Meet self-proclaimed freedom fighter Matthew VanDyke.
May 28, 2015 1:11 PM   Subscribe

This reminds me of what the Portuguese say when two horrible people get married: "at least only one family will be ruined."
posted by chavenet at 1:21 PM on May 28, 2015 [30 favorites]

Weirdest Kickstarter ever.
posted by echocollate at 1:25 PM on May 28, 2015

While there's obviously a lot that could go wrong here, I wonder if this isn't a pretty reasonable reaction for people who want to do something. The guy doesn't seem to be a particularly hardcore fundie or anything (at least not from this profile, although it's hard to tell), and he's partially doing it as a reaction to people he knew personally getting captured and beheaded, so I'm fairly sympathetic.

I mean, yeah, obviously far less than ideal, but given that the international community isn't really managing to contain this thing, and if the emphasis is to try to protect civilians, maybe this is a net benefit. At least as long as these people know they're running the risk of being burned alive if they get captured.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:40 PM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

A private army called "Sons of Liberty International"?

Nice try, Big Boss.
posted by FJT at 1:46 PM on May 28, 2015 [10 favorites]

VanDyke, who is 35 and holds a master's degree in security studies from Georgetown,

And he's wearing cammo when he speaks with reporters.

I'm no general, but in the raising a Christian Army to fight ISIS business, a master's degree in security studies seems even less suitable than the degree of private first class.
posted by three blind mice at 1:47 PM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

master's degree in security studies

I can barely stand going to work with an MBA - could you imagine going into battle ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:52 PM on May 28, 2015 [7 favorites]

Well, it kind of worked during the Spanish Civil War...
posted by Rangi at 1:56 PM on May 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

What is this then? Field work for his doctoral dissertation?
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:57 PM on May 28, 2015

Can we take a collection to buy then all one-way tickets? I.e. Doesn't have to be for Syria. I'd be happy to send them to the Empty Quarter, Outer Mongolia, Lake Vostik...
posted by happyroach at 2:00 PM on May 28, 2015

Non-profit mercenaries, hah. We'll see how long that lasts.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 2:01 PM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sending more Christians into the ONLY area on Earth where ISIS is beheading Christians. The only non-idiotic reason for this is to pile up more "American casualties" so their Holy Warrior allies can lobby the U.S. government into upping the commitment to the pending Iraq War III.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:04 PM on May 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Someone looked at Iraq-Syria and said "what this region needs is more violent, lawless religious fanatics."
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:06 PM on May 28, 2015 [30 favorites]

So he's raising a vigilante religious army to fight people he hates and bring even more violence to the region? There's not much difference between this guy and ISIS.

I don't agree with his characterization of himself as a freedom fighter. He's not fighting for anything, he's only fighting against things. He's not addressing or even considering the underlying societal issues that caused ISIS to rise up in the first place.

In a region devastated by decades of war, the best thing he can think of is to bring them even more war. It's sad.
posted by foobaz at 2:06 PM on May 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

I think it's a stretch to pitch this guy as some fundie Christian nutjob. That may be his target market for fundraising, but that doesn't seem to be his deal (e.g., his fighting to overthrow Qaddafi makes no sense from a "protect the Christians" standpoint).

And anyway, while I have no idea what this guy is actually up to, this crypto-volunteerism is far preferable to US trained former soldiers going into business as mercenaries for hire (how on earth is that acceptable)?
posted by resurrexit at 2:07 PM on May 28, 2015

Sending more Christians into the ONLY area on Earth where ISIS is beheading Christians.

If nothing else it's a change from right-wing Christians whining about being persecuted every time they're told they're not allowed to forcibly convert their neighbors at swordpoint.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:07 PM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was assuming that this guy was a Chris Kyle wannabe or this generation's Bo Gritz, until I caught this:

VanDyke, who has no formal military training not even up to that standard. (Kyle and Gritz, for all their faults--and gosh, that's not a small list--were genuine special forces operators.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:07 PM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

"crowdfunding a war"

The logical endpoint of the unstoppable Sharing Economy.
posted by blucevalo at 2:19 PM on May 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

posted by brundlefly at 2:23 PM on May 28, 2015 [16 favorites]

I suppose it's not worth it to ask, what would jesus do? (Christian Peacemaker Teams, Iraq)
posted by eustatic at 2:24 PM on May 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

Because Christ would be first in line to kick some Muslim ass.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:33 PM on May 28, 2015

Non-profit mercenaries

I'd say more anti-Prophet than non-profit.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:33 PM on May 28, 2015 [8 favorites]

Really, this guy needs to go full on William Walker and seize some oil resources with his little army so their efforts can be self-funding and establish a Christian petrokingdom.
posted by peeedro at 2:43 PM on May 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

I might be the only MeFite who has actually worked for a private military company providing security and training in multiple combat zones, and let me tell you something -- you do not blow off the paperwork. This guy isn't just a wannabe Crusader, he's an idiot who's going to get himself tossed in a federal prison at best, and very possibly start an international incident. This guy doubtless thinks -- in his heart of hearts -- that he's a latter-day Roman citizen, walking across the breadth of the world confident that if anyone cuts a single thread off his toga, that miscreant will be crushed by the full weight of Imperial fury.

His next appearance on Fox News will likely be via videotape with a sword at his throat as some blonde tells us how Obama is leaving an American citizen to die in a foreign land. If I didn't think he was just a moron, I'd start wondering whether he's a paid Republican political operative.
posted by Etrigan at 2:43 PM on May 28, 2015 [26 favorites]

I heard him on NPR and had immediate flashbacks to all the guys I knew in high school who were Born Naturals and Experts on the following topics:
- Sun Tzu
- Unarmed combat
- All forms of weaponry: medieval, Asian, cutting-edge
- Battle tactics
- Geopolitics
- Etc.

They were delusional, but mostly harmless (as long as you weren't dumb enough to join them in any of their weekend recreational activities--the ones that weren't D&D or Playstation, I mean).
posted by wintersweet at 3:20 PM on May 28, 2015 [6 favorites]

Oh, Etrigan, I'd be so interested to hear your thoughts about this book.
posted by latkes at 3:25 PM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

The point is to build a battle-hardened private army, and then bring it home to set up a Christian Dominion. Guy wants to radicalize and re-import Christian sectarian fighters to force a civil conflict at home between Dominionists and secularists. An entire brigade of Eric Rudolphs, with combat experience.

He's unlikely to get anywhere with this, but he should be refused re-entry to the USA if he does follow through with it.
posted by Slap*Happy at 3:49 PM on May 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

This guy is probably pushing the Christian angle for recruitment, less that he's some sort of Evangelical fundie crusader, than he's trying to aid the Iraqi Assyrian Christians, who unlike the Kurds (who are secular Muslims, and who he's seems to have no problems working with) largely have no militias of their own to defend themselves from being attacked by Daesh.
posted by Apocryphon at 3:57 PM on May 28, 2015

A mercenary company not allied or affiliated with any state. Anyone who captures these jokers can execute them on the spot without trial, and it would be perfectly legal under the law of war. And that's exactly what would happen if any state's military nabbed them, to speak nothing of IS. States don't take kindly to random foreign militias running around their territories, and the normal rules of war (like the Geneva Conventions) don't protect them.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:06 PM on May 28, 2015

I think this might have been the movie that gave him the idea.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:59 PM on May 28, 2015

"VanDyke, who has no formal military training" .....THE HELL YOU SAY.
posted by at 5:31 PM on May 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Or maybe this film? After all, T.E. Lawrence was merely a mild-mannered Oxford archaeologist before he took up arms against the Ottoman Empire.
posted by Flashman at 5:32 PM on May 28, 2015

SOLIpsism, eh? Actually, I'm envious as hell. Guys who have the balls to pull off high-profile big money (all it takes is one "angel") scams like this make me feel like a small man with a tiny shriveled penis.

I also highly doubt he truly plans to put "boots on the ground". Living "high on the hog" is more like it. He "escaped" from Libya? I bet they kicked his ass out.
posted by telstar at 6:01 PM on May 28, 2015

Obligatory War Nerd article
posted by Divest_Abstraction at 7:39 PM on May 28, 2015

Am I the only one who doesn't have a problem with this? In fact if he could only get YouTube commenters to go along as well I think the world will be an entirely better place regardless of the outcome. It's the quintessential win/win scenario.
posted by AGameOfMoans at 9:01 PM on May 28, 2015

"Not your army"

posted by clavdivs at 9:24 PM on May 28, 2015

Once upon a time I got to wondering why the county where I grew up was named 'McLeod' even though there aren't many people of Scottish descent there. What I found was a gold mine in the form of The Diary of Martin McLeod. Apparently an eccentric man by the name of James Dickson showed up in Buffalo, New York, around 1835 and 36 claiming to have fought for Texas in Mexico, and looking to recruit officers for an "Army of the Liberator". He went to Montreal where he persuaded some young men, mostly métis but including McLeod, to join up. From the diary it sounds like McLeod was looking for an adventure more than he believed in the cause.

Said cause was to travel up the Great Lakes to the Red River colony (modern-day Winnipeg) to raise an army from among the métis people there, and lead them to California to fight for an independent country there. Well, probably. It was all pretty vague and changed several times over the course of their journey, at one point they were going to sack Santa Fe, or head to the Pacific Northwest, or who knows.

The journey went to pieces in many ways: storms on the Lakes, getting arrested in Detroit, trying to portage between the St. Louis river and the Mississippi in northern Minnesota and being trapped by the fall/winter transition (too icy to canoe, not icy enough to portage). Eventually they made it to Red River colony, down several men (thankfully mostly by attrition, not death), and found the locals completely uninterested in any sort of war. Some of them tried to travel back south via the Red River to the Minnesota River to the Mississippi, to St. Louis, but winter weather socked them in hard and almost all the remaining expedition died. I don't remember exactly how far into southern Minnesota they got—into safety, anyway—when Dickson left to head west solo and raise his army some other way. He disappears from history then, as mysteriously as he arrived.

McLeod went on to head down to St. Louis where Dickson had said he had an account with a contact who would pay them, and found no such thing. McLeod came back to Minnesota, got a job as a fur trader, married a Sioux woman, had several kids, and worked in politics to try to defuse tensions between settlers and natives. (That's what got the county named after him.)

VanDyke sounds like another Dickson. I hope one of his guys is keeping a diary.
posted by traveler_ at 12:37 AM on May 29, 2015 [8 favorites]

This exchange from VanDyke's Facebook page is also revealing:
Daniel Etter Just one question: How does this not play into IS' narrative of a crusade against Muslims?
13 · February 19 at 2:36pm

Matthew VanDyke Do we really care about ISIS' narrative at this point?
31 · February 19 at 3:09pm · Edited
Also, from the NYT article:
“A lot of guys did important stuff overseas and came home and got stuck in menial jobs, which can be really hard,” he said. “We offer them kind of a dream job, a chance to do what they are trained to do without all the red tape and PowerPoints.”
This looks like a repeat of the Rambo Syndrome of the 80s (seen also in Chuck Norris' Missing in Action and other movies): refight the war without the government getting in the way, just a few hard men and their righteousness (plus some bitchin' guns, of course). I'm struck by how "SOLI" has a logo--a shield striped in olive drab and sand--which wouldn't look out of place in Game of Thrones; VanDyke's kaffiyeh is in the same colors, and even though they don't seem to have a store for their merch yet, it has to be only a matter of time.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:25 AM on May 29, 2015

I believe that would be blazoned as paly, Rambo fantasist and idiot
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:39 PM on May 29, 2015

"This Guy From Baltimore Is Raising a Christian Army to Fight ISIS… What Could Go Wrong? "

The worst thing that I can think of happening is that most of them will never make it to Iraq, and won't be ambushed by Islamic militants.
posted by markkraft at 4:11 PM on May 29, 2015

“We offer them kind of a dream job, a chance to do what they are trained to do without all the red tape and PowerPoints.”

What about those of us who are highly trained in red tape and PowerPoints, dickweasel?
posted by Etrigan at 4:32 PM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

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