times about Waldron’s purported history as a spook, on Wednesday said he had incorrectly recalled their conversation, but that his general impression of him was “that he was quite a vivid storyteller” and “a particularly flamboyant example of an archetypal character: the American who goes to Africa, a continent where a little money and a lot of talk can buy substantial power, in search of a position of influence.”)

At the time of his arrest, Waldron was hailed on one blog as being the latest victim of Christian persecution in Africa.” His allies seeking to free him said he was being persecuted for his reports in the “Africa Dispatch” newsletter about Ugandan opposition activities, and that he denied that he owned or was storing weapons…

(The blog cited by the Atlantic as having “hailed” Waldron belongs to our good friend Gen. JC Christian, who was inspired to write on the subject after reading my original posts.)

Waldron spent several years in Uganda: the 2004 report by Andrew Rice cited above by the Atlantic noted his presence at Pastor Martin Ssempa‘s church (this was before Ssempa had become notorious for his anti-gay “they eat the poo poo!” rabble-rousing). In early 2009, Waldron gave his version of the events on a Christian talk-show, It’s Time for Herman and Sharron (available at Warren Throckmorton‘s website). Waldon explained that he had been in Uganda as a missionary and as the manager of a software company, the Rocky Mountain Technology Group, which had developed a programme for tracking the distribution of antiretroviral drugs. The Africa Dispatch newsletter, from what I saw of it in 2006, appeared to exist primarily to puff this company, although it also contained some news.

Waldron further explained that missionaries from Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church had introduced him to a man who was a member of a Uganda-based Congolsese rebel group. This man had become a Christian and had brought his brother’s murderer to Christ, and members of the group began coming to Waldron’s house for Bible-study meetings. However, unknown to Waldron, the group was on the payroll of the Ugandan government, and was being employed to look for Joseph Kony in Congo and Rwanda. This was in breach of peace agreements, and the group was using the opportunity to “pilfer” gold and diamonds across the borders. One member of the group was found with weapons on a Ugandan street and mobbed, and facing torture he implicated the completely innocent Waldron.

Waldron was then visited at home by the VCCU (Violent Crime Crack Unit), which proceeded to beat up his female assistant. He was accused of being a member of al-Qaeda, a telephone cord was used to bind him – according to Waldron, the VCCU doesn’t need handcuffs as it usually kills its victims – and a gun was pointed at his head. At this point the police and army arrived, and so he was taken into custody and kept in a filthy prison cell. While there he was tortured, but his Christian faith and American self-confidence kept him going and he managed to preach to his fellow inmates. Meanwhile, his friends and ex-wife contacted Karl Rove, and once it was confirmed that Waldron wasn’t a CIA agent or bounty hunter George W. Bush phoned President Yoweri Museveni to demand his release.

One strange aspect of the story concerns Waldron’s account of President Museveni and his wife. According to Waldron, the VCCU is a

death squad that’s used by the current president, Museveni, and his wife Janet, to bring opponents in line.

And yet:

The irony of all this is that I was close friends with President and Mrs Museveni. I would call them today my friends. Mrs Museveni is lover of God. She is a devout Christian as it were, evangelical, a believer.

Mrs Museveni is known in particular for her association with Rick Warren, although Warren has tried to downplay this now that Uganda’s anti-gay hysteria has received international attention (Warren has an unfortunate habit of being linked to African presidents accused of running death squads).

Also curious is a quote in the Atlantic from Dave Racer, who lobbied for Waldron’s release in 2006; he now seems strangely ambivalent about the affair:

Dave Racer, who worked to free Waldron in 2006, said Wednesday that he was uncertain as to the veracity of the allegations against him or the counter-claims. At the time, there was, as he understood it, “an allegation that Peter was involved in gun-running, I believe he was accused perhaps of fomenting some uprising against [Ugandan] President Museveni.”

But, he said, “It’s not possible from here to know what was fact. There’s just no way to know. From here, it looked like he was a victim of political persecution.”

The passage of the years has made him even less certain. “I have no knowledge of what really happened,” he said, except that the detention “was very hard on him.”

Waldron’s 2009 television interview also discussed his political activism: he had recently been in Alaska to work on the state marriage amendment, and after working on Gary Bauer’s presidential campaign in 2000 he had gone on to work for John McCain. He had also written for the Washington Times on the “war against women”, reporting on Taliban-run Afghanistan, forced abortion in China, and dowry-related killing in India. The link to the Times is of some interest: in 2006 I noted that his Africa Dispatch newsletter was produced in Washington by Bob Selle, who himself worked for the Unification Church’s World and I magazine and for Rev. Moon’s then-named Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

In my original blog piece, I looked at Waldron’s religious perspective and associations. His theology draws explicitly on Rousas Rushdoony and Christian Reconstructionism, and libertarian rhetoric is put at the service of a theocratic agenda:

Families reigned supreme on earth from Adam until Nimrod (Genesis 10:9) and the gathering of families at Babel (Genesis 11).  Until that time, families gave birth to clans and nations but there was no central government.  All the people and their families spoke the same language, (Genesis 11:6), and dwelt in their own lands (Genesis 10: 31).  God, the Creator, was recognized as the Supreme Ruler and Sovereign Lord over the earth.

This changed, however, when it was determined by those families and nations on earth to unite in an overt effort to rebel against the Lord’s prophetic command given to their forefathers, Adam (Genesis 1:28) and Noah (Genesis 9:1-17).

… A totalitarian form of governance arises when the Word of God is compromised, ignored or denied.  A person will self-destruct from abuse of spirit, soul and body.  A nation will collapse under a “hard” or “soft” form of dictatorship, abuse of public or elected office, and a general denial of human freedom – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – arises. The source of one’s belief system dictates the conduct whether it be personal or national.   The same goes for the end result.

The Bible represents the absolute source for the guiding principles and precepts for all governments in man (self-government), of families (family government), churches (church government), and for nations (civil government).

…Laws and statues are added by local, state, and federal state governments to control human behavior that is contrary to the Word of God.  One wishes that it were not so but man rebels against God’s authority hence civil governments must construct laws to protect the civil society as a whole.

“Rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.  Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.  He is God’s minister to you for good.  But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Romans 13:3, 4)

Waldron is also the author of several Christian books, including Rebuilding the Walls: A Biblical Strategy for Restoring America’s Greatness. This book, written in 1987, makes the case that “traditional conservatism has led evangelicals astray”, and bemoans that

…It was during the conservative administration of Ronald Reagan that trade was normalized with the Soviet dictatorship, that sanctions were imposed on South Africa.

Rebuilding the Walls was co-written with George Grant, a high-profile Reconstructionist. During his 2009 interview with Hermann and Betty, Waldron described the book as “timeless” and of relevance now that the USA was turning to socialism and away from Christianity with the election of Obama.

Waldron has also been associated with Dennis Peacocke’s Anatole Fellowship, a one-time Christian Right lobby-group within the Republican Party. Russ Bellant discussed this in The Coors Connection (1991), drawing on Sara Diamond’s book Spiritual Warfare:

Another group, the secretive Anatole Fellowship, was founded by Peacocke to “gain influence within the Republican Party” on behalf of the Religious Right…One 1987 meeting in Washington, D.C. was arranged in which”[Paul] Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation was a key player in the two-day meeting, which focused on issues ranging from school-based health clinics to 1988 electoral strategies to South Africa, Nicaragua and El Salvador,”according to Sara Diamonds Spiritual Warfare [Page 130].

An undated Anatole letter to state-level coalition members advised:

For Christians to be successful in influencing legislation in Washington, D.C., it is imperative that we have a national communications network to inform God’s people of issues to concern them. To this end the Anatole Fellowship has formed an issues committee co-chaired by Connie Marshner and Peter Waldron…

Pete Waldron is also a member of the Council for National Policy and the steering committee of Coalition on Revival.

Another undated Anatole Alert directed associates to support Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA, a military force supported financially by South Africa and allied operationally with South Africa’s military campaign to destabilize Angola and strategically control the southern portion of Africa. The Anatole newsletter also counseled against Senate ratification of the Genocide Treaty, an international pact which criminalizes genocidal actions. Peacocke was also active in recruiting and training anti-Sandinista religious leaders in Central America.

Libertarians and Southern Africa in the 1980s is a subject which I have written about previously.

(Name variation: Peter E. Waldron)