As the media uncovers more information behind the tragic kidnapping of nearly 300 brave young girls seeking an education in northeast Nigeria, the world is learning about countless failed opportunities to prevent this unspeakable horror, and others, inflicted by Boko Haram. Perhaps most alarming is the failure of the US State Department to designate Boko Haram a terrorist organization three years ago when ample evidence was presented to them indicating that this group was highly dangerous and would certainly commit atrocious crimes that violated the basic human rights of their targets. On November 13, 2013, over two years after officials sounded the alarm on this group and after the appointment of John Kerry as Secretary of State, Boko Haram was given the crown of “Foreign Terrorist Organization” (FTO) that it so rightly deserved.
The arguments against designating Boko Haram as an FTO were weak and blind – they ranged from fears about the possibility that an FTO designation would elevate the stature of the group and embolden them to claims that their crimes were not religiously-motivated. According to documents obtained by Breitbart, officials even went so far as to downplay the impact of this group, arguing that “this religious tension [created by Boko Haram’s actions], while real, should not be mistaken as the primary source of violence in Nigeria.” This letter goes on to elaborate on the aid that the United States is providing to Nigeria to address the socio-economic drivers behind violence and poverty. This is all splendid, but it ignores a few key issues.
First, it does not matter if Boko Haram was the “primary source of violence in Nigeria.” Gun violence in the United States is not the number one cause of preventable death, but it is still an issue the government purports to take seriously enough to throw billions of dollars at each year. Arguments like that are so ridiculous that they can’t even be justified by logic, and they imply a shameful air of first-world apathy, suggesting that the victims of Boko Haram’s violence don’t matter.
Next, hiding behind feel-good foreign aid projects does little to address the real steps that could have been taken to prevent the violence unleashed over the past month by Boko Haram. Designating the organization as an FTO sooner would have opened up more funding for counter-intelligence operations that would have given our government and the Nigerian government the information that they needed to protect those young girls and other victims of Boko Haram’s religiously-motivated violence.
This scandal, like Benghazi, clearly demonstrates that the Obama-Clinton State Department was weak and lacked any real leadership. Particularly on issues of terrorism in Africa, it seems as though Obama and Clinton are happy to ignore the very real threats that exist on the continent. Their willful ignorance cost the US intelligence community several years that could have been spent learning more about groups that want to destroy freedom, liberty, and a prosperous way of life. And worst of all, their willful ignorance may cost nearly 300 young girls their lives.
We have seen the Obama-Clinton State Department’s weak leadership have a similar impact across the globe – take, for example, the ongoing civil war in Syria. In 2011, when it became clear that Bashar al-Assad was using violence to silence his dissenters, what did the Obama administration do? They issued an executive order calling for sanctions against Syria to “to end its use of violence against its people.” That piece of paper did nothing to stop the unspeakable violence levied against the Syrian people, and today there are an estimated 2.5 million refugees who have fled Syria, and 6.5 million internally displaced persons in the country. Together, this comprises nearly half of the country’s population.
Ultimately, by ignoring the real motivation of people like Bashar al-Assad and groups like Boko Haram, we have emboldened them – and other terrorist organizations around the world – and told them that they don’t need to fear us or the consequences of their heinous actions. Real leadership requires taking action, even if it is unpopular and hard, and the Obama-Clinton State Department has avoided making those hard decisions at the cost of countless lives.