May 7, 2014

Our View: West should help track down Nigerian killers, examine own role

The kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria is just the latest outrage perpetrated by the brutal murderers who call themselves Boko Haram.

The kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria is just the latest outrage perpetrated by the brutal murderers who call themselves Boko Haram.

They killed nearly 60 schoolboys in February, burning many of them alive in their dormitories. They murdered 40 students in a school that specializes in teaching farming in September. Tuesday they staged a 12-hour attack on a remote village – chasing down women and children as they ran – and killing 300 more. Amnesty International estimates Boko Haram has killed at least 1,500 people this year alone.

For American parents, the thought of girls as young as 9 being sold into “marriage” by these butchers is unacceptable. Such thoughts could be what drove President Barack Obama, a father of two daughters, to promise our help in finding these killers. It was the right move.

Most of their attacks have started at night and they have been against innocents, usually children. They’re not only murderers, they’re cowards. That they claim to be doing this under some sort of religious imperative makes their actions even more deplorable. Unfortunately, many will blame these outrages on Islam, saying the religion fosters extremism. We don’t buy that explanation. But we do wonder, when so many of the victims are also Muslim, why more Islamic nations are not reacting with the same outrage shown in the United States, Great Britain and other Western nations. Where are the voices of Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Pakistan and Egypt?

Whatever the West does to track down these killers is appropriate. But there is more to it than that. For a start, President Obama could call in the oil companies that have been exploiting Nigeria for three decades and demand that more be done to stop the gross exploitation of this nation and its people.

Nigeria is incredibly rich in natural resources with vast reserves of oil, diamonds and precious metals. Since the 1960s, an estimated $600 billion in minerals and oil have been extracted. Yet, the population is among the poorest, most destitute on the planet. Many don’t have fuel for cooking fires, much less food to cook.

In 2009, Amnesty International pointed out that the oil and mineral companies have “brought impoverishment, conflict, human rights abuses and despair to the majority of the people in the oil-producing areas” of Nigeria. Pollution has gone unchecked, killing thousands. Those who have tried to stand up to the oil companies have been gunned down by their own government.

The British media group Vanguard reported that the government’s actions on behalf of these companies rise “to the status of crimes against humanity.”

The miscreant killers of Boko Haram didn’t simply awaken one day and decide to turn into killers. They figured they had something to gain and using terror as a weapon was the best way to get it.

Yes, we need to join with other nations in disposing of the merciless killers called Boko Haram. But the rise of such groups was predicted more than a decade ago. If American companies played a role in creating such a fertile seedbed for terror, that should be addressed, too.

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