Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Can You Tell a Sunni From a Shiite?

Things are going bad in Iraq and Afghanistan: that's not news. But an op-ed piece by Jeff Stein on October 17, 2006 is news: after several years in which our country has been fighting two wars against militant Islamists in the Middle East and Central Asia, many of our country's leaders don't know the difference between Sunni and Shia, and don't know whether Iran is mainly Shia or not. In that part of the world these are fundamental distinctions; elementary. Jeff Stein tells us that with regard to the elementary issue of discerning Sunni from Shiite "most American officials " 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." Specifically he mentions the following: the chief of the FBI's new national security branch, the former chief of the FBI's counterterrorism branch, a Virginia Republican who heads a House intelligence
subcommittee charged with overseeing the C.I.A.'s performance in recruiting Islamic spies and analyzing information, and a Republican who is vice chairman of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence.
If the news in Iraq and Afghanistan was not in itself reason to doubt that anything good can come out of the situation now, the news about how indifferent our leaders are to the social and religious orientations of the peoples they are dealing with is evidence that the chances of success are even worse than anyone could have thought. A war in which the finest fighters in history were asked to risk life and limb for a vaguely conceived boondoggle, has become not only a tragedy but a farce.

Can You Tell a Sunni From a Shiite?
By JEFF STEIN Published: October 17, 2006 (New York Times)
Too many officials in charge of the war on terrorism just don’t care to learn much, if anything, about the enemy we’re fighting.

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