Somebody has been routing large sums of cash and/or weapons to the Nigerian terrorist Boko Haram. Most experts agree that the money itself is difficult to trace, but we do know a few things about their organization. You won't hear U.S. politicians or the corporate media going into detail about the group's leadership structure or alliances because doing so would open up some very uncomfortable questions, questions such as: are some of the weapons and money that the U.S. is sending to the Syrian rebels being routed to the Nigerian terrorist group?
How would an honest look at Boko Haram's organization lead us to ask such an extreme question? Well, let's take a look at what we know:
1. The head of the U.S, Africa Command has gone on the record saying that Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda in north Africa are sharing money, explosives and training.2. In 2012 Al-Shabab officially merged with al-Qaeda, and is still currently affiliated with the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda which is attempting to topple Assad.3. The U.S. government has been backing the Syrian rebels for several years now, and in recent months Washington has been increasing its support by sending more advanced weaponry in spite of the fact that the Syrian rebels are not only fighting along side al-Qaeda but are in fact dominated by the organization.
Of course U.S. officials claim that these weapons are being handed to "moderate" rebels, but these so called moderate forces have admitted that they conduct joint operations with Al-Qaeda, and that they don't consider it an enemy.
Even if you believe Washington's official statements on the matter (and I don't), if the groups that the U.S. is funding and arming are conducting joint operations with Al-Qaeda, it would be naive to think that none of that weaponry or money is making its way into the hands of extremists. The idea that the U.S. government can control how their assets are distributed in a war zone dominated by Islamic militants is ludicrous. That the U.S. would support such groups when they have established connections with terrorist organizations, is criminal. Unfortunately it's par for the course.
Also par for the course is the pattern of backing dubious groups or political figures in foreign countries when they are useful, only to later demonize them and use them as a justification for military intervention. The CIA's assistance in putting Saddam Hussein in power in 1963 and the U.S. government's subsequent backing of his brutal war of aggression against Iran in 1980 is a perfect example of this. Saddam's brutality was useful when it was directed at Iran, and it was also useful when it was time to turn him into a boogie man and build support for the war.
It is in this light that we should evaluate the events unfolding in Nigeria today. When you have perpetual hawks like Hillary Clinton jumping on to the #BringBackOurGirls bandwagon, demanding that something be done, your spider sense should be tingling. It would definitely be tingling if you were paying attention to the fact that Hillary actively worked to keep Boko Haram from being listed as a terrorist organization while she was in charge of the State Department. This in spite of repeated requests by the CIA, the FBI and the Justice Department, and in spite of the fact that the group had already committed a number of atrocities.
Whether or not Hillary's protection of Boko Haram was intentional and malicious is a topic for debate, but that it was in line with U.S. foreign policy interest in Africa is not. Over the past several years the U.S. has been quietly strengthening its position on the resource rich continent. The toppling of Gaddafi in Libya in 2011, the deployment of the Dagger Brigade which established U.S. troops in 35 African countries in early 2013, and the recent interventions in Mali, and Uganda (Kony 2014), taken together form a pattern of intent.
The Nigerian government has interfered with this neocolonial push in a number of ways. Like Gaddafi the Nigerian government has had the audacity to form an economic and political coalition of African nations without the approval or support of the U.S. or Europe. Nigeria's position in the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (aka ECOMOG) which is comprised of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Liberia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and a number of other small states has overshadowed NATO's influence in the region. The Nigerian government's willingness to engage in peace keeping operations in conjunction with neighboring countries has also widened Nigeria's sphere of influence. However perhaps the most significant variable in this equation is Nigeria's close cooperation with China.
China wants a piece of Africa too, they're just going about it in a slightly different way than Washington. Over the past decade the Chinese government has spent over 75 billion dollars on aid and projects on the continent in what many are calling a "charm offensive". Having a defiant Nigeria allied with China in one of the most resource rich corners of the earth is not in Washington's interest, a broken and embattled Nigeria that is struggling to fight off a terrorist insurgency on the other hand is.
Boko Haram's increasing strength has already had a direct impact on Nigeria's influence as the fighting has forced the Nigerian Army to withdraw several hundred soldiers from peace keeping operations in neighboring countries this past year.
Unfortunately the American public has little or no sense of the geopolitical stakes at play in here. They hear a story about girls being kidnapped, they see a catchy hashtag, and they run with it. They would never even think for a moment that their outrage might be playing into the hands of the very people who created the problem in the first place.
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