Cutting deals for dictators
The Charles Taylor episode has renewed interest in a strange character, his “spiritual advisor,” Indian-born Houston-based evangelical leader K.A. Paul, who seems to relish brokering parting deals for dictators. As Taylor was apparently planning an escape this week, Paul was trying to negotiate another assylum agreement for with Ethiopia (where Taylor could stay until ...
The Charles Taylor episode has renewed interest in a strange character, his "spiritual advisor," Indian-born Houston-based evangelical leader K.A. Paul, who seems to relish brokering parting deals for dictators.
As Taylor was apparently planning an escape this week, Paul was trying to negotiate another assylum agreement for with Ethiopia (where Taylor could stay until "the right time comes for him to face charges"). Paul helped negotiate the initial assylum deal with Nigeria in 2003, and Taylor, according to a 2003 William Finnegan New Yorker piece, wrote a letter (which wasn't published) to the New York Times giving Paul credit for getting Taylor to step down. Finnegan wrote:
Charles Taylor, having laid waste to Liberia, has been trying to set the record straight about who persuaded him to surrender his Presidency and go into exile in Nigeria. “I will say that 99% of [the credit] goes to Dr. K. A. Paul alone,” he wrote on August 16th, in a letter to the Times. Since Taylor was on the verge of losing a civil war, and three African heads of state went to Liberia to usher him out of the country—and since President Bush made his exit a precondition of American peacekeeping help—this is no small nod to Dr. K. A. Paul.
The piece notes that Paul claims to have met with Slobodan Milosevic during the war in Kosovo, and that in 2003 he arranged for Saddam Hussein and his two sons to leave Iraq, but the White House didn’t bite. TNR‘s Michelle Cottle highlighted these and other instances of Paul’s affinity for dictators in a great profile of Paul in 2004:
Far from being put off by the wickedness of his flock, Paul’s philosophy seems to be: The blacker the soul, the greater the need for redemption. As the name of his organization suggests, Paul’s aim is to foster global peace, in large part by personally “transforming the lives and changing the hearts” of some of the world’s most ruthless warmongers. It is not a modest goal–then again, Paul is not a modest man. The 40-year-old peace crusader is, in fact, the first to toot his own horn, proffering a laundry list of armed conflicts he claims to have helped resolve or avert in troubled spots like Burundi, the Ivory Coast, Pakistan, and, perhaps most notably, Liberia, where Paul played a key role in coaxing Taylor to step down as president and go into exile last year.
Paul likes to boast that he has dealt with leaders, rebels and terrorists in the 89 countries in which his Global Peace Initiative and Gospel to the Unreached Millions operate. He’s much better known in Africa and Asia, but his mix of development and gospel (“You put food in a hungry man’s stomach and clothes on his children’s back and show him love and he will be willing to listen to anything you have to tell him) is hard to pull off in wealthy countries.
Hat tip: CQ researcher Jeffrey Austin, a friend who brought up the Taylor/Paul link in a recent conversation.
More from Foreign Policy
America Is a Heartbeat Away From a War It Could Lose
Global war is neither a theoretical contingency nor the fever dream of hawks and militarists.
The West’s Incoherent Critique of Israel’s Gaza Strategy
The reality of fighting Hamas in Gaza makes this war terrible one way or another.
Biden Owns the Israel-Palestine Conflict Now
In tying Washington to Israel’s war in Gaza, the U.S. president now shares responsibility for the broader conflict’s fate.
Taiwan’s Room to Maneuver Shrinks as Biden and Xi Meet
As the latest crisis in the straits wraps up, Taipei is on the back foot.