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Archive for the ‘Nancy Pelosi’ Category

Here’s a quick update that I felt was simply too interesting (it would be funny if so many lives weren’t at stake) to pass up.

Coming in after the debacle that was yesterday’s AP-Ipsos poll demonstrating America’s disapproval of President Bush is only exceeded by their displeasure in the obviously impotent job performance of the newly elected Democratic congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, frustrated with the Republican minority, is now going back to the drawing board. Way back in fact–all the way back to 1822.

Is this the progress Democrats and liberals have been promising? Do you think? Progress? Ahem.


PELOSI LOWERS THE BOOM
Wed May 16 2007 14:43:59 ET

After losing a string of embarrassing votes on the House floor because of procedural maneuvering, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has decided to change the current House Rules to completely shut down the floor to the minority.

The Democratic Leadership is threatening to change the current House Rules regarding the Republican right to the Motion to Recommit or the test of germaneness on the motion to recommit. This would be the first change to the germaneness rule since 1822.

In protest, the House Republicans are going to call procedural motions every half hour.

Developing...

Iraq Withdrawal Move Thwarted in Senate

 

May 16, 11:34 AM (ET)

By ANNE FLAHERTY

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Senate on Wednesday rejected legislation that would cut off money for combat operations in Iraq after March 31, 2008.

The vote was a loss for Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., and other Democrats who want to end the war. But the effort picked up support from members, including presidential hopefuls previously reluctant to limit war funding – an indication of the conflict’s unpopularity among voters.

The proposal lost 29-67 on a procedural vote, falling 31 votes short of the necessary votes to advance. Of the 67 senators who opposed Feingold’s proposal, there were 19 Democrats, 47 Republicans and Connecticut Independent Joseph Lieberman. Of the 29 supporting, 28 were Democrats and Vermont Independent Bernard Sanders.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democratic presidential front-runner, previously opposed setting a deadline on the war. But she said she agreed to back the measure “because we, as a united party, must work together with clarity of purpose and mission to begin bringing our troops home and end this war.”

Sen. Barack Obama, another leading 2008 prospect, said he would prefer a plan that offers more flexibility but wanted “to send a strong statement to the Iraqi government, the president and my Republican colleagues that it’s long past time to change course.”

The proposal had been expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed to advance under Senate rules, but was intended to gauge the tolerance of members on anti-war legislation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid staged a series of war votes Wednesday to inform negotiations with the House on a war spending bill.

“We stand united…. in our belief that troops are enmeshed in an intractable civil war,” said Reid, D-Nev.

Feingold’s measure, co-sponsored by Reid and Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., proved divisive for Democrats.

Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he opposes any measure that cuts off money for the war.

“We don’t want to send the message to the troops” that Congress does not support them, said Levin, D-Mich. “We’re going to support those troops.”

But other Democrats said the move was necessary.

“I’m not crazy about the language in the Feingold amendment, but I am crazy about the idea that we have to keep the pressure on,” said Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., who also wants the Democratic presidential nomination.

The Senate vote on Feingold’s legislation was one of several expected Wednesday, as the Democratic-controlled Congress struggles to clear legislation for Bush’s signature by the end of next week to continue U.S. military operations through Sept. 30.

The House last week passed legislation funding the war on two separate, 60-day installments.

The Senate must take the next step by passing its own measure. Given the political forces at work, that legislation will be a placeholder, its only purpose to trigger three-way negotiations involving the House, Senate and Bush administration on a final compromise.

As a result, officials said Tuesday that Reid and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell had discussed jointly advancing a bill so barebones that it would contain no funds and do little more than express congressional support for the troops.

Negotiations on the final compromise are expected to take days.

Wednesday’s votes on Feingold and other proposals “will provide strong guidance to our conferees and help shape the conference negotiations we have ahead of us,” said Reid.

In addition to Feingold’s measure, members were expected to vote on legislation by Sen. John Warner, R-Va., that would threaten billions of dollars in U.S. aid for Iraq if Baghdad does not make progress on certain military and political reforms.

Reid said he would oppose Warner’s measure because it doesn’t go far enough; the proposal would allow the president to waive the restriction on foreign aid.

“It is nothing,” said Reid.

Levin pulled from the floor his proposal to set an Oct. 1 date to begin troop withdrawals, but allow the president to waive that requirement. He had pitched the idea with the expectation that the president would accept it because of the waiver; but, Levin said Wednesday he had been advised by the White House that the president would veto the measure regardless.

Poll: Congress, Bush share low approval

By ALAN FRAM, Associated Press Writer Fri May 11, 3:49 PM ET

WASHINGTON – People think the Democratic-led Congress is doing just as dreary a job as

President Bush

, following four months of bitter political standoffs and little progress on

Iraq

and a host of domestic issues.

An AP-Ipsos poll also found that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (news, bio, voting record) is a more popular figure than the president and her colleagues on Capitol Hill, though she faces a gender gap in which significantly more women than men support her.

The survey found only 35 percent approve of how Congress is handling its job, down 5 percentage points in a month. That gives lawmakers the same bleak approval rating as Bush, who has been mired at about that level since last fall, including his dip to a record low for the AP-Ipsos poll of 32 percent last January.

“It’s mostly Iraq” plus a lack of progress in other areas, said Rep. Tom Cole (news, bio, voting record), R-Okla., who heads the House GOP’s campaign committee. “These are not good numbers for an incumbent, and it doesn’t matter if you have an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ next to your name.”

Democrats agree that the problem is largely Iraq, which has dominated this year’s session of Congress while producing little more than this month’s Bush veto of a bill requiring the withdrawal of U.S. troops. It has also overshadowed House-passed bills on stem cell research, student loans and other subjects that the White House opposes, they say.

“People are unhappy, there hasn’t been a lot of change in direction, for example in Iraq,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (news, bio, voting record), D-Md., chairman of House Democrats’ campaign effort.

Rising gasoline prices could also be a factor, lawmakers said.

In another measure of popular discontent, the survey found that 71 percent say the country is on the wrong track — about even with the 73 percent who said so last May, the worst level since the AP-Ipsos poll began in December 2003.

The survey was taken Monday through Wednesday, before Bush offered to seek compromise with congressional Democrats over a war spending bill setting benchmarks for progress in Iraq.

Bush told reporters Thursday that if pollsters had asked his opinion about Iraq last fall, “I’d have said I disapprove of what was going on in Iraq. They could have put me down as part of the disapproval process.”

That was before his decision to send nearly 30,000 additional troops to Iraq, which “would more likely cause me to approve of what’s going on in Iraq,” he added.

Overall approval of Bush was steady from last month, but fell to 69 percent among Republicans, about 7 percentage points below where it had been in April. Earlier this week, a group of GOP moderate House members warned Bush that the status quo in Iraq could mean Republican election losses next year.

“If the war doesn’t begin to turn around, Republicans will have problems,” said Rep. Peter King (news, bio, voting record), R-N.Y., who said he supports Bush’s Iraq policy.

White House spokesman Tony Snow declined to comment on the poll.

Congress’ approval rating this week was 10 points higher than a year ago, when Republicans were in control.

But after bumping up in April, this month’s drop left lawmakers’ job approval where it was when the year began. April saw Congress defy Bush and send him a bill financing the war and requiring a troop withdrawal, which he vetoed May 1.

“People wanted change in Washington” on many issues, not just Iraq, said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (news, bio, voting record), D-Ill., a member of the House Democratic leadership. “I’m not surprised about where people are. They’re hearing only about Iraq.”

Congress’ reduced appeal was evident in several categories of people. Only 48 percent of Democrats said they approved of Congress, down from 55 percent last month. That included a 12 percentage point drop among Democratic women, though support from Democratic men remained steady.

Approval by minorities also fell a dozen points to 39 percent, with a similar reduction among people whose family incomes exceed $75,000.

By region, the steepest drop was in the Midwest, where approval fell by 10 percentage points to 28 percent. Congress’ highest approval was in the Northeast, where four in ten gave it a positive rating.

As for Pelosi, D-Calif., her overall approval of 45 percent stood 10 points higher than Bush’s and Congress’.

She was seen favorably by 52 percent of women, but only 39 percent of men. While whites are closely split about her, minorities approve of her job by a 15-point margin.

Pelosi’s numbers are about where she was last month but slightly lower than in January. In the last month, she has lost significant support from younger voters, college-educated women and Westerners.

“Voters are frustrated by the fact that the president refuses to change direction on Iraq,” said Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly.

Bush’s approval ratings are lowest for his handling of Iraq and domestic issues including health care, with about one-third seeing him favorably. About four in 10 like the job he is doing on the economy and foreign policy.

Men give the president higher grades than women do, whites higher than minorities, and married people higher than singles.

The AP-Ipsos survey involved telephone interviews with 1,000 adults. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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Slipping into the aftermath of the recent Iranian hostage crisis, the officials and citizenry of Britain, the soldiers who were held against their will and their families who likely slept little during the nearly 15 day ordeal, are understandably all breathing a collective sigh of relief as the former captives arrive home for tearful reunions and military debriefs (as well as the unsurprising truth that is currently coming to light.) While Prime Minister Tony Blair claims no deals were proffered in order to secure release for the British soldiers, and I tend to accept that as highly probable, we likely won’t know what exactly transpired behind the Persian curtain to enable this thankfully positive outcome. All we have is Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “Easter gift” explanation.

It’s darned nice of Ahmadinejad to offer Britain (and from his point of view, the Western world especially the United States) this “Easter gift” despite the explicit fact that he is the relative leader of an Islamic republic that rejects outright any notion of The New Testament, Jesus Christ, and the resurrection, let alone cute bunnies and colored eggs. By saying this, he only continues his mocking rhetoric, thumbing his nose not only at the west, but at Christianity as well. Ahmadinejad is not some student neo-hippy who took his first philosophy course and suddenly he converted to atheism because it’s the hip thing to do. This is the president of a country whose ruling hierarchy, most notably embodied in the elderly form of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is purely evil and presents the greatest danger to any stability in the Middle East and the world in general due to their extremist Islamic beliefs. Happy Easter indeed.

Despite Mahmoud’s generous and gracious holiday surprise (what a top notch humanitarian), there lingers the question as to why Iran felt the need to abduct the British soldiers in the first place and at that particular time. Was it a direct response to the detention of Iranians in Iraq by U.S. forces back in mid January? While a convenient excuse, that is probably not the case. Assuming the 15 British troops were indeed in Iraqi waters as is most likely the case, on the surface the abduction at best is a testing of the waters so to speak. At worst, it would appear to have been an act of war.

For the most part, the Iranian people are, to say the least, rather disdainful of their current governmental superiors and the path by which they have been led (no need to go into the epidemic of torture and filet-o-tongue style enforcement methods.) The administration of Iran, under the leadership of Ahmadinejad, Khamenei, et. al. have accomplished nothing for their country but increased international censure, diplomatic condemnation, United Nations economic sanctions, and all around general isolation from the world community at large all because they simply want to turn a little weapons grade uranium into a nuclear missile in order to nuke Israel. Sounds like a party to me.

So were the international pressures and economic sanctions actually doing any good? Most likely, as evidenced in the capture and two week internment of the British soldiers. Yet how are sanctions in anyway related to taking hostages? In my estimation, and in this case, they were closely related.

Early last Summer Iran, through its puppet organization Hezbollah, orchestrated and perpetrated a very similar stunt by kidnapping a few IDF soldiers, placing newly instituted Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert into the awkward position of fight or flight. Perceptibly, Ahmadinejad with the backing of the clerics, were testing the resolve of Olmert. Unfortunately, the ultimate failure in that 2006 Israeli-Lebanese conflict (also known as The July War) of Olmert not only strengthened the resolve of Hezbollah specifically and Islamic fundamentalists throughout the Middle East generally, but the failure of the Iranian pop-quiz demonstrated Israel’s faltering infallibility in the face of European and eventually American pressure to stand down–captured Israeli soldiers were not worth the added tumult a prolonged conflict would generate throughout the region. An “F” for Israel and a “D-” for Europe and the United States.

Nearly a year later, Iran once again evaluates the resolve of the West, this time kidnapping and holding hostage the 15 British military personnel. Whereas the first test was squarely directed at Olmert and Israel within the Middle East, this exam would scrutinize the will of Tony Blair and the people of England, our closest and most important ally. For thirteen days Blair did little to encourage his people that matters concerning the return of their hostages from Iran were being efficiently, effectively, and quickly dealt with, at least outwardly. Instead, what the world witnessed was a man flummoxed by the ongoing situation who, through his inability to act in any relevant and purposeful manner, managed to appear wholly capitulating to those who held illegally captive citizens of England. At the very least, Blair proved his worth as an eloquent press secretary by frequently appearing before news cameras, emitting streams of self-demoralizing sententious pronouncements that seemed to do nothing but embolden the Iranian captors on a daily basis. Is it any wonder then Blair appeared more than little confounded when the announcement came down of the soldiers’ release? An “F” for Britain and a “D-” for the West.

What do to these two kidnapping events teach Iran? At this point, it proves to Ahmadinejad that two of their biggest worries, Israel and England (Europe was lost years ago) have little to no will for a fight. While I do not necessarily condone war as was the case with Israel and Lebanon last Summer, neither do I completely rule out military action if diplomacy is obviously going the way of the Dodo.

At this point, Iran is basking in the warm glow of their prodigious accomplishments, at least from their perspective. Despite the fact that sanctions may in fact be working, as is evidently the case partly resulting from their desperate and despicable actions two weeks ago and the aforementioned prequel last Summer in Lebanon, Iran has been given a nuclear reprieve–more time to enrich additional uranium and further destabilize an already chaotic expanse in desperate need of sensible guidance all around.

Unfortunately the Middle East does not get sensible guidance. Instead, it gets Nancy Pelosi. Whether one believes she had the right to travel to such a volatile region in order to conduct international diplomacy with various heads of state including the above mentioned Ehud Olmert and current Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad (whose father, Hafez al-Assad grew to infamy for butchering upwards of 30,000 of his own people in the city of Hama back in 1982), there is no doubt that her presence did nothing but complicate the hostage situation in Iran, perhaps even legitimizing the acts committed by Ahmadinejad and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard because of her flagrant disregard of President Bush’s express wishes to stay away from the area entirely.

Whether she broke the law by making the trip in opposition to Bush is immaterial to this discussion. What she did accomplish was the creation of a wake of confusion with every step she took throughout the Middle East. How does one so dense manage to become one of the central leaders of the most powerful nation on the planet? Considering George W. Bush has managed two terms in office, it’s not difficult to understand the how and the why.

Make no mistake. Nancy Pelosi knows next to nothing concerning foreign policy, particularly in the turbulent Middle East. This is most clearly evidenced in her appointment of Representative Silvestre Reyes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. To see what I mean, go here. If she knew anything about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or Hamas or Hezbollah or the Muslim Brotherhood or Islamic Jihad, she would never have so egregiously misinterpreted and twisted a conversation she participated in with Ehud Olmert to mean that Israel was currently prepared to resume peace talks with Syria when in fact that was not and is not the case. Still, that’s what she told Assad (Olmert strongly censured and distanced himself from Pelosi’s comment to Assad, correcting Pelosi on her ridiculous faux paux), the leader of Syria, a country who’s administration is one of the central providers of weapons to Hezbollah, who supports training for Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and who as an agent of Iran wishes and works towards the unilateral annihilation of Israel. By proxy, this is what Nancy Pelosi is working towards. By proxy, Iran and Syria are who Nancy Pelosi is working with. Shameful doesn’t even begin to cover it.

So why the irresponsible and simple-minded Pelosi makes nice with those who not only seek the destruction of Israel, but of the west and the United States as well, we can be sure that her actions and tactless comments with state supporters of terrorism will certainly embolden and legitimize the concepts of the Islamic state and sharia law, and all of the repressions and curtailed freedoms that come with them. What a nice “Easter gift.”

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Nancy Pelosi colludes with a terrorist tyrant


Posted: April 5, 2007
9:09 p.m. Eastern


Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Syria

It is frankly astounding to me that people aren’t making a bigger deal of the colossal impropriety of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s unauthorized trip to Syria. Where is the outrage?

I realize Democratic leaders and those they answer to have unmitigated contempt for President Bush. I realize they believe the public rewarded their hatred and their anti-war posturing in the November congressional elections.

But according to the latest news reports, President Bush is still in office. This means he is still commander in chief and primarily in charge of U.S. foreign policy.

Democrats have long been opposed to the administration’s stern policy toward terrorist-sponsoring states like Iran and Syria. They apparently believe their evil tyrants mean well, and if we will just open a dialogue with them, we can build a lasting peace. After all, the vaunted Iraq Surrender Group recommended that very thing.

read more…

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Terrorists endorse Pelosi’s ‘good policy of dialogue’
Militants call House speaker’s visit ‘brave’ and hope for talks with Iran


Posted: April 4, 2007
2:14 p.m. Eastern
By Aaron Klein
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com


U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

JERUSALEM – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit today to Syria – in which she called for dialogue with Damascus – was “brave” and “very appreciated” and could bring about “important changes” to America’s foreign policy, including talks with “Middle East resistance groups,” according to members of terror organizations here whose top leaders live in Syria.

One terror leader, Khaled Al-Batch, a militant and spokesman for Islamic Jihad, expressed hope Pelosi would continue winning elections, explaining the House speaker’s Damascus visit demonstrated she understands the Middle East.

Pelosi’s visit was opposed by President Bush, who called Syria a “state sponsor of terror.”

read more…

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PMO denies peace message to Assad

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a rare “clarification” Wednesday that, in gentle diplomatic terms, contradicted US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s statement in Damascus that she had brought a message from Israel about a willingness to engage in peace talks.

According to the statement, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert emphasized in his meeting with Pelosi on Sunday that “although Israel is interested in peace with Syria, that country continues to be part of the Axis of Evil and a force that encourages terror in the entire Middle East.”

Olmert, the statement clarified, told Pelosi that Syria’s sincerity about a genuine peace with Israel would be judged by its willingness to “cease its support of terror, cease its sponsoring of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations, refrain from providing weapons to Hizbullah and bringing about the destabilizing of Lebanon, cease its support of terror in Iraq, and relinquish the strategic ties it is building with the extremist regime in Iran.”

The statement said Olmert had not communicated to Pelosi any change in Israeli policy on Damascus.

Pelosi, who met in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar Assad over the objections of US President George W. Bush, said she brought a message to Assad from Olmert saying that Israel was ready for peace talks.

read more…

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The man within the red circle is believed to be Mahmoud Ahmedinejad during the Iran Hostage Crisis that began November 4, 1979.

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“Politicians are dumb everywhere. There are very few smart, well-meaning politicians.”
– Hecubus

That is a quote from little old me from this story concerning Chicago’s ban on The Nativity Story advertising. As much as I believe that statement, little did I predict that a politician would emerge this quickly and demonstrate so thoroughly his lack of knowledge in matters he had better well have a near-expert understanding. Please meet your new Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Silvestre Reyes, Democrat from Texas, a man who possesses an obvious flair for the obtuse.

Below is an interview conducted by Jeff Stein for the Congressional Quarterly. In his time with the incoming HIC Chairman, Stein asked some fairly basic, and fairly simple questions concerning Islam, Iraq, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda. Reyes’ mental acuity is shocking–not in what he knows, but in what he doesn’t (but certainly should) know.

[Of course, Republicans prooved just as moronic in a previous interview under similar circumstances, but they don’t head the House Intelligence Committee either. ]

Now you may say to yourself, “Well, I don’t know all the answers,” or “those are some pretty tough questions.” That’s fine. But your job doesn’t likely require you to know all of the answers to the questions posed by Stein. It’s disturbing that the soon to be leader of the House Intelligence Committee, whose job it is to be intimately familiar with subjects and issues such as Islam, Iraq, Shiites vs. Sunnis, and al-Qaeda, has barely a clue as to what those concepts and entities entail. Reyes doesn’t even do a passable job stumbling his way through the interview with the typical politicized pat answers that all politicians practice religiously when standing in front of a mirror.

But in all honesty, the questions in the interview are not difficult to anyone who keeps up with current world events, and I found myself becoming very angry with Reyes and the intellectual vacuum in which he resides . This man has no clue, and he has no right to sit as Chairman for a committee whose expertise lies in the areas in which he was queried.

Oh well, Nancy Pelosi picks another winner to lead the nation. She would have been much better off choosing Reps. Jane Harman (Calif.), who does have the understanding and expertise necessary for the Chairman post, but Pelosi’s personal issues with Harman prevented her from making the right choice. Way to go, Pelosi.

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Democrats’ New Intelligence Chairman Needs a Crash Course on al Qaeda

Forty years ago, Sgt.
Silvestre Reyes was a helicopter crew chief flying dangerous combat missions in South Vietnam from the top of a soaring rocky outcrop near the sea called Marble Mountain.

After the war, it turned out that the communist Viet Cong had tunneled into the hill and built a combat hospital right beneath the skids of Reyes’ UH-1 Huey gunship.

Now the five-term Texas Democrat, 62, is facing similar unpleasant surprises about the enemy, this time as the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

That’s because, like a number of his colleagues and top counterterrorism officials that I’ve interviewed over the past several months, 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?

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.

I thought it only right now to pose the same questions to a Democrat, especially one who will take charge of the Intelligence panel come January. The former border patrol agent also sits on the Armed Services Committee.

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 a l Qaeda consider all Shiites to be heretics.

Al Qaeda’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.

It’s been five years since these Muslim extremists flew hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center.

Is it too much to ask that our intelligence overseers know who they are?

Civil War

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?”

“Poquito,” I said—a little.

“Poquito?! “ 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.

“And I agree with you — we ought to expend some effort into understanding them. But speaking only for myself, it’s hard to keep things in perspective and in the categories.”

Reyes is not alone.

The best argument for needing to understand who’s what in the Middle East is probably the mistaken invasion itself, despite the preponderance of expert opinion that it was a terrible idea — including that of Bush’s father and his advisers. On the day in 2003 when Iraqi mobs toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, Bush was said to be unaware of the possibility that a Sunni-Shia civil war could fill the power vacuum, according to a reliable source with good White House connections.

If President Bush and some of his closest associates, not to mention top counterterrorism officials, have demonstrated their own ignorance about who the players are in the Middle East, why should we expect the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee to get it right?
Trent Lott, the veteran Republican senator from Mississippi, said only last September that “It’s hard for Americans, all of us, including me, to understand what’s wrong with these people.”

“Why do they kill people of other religions because of religion?” wondered Lott, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, after a meeting with Bush.

“Why do they hate the Israelis and despise their right to exist? Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference?

“They all look the same to me,” Lott said.

Haunting

The administration’s disinterest in the Arab world has rattled down the chain of command.

Only six people in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad are fluent in Arabic, according to last week’s report of the Iraq Study Group. Only about two dozen of the embassy’s thousand employees have some familiarity with the language, the report said.

The Iraq Study Group was amazed to find that, despite spending $2 billion on Iraq in 2006, more wasn’t being done to try “to understand the people who fabricate, plant and explode roadside bombs.”

Rare is the military unit with an American soldier who can read a captured document or interrogate a prisoner, my own sources tell me.

It was that way in Vietnam, too, Reyes says, which “haunts us.”

“If you substitute Arabization for Vietnamization, if you substitute . . . our guys going in and taking over a place then leaving it and the bad guys come back in. . . .”

He trails off, despairing.

“I could draw many more analogies.”

Yet Reyes says he favors sending more troops there.

“If it’s going to target the militias and eliminate them, I think that’s a worthwhile investment,” he said.

It’s hard to find anybody in Iraq who thinks the U.S. can do that.

On “a temporary basis, I’m willing to ramp them up by twenty or thirty thousand . . . for, I don’t know, two months, four months, six months — but certainly that would be an exception,” Reyes said.

Meanwhile, the killing is going on below decks, too, within Sunni and Shiite groups and factions.

Anybody who pays serious attention to Iraq knows that.

Reyes says his first hearings come January will focus on how U.S. intelligence can do a better job helping the troops in Iraq.

It may be way too late for that.

“Stop giving me tests!” Reyes exclaimed, half kidding.

“I’m not going to talk to you any more!”

Queries Vex New Chair of Intelligence

Reuters
Tuesday, December 12, 2006; Page A07

The incoming Democratic chairman of the House intelligence committee could not describe Hezbollah and incorrectly described al-Qaeda‘s Islamic roots in a recent interview.

Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.), whom incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) named earlier this month to chair the panel, formally known as the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, was asked by a reporter from Congressional Quarterly whether al-Qaeda was Sunni or Shiite. “Predominantly — probably Shiite,” Reyes replied.

From Osama bin Laden down, al-Qaeda’s leadership is comprehensively Sunni and subscribes to a form of Sunni Islam known for not tolerating theological deviation.

In fact, U.S. officials blame al-Qaeda’s late leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, for the surge in sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites.

Asked to describe the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, according to a story published online Friday, Reyes responded “Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah” and then said, “Why do you ask me these questions at 5 o’clock?”

The Texas congressman later added: “Speaking only for myself, it’s hard to keep things in perspective and in the categories.”

Reyes, a former Border Patrol agent and an opponent of the Iraq war, was chosen for the intelligence committee post over the panel’s two top-ranking Democrats, Reps. Jane Harman (Calif.) and Alcee L. Hastings (Fla.).

Reyes’s office issued a statement yesterday noting that the interview covered a wide range of topics.

“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,” Reyes said in the statement.

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