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Kidnapped Girls Become Tools of U.S. Imperial Policy in Africa

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Screen grab from Boko Haram Video
(image by Boko Haram)

"The Boko Haram, like other jihadists, had become more dangerous in a post-Gaddafi Africa -- thus justifying a larger military presence for the Americans."

A chorus of outraged public opinion demands that the "international community" and the Nigerian military "Do something!" about the abduction by Boko Haram of 280 teenage girls. It is difficult to fault the average U.S. consumer of packaged "news" products for knowing next to nothing about what the Nigerian army has actually been "doing" to suppress the Muslim fundamentalist rebels since, as senior columnist Margaret Kimberley pointed out in these pages, last week, the three U.S. broadcast networks carried "not a single television news story about Boko Haram" in all of 2013. (Nor did the misinformation corporations provide a nanosecond of coverage of the bloodshed in the Central African Republic, where thousands died and a million were made homeless by communal fighting over the past year.) But, that doesn't mean the Nigerian army hasn't been bombing, strafing, and indiscriminately slaughtering thousands of, mainly, young men in the country's mostly Muslim north.

The newly aware U.S. public may or may not be screaming for blood, but rivers of blood have already flowed in the region. Those Americans who read -- which, presumably, includes First Lady Michelle Obama, who took her husband's place on radio last weekend to pledge U.S. help in the hunt for the girls -- would have learned in the New York Times of the army's savage offensive near the Niger border, last May and June. In the town of Bosso, the Nigerian army killed hundreds of young men in traditional Muslim garb "Without Asking Who They Are," according to the NYT headline. "They don't ask any questions," said a witness who later fled for his life, like thousands of others. "When they see young men in traditional robes, they shoot them on the spot," said a student. "They catch many of the others and take them away, and we don't hear from them again."

"When they see young men in traditional robes, they shoot them on the spot."

The Times' Adam Nossiter interviewed many refugees from the army's "all-out land and air campaign to crush the Boko Haram insurgency." He reported:

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"All spoke of a climate of terror that had pushed them, in the thousands, to flee for miles through the harsh and baking semidesert, sometimes on foot, to Niger. A few blamed Boko Haram -- a shadowy, rarely glimpsed presence for most residents -- for the violence. But the overwhelming majority blamed the military, saying they had fled their country because of it."

In just one village, 200 people were killed by the military.

In March of this year, fighters who were assumed to be from Boko Haram attacked a barracks and jail in the northern city of Maiduguri. Hundreds of prisoners fled, but 200 youths were rounded up and made to lie on the ground. A witness told the Times: "The soldiers made some calls and a few minutes later they started shooting the people on the ground. I counted 198 people killed at that checkpoint."

All told, according to Amnesty International, more than 600 people were extrajudicially murdered, "most of them unarmed, escaped detainees, around Maiduguri." An additional 950 prisoners were killedin the first half of 2013 in detention facilities run by Nigeria's military Joint Task Force, many at the same barracks in Maiduguri. Amnesty International quotes a senior officer in the Nigerian Army, speaking anonymously: "Hundreds have been killed in detention either by shooting them or by suffocation," he said. "There are times when people are brought out on a daily basis and killed. About five people, on average, are killed nearly on a daily basis."

Chibok, where the teenage girls were abducted, is 80 miles from Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.

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In 2009, when the Boko Haram had not yet been transformed into a fully armed opposition, the military summarily executed their handcuffed leader and killed at least 1,000 accused members in the states of Borno, Yobe, Kano and Bauchi, many of them apparently simply youths from suspect neighborhoods. A gruesome video shows the military at work. "In the video, a number of unarmed men are seen being made to lie down in the road outside a building before they are shot," Al Jazeera reports in text accompanying the video. "As one man is brought out to face death, one of the officers can be heard urging his colleague to 'shoot him in the chest not the head -- I want his hat.'"

"950 prisoners were killed in the first half of 2013 in detention facilities run by Nigeria's military."

These are only snapshots of the army's response to Boko Haram -- atrocities that are part of the context of Boko Haram's ghastly behavior. The military has refused the group's offer to exchange the kidnapped girls for imprisoned Boko Haram members. (We should not assume that everyone detained as Boko Haram is actually a member -- only that all detainees face imminent and arbitrary execution.)

None of the above is meant to tell Boko Haram's "side" in this grisly story (fundamentalist religious jihadists find no favor at BAR), but to emphasize the Nigerian military's culpability in the group's mad trajectory -- the same military that many newly-minted "Save Our Girls" activists demand take more decisive action in Borno.

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Glen Ford is aveteran of Black radio, television, print and Internet news and commentary. He is executive editor of and was co-founder of

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US is after oil and gold,not kidnapped girls. ... by George W.Reichel on Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 3:10:40 PM
Responsibility to protect, remember _ after callin... by urb musak on Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 6:35:55 PM
US/NATO Empire fomenting chaos around the world in... by intotheabyss on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 7:43:11 AM
All I know is if 300 American girls were kidnapped... by Shirley Braverman on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 4:48:01 PM