Saturday, December 09, 2006

Incompetence at the Gates

Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.

Well, apparently those who don't know become politicians. It doesn't matter which side of the aisle you're on. The latest news is that the incoming chair of the House Intel Committee, Silvestri Reyes, is woefully misinformed or has not been paying attention to the work of the Committee he's been sitting on for years.
... Reyes can’t answer some fundamental questions about the powerful forces arrayed against us in the Middle East.

It begs the question, of course: How can the Intelligence Committee do effective oversight of U.S. spy agencies when its leaders don’t know basics about the battlefield? ...

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.
For the record, Al Qaeda is Sunni - a radically Islamist view based in turns on Wahhabism or Salafism.

Reyes then went on to show he was ignorant of who backs Hizbullah and could not even hazard a guess (Hizbullah is Shi'ite).

Al Qaeda and Hizbullah are two of the largest Islamic terrorist groups in the world, and the two groups who have inflicted the greatest number of American casualties, and Reyes couldn't answer the basic questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how. But let's not think that the GOPers on the Committee did much better:
To his credit, Reyes, a kindly, thoughtful man who also sits on the Armed Service Committee, does see the undertows drawing the region into chaos.

For example, he knows that the 1,400- year-old split in Islam between Sunnis and Shiites not only fuels the militias and death squads in Iraq, it drives the competition for supremacy across the Middle East between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia.

That’s more than two key Republicans on the Intelligence Committee knew when I interviewed them last summer. Rep. Jo Ann Davis, R-Va., and Terry Everett, R-Ala., both back for another term, were flummoxed by such basic questions, as were several top counterterrorism officials at the FBI.
That's cold comfort. At a time when we need the best and the brightest to deal with the complex issues of our time, we get the lowest common denominator.

There are also serious issues with the continued ongoing lack of members of the Armed Services who are fluent in Arabic - the language of our enemies in the region. I would add Farsi to the list of needs. Translation is a huge gap in our level of understanding and capabilities to follow up on leads and intel gathered in field operations. It is an Achilles heel that must be addressed.

Others blogging: Ed Morrissey, Hot Air, The Political Pit Bull, Bill's Bites, and Wake Up America.

Jane Hamsher is not a happy camper either, but sees this as one more reason for the US to get out of Iraq. The best that Obsidian Wings can think of is that at least Reyes isn't corrupt.

Is it too late for incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi to put aside her political and personal differences with Democrat Jane Harmon and put her in charge of a committee whose job it is to deal with intel issues that cut to the heart of longstanding conflicts between Sunni and Shia, al Qaeda, and sectarian divides that require a basic understanding of regional politics and history. Is it too much to ask of our representatives to know the basic information needed to make key decisions on which lives depend? Shouldn't voters demand as much?

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