Skip to comments.PATRIOT PERSPECTIVE Know thy enemy
Posted on 12/15/2006 2:39:11 PM PST by pleikumud
In a sit-down interview with Congressional Quarterly earlier this week, Rep. Silvestre Reyes, the five-term Texas Democrat and incoming chair of the House Intelligence Committee, flunked a pretty simple quiz.
When asked whether al-Qaida was Sunni or Shiite, Reyes answered, They are probably both. He then compounded his ignorance: Youre talking about predominantly? Predominantlyprobably Shiite.
Wrong. Very wrong. In fact, al-Qaidas raison detre is the purification of Sunni Islam, which Osama bin Laden considers tainted by the Saudi royal familys personal corruption and alliance with the United States. Shiite Muslims, on the other hand, are heretics deserving of death for their perversion of the one true religion.
Then Reyes, who also sits on the House Armed Service Committee, was asked the same question with regard to Hizballah.
Hizballah. Uh, Hizballah... Laughing nervously and shifting in his seat, Reyes evaded. Why do you ask me these questions at five oclock? Can I answer in Spanish? Do you speak Spanish?
In the end, Reyes confessed that he didnt know the answer, despite the fact that Hizballah has existed as a terrorist arm of Iran for more than two decades, from the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 of our servicemen, to the political assassinations, the attacks on Israel and the attempts to bring Lebanon under Hizballah control today. Its equally worth noting that Hizballah, which means Party of God, is now helping train Iraqi Shiites to kill Iraqi Sunnis in that countrys internecine conflict.
Know thy enemy is perhaps the oldest maxim of warfare, yet Rep. Reyes ignorance appears to be the rule rather than the exception.
Last summer, the same sort of question was posed by CQ to Republicans Terry Everett and Jo Ann Davis. Rep. Everett, a seven-term Congressman from Alabama, is outgoing vice chairman of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence. Rep. Davis, of Virginia, is outgoing head of the House intelligence subcommittee that oversees the CIAs recruitment of Muslims to infiltrate Islamist organizations and its analysis of the information these agents provide.
Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite? CQs national security editor, Jeff Stein, asked Everett. Ones in one location, anothers in another location, Everett asserted. No, to be honest with you, I dont know. I thought it was differences in their religion, different families or something. After Stein briefly explained the differences, Rep. Everett replied, Now that youve explained it to me, what occurs to me is that it makes what were doing over there extremely difficult, not only in Iraq but that whole area.
You dont say.
Davis didnt fare any better when asked the same question. Do I? she replied. You know, I should. Its a difference in their fundamental religious beliefs. The Sunni are more radical than the Shia. Or vice versa. But I think its the Sunnis whore more radical than the Shia.
And what is al-Qaida, Stein asked? Al-Qaida is the one thats most radical, so I think theyre Sunni, Davis decided. I may be wrong, but I think thats right. Davis then summarized the importance of knowing the difference: al-Qaidas whole reason for being is based on their beliefs, and youve got to understand, and to know your enemy.
Some might say that congressmen have oversight responsibilities, and that theyre not the ones directly responsible for counterterrorism efforts; that its the officials engaged in security and intelligence that know better. Yet, when asked, a number of high-ranking counterterrorism officials had no idea what the 1,400-year-old schism in Islam that defines the battle lines in Iraq and across the Middle East is all about.
Willie Hulon, chief of the FBIs national security arm, was all but clueless. The basics goes [sic] back to their beliefs and who they were following. Asked which one Iran and Hizballah are, Hulon took his chances: Sunni. Wrong. Al-Qaida? Sunni. Right. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Then there was the interview with Dale Watson, until recently the FBIs head of counterterrorism. The interviewer asked, Do you know who Osama bin Ladens spiritual leader was? Cant recall. Do you know the differences in the religion between Shia and Sunni Muslims? Not technically, no.
It gets worse. Last year another top FBI counterterrorism official, John Lewis, was asked, Was there any relationship between the first World Trade Center bombing and the 9/11 attacks?
Im aware of no immediate relationship, other than it all emanates, you know, out of the Middle East, al-Qaida linkage, I believe, Lewis contrived. Not something Ive studied recently that Im conversant with. (Like the others, he didnt know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite, either.)
Gary Bald, the FBIs most recent counterterrorism and counterintelligence chief (the sixth since 9/11), waved off the question entirely. You dont need subject matter expertise, Bald scoffed. The subject matter expertise is helpful, but it isnt a prerequisite. It is certainly not what I look for in selecting an official for a position in the counterterrorism [program].
This, of course, begs the following question: Does knowing the basic differences between the two major branches of Islam really constitute subject matter expertise?
Apparently it does in the FBI, where five years after 9/11, only 33 of the Bureaus 12,000 agents have even minimal knowledge of Arabic, and until recently new agents received only two hours in Arab-culture training. Nor is the FBI alone. Courtesy of the State Department, only six people at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad are fluent in Arabic. The CIA has struggled to recruit and retain analysts and operatives with these skills. Rare, too, is the Army unit that can communicate directly with the Iraqis they encounter, or assess captured enemy documents on the spot. From top to bottom, knowledge of Islam (http://PatriotPost.US/alexander/edition.asp?id=494) and the Middle East is all but absent.
Yet this knowledge mattersimmensely. Only this week, Saudi Arabia announced its intention to support Iraqi Sunnis should the U.S. withdraw its troops. Iran and Hizballah are, already, supporting Iraqi Shiites. Meanwhile, Iraqs Shiite-dominated army announced a plan to begin taking over security responsibilities from U.S. forces in Baghdad, in essence making the countrys Shiite-Sunni conflict its own. In Afghanistan, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of the Taliban-allied Hezb-e-Islami guerillas, defiantly proclaimed Republican election losses as a victory for the mujahedeenproving he definitely knows more about us than we know about him.
Further, Iranian elections for city councils and the Assembly of Experts are slated for today, and the outcome could significantly affect President Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejads hold on power. Also, as Iran continues to pursue nuclear weapons, this week the Saudis and their Sunni neighbors all but announced their intent to follow suit, cooperating in matters of nuclear-energy development. If thats not enough, the FBI warns that a medical emergency experienced by imprisoned al-Qaida spiritual leader Omar Abdel-Rahman, the infamous Blind Sheikh who inspired the first World Trade Center attack, could prompt al-Qaida retaliation against the U.S.
And thats just the news this week, all undergirded by the Sunni-Shiite cleavage. With the likes of Iran and al-Qaida fueling violence in the region, and our troops lives on the line, maybejust maybethese are enemies worth getting to know.
The libs like him for a simple aspect - something they can recognize in themselves. Reyes is an idiot.
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