Via Hilzoy: Guess who said the following:
On “a temporary basis, I’m willing to ramp [US troop levels in Iraq] up by twenty or thirty thousand . . . for, I don’t know, two months, four months, six months — but certainly that would be an exception,”
No, not John McCain; new Democratic House Intelligence Committee Chair Silvestre Reyes. Alas, Reyes shares other negative traits with the US political and security establishment:
Reyes stumbled when I asked him a simple question about al Qaeda at the end of a 40-minute interview in his office last week. Members of the Intelligence Committee, mind you, are paid $165,200 a year to know more than basic facts about our foes in the Middle East.
We warmed up with a long discussion about intelligence issues and Iraq. And then we veered into terrorism’s major players.
To me, it’s like asking about Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland: Who’s on what side?
The dialogue went like this:
Al Qaeda is what, I asked, Sunni or Shia?
“Al Qaeda, they have both,” Reyes said. “You’re talking about predominately?”
“Sure,” I said, not knowing what else to say.
“Predominantly — probably Shiite,” he ventured.
He couldn’t have been more wrong.
Al Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shiite showed up at an al Qaeda club house, they’d slice off his head and use it for a soccer ball.
That’s because the extremist Sunnis who make up al Qaeda consider all Shiites to be heretics.
Wait – it gets better:
And Hezbollah? I asked him. What are they?
“Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah…”
He laughed again, shifting in his seat.
“Why do you ask me these questions at five o’clock? Can I answer in Spanish? Do you speak Spanish?”
“Pocito,” I said—a little.
“Pocito?! “ He laughed again.
“Go ahead,” I said, talk to me about Sunnis and Shia in Spanish.
Reyes: “Well, I, uh….”
I apologized for putting him “on the spot a little.” But I reminded him that the people who have killed thousands of Americans on U.S. soil and in the Middle East have been front page news for a long time now.
It’s been 23 years since a Hezbollah suicide bomber killed over 200 U.S. military personnel in Beirut, mostly Marines.
Hezbollah, a creature of Iran, is close to taking over in Lebanon. Reports say they are helping train Iraqi Shiites to kill Sunnis in the spiralling civil war.
“Yeah,” Reyes said, rightly observing, “but . . . it’s not like the Hatfields and the McCoys. It’s a heck of a lot more complex.