On Monday, Former U.S. President Bill Clinton ascribed the recent jihad violence in Nigeria to poverty. Referring obliquely to the attacks that the jihadist group Boko Haram (Western education is Sin) has carried out, Clinton ascribed them to the large disparity between the rich and the poor in Nigeria: “You can’t just have this level of inequality persist. That’s what’s fueling all this stuff.” Then on Thursday, the son of one of Nigeria’s richest men was sentenced to life in prison for an attempt to commit jihad mass murder in a jetliner.
Bravo for life’s little ironies.
The idea that poverty causes terrorism is a familiar assumption on both the Left and the Right; it is, ultimately, the guiding assumption behind the U.S. military’s making itself busy in Afghanistan building roads, schools and hospitals. The fond belief is that a sufficient amount of money will transform Kabul into Kansas City, and then all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. Ten years of American blood and treasure squandered in Afghanistan should have put paid to this fantasy long ago, but of course it hasn’t.
Besides integrity, the scarcest commodity in Washington is accountability, and so none of the learned analysts who so confidently predicted that all this infrastructure would raise the Afghan standard of living and win Afghan hearts and minds, thereby destroying the impetus for terrorism, are ever called to account for the obvious howling failure of everything they attempted, and the falsehood of all they predicted. Nor are the reputations rehabilitated of those whose predictions proved true that none of this would work, and that the Afghans would continue waging jihad against all outsiders and against each other, as they have done from time immemorial. They are, as ever, “Islamophobes,” “extremists,” not to be trusted. Washington doesn’t operate according to the canons of reasoned discourse. It operates by the rule of clubs and clans; if you’re in with the group in power, your ideas will be accepted and implemented. Failure is not an impediment to continuing to exercise power.
And so it is that Bill Clinton, laden with honors, lauded, respected and adulated everywhere he goes, in with the most powerful and influential clubs and clans of all, almost certainly didn’t think that he was saying anything remotely controversial when he said that “inequality” was “fueling” the Nigerian jihad. He probably has no idea that the Nigerian jihadist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was sentenced to life in prison Thursday for trying to light a bomb hidden in his underwear and blow up a jetliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, was one of the nation’s wealthiest young men. Abdulmutallab’s father is Dr. Alhaji Umaru Abdul Mutallab, former head of Nigeria’s largest bank, the First Bank of Nigeria PLC, as well as a former government minister.
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