Meet Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Nice guy, by all accounts quite smart and hard working.
And stunningly ignorant.
Al Qaeda is what, I asked, Sunni or Shia?
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œAl Qaeda, they have both,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚? Reyes said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œYouÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re talking about predominately?ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚?
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œSure,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚? I said, not knowing what else to say.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œPredominantly ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬? probably Shiite,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚? he ventured.
He couldnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t have been more wrong.
Al Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shiite showed up at an al Qaeda club house, theyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢d slice off his head and use it for a soccer ball.
ThatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s because the extremist Sunnis who make up a l Qaeda consider all Shiites to be heretics.
Al QaedaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Sunni roots account for its very existence. Osama bin Laden and his followers believe the Saudi Royal family besmirched the true faith through their corruption and alliance with the United States, particularly allowing U.S. troops on Saudi soil….
And Hezbollah? I asked him. What are they?
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œHezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah…ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚?
Let me help you out, Silvestre. They’re a Shiite militia in Lebanon backed by Syria and Iran.
Does it make anyone feel better to know that key Republicans and FBI counterterrorism officials fared poorly on the same test? Cuz it sure doesn’t do anything for me. These guys are paid $160,000 a year to understand this stuff. The fact that I am apparently more familiar with the forces at play than they are is — well, pick your adjective: absurd? appalling? frightening?
But it goes a long way towards explaining why we’ve done such a horrible job in Iraq.
As I noted above, Reyes is by all accounts a very smart man. Let’s hope he’s a quick study, because the nation is going to need it.