Boko Haram has a lobby. Back in June 2012, William Minter of the Africa Focus Bulletin ( created a petition to not declare Boko Haram a terrorist organization. This raises the question: Who is this idiot?

A month before creating the MoveOn petition, Minter circulated a petition opposing sanctions on Boko Haram on the grounds that:

  1. it would "internationalize" a group that was already part of international al-Qaeda and getting support from all over the place
  2. it would show that some attention is being paid to counter-terrorism
  3. defeating Boko Haram would "undermine Nigeria's progress on the rule of law" because only the Nigerian state is responsible for human rights abuses, and only a Muslim may be the legitimate ruler of Nigeria
  4. it would impede "humanitarian" and "academic" financial support for Boko Haram

Minter's May letter is signed by these idiots: long list cut )

What's sad is that many of the people who signed on to this have spent time in Nigeria and ought to know better. I am reminded of an old quote about an idea being so stupid that only an educated man could support it.

I will propose a very, very low bar for analysing a strategic policy proposal. I don't care how long you've studied the region or how many letters you have after your name, but if your proposal would have a measurably worse outcome in terms of human rights and human suffering than Ann Coulter's proposal to invade and torture and kill everything that moves and convert any survivors to Christianity at gunpoint, you suck at peace studies and conflict resolution.

The expertise of some signatories dates back to the '70s, which means they have completely missed the rise of the new fundamentalists over the past 30 years, which means they are not experts at all. To anyone still under the impression that Boko Haram is an African problem arising from local conditions, I prescribe a reading of Revolutionary Sudan, particularly the parts about how the RCC managed conflict with Sudanese traditions.

There is a disconnect between the public and the education system. When close to 100 people who are specialists in their field take a position like this, it should cause a bigger dent in the public consciousness even if they are wrong.

Potentially related: see earlier.

Sourcewatch associates William Minter with Walter Turner, "President of the Board of Directors for several San Francisco Bay Area nonprofits, including Sound Vision, Global Exchange, and the Institute for a New South Africa" and producer/host of Africa Today on Pacifica Radio. About those groups:

  • The Sound Vision Foundation is run by Abdul Malik Mujahid who was a member of the Shura council of the ICNA in 1999 and won the American Library Association's Outstanding Academic Book of the Year Award in 1990 for a book saying that all of the "Untouchables" of India should convert to Islam.
  • Global Exchange is alleged, always by the far right and never convincingly, to be a front for Cuban intelligence. Then you look at the stuff they do and it's hard not to call them a front for Cuban intelligence.
  • The Institute for a New South Africa, in Turner's words, "began in the 1980s and continued in the 1990s to build links between communities and city officials in the United States and South Africa" and "did not survive the 1990s", probably because the apartheid government fell.

I found nothing else to link Minter to Turner other than a few appearances of Minter on Turner's radio program.

The Union for a Better Nigeria, which is apparently one guy with a Facebook page, created a competing MoveOn petition to call for President Obama to publicly oppose Boko Haram. I can't tell you the specifics because the page says "Petition Not Available: This petition has been taken down." It is not clear whether it was taken down by the submitter or by MoveOn.

[Edit May 9] Someone at MoveOn took down the Minter petition. "The content of this petition is under review." Down the memory hole and pretend it never happened. Someone must have been embarrassed.

[Edit May 11] Examples of ongoing propaganda on behalf of Boko Haram:

We now know for certain that Boko Haram is an al-Qaeda front. It had only seemed to have become one when they went from an obscure joke to well-supplied, well-trained, and effectively threatening the security of the whole country in one year. On the one hand, it's interesting to learn this stuff. On the other, all of the press is telling the bad guys how close the good guys are to their operation and it's going to cause them to find and close their own leaks.

Also, I cannot complain enough about how the US position on Nigeria has been to assume Boko Haram has legitimate grievances based on economics and to demand the government be ever more conciliatory to them.

This 2012 quote from Ambassador Jonnie Carson sums up the advice that Nigeria has been getting from the US for responding to a foreign-funded war based on pure sectarianism:

Security efforts aimed at containing Boko Haram’s violence must avoid excessive violence and human right abuses and make better use of police and intelligence services to identify, to arrest and to prosecute those responsible for Boko Haram violent acts. Boko Haram thrives because of social and economic problems in the north that the government must find a way of addressing.

A coordinated government effort to provide responsible, accountable government for Nigeria while creating opportunities for economic growth will diminish the political space in which Boko Haram operates.

In another 2012 speech, Carson would "stress one key point ... that religion is not driving extremist violence either in Jos or northern Nigeria."

How is that working out? According to Rev. Jerome Ituah, "Out of the 52 Catholic churches in Maiduguri diocese, 50 of them have been destroyed by Boko Haram."

This has been going on for four years. How can Carson still have a job in the Obama administration when he says things like that? Because he says things like that. Or because everybody in that administration is incompetent beyond belief. It's getting hard to keep presuming incompetence before malice after all this time.

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