Hillary Clinton’s State Dept. Blocked Terrorist Designation for Boko Haram
By Andrew C. McCarthy
May 8, 2014 11:28 AM
“We must stand up to terrorism,” bleated Hillary Clinton a few days ago in a tweet expressing outrage against Boko Haram, the jihadist organization that has abducted hundreds of young girls in Nigeria. Yet, when she was actually in a position to stand up to Boko Haram’s terrorism as secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton instead protected the group.
At the Daily Beast, Josh Rogin reports:
The State Department under Hillary Clinton fought hard against placing the al Qaeda-linked militant group Boko Haram on its official list of foreign terrorist organizations for two years. And now, lawmakers and former U.S. officials are saying that the decision may have hampered the American government’s ability to confront the Nigerian group that shocked the world by abducting hundreds of innocent girls.
While Mrs. Clinton now issues indignant tweets, Mr. Rogin elaborates on her failure to mention
that her own State Department refused to place Boko Haram on the list of foreign terrorist organizations in 2011, after the group bombed the UN headquarters in Abuja. The refusal came despite the urging of the Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA, and over a dozen Senators and Congressmen.
“The one thing she could have done, the one tool she had at her disposal, she didn’t use. And nobody can say she wasn’t urged to do it. It’s gross hypocrisy,” said a former senior U.S. official who was involved in the debate. “The FBI, the CIA, and the Justice Department really wanted Boko Haram designated, they wanted the authorities that would provide to go after them, and they voiced that repeatedly to elected officials.”
In May 2012, then-Justice Department official Lisa Monaco (now at the White House) wrote to the State Department to urge Clinton to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. The following month, Gen. Carter Ham, the chief of U.S. Africa Command, said that Boko Haram provided a “safe haven” for al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and was likely sharing explosives and funds with the group. And yet, Hillary Clinton’s State Department still declined to place Boko Haram on its official terrorist roster.
As Mr. Rogin further details, placing an organization on the terrorist list enables the government to use various investigative tools for law-enforcement and intelligence-gathering purposes. It also squeezes the organization by criminalizing the provision of material support to it and the conduct of business with it.
After numerous Boko Haram atrocities, Republicans attempted to force Secretary Clinton to designate the group or explain why she refused to do so. The State Department heavily lobbied against the legislation. Only after John Kerry replaced Clinton, and after a series of jihadist bombings against churches and other targets, did the State Department finally relent and add Boko Haram to the terrorist list last November.
The excuses now being offered in explanation of Clinton’s dereliction are specious. As Rogin explains, Clinton’s State Department claimed that Boko Haram was merely a local group with parochial grievances that was not a threat to the United States. Have a look, though, at the State Department’s list, here. Several of the listed groups are waging local terrorist campaigns that do not threaten our country—the Basque ETA, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Real Irish Republican Army, etc. A significant reason for having the list is to promote international cooperation against terrorism and discourage its use against anyone anywhere. The fact that a terrorist organization may have only local grievances and may not directly imperil the U.S. has never been thought a reason to exclude it from the list.
Fox News has further reported another rationale of Clinton apologists: Hillary did not want to raise Boko Haram’s profile and assist its recruiting which, they reason, would be the effect of designation by the Great Satan. That is ridiculous. The main point of having the list, and the sanctions that accompany a terrorist designation, is to weaken the organization by depriving it of assets and material support. The logic of what Clinton supporters are claiming is that U.S. counterterrorism law — much of which was put in place by the administration of President Bill Clinton — does more harm than good. Does anyone think they really believe that?
What happened here is obvious, although the commentariat is loath to connect the dots. Boko Haram is an Islamic-supremacist organization. Mrs. Clinton, like the Obama administration more broadly, believes that appeasing Islamists — avoiding actions that might give them offense, slamming Americans who provoke them — promotes peace and stability. (See Egypt for a good example of how well this approach is working.) Furthermore, if you are claiming to have “decimated” al-Qaeda, as the Obama administration was claiming to have done in the run-up to the 2012 election, the last thing you want to do is add jihadists to the terror list (or beef up security at diplomatic posts in jihadist hot spots, or acknowledge that jihadist rioting in Cairo or jihadist attacks in Benghazi are something other than “protests” inspired by “an Internet video” . . .)
It is very simple. Most of us on the national-security right recognize that Islamic supremacism is an ideology rooted in Muslim scripture — a strict, literal, ancient interpretation of Muslim scripture. Essentially, it advocates the adoption of sharia, Islam’s legal code and societal framework. It is not the only way of construing Muslim scripture — and we certainly hope that more benign constructions become dominant — but Islamic supremacism is far more mainstream than the West likes to admit, particularly in the Middle East and growing swaths of Africa. It is an ideology that endorses violent jihad, the treatment of women as chattel, sex slavery, child marriages, and the other horrible stuff that outfits like Boko Haram are into. Even though these organizations (quite naturally) terrorize locally, their aspirations are global and they are a threat to us because their ideology unites them and regards the West as an enemy.
The Left, by contrast, seems to believe that “Islamists” — adherents of Islamic supremacism (though the Left would not refer to “Islamic supremacism”) — are motivated not by an ideology derived from scriptural commands but by American policies that promote national defense, pursue other U.S. interests, and regard Israel as a key ally. Indeed, progressives like Mrs. Clinton are anti-anti-terrorists in the sense that they portray the national-security right as a greater threat than Islamic supremacism.
Mrs. Clinton and her cohort do not deny that there are terrorists motivated by Islam. But they see terrorists and Islamists as separate categories, not united by a single ideology.
Mrs. Clinton and President Obama have convinced themselves that they know more about Islam than Muslim terrorists do, and that the peaceful, pliable, progressive Islam they have concocted somehow renders the jihadists’ Islam false. This means, abracadabra, that Muslim terrorist groups can be miniaturized: They’re not really Islamic, not really united by an ideology that seeks global conquest, and therefore should be seen as isolated, standalone, ragtag cabals whose grievances are strictly local. The Left has even done this with al-Qaeda: The organization heretofore regarded as global is now atomized into something they call “core al-Qaeda” — which Obama purports to have “decimiated” by killing Osama bin Laden — and a bunch of regional franchises (al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, etc.). We are supposed to see these franchises not as tentacles of an international terror network but as local gangs trying to make themselves look bigger and more threatening than they really are by adopting the “al-Qaeda” brand name.
As noted above, the Left not only marginalizes terrorists but divorces them from Islamists. Mrs. Clinton and the president accept Islamists as authentic Muslims but see them as evolving beyond Islamic scripture and toward the progressive Islam of the Left’s imagination. The mental gymnastics at work here require (a) studiously ignoring what Islamists actually believe and the fact that it squares with what Islamic terrorists believe; and (b) belittling, suppressing, and framing as an “Islamophobe” anyone who has the audacity to point out what Islamists actually believe.
Having imposed the premise that the Islamists’ version of Islam should not trouble us in the slightest, Mrs. Clinton and the Left posit that what really animates Islamists against the West are aspects of American policy—which, conveniently, just happen to be the same aspects of American policy opposed by the Left. If only we’d change these policies—less emphasis on American security and interests, more distance from Israel — we’d alter the perception that America is “at war with Islam.” This will make Muslims like us better, promoting peace and stability.
So that’s the plan: pretend terrorists and Islamists are unconnected, miniaturize terrorists, and appease Islamists with the Left’s policy preferences. It’s the plan that convinces you not to put Boko Haram on the terrorist list — that way, you can pretend that the jihadists are not really that important while telling the Islamists, “See? We’re going to treat them like a local criminal gang — the fact that they’re Muslims citing scripture in support of their murder, mayhem, kidnapping and misogyny is irrelevant. No ‘war on Islam’ on our watch.”
From Benghazi to the Brotherhood in Egypt to Boko Haram and beyond — Hillary Clinton’s tenure at the State Department was a disaster. But she is an excellent tweeter.