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December 13, 2006

Embarrassing, Eh?

Much fun was had when Jeff Stein asked an FBI wallah the difference between Sunni and Shia:

In a similar gaffe-laden session, Willie Hulon, chief of the FBI's national security branch, did not know the difference between Sunnis and Shia either. "The basics goes back to their beliefs and who they were following," he said. "And the conflicts between the Sunnis and the Shia and the difference between who they were following."

Similarly Terry Everett:

Congressman Terry Everett, a Republican and vice-chairman of the House intelligence sub-committee on technical and tactical intelligence, chuckled when he was asked the same question.

"One's in one location, another's in another location," he said. "No, to be honest with you, I don't know. I thought it was differences in their religion, different families or something."

When Mr Stein outlined the difference, which dates back to the death of the Prophet Mohammed in AD632, Mr Everett said: "Now that you've explained it to me, what occurs to me is that it makes what we're doing over there extremely difficult, not only in Iraq but that whole area."

Now we find that at least one Democrat is no better:

The new Democratic chairman of a US congressional intelligence committee did not know what Hizbollah was and incorrectly described al-Qa'eda as deriving from the Shia rather than Sunni sect of Islam.

Representative Silvestre Reyes was flummoxed when a journalist rounded off a 40-minute interview by asking him two basic questions about the Islamic groups that are the principal targets of America's intelligence agencies.

"Al-Qa'eda is what – Sunni or Shia?" Jeff Stein, the Congressional Quarterly magazine's national security editor, asked Mr Reyes. "Al-Qa'eda, they have both," came the reply. "You're talking about predominately?" the congressman then asked, before venturing: "Predominantly – probably Shi'ite."

As Mr Stein noted in his subsequent column: "He couldn't have been more wrong. Al-Qa'eda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shi'ite showed up at an al-Qa'eda club house, they'd slice off his head and use it for a soccer ball."

Now, of course, we could simply conclude that none of them know what they're doing. But one would actually have thought that politicians would actually be capable of learning. Since Stein started asking this question, why hasn't every politician been mugging up on the difference? That, to me, is the worst part of it, that they haven't.

December 13, 2006 in Current Affairs | Permalink


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They think they know it all, the arrogant bastards.

Posted by: Serf | Dec 13, 2006 12:11:41 PM