Good Reads: Ahmadinejad and the UN theater, Hollywood's machine gun preacher

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech sends a third of the UN to the exits, while Hollywood introduces us to a 'Machine Gun Preacher' on the hunt for an African warlord.

Bebeto Matthews/AP
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, listens during an interview with editorial staff from the Associated Press on Thursday, Sept. 22, in New York.

In the annals of global diplomatic craziness, it’s quite an accomplishment when a world leader can top the antics of Muammar Qaddafi and Hugo Chavez. By most accounts, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's 15-minute speech – which prompted a walkout of about one third of the diplomats at the United Nations General Assembly – did just that.

Joby Warrick of the Washington Post captures it all in his piece yesterday, including Mr. Ahmadinejad’s assertion that Osama Bin Laden could have been captured alive to finally answer the question of who was behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. Ahmadinejad implies that Mr. Bin Laden was merely an agent, and that Washington itself ordered the attacks.

“Instead of assigning a fact-finding team, they killed the main perpetrator and threw his body into the sea,” Ahmadinejad said.

Ahmadinejad is not the only man to say strange things at the UN General Assembly, of course, a fact that Joshua Keating of Foreign Policy magazine reminds us of. There are some real gems in his “Top 10 Craziest Things Ever Said during a UN Speech,” including Mr. Chavez’s assertion that the podium at the UN still smelled of “sulfur” a day after US President George W. Bush had given his speech, as well as Russian Premier Nikita Krushchev’s shoe-beating tantrum.

Continuing the lunatic parade, development blogger Brett Keller uncovers the real story about Rev. Sam Childers, a gun-toting Harley Davidson riding preacher who claims to have taken up arms to hunt down African warlord Joseph Kony. Sadly, but understandably, Mr. Childers has become the subject of a new Hollywood movie called Machine Gun Preacher.

The reality of having a gun-toting preacher-vigilante chasing a warlord through the jungles of Uganda and South Sudan is bad enough, says Mr. Keller. But having a movie out about this man’s exploits will compound the danger that many honest, hard-working aid workers face out in the field.

… 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."

(Amen, Brother Keller.)

In the Monitor, read David Francis’s piece on Nigeria's Islamist militant group Boko Haram. Quoting heavily from Nigerian civic activist Shehu Sani, who attempted to bring about a negotiated settlement between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government, Mr. Francis’s piece shows that the link between Boko Haram and Al Qaeda is dubious, and that the military approach to dealing with them only seems to be pushing Boko Haram into ever more extremist behavior, including plans to attack Nigeria’s oil-production facilities.

“In Jonathan’s opinion, the government’s best option is to continue to confront the militants,” Sani says. “Associating them with Al Qaeda is an easy excuse, but these confrontations have been happening for years and lives have continually been lost. The use of force has not been able to address the problem.”

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