Thursday, October 19, 2006

Editor Discovers That Many In Washington Don't Know The Difference Between Sunnis And Shiites

Scary stuff from Jeff Stein, national security editor at Congressional Quarterly, who wrote today in the New York Times about interviews he's conducted over the past several months with politicians and counterterrorism officials.

The question Stein asked: “Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?”

Stein explains: A “gotcha” question? Perhaps. But if knowing your enemy is the most basic rule of war, I don’t think it’s out of bounds. And as I quickly explain to my subjects, I’m not looking for theological explanations, just the basics: Who’s on what side today, and what does each want? After all, wouldn’t British counterterrorism officials responsible for Northern Ireland know the difference between Catholics and Protestants?

But so far, most American officials I’ve interviewed don’t have a clue. ... How can they do their jobs without knowing the basics?

Take Representative Terry Everett, a seven-term Alabama Republican who is vice chairman of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence.

“Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?” I asked him a few weeks ago.

Everett responded with a low chuckle. He thought for a moment: “One’s in one location, another’s in another location. No, to be honest with you, I don’t know. I thought it was differences in their religion, different families or something.”

... Representative Jo Ann Davis, a Virginia Republican who heads a House intelligence subcommittee charged with overseeing the C.I.A.’s performance in recruiting Islamic spies and analyzing information, was similarly dumbfounded when I asked her if she knew the difference between Sunnis and Shiites.

“Do I?” she asked me. A look of concentration came over her face. “You know, I should.” She took a stab at it: “It’s a difference in their fundamental religious beliefs. The Sunni are more radical than the Shia. Or vice versa. But I think it’s the Sunnis who’re more radical than the Shia.”

Did she know which branch Al Qaeda’s leaders follow?

“Al Qaeda is the one that’s most radical, so I think they’re Sunni,” she replied. “I may be wrong, but I think that’s right.” (Note: She is right.)

Did she think that it was important, I asked, for members of Congress charged with oversight of the intelligence agencies, to know the answer to such questions, so they can cut through officials’ puffery when they came up to the Hill?

“Oh, I think it’s very important,” said Davis, “because Al Qaeda’s whole reason for being is based on their beliefs. And you’ve got to understand, and to know your enemy.”


Anonymous havocmom said...

They won't admit a difference between Liberals & terrorists either

Their powers of discernment are dangerously lacking.

11:43 AM  
Anonymous flier said...

That question is too nuanced for the lapdog Pubs.

All they need to know is that the "good" Iraqis have purple fingers and the "bad" ones are shooting at us.

11:43 AM  
Anonymous Dhalgren said...

This is just beyond ridiculous! I am just stumped as to how to react to this idiocy. Every congress person who cannot answer this question should be thrown into jail, right now, for...for...stupidity with malice afore thought! Jesus!

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Parche said...


Holy Shi ite Batman...........................

11:52 AM  
Anonymous higher class said...

To me it proves how blatantly criminal they were with their vote.

I will never forgive them.

I know that we were told that we were going after Afghanistan.

BUT, THOUSANDS of people on the internet and the military knew we were going to Iraq before our Congresspeople were called on to vote. Before they betrayed us.

Obviously, they didn't bother to read the internet.

Obviously, they didn't look up any information on Iraq.

Obviously, their staff failed them and us.

Obviously, they didn't question Wellstone and Kucinich on their reasons for voting no.

I will never forgive them unless given some ultra rational history.

And then they followied that up with the Patriout Ace - twice. And twleve of them voted for the theft of Habeus Corpous - placed us back ONE THOUSAND years to 1006. The premise for Habeus Corpus was established in 1214 - there had to be a build up to the action - so I say they took us back ONE THOUSAND YEARS. ONE THOUSAND YEARS OF PROGRESS IN HUMANITY. THEY VOTED AGAINST THE HABEUS CORPUS - so WHY NOT NO NOTHING about Sunnis-Shites.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous whoop4467 said...

Me think all politicians are too busy partying and selling their souls and votes to the lobbyist to pay any attention to the business of representing the Americans.

4:17 PM  

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