WASHINGTON – In a rare meeting of minds on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Republicans and Democrats expressed anger after listening to the testimony of a teenage girl who witnessed Boko Haram terrorists murder her father and brother.
“It seems to me in some ways that the State Department is living in some altered state of reality that most of America – yet most of the world – understands and recognizes,” Scott Perry, R-Pa. said in today’s Foreign Affairs committee hearing on the threat extremist groups pose to children. “And if you can’t acknowledge your adversary and your enemy for who they are … there’s going to be no way that you can combat them effectively.”
The kidnapping of over 200 school girls by the Nigerian group has drawn attention to the Obama administration’s long delay in refusing to designate Boko Haram a terrorist organization and has had Secretary of State John Kerry criticizing the group.
“I have seen this scourge of terror across the planet, and so have you. They don’t offer anything except violence. They don’t offer a health-care plan, they don’t offer schools. They don’t tell you how to build a nation; they don’t talk about how they will provide jobs,” he said last week.
But as WND reported, then-14-year-old Deborah Peters was not worried about jobs, a health plan, or schools when the three Boko Haram terrorists tied her to the lifeless bodies of her father and brother.
In fact, the U.S. Agency for International Development has spent more than $45 million on “education initiatives” in northern Nigeria that primarily benefit Shariah-based schools.
“Their analysis is Boko Haram is angry about the poor delivery of government services,” Nina Shea, Hudson Institute’s director of religious freedom, told WND.
Foreign Affairs Committee member Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., expressed outrage and wondered why the United States has not done more to combat the fear such groups impose on innocent populations.
“I want drones hunting down these groups because they don’t belong on this earth,” he told State and Defense Department policy makers in today’s hearing.
Meeks was appalled by 15-year-old Peters’ harrowing account of the horrors she and other children experienced at the hands of Boko Haram and other extremist groups.
“No child – no child – should have to see their parents killed, and siblings, before their eyes. None. And it really angers me inside when I hear that. And when you hear and see this group, Boko Haram, who now has kidnapped these 200 girls but has killed boys, destroyed churches, taken away hope, there is no redeeming factor for individuals like that,” Meeks said.
Unlike most of his Democrat peers, Meeks took a non-appeasement, non-negotiable stance with terrorism and said not just the U.S., but the world, needs to come together to “stop it now.”
“Threatening people and having people living in fear, this is something that I see that this world, not just this nation but other nations all across are coming together to say we’re going to stop this. We need to do it in Nigeria, we need to do it in Syria, in Pakistan, in Somalia, wherever – al-Shabab – wherever these individuals are,” he said.
Other committee members pressed policy makers for clear answers as to why State Department officials and the Obama administration waited until last November to designate Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, or FTO.
As WND reported and many believe, the Boko Haram attacks could have been prevented if the current administration would have heeded warnings of both Department of Homeland Security officials and military leaders such as the one then-African Command’s top military officer Army Gen. Carter Ham made in 2011 when he warned Boko Haram was “operating unconstrained” and had “very clearly” shown a desire and intent to attack Americans.
Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Tx., chairman of the Homeland Security Committee and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said the Homeland Security Committee released a report in 2011 entitled “Boko Haram: Emerging Threat to the Homeland,” and issued another report in September of last year asking the current administration for the FTO designation.
McCaul testified that granting the designation two years ago would have helped U.S. intelligence in its effort to curb and isolate international financing, heighten public awareness, and send a signal to other governments that Boko Haram’s threat was serious. It “took years” to get Ansar al-Sharia, the group allegedly responsible for the Benghazi attacks, put on the list, he said.
Sarah Sewall, the State Department’s undersecretary for human rights, told McCaul and other committee members that she could not speak to the decisions made prior to her arrival in February, but pointed the finger at Nigeria, saying “any sustained solution requires the government of Nigeria to show a degree of commitment and to take a set of actions that it has thus far not committed to.”
But the government may have been hindered by the U.S. According to a report by Canada Free Press, the Obama administration threatened Nigeria with sanctions in 2013 for fighting against Boko Haram. Such sanctions could have inhibited Nigeria’s ability to properly equip and arm its forces, leaving girls like ones in Chibok village vulnerable to attack.
Chibok school and village, a Christian enclave, is where the 276 girls were kidnapped last month. The girls were only there overnight to take exams and had already been evacuated from the area because everyone, including the Nigerian government and the U.S. State Department, knew Boko Haram was an imminent threat. The school and the girls were only protected by one police guard, who was incapable of fending off the attack.
“Who would draw in hundreds of girls in the middle of the night in the middle of a known terror zone? If the U.S. had been working with Nigeria to harden soft targets in the past two years they knew about the threat the attack wouldn’t have happened, Hudson Institute’s Shea told WND. “Instead, we did everything to press Nigeria to not use the military on the guise of human rights violations.”
And a military response is what is required.
“Boko Haram is becoming tactically more superior to the security forces on ground. We have noticed the armaments they bring in are way more sophisticated than what the Nigerian government has,” international human rights attorney and expert in U.S.-Nigerian relations Emmanuel Ogebe said.
Ogebe, Shea, and representatives on both sides of the aisle agree on one major point ― if the U.S. does not act now to contain Boko Haram and other al-Qaida-backed extremist groups, situations like Deborah’s and the kidnapped girls from Chibok will become the rule. And a cash-strapped U.S. will be forced to enter into a war which it cannot afford.
“If Nigeria is in turmoil and massive amounts of people are dying, we will have to get involved,” Shea said.