Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Scandalous Ignorance

by tristero

Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, when the sound of the military airplanes patrolling the skies of Manhattan were still traumatizing everyone, I picked up some books on bin Laden, the Middle East, and Islam. I also peppered with questions the few people I knew back then who had some expertise on the subjects. In fact, lots of people I knew were doing the same thing; we were passing around books, articles, and clippings, emailing links to each other.

This strikes me as totally unremarkable behavior. We were scared stiff, and the first thing we wanted to know - other than that the attacks had stopped for now - was what the hell was going on.

But even today, people involved in counterterrorism policy in the United States still don't know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite.

This is scandalous, as in worse-than-covering-up-for-Mark-Foley scandalous. Why? Well let one of the ignorant buffoons explain it to you:
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.

Mr. 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.”

To his credit, he asked me to explain the differences. I told him briefly about the schism that developed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, and how Iraq and Iran are majority Shiite nations while the rest of the Muslim world is mostly Sunni. “Now that you’ve explained it to me,” he replied, “what occurs to me is that it makes what we’re doing over there extremely difficult, not only in Iraq but that whole area.”
Oh, dear God. I'm living in a Mel Brooks movie:
Roger De Bris: Did you know, I never knew that the Third Reich meant Germany. I mean it's just drenched with historical goodies like that...

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