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Sunday, December 17, 2006

never too late to learn

While writing yesterday's entry, I wondered whether George W. Bush knew the difference between Sunni and Shiite. While I have my suspicions, I could not recall off the top of my head any definite indication of Sunni-Shiite ignorance on his part.

But Bush is not the only person in government who ought to know the most basic facts about the world. Representative Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), nominated to be the next chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, should be held to the same standard.

Today's New York Times (section 4, page 7) reports that Reyes, when asked, mistakenly identified the sectarian backgrounds of both al-Qa'ida and Hizballah. The Congressman's excuse implies that knowledge is too much to ask, even of people in government: 'Speaking only for myself, it's hard to keep things in perspective and in the categories.' It has been twenty-three years since Hizballah killed 241 U.S. soldiers in the Beirut barracks bombing of October 1983. One would think that would be enough time to pick up a newspaper, let alone an intelligence report, and learn the facts of the case.

Bush and company tend to lump al-Qa'ida with Hizballah and Iran, but if they really believe in such a flattening of fundamental oppositions, then the White House is even more misguided than its adventures in Iraq reveal. The leadership and members of (Sunni) al-Qa'ida see Shiites as apostates and would kill them as readily as they would American troops. Bin Ladin himself has called for attacks against Shiites in Iraq, most recently in his July 2006 audio recording, as reported by CNN: 'Our Muslim people in Iraq need to learn that no truce should be accepted with the crusaders and the apostates.'

Bin Ladin would like to wipe both the crusaders and the apostates off the face of the earth, but at least he knows the difference between them.


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