Saturday, December 09, 2006


Meet Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Nice guy, by all accounts quite smart and hard working.

And stunningly ignorant.

Al Qaeda is what, I asked, Sunni or Shia?

“Al Qaeda, they have both,” Reyes said. “You’re talking about predominately?”

“Sure,” I said, not knowing what else to say.

“Predominantly — probably Shiite,” he ventured.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

Al Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shiite showed up at an al Qaeda club house, they’d slice off his head and use it for a soccer ball.

That’s because the extremist Sunnis who make up a l Qaeda consider all Shiites to be heretics.

Al Qaeda’s Sunni roots account for its very existence. Osama bin Laden and his followers believe the Saudi Royal family besmirched the true faith through their corruption and alliance with the United States, particularly allowing U.S. troops on Saudi soil....

And Hezbollah? I asked him. What are they?

“Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah...”

Let me help you out, Silvestre. They're a Shiite militia in Lebanon backed by Syria and Iran.


Does it make anyone feel better to know that key Republicans and FBI counterterrorism officials fared poorly on the same test? Cuz it sure doesn't do anything for me. These guys are paid $160,000 a year to understand this stuff. The fact that I am apparently more familiar with the forces at play than they are is -- well, pick your adjective: absurd? appalling? frightening?

But it goes a long way towards explaining why we've done such a horrible job in Iraq.

As I noted above, Reyes is by all accounts a very smart man. Let's hope he's a quick study, because the nation is going to need it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

A friend worked in an internship where they had to give a presentation about a year and a half into the Iraq invasion to some very high up officials in the war. When this friend gave a brief background of Iraq, the shiites, sunnis, etc. The response he was met with was "Aren't they all Muslim?" So I'm surprised, though still amazed at the lack of knowledge that these officials have...

12/10/2006 9:11 AM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

Thanks for the insight. You're right, it's all too unsurprising. It's really hard to understand, though, how these people can remain so willfully ignorant on such a key topic, and still go out and make bold assertions and broad policy formulations. Or are they simply mouthpieces for their staff?

Maybe elections should involve voting for a staff rather than an individual figurehead....

12/10/2006 9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're right---many of them seem to be "mouthpieces" for their staffs. Have you ever watched Sen Ted Kennedy reading from papers on the floor of the Senate----or during hearings? He looks and sounds as if he's reading it himself for the first time; certainly not someone who actually wrote it.


12/18/2006 1:19 AM  

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