Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"Sunni? Shiite? I Thought The Iraqis Were Muslims"

Jeff Stein has an op-ed in today's New York Times in which he discloses that of the many U.S. lawmakers and anti-terror officials he has recently interviewed, few know the difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Or even which countries and non-state actors belong to which branch.

FOR the past several months, I've been wrapping up lengthy interviews with Washington counterterrorism officials with a fundamental question: "Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?"

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? ...

But so far, most American officials I've interviewed don't have a clue. That includes not just intelligence and law enforcement officials, but also members of Congress who have important roles overseeing our spy agencies. How can they do their jobs without knowing the basics?

Stein quotes from some of his interviews with these officials. The results are not reassuring.

It reminds me not only of the incompetence that is endemic in Washington, but also of a story that former Ambassador Peter Galbraith tells about a meeting between President Bush and several Iraqi Americans (one of whom became Iraq's envoy to the United States) about the Iraq War.

When the visitors began discussing Iraq's sectarian differences, President Bush interrupted and said "I thought the Iraqis were Muslims!"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy Mother of God! Iraq might be a comma in GWB's Comic Book of World History, but GWB himself is going down (in that florid, Shakespearean way) as a boil on the ass of the American Body Politic. What an embarrassment he is.


10/17/2006 4:43 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...


He isn't the brightest bulb to ever hold the office. Anybody who follows Bush will not have to aim too high to amount to a big improvement.

10/17/2006 6:11 PM  

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