Aside from attacking Michelle Obama for publicly showing concern and lying about President Obama, one of the major spokes in the conservative effort to politicize the kidnapping of 284 schoolgirls in Nigeria has been to criticize the Obama administration for not designating Boko Haram (the group responsible for the abductions) a terrorist organization.
Why, then, is there all this video of President Obama calling Boko Haram a terrorist organization, long before the State Department changed its designation?
The mainstream media has also picked up the narrative. In fact, way back in July of 2013, CNN asked “Why hasn’t the Obama administration labeled ‘Boko Haram’ a terrorist organization?”, when, the month before, there actually was an Obama administration official who called Boko Haram a terrorist organization. Maybe you recognize him:
You might also recognize that Obama administration official from this clip, in September, calling Boko Haram “one of the most vicious terrorist organizations in the world”:
Even before that, Obama administration officials were not shy about what to call Boko Haram. In April of 2012, John Brennan told a crowd at the Wilson Center that “we are monitoring closely the emergence of Boko Haram, a group that appears to be aligning itself with al-Qaida’s violent agenda and is increasingly looking to attack Western interests in Nigeria, in addition to Nigerian government targets.”
Even more confusing is the fact that, in August of 2012, the leader of Boko Haram appeared in a 38-minute YouTube video bitching about how the United States had just designated him a terrorist. What the what?
The real crux of this political attack is to pile on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but the narrative that’s forming is similar to the conservative #Benghazi myth that President Obama refused to call that attack an “act of terror.” But if President Obama and hos administration were going around calling Boko Haram terrorists, why wasn’t Hillary Clinton?
The controversy here isn’t actually over whether Boka Haram are terrorists, but whether to designate them a Foreign Terrorist Organization. ThinkProgress has an excellent explainer for why this was not done until November of 2013, but even as they were promoting the narrative a year ago, CNN reported:
Possible explanations for reluctance to label the group can be found in a 2012 letter to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from Nigeria experts, including John Campbell, the U.S. ambassador to Nigeria under President George Bush.
The letter claims that the foreign terrorist organization (FTO) designation would limit the State Department’s ability to shape “long-term” strategy and encourage the Nigerian government to use military action rather than diplomacy.
“We believe that an FTO designation for Boko Haram would limit American policy options to those least likely to work, and would undermine the domestic political conditions necessary in Nigeria for an enduring solution,” said the group in the letter.
Of course, none of that is easy to explain, or to fit into a headline.