Hillary Clinton, Boko Haram, and the Meaningless Politics of the US Terrorist List

A political sideshow to the escalating focus on the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram is what it means for Hillary Clinton’s presidential prospects. Boko Haram was not officially designated a terrorist group until Clinton stepped down and John Kerry became Secretary of State. This, Republicans tell us, reveals she is weak on terrorism and doesn’t have the leadership or foresight to keep the country safe as president.

To try and make a substantive political point on the basis of the farcical and arbitrary State Department terrorist list is laughable. The “official list” is so fickle and ludricous as to be useless in any serious political discussion except to demonstrate how illegitimate it is.

As I wrote last month:

The government puts individuals or groups on and takes them off according to its interests at the time: Nelson Mandela was on it before he became admired by the world as a man of peace, Saddam Hussein was on it until the U.S. decided it wanted to support him militarily against Iran in the 1980s, the Iranian group MEK was on it until 2012 when the U.S. decided having an Iranian dissident group off the terrorist list could be in its benefit, etc.

And of course, any militant groups that the U.S. wants to aid with money and weapons can’t be on the terrorist list, even if they conduct terrorist operations.

More than that, there was some internal logic to holding off on designating Boko Haram. New York Times:

Such a step would have made it illegal for any individual in the United States to provide “material or resources” to the group and, proponents say, would also have focused international attention on the danger the group posed.

But Johnnie Carson, who was the assistant secretary of state for African affairs from 2009 to 2013, said in an interview on Thursday that he had opposed making the designation “for six or seven different reasons.”

Mr. Carson said he was concerned that the move would generate publicity for the group and help it attract support from other extremists. He said he was also worried that the designation might legitimize a heavy-handed crackdown by Nigeria’s security forces at a time when American officials were urging them to avoid human rights abuses.

“It would have aligned us with a flawed Nigerian security strategy,” Mr. Carson said.

There was concern that the designation might prompt the group to attack American interests in the region. The Nigerian government also strongly opposed the move, fearing it would raise Boko Haram’s standing.

There are two important points to make on the basis of this reporting. First, this U.S. official implicitly reveals what I’ve already said about Boko Haram: that it is a localized militant group that could be antagonized to more ambitious goals in response to U.S. meddling.

Secondly, it has been confirmed in congressional testimony that the U.S. government has a secret list of groups and individuals it considers officially designated terrorists. That list is classified, meaning that the American people can’t even know who their own government considers enemies. But further, it means that the State Department’s designation is largely moot, because the U.S. government already was taking action against Boko Haram in a covert way going back several years and so probably already had the group on its secret list.

28 thoughts on “Hillary Clinton, Boko Haram, and the Meaningless Politics of the US Terrorist List”

    1. This article you have posted is garbage. The idea the author of it tries to convey is that libertarians that hold to noninterventionism are wrong because they believe Muslim acts against Christians can be blamed on American foreign policy, and that such incidents are blowback. The reason this is wrong, according to the author, is because these incidents happen because of Muslim Jihad. However, it is apparent that this author defines jihad as Muslims waging war against anyone who is not a Muslim.

      The concept of jihad is complex, but this simplistic definition is what neocons and radical zionists have been using since 9/11 to manufacture consent for war against Muslims. I'd suggest reading about jihad, or struggle, starting with Wikipedia. While defense against attacks against Muslims may be defined as a being a part of jihad, the common usage refers to an internal struggle to follow the tenets of Muslim dogma.

  1. I agree- for all of its sins- Boko Haram much like Hamas, Hezbollah and the Irish Republican Army- has not gone out of its way to attack US citizens or interests- putting it on the Terror List may be manifestly counterporductive. Whilst the plight of the kidnapped girls may be a matter of legitimate concern, strictly speaking Boko Haram is a nigerian problem and should be treated as such!

    1. What a hell did Irish republic army got involved here, where the hell Saudis barbarians as boko haram is, or CIA created Al-Quaeda and others alike terrorists group have any connections with Irish republic army, the Irish republic army doesn't exist any more but Hillary Clinton is there waiting to manipulate more your kind of name calling people. Did Saddam Hussein had any atomic bomb hidden somewhere which you know about! If not, why do you compare Irish with boko haram, and what is USG "interests" beside reaping off people right of their social political and economic rights by stealing their natural resources. These terrorists didn't exist before Afghanistan war, nor they were in Iraq or in Syria, they were in planted, trained and brought to Afghanistan by the Saudis-Wahhabis whom are very good friend of Bush regime, and you comparing them with Irish people who have fought the British colonialism for hundred of years.

  2. Poor man's News

    Boko Haram is of no danger to anyone outside of Nigeria, as it is devoting all of it's resources to overthrowing a most brutal and imperial Western backed fascist dictatorship. So, if Boko Haram should become the legitimate government, it would improve life for Nigerians, decrease profit for the multinational investors and this is flat out not in the best interest of Empire USA.

    For the creed of Empire is, "Only by expansion comes security," as it is the most inefficient form of economy known to man, the trading of war materials for Middle-East oil as an example, which required the creation of Israel as a terrorist state to maximize misery, to thereby maximize profit.

  3. The government closed all schools in Borno three weeks ago
    but the girls had been recalled so that they could write their final exams. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/17/stud

    men dressed as soldiers? (not bearded BH) then took the girls???

    AllAfrica: Nigeria: Northern C.A.N. Raises Questions On Chibok Abduction
    The Borno State government is yet to react to the allegations by the Northern CAN. http://allafrica.com/stories/201405092207.html

    US, Nigeria Iron out Modalities on Rescue of Chibok Schoolgirls
    …the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) played the blame game yesterday, when it accused the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, of conspiracy… http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/us-nigeria-ir

  4. The USG, so as you John Glaser, change their political mind depending which way the wind blows, on that time they might be in love with Taliban and Al-Queda, the Saudis barbarians and lesser evil terrorists in Syria or Iraq or Libya, next they they even don't know whom to blame for the mess their foreign policies is about. That's because the USG policies is based on manipulation and deceptive ideas coming from all direction and the latest is the state department delusional idea about democracy in Ukraine while supporting fascism there.

    1. One thing is constant through all of the twists and turns of human politics – the US Government will always, always, always promote and defend and attack all opposition to the racist, land-stealing criminal country of Israel.

  5. Have no fear schoolgirls! The Yanks are coming to liberate you and while they're at it they'll also liberate your oil, gold and other resources. Free of charge!!

    P.S. You're welcome

  6. Apropos of those "useful idiots" who seem to think that Boko Haram's rule would be better than that of the current Nigerian government- I might point out that its very name means "Western education is forbidden". Apropos also of who gets included on the official terrorism list, US Secretary of State(during Ronald Reagan's Administration) George P.Shultz once quipped "if they're on our side then they're freedom fighters, if not then they're terrorists!"- realpolitik and partisan politics had more to do with inclusion on the list than how violent a given group is-pace the Nicaraguan Contras and the anti Castro Cuban exile groups like Alpha 66!

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