Ambassador for Humanity?: Nigeria, Boko Haram & Fantasies of Benevolent Intervention

central-accord-opens-in-coloful-styleIt’s no surprise that imperial states think of themselves as having a monopoly on humanitarianism. In the words of President Obama, the United States has for decades been “an anchor of global stability.” Even filmmakers buy into this charade. Recently Steven Spielberg, in one of his less known departures into the world of science fiction, honored President Obama for his humanitarianism at an event organized by the Shoah Foundation. Obama was recognized as an “Ambassador for Humanity” whose “interest in expanding justice and opportunity for all is remarkably evident.” It’s easy to laugh at fantasies of this kind but when national leaders attempt to act on them they should be examined more seriously. Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls and US policymakers and the “free press” have exploded into a fit of pro-interventionist hysteria. It’s hard to escape media reports about the ruthless cruelty of Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau and his vow to sell his hostages into slavery.

Outrage has covered a broad spectrum of media and political personalities from Rep. Peter King who said “If the president decided to use special forces, I certainly would not oppose them,” to Michelle Obama who joined the “Bring Back Our Girls” Twitter campaign and released a video condemning the “grown men” in Boko Haram attempting to “snuff out” the aspirations of young girls. Missing from this hysteria is a serious look at the US role on the African continent and the credibility of its “humanitarian” claims. Since the early post-war period the US has been an overwhelmingly negative force in Africa. Shortly after the Second World War US policy makers decided that the African continent “was to be ‘exploited’ for the reconstruction of Europe.” In the following years the US contributed to this exploitation by supporting the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the apartheid government in South Africa and brutal dictators like Mobutu Sese Seko in the Congo and Samuel Doe in Liberia. Nothing has fundamentally changed since this period. In fact, US involvement in Africa has grown since the creation of the US Africa Command also known as AFRICOM. Scholar Stephen Graham points out how AFRICOM has targeted Nigeria’s oil wealth. In his book Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism he writes that AFRICOM “is being established with the explicit goal of dealing with ‘oil disruption’ in Nigeria and West Africa.”

It is widely conceded that the popular base of Boko Haram is a response to severe economic inequality that has disproportionately impacted Nigeria’s northern region. Unlike the south, Nigeria’s north faces severe problems meeting basic human needs of education, healthcare and clean water. Unemployment among young males in northern Nigeria “is in excess of 50 percent.”  This stark inequality is largely a symptom of what’s commonly called its “oil curse”, nations which are extraordinarily rich in natural resources but, due to corporate and often western-backed policies, are unable to meet the basic material and educational needs of its citizens. Consequences of this curse can be deciphered in the Pentagon’s latest Quadrennial Defense Review where the Department of Defense outlines a policy “to sustain a heightened alert posture in regions like the Middle East and North Africa.” The review also highlights “the security of the global economic system” as one of the primary goals of US “National Security Strategy.”


Many would dismiss these observations as a “justification” of Boko Haram’s crimes but it’s quite the opposite. The crimes of the Nigerian state, amply documented by reputable organizations like Human Rights Watch, have done far more to strengthen the arguments of Boko Haram than any analyst ever could. HRW reports that Nigerian security forces “have engaged in numerous abuses, including extrajudicial killings, which contravene international human rights law and might also constitute crimes against humanity.” Even conservative analysts like John Campbell of the Council on Foreign Relations conceded that “Individuals in the north talk about a military that comes in and responds to the Boko Haram threat as being just as predatory and disrespectful of their civil liberties as Boko Haram has been,” and “an elephant in the living room is just how much popular support Boko Haram actually enjoys.” And this isn’t the only “elephant in the living room.” Other elephants include the stunning similarity between Boko Haram’s crimes, in terms of their impact on education, and those of high officials in Washington. One of the main arguments for intervention in Nigeria is that it’s necessary to defend the rights of girls’ education. Girls’ education should be defended but it’s very easy to demonstrate how committed policy makers in the US are to girls’ education. Last year NYU and Stanford University released a study titled Living Under Drones. In this report they describe how President Obama’s drone program has endangered access to education among Pakistani children or as the study states “some of those injured in [drone] strikes reported reduced access to education and desire to learn because of the physical, emotional, and financial impacts of the strike.” Pakistani parents have also reportedly began pulling their children from school out of fear that they will be killed in a drone strike.


Michelle Obama reserved no words for these young girls though she did take time to praise the heroism of Malala Yousafzai in her fight for girls education in defiance of the Taliban. Interestingly, Mrs. Obama did not mention that Malala also criticized her husband’s drone policy for “fueling terrorism.” Apparently, the US does not “snuff out” the dreams of young girls. The US only snuffs out “militants.” Rational analysis would also take into consideration the view of the Nigerian public. A 2013 Pew poll reports that only 39% of Nigerians–it was 74% in 2010–support President Obama’s “international policies”, a strange figure considering the US is “an anchor of global stability.” The percentage of Nigerians who look at the US favorably decreased from 81% in 2010 to 69% in 2013. Moreover, a stunning 12% of Nigerians think that their country is “moving in the right direction.” Filtered through the system of American power, this means President Jonathan is “committed to building on the democratic process”, Obama’s words when Jonathan visited the US. But this shouldn’t be too surprising. President Obama’s support for brutal, anti-democratic governments in the Middle East and North Africa is very consistent. Take for example his description of Hosni Mubarak, a dictatorial mass murderer, as “a proud patriot.”

When examined in historical context it’s quite clear that the United States is participating in the same ideological campaign that the British embraced, in a much more sustained fashion, during their colonial rule. Historian and sociologist W.E.B. Dubois wrote about this in the early post-independence years of Nigeria.  Since Nigeria was a “rich land” with “stores of coal, oil, lead, tin, zinc and other metals,” it was a prime target for western industrial capitalists. In order to combat any move toward socialism the British sought to manipulate Nigerians to regard them “mainly as benefactors.” But this campaign was unable to defeat the Nigerian people’s “irresistible demand for independence.” If the US military continues its expansion into Nigeria we can expect similar attacks against this demand for independence. Military intervention of any kind runs the risk of drowning out the voices of Nigerians who have bravely stood up against these atrocities, setting the stage for a catastrophe too painful to imagine.


B., Du Bois W. E. The World and Africa: An Inquiry into the Part Which Africa Has Played in World History: An Enlarged Edition: With New Writings on Africa, 1955-1961. New York, International Publishers: n.p., 1972. Print.

Chomsky, Noam. Deterring Democracy. London: Verso, 1991. Print.

Graham, Stephen. Cities under Siege: The New Military Urbanism. London: Verso, 2010. Print.


151 thoughts on “Ambassador for Humanity?: Nigeria, Boko Haram & Fantasies of Benevolent Intervention

  1. Remember Rwanda? No one gave a shit then when over a million, in some estimates, men women and children were massacred with machetes. And really no one gives a shit now. The only difference now is they need an excuse to get a foot in the door and steal all the resources that the British and French left behind. Nobody who has any power to do something to help these 200 girls gives a shit and that’s the truth. I wish it was not.

    1. It’s interesting that you bring up Rwanda because the National Security Archive released a memo some years ago that showed that the Clinton administration resisted calling the genocide in Rwanda a “genocide” because doing so would legally obligate them to “actually do something.” This was then contrasted with the US response to the genocide in Darfur which was publicly called a genocide because, unlike Rwanda, doing so would entail no “legal consequences.” This shows, in glaring terms, how the US only acts when its strategic interests can be fulfilled and not out of any humanitarian concerns. So I think your comparison is very well founded. Here’s a report about the document if you’re interested:

      1. I remember it well. If I’m right they did say that there were “acts of genocide”. I remember a journalist really going at one of Clintons lap dogs, he was saying what the hell do you mean acts of genocide. Its either genocide or its not. And that’s why i know they don’t care one bit about the girls and the fact that the Boko Haram is funded by the CIA.

    2. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Samantha Power is the archetype of the intellectual who exploits genocide to further her career.

      She criticizes Presidents in order to make herself look like a dissident, but in reality she is very convenient to any state planners because she will make it seem like every intervention is about humanitarianism (though she admits humanitarianism is way at the bottom of the list of TRUE objectives and that resource control and hegemony are the top objectives; she just pretends like this will still result in humanitarianism somehow.)

      Then later when another Rwanda occurs and the US didn’t intervene (because there was nothing in it for them which is the only time governments really do anything,) the media can create all these headlines like “Oh my goodness, Power was right, we should have intervened! Let’s never let this happen again!” and they’ll use this to justify another selfish exploit and the cycle just keeps going and going and going…

    3. I have always thought so. I still do. NOBODY CARES! Not our leaders. Not the military. Not even foreign powers. Every party involved is just looking out for their interests.

    1. I wonder what price those girls and others in other part of the world have to pay to the US for their safe release. Frankly this is a joke, Michelle with the slogan while her husband is killing girls by extensive drone programs elsewhere, we seriously need to focus on the girls security right now.

  2. No countries actions are black and white, there is no ‘absolute justice’ and ‘absolute evil’, there is only self interest and clever spin doctors.
    I always find the way history is taught in schools is fascinating in that it tends to omit any ill-doings of said country. As a Brit we had a tiny bit of history on slavery (mainly focused on US), zero information on the Opium Wars and basically nothing on colonialism. History on WW1 and WW2 was very in depth though…

    1. Very interesting. In Canada they go quite a bit more in-depth into European imperialism (though not nearly enough), not much about slavery but it’s pretty well remembered in North America anyway, WWI and WWII of course, and I still barely know anything about the opium war.

      It’s EXTREMELY twisted the way they teach it though.

      For example, the question is ALWAYS raised: “was appeasement a good strategy to deal with people like Hitler?” That’s HORRIFIC because it makes it seem like maintaining genuine peace for the sake of peace outside of one’s own country is ever a real objective for any state or military planners. There is the unstated assumption that countries like Britain, France, Canada, US etc. are the good guys who are always thinking about peace.

      And when students see that the “good guys” – Britain and France’s – lack of intervention “permitting” Hitler’s rise, the more aggressive students will always take this and run with it and use it to justify the West intervening more and more and more.

      Also, I HATE how they twist and manipulate the definition of communism around to make it seem like the USSR had ANYTHING to do with the real communism that Karl Marx discussed.

  3. Although it’s not been declared we’re at war with Pakistan they were harboring Bin Ladin. They started this war. I think instead of the drone attacks swept under the rug declare it for what it is: war

    How is condemning monsters our fault too?

    1. Thanks for commenting. I think the problem with the US drone strikes against Pakistan is that the US has not sought UN Security Council approval. It’s against international law to bomb other countries without this. For example, Russia’s invasion of Crimea was illegal because they didn’t get UNSC approval.

      Apart from this, the standard that any country that harbors terrorists should be bombed is a standard unique to the United States and its allies. Furthermore, the United States would never accept such a standard. There are many Cuban terrorists and Cuban terrorist groups living in Florida.

      Since 1960 they have carried out approximately 800 documented terrorist attacks in Cuba, many of them supported by the CIA. Yet I doubt any reasonable person in the US would say this gives Cuba the right to bomb South Beach.

      Bin Laden was a major criminal and his crimes definitely deserved to be punished but bombing civilians with predator drones is not the proper response to this. In fact, drone strikes have encouraged many Pakistanis to join militant groups opposing US power. Force should always be a last option when all peaceful solutions have been exhausted. I don’t think the US ever tried a peaceful solution.

      Also nothing’s wrong with condemning Boko Haram. Everyone should. I just think US officials should be as consistent as possible in their condemnations. This means taking responsibility for their own crimes and condemning the crimes of the Nigerian military.

    2. I find American people’s attitudes very appalling as you have every justification to drone my country and beascially you condemn us as monsters and terrorists. I hope you can sleep well in your peaceful bed while having your hands red with blood of the innocent people killed in those drone dtrikes.
      Ask Bush and for that matter Obama, Kennedy as how OBL came into being, instead of blaming us and frankly ignorance really does not do nothing expect bring war and hatred.

      1. I wasn’t calling the Pakistan people monsters, I was calling the Boku Harem.

        I don’t like drones, no one does. There should be an open declaration of war or just espionage and assissination instead.

        But they are not there not there for no reason. The Pakistan government did this to your country, they are to blame as well as America. They hid Bin Ladin for years, an act of war that is reaping consequences. Unfortunately now innocents are suffering.

      2. I should add that the Pakistan government did not do anything to the United States. Pakistan has never bombed the United States. Sheltering Bin Laden, while bad, did no harm to the United States. At the time Bin Laden was killed he wasn’t even operational.

      3. Yes, I am in agreement however I hardly find many Americans stating what you are saying here, I fully blame our own role in the fiasco of current terrorism because at end of day I pick the broken pieces of innocent civilians destroyed by drones and Talibans.
        For being who I am and my beliefs in human rights, I have and continue to suffer in ways you and thousands other won’t ever know or hear of.
        Don’t get me wrong, I am no victim even if my government and Western Imperialization wants to make victim out of me (poor- brown Muslim women syndrome) but I go on doing what I have to do despite hurdles and racial profiling and am the first one to not just accept blame but also pin point it in my journalism work and if you wish to see the evidence take a look at
        Thank you once again for your response and also your acknowledgement that wars are not good. As far as OBL is concerned, I won’t comment or argue because I realize what your media and government is portraying there, so you are also suffering from the situation where you don’t know the real truth.

      4. I have taken some time to think on this comment. As a matter of fact I do not sleep soundly. I do not live a life blissfully unaware of the violence being perpetrated on your people and by your people or those people who are terrorists that have gone to your country and know claim they are “Pakistani” to divert attention. I have no doubt that the “terrorists” that found sanctuary in Pakistan, Syria and other countries did not just go there and stop doing whatever they were doing. They did not.

        As far as Bush is concerned I did not agree with his going after Sadaam (Sorry sp?) However, when the World Trade Center was attacked and with the continued threats since that time that basically state they want to see all Americans dead and with no action from the Musliam/Islam community to curb the terrorist themselves (even the ones in our own country who claim they are U.S Citizens) what choice do “I” as an American feel is left to us. Do I want to see my children and grandchildren dead, killed for simply being an American Christian? No more than you want to see that happen to you own family or those you love.

        If the Pakistani people really wish this to stop then stop the terrorists yourselves. I for one and many others in America would love to stop all of this fighting, hatred and war. It is not the attitudes of the American people that we want War or bloodshed. Our press does not actually speak for all of us. And while we try to have a government that speaks for us, often after being elected to office our “fearless” leaders tend to forget who elected them in the first place.

        What is monstrous that we as human beings cannot learn to take control of our own lives and our own destinies. America has it’s faults, but it is still a country where there is freedom of speech. Take it to the people. Educate them and let them know what the truth really is. There are many of us who would not agree with any of the agendas that Xavierobrien has brought up. It breaks my heart as an American and as a human being if it is true.

      5. Yes, I am in agreement with you that wars and hatted created by distorted realities and hoaxes like we all are part of unfortunately do create huge drifts.
        I must say I have heard very few Americans having opinions such as your’s and believe me when I say this because I have worked with your troops in both Afghanistan and Pakistan on humanitarian missions as well as with American reporters and I could see their inner struggle because probably they like me or us, Pkaistanis are tired of war and war.
        I am so glad also to hear that you are aware that your press is not speaking for the whole American nation. It would be of interest to you to know that after Pakistan was born, the first man to go on a Full Bright Scholarship was my grand father and what I learned from his about the greatness of America is so contrary to what I am experiencing since 2 decades.
        As a human rights journalist, I take responsibility towards humanity as I have seen on the forward post what the hell is a war, like. Yes I suffer a lot because of who I am and for what I believe in but I will not stop writing and exposing all sides of this global conspiracy against humanity to divide us and destroy us.
        I also think American nation has to pressure its governments to stop the eradication of the great land, America and the core foundations, you and your people must play your roles as your lives are also at a grave risk here. If you ever would like to see what I do, please feel free to check out
        Thanks again and I must again thank you for these reflections and your candidness that was very thoughtful towards myself and Pakistan.

      6. @pavanneh:Thanks for reading the article and your detailed response. I’d like to comment on just a few things you have stated. In one part of your comment you suggest that it is the responsibility of Muslims and the Islamic community as a whole (even in the United States) to curb international terrorism.

        I disagree. Even though many terrorists use the language and iconography of Islam to justify their crimes it has long been acknowledged, even by the US government, that political grievances lie at the root of the widespread discontent in many Muslim majority countries with regard to the US. Historically, the US has backed tyrannical governments throughout the Middle East that have worked vigorously to deny their populations basic human rights. Examples are abundant from the Saudi monarchy, to the Shah in Iran to Mubarak in Egypt and Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen.

        Some years ago, during the Bush administration, The Pentagon’s Defense Science Board released a report examining the roots of terrorism in the Middle East. The conclusion that they arrived at was that these groups resort to violence because they vehemently oppose certain US policies, not because they have some innate hatred of Christians. Of course retaliating by killing civilians, Americans or non-Americans, is plainly illegitimate but it’s important that we understand these political roots of terrorism. Otherwise we run the risk of making broad generalizations that expose innocent people different forms of violence and discrimination.

        I also should note that many of the victims of terrorism in Pakistan are people with little to no institutional power. Many of them live in North Waziristan. We can’t urge them to stop terrorism when the US continues to bomb their communities accelerating the threat of terrorism. In fact there are examples of Pakistanis who have worked hard to stop terrorism but their efforts are being ignored or undermined by the US. Malala Yousafzai’s suggestion to Obama is one example. Another example is a 16 year old anti-drone activist named Tariq Aziz who was killed in a US drone strike after working with UK human rights organization Reprieve.

        The Peshawar High Court in Pakistan also passed a ruling condemning drone strikes as a violation of Pakistani sovereignty. All of these are very constructive and non-violent ways of dealing with terrorism. Malala was correct when she said drones “fuel terrorism.” Terrorism should be combated whenever it arises but aggressive war does nothing to eliminate terrorism. It only encourages it.

      7. I find your assumption that the American people approve the destructive use of drones. As you may have noticed, we the people don’t have much say within the powers that be. We are bewitched by distractions and our returning military are demonized as home terrorist when they oppose our leaders tyrannical ways.

        You my friend need to sit further back from the Monitor and see the truth for what it is. 300 million have been held hostage by 500.

      8. I made these assumptions because lately that’s all I hear from American civilians, perhaps I should not have jumped to think that all the Americans think alike.
        I understand what you are saying and I do relate to the reference of hostage, but am quite further than the monitor and work on the front lines of the war and humanitarian crisis in Pakistan and that is not exactly a bed of roses either. I believe all governments have failed us, otherwise we were not in this situation. If you do wish to see what I bring from the front lines, check at Thank you once more for taking the time to give me feedback and yes I have taken your points very well.

      9. Thank you for being so honest and understanding. It is true, some American Civilians (especially the ones in the business of war) will gladly give their approvals for a very hideous act of espionage.

        I spent 6.5 years in the Navy as a Corpsman, and went to Iraq when we invaded a sovereign nation. I understand the nature of the insidious beast and its terrifying that we let so few people dictate the rulings of our nation, and at the expense of lives all over the planet.

        Hopefully it will give you great peace to know MANY of us are fighting the good fight against arrogant, xenophobic ignorance. You are a well of insight being so close to the truth, and perhaps I should spend more time…closer to the monitor seeing the further tragedies being subjected on our familial planet.

        Your companion in peace.

  4. I just don’t understand what Michelle Obama means by “bring back our girls.” They are not her girls. They are not American citizens. She did not raise them. She does not even know them. In what respect are they “hers?” I fully understand what is being suggested but find the presentation and wording to be very suspect.

    Bigger point: What exactly does “Hashtag activism” accomplish? The Kony thing really did a lot of good. Why don’t people get off their laptops and start a petition or go door to door? What does posting on the internet do? I fear it’s become a “trendy” thing now. There’s a disconnect between genuinely trying to accomplish something and doing “the cool thing.”

    That’s my rant for today. Sorry if I rubbed anyone the wrong way. Just my two cents.

  5. Well..Why US condemn terrorism everywhere and support it in Syria?? Also 200 hundred Nigerian girls were kidnapped and same second everyone around the world hear about it.. Did you hear about thousands of women who were kidnapped and raped by terrorist Mr Obama supporting in Syria? Did you hear about the 7 years old baby hostage?? About the hundreds of families who vanished in one night by the hands of terrorists ? What would be the greatest massacre in modern history you didn’t even hear about.. You should start thinking why?

  6. As bad as Bush’s policies were, he went to UN before Iraq and he received approval for the use of force from Congress. Obama has done none of that. He has a kill list where he alone authorizes the assassination of anyone any where in the world that he deems to be a threat to the US or its interests. This includes the assassination of US citizens in foreign countries without trial or judicial review. It is astonishing to me that there are still people who would defend him let alone praise him.

    As far as I know we have had one success story in Africa. Under Bush, we made significant strides in the battle against AIDS. That does nothing to counter the damage we have done or the atrocities we have watched and done nothing to stop.

    1. Great points. I think much of the praise that President Obama gets despite the crimes that you have pointed out can largely be attributed to partisanship. An ABC News poll was released in 2012 that showed 77% of self-identified liberals supported drone strikes. Figures like this would have been unimaginable under the Bush administration. There’s really a sharp continuity between Democratic and Republican administrations on “national security” issues. Due to this consensus among the powerful, it doesn’t receive much mainstream media attention, except within strict ideological limits (i.e. discussing drone strikes when they kill Americans but not non-Americans). I think opposition to Obama’s policies would be more widespread were it not for this deeply entrenched partisan culture.

      1. I think you’re exactly right which makes the state of the country all the more depressing. Democracy depends on an informed and conscious electorate. With so many people simply following partisan dictates, I fear for our future.

  7. What I see though in Nigeria’s current situation, is hope. If we can get past this, for once we’ll get past our religious and ethnic bias and behave like a nation. But with all these foreign ‘help’ one can only wonder what the conditions are for military support. Our military is already beginning to open fire at one another, the Americans are claiming the Nigerian army are offering resistance to tfinding the girls..
    We have lost lives-children and adults for 5years now. Boys were killed in their beds in school. Girls have been kidnapped from their villages for months.
    We are so quick to forget! Now Shekau is banking on the abduction of over 200 girls to fulfill whatever evil he has cooked up in his rotten mind. And what’s worse is our conviction that the people behind this act are part of our government and of course help from the in tree rnational community…if conspiracy theories are anything to go by.

    But tell America and the rest of the world that Nigerians are a tough nut to crack. We have survived everything, and if this is some cheap trick to steep up into neo-colonialism, we’ll fight it too.

    Pardon me if this is a bit erratic and offensive; I am a pained citizen.

    Thank you for wroting about this.

    1. I wish there was something that I could say that would be wise and a cure all, but all I can say is I deeply wish things were better there. I wish when we elect a president he truly represented all the people in this country and our attitudes. As a whole we do not want war and violence and I wonder about the sanity of anyone who does. Why can’t there ever be an easy answer?

  8. All this because United STATES want to move ahead with its United States controlled African Region so crying out loud bring back our girls is so ludicrous because actually the US establishments murdered millions of innocent girls in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and also elsewhere.
    Saving the native women as an excuse to wag wars is getting really old story here. I am afraid for those girls and their safety and the Western attention that is coming out of this incident.

  9. We are still praying that these girls will be brought back to their mums. I dont know what i would do if my boy was taken away from…

  10. Xavier Great post.
    Many of the issues were created by American Government’s self interest policies. America planted the seeds of terrorism in the world and it faced the consequences, the government thinks only American citizens are humans and citizens of other nations are cats and dogs.
    Holding a press conference or holding a slogan in hand wouldn’t solve this issue, but they should review foreign policy and make extensive changes.

    1. Thanks for reading. You are quite right about the culture of indifference that prevails at the highest levels of power in the US government. John Tirman wrote a great book on this called The Death of Others. It’s ingrained in American foreign policy to act as a hegemonic power. They are no different from the former British Empire in this respect. I also agree that terrorism should be dealt with by addressing its root causes. This would mean abandoning US goals of global dominance and adopting a more cooperative foreign policy. The Obama administration isn’t heading in this direction at all. In fact, he’s advanced some of the Bush administration’s most grotesque abuses of power. The only thing that I think can reverse this trend is popular opposition.

  11. Well said sir. I pray that the girls are returned home. People with power will always be tempted to use tragedies and atrocities for their own ends while they claim they are doing some good. I have not met too many people who prefer consistency in their own lives… and people are the ones who go in and out of power.

  12. It took me awhile of reading and rereading your main post and subsequent posts for me to “Like” your post. And the fact that it made me so angry at first got me to thinking. I love my country, but I cannot deny that our government does not always act in the best interest of the world. I have to admit that I do not follow the happenings in Africa as much as other places. But, then I have stopped listening to the news for the most part because I feel it is all lies and propaganda any way depending on your viewpoint. I love my country and I still feel that this country has the capacity to do great things with the right leader. Do I think Obama is that leader, No. No more than I thought either Bush was. No country, no government is going to be perfect. In today’s world climate even if we had a completely pacifist leader and we pulled back to isolationism and withdrew our forces from every corner. There would still be war and violence and hatred based on various differences of culture and religion.

    And then the criticism would start. “Where is the U.S.? Why aren’t they doing anything? Why aren’t they saying anything?” That has happened before. Then we get involved and we are the devil incarnate.

    In no way am I saying we are perfect. I have no doubt our government is doing shady things, downright wrong things. So are other countries. There are countries that should have stepped up and taken care of the fanatical factions of Islam, but didn’t. There are countries that need to deal with the violence in their own countries and on their own terms. Will terrible things happen? Will people still die even if the U.S. is not involved? Yes they will.

    Do we as Americans have our own issues of violence and the potential of terrorism within our own borders? Yes we do. We are not immune to religious and ideological fanatics. Look at the Oklahoma City bombing. But, we took care of it ourselves. For the moment at least.

    Thank you for your thought provoking post. I just do not believe laying all the blame on the United States is a good thing. We may have our hand on the spoon stirring the pot, but each nation in that pot still has the ability to determine it’s own fate. I may be naive’ and I sure that I am, but I believe with posts like yours and really educating the public with facts, not propaganda (Not saying that anything you posted was), that more and more of the American people would protest what is going on. We need another power to the people movement. Maybe that would get things going in the right direction.

    1. I’ll probably be hung by my toenails for saying this…but where is it our business as a country to get involved? We’ve got enough problems with our own sex/slave trafficking here in the states. And we do nothing about it here. Its obvious this will be used as fodder to feed the war beast.

  13. I find her holding that sign like she’s a ‘common American’ speaking out on injustice disgusting. She’s placating to the popular assumption that we are all ignoramuses.

  14. “It is widely conceded that the popular base of Boko Haram is a response to severe economic inequality”. Strange how the “response to economic inequality” consistently manifests itself as mass murder and abductions in one identifiable part of the world while other dirt poor regions like Haiti, Zimbabwe or Cambodia suffer through inequality without resorting to terrorism. There is another factor that turns “inequality” or anything at all into extreme violence here as it does in Somalia, Sudan and Afghanistan and that essential catalyst is Islam. The evidence is as plain as the name of the terror organization. “Boko Haram” is actually “Jama’tu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad” –“ People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”.

    1. I disagree that Islam is the “essential catalyst” for these acts of terrorism. There are other examples of terrorism being carried out in response to economic exploitation. Maoists in India are engaged in a guerrilla war against the Indian state because they are exploited and oppressed by the Indian state. The FARC rebels in Colombia is another example. They have carried out kidnappings and trafficked drugs in response to the socioeconomic exploitation they face.

      Boko Haram is just one example of many others of how certain groups resort to violence and terror when they are either unwilling or unable to deal with these problems in a non-violent way. I am not making the argument that these responses are legitimate. I am simply explaining what motivates terrorist groups to take these actions.

      By the way, I didn’t say the terror of Boko Haram was a response to economic inequality. I said the popular base for Boko Haram, a fact John Campbell acknowledged, was a result of this inequality. It’s the severe poverty of northern Nigeria that has created some areas of support for Boko Haram. These supporters aren’t necessarily violent.

      1. Xavier, you bring up 2 good examples of non-Islamist terror groups but frankly the pickings outside of the Muslim world are really slim. The fact is that most groups who resort to violence and terror today are Islamic. There are undoubtedly many problems in the Philippines but the violent terror group spawned there is Muslim – the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. In the tropical paradise of Thailand, a grinding Islamic insurgency rages on but, I’m sure much to the surprise of the “Pentagon’s Defense Science Board”, with no US meddling present to galvanize hatred of the locals. Further west (but still far from the US) Kashmiri Muslims continue their decades old insurgency. Poverty, inequality can’t possibly explain their eagerness to leave behind the relative prosperity and good governance of India in favour of blasphemy laws and the Taliban’s reign of terror in the failed state of Pakistan.

        It seems to me that even without the “overwhelming negative force of the US”, all that it takes for terror and violence to coalesce in society is Islam. Bringbackourgirls but don’t stop until the Islamists are expelled to the whichever Sharia state will take them.

      2. Since I have already made my point of view on Islam and how I don’t think it’s related to the proliferation of terrorism I won’t reiterate it. I do think your characterization of India as a place of “good governance” is incorrect though. Though there are examples of terrorism being carried out by Kashmiris, the Indian state and its paramilitary allies have engaged in far more terrorism.

        If you ever get a chance to read the writings of Arundhati Roy you’ll notice that the Indian state has being carrying out a brutal counterinsurgency campaign called Operation Green Hunt. They are targeting mostly indigenous populations to seize control of their mineral resources, bauxite and to construct huge dams. The state also backed a violent pogrom against the Muslim community in Gujarat in 2002. 2000 people were murdered in this pogrom. Narenda Modi, the recently elected Prime Minister, was a major supporter of this atrocity.

        India is also plagued with devastating poverty. Though there are very wealthy people in Delhi, other parts of India, Chhattisgarh for example, are extremely impoverished. Current statistics show that more people in India are living in poverty than all of sub-Saharan Africa combined. Malnutrition is also severe. So to say that India is a place of “good governance” or a place of “relative prosperity” is simply untrue. This is especially apparent in Kashmir where as late as 2009 mass graves were discovered, the consequence of murders carried out by the Indian state.

        I wrote about this some years ago. Here’s the link:

    2. I don’t believe that it is truly “islam” that is the problem. It is people using “Islam” as a shield of sorts, like the Catholic Church/Monarchies in Europe used the “Promotion of the Christian Religion” to justify their horrible crimes and push for power and dominance. The Crusades were an economic war shrouded in the cloak of Religious War. And I have a feeling it is the same for the “Islamic” fanatics. Are they truly Islamic/Muslim or do they use the religion as a cloak/justification for what they do. The Catholic Church as a power was against the education of the common man. The reason for this was that it is easier to take and coerce a person when they are uneducated, hungry and “brainwashed” into believing that the “mission” of the Church and to “crush the infidel” was necessary for their salvation. It happens today in some of our more marginal “Christian” institutions here and elsewhere. Is Boko Haram truly Muslim/Islamic? Perhaps in his mind, but I have my doubts.

      1. Pavanneh, you question whether these “Islamic” fanatics are truly Muslim/Islamic or whether they are using Islam as a “shield” to pursue their own agenda. Long before progressive folks stopped listening to the news (because it’s all lies and propaganda) and started instead to base their world view on wishful thinking, Boko Haram laid out its goals for the world to see.Its goal is to establish a fully Islamic state in Nigeria including the implementation of criminal sharia courts across the country. Islam is not incidental but rather central to Boko Haram.

  15. What’s the truth is not known, often hidden under extreme seclusion and prejudice. It’s the time of a vivid uprising everywhere towards consciousness and freedom, towards the uplifting of the will and the valor of common men!

  16. I don’t know enough about any of this stuff to really comment, but I find this post thought-provoking. And on the positive side, the fact that people are even talking about these issues has to be a good thing. What percentage of members of the public would have been earnestly discussing these kinds of things 200 years ago?

    1. That is absolutely true. There have been strides in society and culture. There are advantages to technology in that more information is available out there. Both good and bad, but it has made the world more aware. The raising of human consciousness is needed.

  17. I wish these girls are returned in the next moment. Sadly the government must now either do a prisoner swap or a military rescue. Either way it does not look good.

    I wish to say Boko Haram do not represent Muslims. They represent idiots.

  18. The kidnapping of the girls has prompted a viral Internet campaign on their behalf, with people around the world taking to Twitter and other social media to demand the return of the girls to their families.
    With all the issues we have going on in Africa right now fighting poverty, this type of behavior should be very disappointing for all of us.

  19. The combination of politics and the exploitation of natural resources in Africa is one hot mess. And I am certainly not smart enough to offer any solutions. But these are little girls that have been taken and the idea that they will be sold or given into marital rape is horrific. We should do what we can for these children because it’s the right thing to do.

  20. @pavenneh Every country has it’s religious nut-balls. We have those re-re’s at Westboro and few other places. There’s not 2 cents worth of difference between them other than location and beards. You can bet your bippy that they would make us wear bags over our heads, too, if they could get away with it in the USA. The difference is that when they try that BS here, most people either ridicule them or ignore them. Seriously, if Abubakar Shekau honestly thinks that Allah told him to kidnap those girls, he’s lost his mind. He needs an I-love-me jacket and LOOOTS of medication and ever to be let loose again. Look at Oral Roberts and many other famous “evangelists” who claimed to have spoken to God. We tend not to put a lot of stock on those folks in the US.

  21. I cannot reblog this because it does not fit into the theme of my blog (I am trying to refrain from political posts), but I am copying it and using it elsewhere, giving you full credit. This is a beautifully written post about the painful truths about political gain at the expense of innocent lives. Thank you for posting.

  22. The history and present state of the USA people and government speaks for itself. Starving, dying, and a government (even that is a hypocritical word for it) that gives a damn in the media and bank only about itself and banking. I’m American and traveled to the UK with my Brit husband where I received medical treatment, and with respect from day 2 there after having waited 4 years here in the states and gotten no help. Old story… yes I know the UK isn’t great either but my being here, writing this speaks volumes. Great blog by the way. 🙂

    1. Thanks for reading. I appreciate it. And I agree that the healthcare system in the US is an international scandal. Almost every other industrial nation in the world has some form of national healthcare. The late Tony Benn once said that most of the world looks at the US healthcare system as “uncivilized.” I think this is probably one of the more polite ways of describing it.

  23. Wonderful, insightful, realistic look at U.S. history and the – sorry to say it – selfish tendencies of many well-respected members of society. Thanks for reminding us that there’s always room for improvement, and for creating a place (this blog) on your own time where truth reigns over politics and sophistry.

  24. @xavieroben, I’m still not sure the point in this blog. Is this just another expression of discontent with America, it’s leadership and people? Is it an apology for Boko Haram? Or merely a random purposeless muting? In my opinion, America care so much about its people and wants to be seen as extending that beyond its shores. Africa and Nigeria in particular is not concerned or at least pretend not to. What I did not also get from your arguments is if the hatred for western education (meaning of Boko Haram) is not sufficient argument for the over 50% unemployment in northern Nigeria. Again, is unemployment a measure of development by sharia standards? Why do you use a western measure for a completely different culture? Northern Nigeria measures development by sharia law and by that standard they are miles well off than the south. As the Brit wrote earlier history as always told is a journey along the path the historian threads. If you are an activist (and not a historian) make some effort to create a balanced opinion and let your readers judge for themselves. It is far more honourable!

    1. I have no idea where you would get the impression that this is an “apology for Boko Haram.” Can you point to one passage that gave you this idea. I thought I made it pretty clear in my article that it was not a justification of Boko Haram. For example, I write the following:

      “Many would dismiss these observations as a ‘justification’ of Boko Haram’s crimes but it’s quite the opposite. The crimes of the Nigerian state, amply documented by reputable organizations like Human Rights Watch, have done far more to strengthen the arguments of Boko Haram than any analyst ever could.”

      You are doing precisely this when you suggest this article is, in any way, an “apology for Boko Haram.” Also when you say “America cares so much about its people,” who exactly are you referring to? The population, the state or corporate power? Because I think it’s pretty obvious the state or their main corporate constituents care very little about the American people. This can be perceived in the widening economic gap, the public’s exclusion from the political process and the deployment of American s in aggressive wars that have nothing to do with “defense” in any meaningful sense of the word.

      Also I didn’t make any reference to “western” education at all in my essay. I merely pointed out how the United States is unconcerned with promoting education of young girls abroad. I used the example of Barack Obama’s drone policy to illustrate my point. I also said nothing about sharia law in my article. If you have sources which show that, as you say, “Northern Nigeria measures development by sharia law,” please feel free to share those sources with me. I haven’t come across any in my research that made this assertion.

      Lastly, I disagree with the idea that I should aiming for a “balanced opinion.” You might have noticed but my primary objective in this article was to criticize the United States for exploiting this tragedy for their own ends. I could easily criticize Boko Haram as mass murderers. This is extremely easy. As an American citizen I think it’s most important that I criticize the policies of my own government. This is what honest people do. Furthermore, I can actually influence policy somewhat of my own government. No matter how outraged I may be about Boko Haram’s crimes I can do very little to affect their actions.

      This brings me to the purpose of this blog. I formed this blog to inform mostly US citizens about the crimes that their government is engaging in. I do this because I think this is essential in a democratic society. Unless people are informed they can’t make decisions to act against injustice. If I lived in Russia the blog would be about Russian crimes. If I lived in Nigeria it would be about Nigerian crimes. These are issues I think every American should be concerned about. To suggest it is just “random purposeless muting” is not only dismissive but it ignores the fact that every positive change in the US came about through sustained criticism of power structures as they existed at different times in US history. If this is not “honourable” then I think we really should reevaluate that which we feel is worth honoring.

      1. Xavier, thanks for the response yo my comment. It is OK to criticise your government with the purpose of inducing change at least in the minds of Americans. You have written to the american people from a global space. This should at least have informed the need to present a more balanced approach. From the perspective of a Nigerian you have merely used a subject which alien from you to anchor your criticism of your government. What if I suggest to you that Nigerians like me do appreciate this (with respect to Boko Haram) benevolence of the American foreign policy, would that change your opinion of your state? You apologise for Boko Haram when you attempted to highlight injustices against northerners in Nigeria. If western education is sin, then 50% unemployment should be a welcome consequence. What I tried to point out is that northern Nigerian states are advancing a culture antithetical to western civilisation. To then say that they are impoverished rather by the Nigerian state and US foreign policy is clearly wide of the mark. We Nigerians prefer to ignore Boko Haram in spite of its death toll. It is western ideals that brought Michelle and Barack into this campaign against Boko Haram. Their late response has widely been criticised by people like you in US and UK. In that sense using the Boko Haram incidence to argue a case against American foreign policy is outright hypocricy.

      2. You ask “What if I suggest to you that Nigerians like me do appreciate this (with respect to Boko Haram) benevolence of the American foreign policy, would that change your opinion of your state?” If you could provide me with evidence of American benevolence I would change my opinion. If you have any evidence of this benevolence feel free to provide it.

        Also simply explaining the injustices against Nigerians in the north is not the same as apologizing for Boko Haram. Notice I quoted John Campbell to support my commentary on this injustice. Campbell was the former US ambassador to Nigeria. Was John Campbell also apologizing for Boko Haram? If so, why would the US appoint an ambassador to Nigeria who apologizes for terrorist groups?

        This argument that explaining the roots of terrorism is a justification of terrorism is a regular tactic to shut down critical thinking. It happens in the US regularly whenever someone tries to point out how oppressive US policies in the Middle East generate terrorism there. Terrorism doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There are always precipitating causes. People who are seriously interested in stopping terrorism investigate the causes. They don’t ignore them.

        I also disagree that it is hypocrisy to argue against intervention. Hypocrisy is when one refuses to apply standards to themselves that they regularly apply to others. I do not do this. I think the crimes of Boko Haram should be condemned in the same way the crimes of the US should be condemned. This is why I compared Boko Haram’s crimes to President Obama’s crimes in my article. This was done explicitly to combat the kind of hypocrisy that is very common in US media discourse on this topic.

        Lastly, I strongly disagree that it is “western ideals” that motivated President Obama to take action against Nigeria. These “western ideals” don’t exist. This is why the US supports dictatorships throughout the Gulf from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain. People who have genuine ideals are consistent. They don’t invoke them whenever it’s most advantageous to their power. There’s a long record of crimes to support this assertion.

      3. I dislike argument for the sake of it. Evidence of American benevolence? Given your current disposition it doesn’t appear you will be willing to accept one. In the first instance, you first instance you make me believe that benevolence is about giving but receiving nothing. I do not know of anyone human or God that gives without receiving. We all give for our personal interest whether that interest is material gain or emotional or spiritual wellbeing. Get that wrong and you’ll be stuck in a spiral of one criticism after another. Get it right and western ideals will become clearer to you. Drones cost money to build. If they’ll be deployed to bring back nigerian girls what is wrong if nigerian oil pays for the bills?
        Should it ever be the west that should provide benevolence? When are we going to see middle east, Africa and Asia coming to help America? At least then we can see benevolence in the light that you want us to see it.
        It is not the many references that justify a cause. This is a form of appeal to perceived ‘authority’ which is always invoked to shut people’s mouth. It is hardly different from history, you tell it the way you see it.

      4. Simply assuming I won’t accept evidence of American “benevolence”, and using this as pretext for not providing any, only strengthens my argument. It makes it look as though you don’t have any evidence. I’m not saying the US is uniquely villainous, although it does possess more means of violence than any other state (this is statistically verifiable). I’m simply saying that states, in their nature, are not benevolent agents. They are power systems and they act to enhance their own power.

        People, on the other hand, can be extremely benevolent and I think there are innumerable examples of American citizens who are benevolent. Their goals often conflict very sharply with the goals of the state. I think this is where our support should lie, with courageous people and popular movements, not state power.

        I think what the people in Nigeria are doing to bring awareness to the crimes of Boko Haram is very courageous. This is the main reason why I’m against US military intervention. I think it will only make their struggle more difficult. Your question “when are we going to see middle east, Africa and Asia coming to help America,” is a bit insulting.

        One, it suggests that the problems that Americans face is remotely comparable to the problems many in the Middle East face (legacies of dictatorships, torture, famine, genocide, occupation, health crises, infrastructure destruction, etc.) Secondly, this question ignores the fact that the US has owed, for a very long time, massive reparations to the Middle East for destroying it. In Iraq the US killed 500,000 children under Bill Clinton’s sanctions.

        There is also a severe cancer crisis in Fallujah due to the US use of depleted uranium munitions throughout Iraq. Deformed babies are being born in Fallujah general hospital to this day. So to ask why the Middle East isn’t helping America is alot like asking why India didn’t help colonial Britain during the 1920s. The US dominates these regions of the world so most of the countries in these regions don’t have the capability to help the US nor the responsibility (which can’t be said for the US in many parts of the world.)

        This invocation of humanitarian intervention is a property of power. Only powerful states get to make this claim and be taken seriously. There’s a long history of this as well. Colonial Britain made the same arguments for their expansion of power.

      5. Xavier, I’m interested in knowing who those benevolent Americans are. Could you name a few. Im very sure they will fit into some form of description that closely will mirror what you think of the the American state. The rich are ‘colonialist’ of a sort. They are so powerful, they take hostage of the poor! The tea party people, the anti-gun law lobbyist are philanthropists and benevolent god-masters. They take with one hand and give with the other. This is universal phenomenon and by no means can you persuade the knowledgeable in this matter. As Britain was, so is America and Russia today. China is very much on the trail too.
        Powerful men and states have whole lot to give back in reparation. Germany to all the world. America to Hiroshima, Japan to China, Anglo-america to Africa. Personal interest and self preservation is natural to all. Why make a fuss about America with a wrong prwmise? My argument is, Boko Haram is not the product of injustice. It is the creation of its adherents. Neither the nigerian state nor US should be blamed. These both are benevolent spirits wanting to save a people lost in outdated self-destructive ideology.
        About insult? To who? You? Nothing in my text suggests that.

      6. First off, I should note that I was saying that your comment was a bit insulting to the victims of US militarism in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. To suggest that the people in these regions of the world aren’t helping the US because they lack “western ideals” ignores the fact that the “west” has, for decades, militarily dominated these areas of the world. It also ignores the enormous debt that the “west” owes many countries in this region because of the devastating consequences of these policies.

        As for the benevolent Americans I was referring to there are many examples. Some of them are individuals in my personal life who involve themselves to better their community and form bonds of solidarity with those abroad. Other examples include people like Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Cornel West, Angela Davis, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, etc. It is true that these people share many of the same beliefs that I have.

        Another person who I look at as a benevolent American who is universally revered today but was reviled during his life is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He famously said that America was “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” No one today would say Dr. King was “justifying” the killing of American soldiers in Vietnam when he said this. In fact, it’s interesting to look back at how some of the American press responded to King’s criticism of US state terror. It’s not that much different from your response to my article.

        The Washington Post said King’s anti-war activism “diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people.” Time magazine called the speech “demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi.” King was also deeply critical of US support for French colonialism in Vietnam. It’s in this tradition that I write my criticism. It has nothing to do with myths like “western ideals” and American benevolence. These ideologies only create barriers to a more peaceful world.

  25. Great post and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. You have no idea how glad I am that someone is talking about this BH issue the way you have. I would also like to say that I am Muslim by choice and there is no where were Islam supports terrorism or violence the way the world portrays it. BH Is in no way Islamic. It’s funny how other terrorists aren’t tagged with their religions except when they are Muslim. It is even more hilarious that the US like to make things seem like Islam = terror. Plus it is obvious that the US never does anything just for the sake of. I just hope that things do not get more out of hand here. If they really wanted to help us, the girls would have been found by now. If they really wanted to help, we would have made farther progress. What exactly is a Hash tag going to do? Awareness has been created. Let’s move on. Let’s do something. It’s pretty stupid that the laws and power of a nation is placed in the hands of people that won’t be affected when things go wrong. We should do something, take action. I don’t know how but something positive needs to happen, and fast.

  26. Nothing new is under the sun.
    They want the land and not the people so they’re using AFRICOM to cause wars. Which will bring ‘blood’ money to the elite. The war on terror is a sham. Look at the Middle East, Sudan etc.
    Hegemony-imperalist construct, Africa don’t need the West anyways. Now they’re broke they’re using it as a scapegoat,


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