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Confusion on Boko Haram and Terrorism

May 17th, 2014 - 11:44 am

For admirers of George Will and Charles Krauthammer, it’s a real treat to find them together many nights on Bret Baier’s panel on Special Report. But I must confess to nearly falling out of my chair upon watching the replay of a segment last night in which Mr. Will opined that Boko Haram seemed to him more like “a military insurgency” than a terrorist organization. Dr. K vigorously refuted this assertion and was right to do so.

At issue was the State Department’s failure, during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary, to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. I sympathize with Will’s (very) general premise that “terrorist” is an overused term. But the premise was inapposite in this case.

Terrorism is the use and threatened use of mass violence in violation of the laws of war in order to coerce a government or society into policy changes or the acceptance of some ideological agenda. It does indeed trivialize the term to apply it to people who do not commit terrorism, whether they are serious criminals (e.g., mafia hit-men or serial murderers) or, as is fashionable on the Left, to people who merely represent things with which one disagrees (e.g., energy-producers, “the one percent,” or the Tea Party). It is not wrong, however, to refer to terrorists as terrorists—it’s entirely accurate.

Will said he sees terrorism as “random” violence, while Boko Haram seemed to him more like a military insurgency against the Nigerian government. Since Boko Haram has what Will sees as “military objectives,” that somehow suggests to him that its violent attacks are more like lawful combat operations than terrorism. It is tough to unwind all he gets wrong here (though Krauthammer did a very good job of it).

A terrorist organization is distinguished from a militia by its failure to comply with the laws and customs of war—particularly, its intentional targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure. Al Qaeda has military objectives, too; so does every terrorist organization. The fact that a terrorist organization has “military objectives” is beside the point if it pursues those objectives through mass-murder attacks in conjunction other operations distinguished by their extreme cruelty—like brutally murdering scores of school boys and turning young girls into sex slaves, as Boko Haram does.

I assume that by “random” attacks, Will means that terrorists terrorize by creating an atmosphere of intimidation in which anyone could be attacked at any time. Military insurgencies, by contrast, conduct more regular, predictable attacks, concentrating on targets that have military value (even if hitting them causes collateral damage to civilians). If that’s how he sees it, one has to assume that he simply does not know much about Boko Haram. Its attacks are as random as any other terrorist organization’s. There are more of them, but that is because Boko Haram is a particularly vicious group, not because it is fighting a traditional battlefield campaign. And while it attacks government targets (just like al Qaeda has attacked the Pentagon, U.S. embassies, and U.S. military installations), Boko Haram routinely targets civilian centers, school children, churches, and other Western targets that could only be considered “military objectives” by a violent jihadist who sees non-Muslims as “at war with Islam.”

Moreover, as Bret Baier pointed out, Tom Joscelyn has outlined long-standing ties between Boko Haram and al Qaeda. (Tom’s latest on that, in the Weekly Standard, is here.) Will appears to be under the misimpression (one the State Department promotes) that Boko Haram is not part of the global jihad but is simply waging a local war for political control of Nigeria. But this canard elevates what progressives want to believe about Boko Haram (and radical Islam generally) over the reality of how these groups define themselves.

Boko Haram’s official name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, meaning “People (or The Group) Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teaching and Jihad.” The short handle Boko Haram reflects a part of this overarching Islamic supremacist mission: “Western education is forbidden.” (Note the wishful thinking of progressives repeatedly peddled over the past few days: Boko Haram, we’re told, is not an Islamist group; they are just a backward-thinking political group opposed to education. In fact, what they oppose is Western education; they are all for Islamic education because they are an avowedly Islamist group.)

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Top Rated Comments   
When a Muslim murders, steals , commits a violent act, is a paedophile or is misogynous he is just doing as the Koran and Islam teach and ENCOURAGE him to do i.e. emulating the acts of his prophet Mohammad. If a Christian does the same then he is going against all the teachings of Christ.
While there may be 'moderate' Muslims, it is THEY who are the REAL 'Misunderstanders' of Islam because there is no such thing as 'moderate' ISLAM.
Nor is there ever likely to be because on pain of being called Apostate all Muslims must subscribe to the Korans own claim that it is 'the ACTUAL and UNALTERABLE word of God'. So no wriggle room for reformation there then.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
Mr McCarthy is right. We're not in a war on terror -- we're in a war against Islamic supremacism. Well, actually, only the other side knows it's in a war. The West is at the mall.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
" But this canard elevates what progressives want to believe about Boko Haram (and radical Islam generally) over the reality of how these groups define themselves."

It is also a canard that this is "Radical Islam". None of this is that at all. Boko Haram is not engaging in "Radical Islam". Boko Haram is doing what Mohammad, all Muslim's "Perfect Man", to be emulated as much as possible, himself did and instructed his followers to do. Boko Haram is simply engaging in Islam. That's it.

It is a disservice to truth to keep using "Radical Islam" as it tends to whitewash Islam and Mohammad. I have not heard of a single American Imam denouncing Boko Haram as engaging in behavior that Mohammad himself did not and would not engage in, because they can't without lying about Mohammad, the mass murdering, mass enslaving, mass torturing, lying, thieving, misogynist and rapist of little girls, The Sub-Human Monster Who Walked The Earth.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (29)
All Comments   (29)
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22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is JIHAD that OBAMA supports with QATAR. In every scandal involving Islamists, it always goes back to Qatar.

The Nigerian Connection: Boko Haram, Obama, and Qatar
http://nyyrc.com/blog/2014/05/the-nigerian-connection-boko-haram-obama-and-qatar/
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
Understanding iconography helps understand the way the left views what is happening in Nigeria and with jihad in general. The picture of a man with a beard and an AK-47 forcing school girls to recite the prayers which in his view will make them irrevocably Muslim is a good guy because he fits the iconography of the West's great wave of totalitarianism - communism. They would not consciously claim that he is a good guy, but they believe it in their hearts. That is why they replace Christendom's perfect man with that glowing portrait of Che. They cannot see that these guys with beards and AK 47s are not likely to bring about their vision of a progressive utopia but they get it that the present wave of totalitarianism sweeping the Muslim world is an after shock of our own failed experiments with forcibly imposed absolutism. They seldom say it verbally, but George Galloway, the communist mayor of London, actually said during the Iraq war that the jihadis were the last best hope of The Revolution. Read VS Naipaul's Among the Believers to see what happened to the idealistic Iranian leftists who supported the Islamists in 1979.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
it is Jihad

and we really should call it by its truename
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
Greetings:

Once again, Islam is the millstone. If your plan doesn't include constraining, undermining, or eradicating Islam, you don't have a plan. What you have is a hope.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
The administration has different priorities, the big thing at the moment is, don't laugh, racial integration of the nations schools. Oh the pure joy of disrupting family plans and the convenience of the local school, it's racist you see. Holder and Michelle and of course Dumbo hold this closer the their hearts than any silly little thing like a 1400 year old islamic war. But appearances must be maintained.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
Now that we have been systematically weakened by the Left [D] policies and regulations and decrees and court rulings and budget cutting and mistreating the vets and active duty military and rampant corruption and voter fraud and open borders and arming the wrong side, et al, what do we expect to happen when we recognize and name the enemy?
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
As usual most Western Politicians and 'meejah' pundits miss the plot and cannot see the wood for the trees and cannot join the dots. They see each ISLAMIC atrocity as an ISOLATED incident, but they are not. Militant Islam fueled huge Oil Revenues and driven by devoted devout adherents is on the march all over the Middle East, all over North Africa and now intruding into sub Saharan Africa, its all over Asia too and Islamic Terrorists have infiltrated most European countries and the USA in the guise of refugees. Forget the Global Warming SCAM the real threat to the world is ISLAM. Just like the 7th Century Islam is on the rise by the SWORD again.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
As usual most Western Politicians and 'meejah' pundits
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
Helpful hint folks: In warfare civilians and other non-combatants suffer casualties IN SPITE of being non-combatants. Terrorism kills non-combatants BECAUSE they are non-combatants.

Under the former dead women and children are collateral damage. Under the latter dead women and children are the purpose of the killing.

This should clarify the matter.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
Best clarification I have ever read. Thanks.
22 weeks ago
22 weeks ago Link To Comment
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