[Marxism] Breathtaking ignorance of ruling class politicians

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Dec 12 17:11:28 MST 2006

True or False: U.S. Intel Leaders Fail Quiz on the Basics of Islam
by Z. Byron Wolf, ABC News

Pop quiz.

Quick. Without thinking or Googling, who are the 
senators from Wyoming? The Chinese president? 
What are the two main sects of Islam? Al Qaeda members follow which sect?

Pretty hard, huh?

A reporter recently directed the questions about 
Islam to Texas Democratic Rep. Silvestre Reyes.

Reyes failed, which would perhaps not be a big 
deal if Reyes were an ordinary congressman.

But he's not.

Come January, Reyes will chair the House 
Intelligence Committee, which oversees all U.S. 
intelligence activity, a good portion of which is 
directed toward the war on terror.

Reyes could not tell Congressional Quarterly's 
national security editor Jeff Stein whether al 
Qaeda was made up of Sunnis or Shiites.

 From Stein's scathing column on the exchange:

"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."

-- Congressional Quarterly

Reyes was wrong despite having a 50-50 chance of success.

"Issues like al Qaeda and the Middle East deserve 
serious discussion and consideration," Reyes said 
in a statement after the column was posted on CQ's Web site.

"The CQ interview covered a wide range of topics 
other than the selected points published in the 
story. As a Member of the Intelligence Committee 
since before 9/11, I'm acutely aware of al 
Qaeda's desire to harm Americans. The 
Intelligence Committee will keep its eye on the 
ball, and focus on the pressing security and intelligence issues facing us."

For his part, Stein realizes maybe even he could 
not pass a detailed quiz on Islam.

"I don't pretend to be an expert on this stuff, 
either," Stein said to ABC. "That's the irony of 
this thing. But I cover intelligence, so I have 
to have a functional knowledge of Islam."

Stein said he kept the quiz easy for Reyes. "I 
didn't even go to the tough questions. Like what is Wahabism?"

Reyes is not the only congressman on the 
intelligence committee who has trouble with these basic questions about Islam.

Republicans Jo Ann Davis, R-Va., and Terry 
Everett, R-Ala., also failed this test, and Stein 
wrote about them in a previous column.

Stein has made a cottage industry of asking these 
questions of lawmakers from both parties and FBI counterterrorism officials.

He has received the same blank stares that Jay 
Leno gets when he stops people on the street and 
asks them to name the first American president.

That's a comedy show, though. This is Congress.

Stein cedes that not all Congress members have failed the quiz.

"Some of the people I've asked these questions 
have known them," Stein said. "Zoe Lofgren, the 
ranking Democrat on the intelligence subcommittee 
of the House Homeland Security Committee, knew it 
very well. [Rep.] Jane Harman, too. She kind of 
rolled her eyes and said, 'Where do you want me 
to start? Fourteen-hundred years ago there was a 
split in Islam.' ... And I said, 'OK, you know."

It should be noted that incoming House Speaker 
Nancy Pelosi bumped Harman, D-Calif., out of her 
position as the ranking Democrat on the 
Intelligence Committee in favor of Reyes.

In case you, like Reyes, were not aware, Shiite 
and Sunni are the two main branches of Islam.

The differences between these two are at the 
heart of what people in the news business are 
calling "sectarian strife" and "civil war" in Iraq.

"Shiites, who account for some 10 percent to 20 
percent of the world's Muslims, split off from 
the mainstream of Islamic practice because of a 
disagreement about who was rightfully qualified 
to lead the Muslim community," says the 
nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations in a 
background paper on the subject posted on its Web site.

"Shiites believe Islam's leader should be a 
descendant of the Prophet Mohammed. Sunnis say 
leaders should be chosen through ijma, or 
consensus. Shiites revere Ali ibn Abi Talib, the 
Prophet Mohammed's cousin and son-in-law, who was 
killed while serving as the top leader, or 
Caliph, of Islam in the 7th century. His tomb is 
in Najaf, Iraq's holiest Shiite city."

On-the-spot, off-the-cuff questions from 
reporters have long been a thorn in the side of politicians.

President Bush was famously quizzed by a TV 
reporter in Boston in November 1999 about the 
names of world leaders. He went one for four.

Since then he has gotten some on-the-job training.

One of the world leaders Bush was unable to name 
was General Pervez Musharraf, who at that time 
had recently taken control of Pakistan in a 
military coup. Today Musharraf is a major ally of Bush's in the war on terror.

Previous House Intelligence Committee chairmen 
have had a history, too, of putting their feet in their mouths.

Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., chaired the House 
Intelligence Committee from 1997 until 2005, when 
he resigned to be nominated by Bush as CIA director.

Goss had been a CIA agent in the 1960s and 1970s, 
but told liberal filmmaker Michael Moore long 
before his nomination to head the agency, that he 
would not now be qualified even to become an agent.

"It is true I was in CIA from approximately the 
late '50s to approximately the early '70s," Goss said to Moore.

"And it's true I was a case officer, clandestine 
services office, and yes I do understand the core 
mission of the business. I couldn't get a job 
with CIA today. I am not qualified. I don't have 
the language skills. I, you know, my language 
skills were romance languages and stuff. We're 
looking for Arabists today. I don't have the 
cultural background probably. And I certainly 
don't have the technical skills, uh, as my 
children remind me every day, 'Dad, you got to 
get better on your computer.' Uh, so, the things 
that you need to have, I don't have."Goss had 
been a CIA agent in the 1960s and 1970s, but told 
liberal filmmaker Michael Moore long before his 
nomination to head the agency, that would not now 
be qualified even to become an agent.

Moore conveniently released the interview, which 
had been stripped from his movie "Fahrenheit 
911," before Goss' confirmation hearings.

Quiz Answers: The senators from Wyoming are 
Republicans Mike Enzi and Craig Thomas, and the Chinese president is Hu Jintao.

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