You'd think I'd have a hard time being surprised by the levels of stupidity in Washington anymore. But no, this just hit me like a thunderclap:
...I asked Willie Hulon, chief of the bureau’s new national security branch, whether he thought that it was important for a man in his position to know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites. “Yes, sure, it’s right to know the difference,” he said. “It’s important to know who your targets are.” ...So next I asked him if he could tell me the difference. He was flummoxed.... O.K., I asked, trying to help, what about today? Which one is Iran — Sunni or Shiite? He thought for a second. “Iran and Hezbollah,” I prompted. “Which are they?”And that's after a summer where both Iran and Hezbollah were front-page news. AHHH!
He took a stab: “Sunni.”
AND to his credit, Mr. Hulon, a distinguished agent who is up nights worrying about Al Qaeda while we safely sleep, did at least know that the vicious struggle between Islam’s Abel and Cain was driving Iraq into civil war. But then we pay him to know things like that, the same as some members of Congress.Somehow, though, it's the next part that's horrifying to me:
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.”So you mean, if I just sat down the Republican caucus and gave them a fifteen-minute lecture cribbed from a high school class on world religions, I could materially change the course of American policy?
We. Are. Fucking. Doomed.
(Link via Digby)