Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Trick Question.

Quick, who hates America More, Shiites or Sunnis?

Much is being made of the failure of some government officials to explain the differences between Sunnis and Shiites. Actually, I suspect that this is not much more than intellectual pride at work, and just another of the Times's pieces timed to influence the election.

As far as Hamas and Hezbollah are concerned, what difference this distinction makes isn't all that clear. We know that Persians and Arabs are of different ethnicities, but where does that take us? The piece presumes that we all know why it's important and that the difference between the people who took our hostages at the Iranian embassy and those who blew up the World Trade Center is vastly important. Can you explain the difference between a Wahhabist and Salafist? They come to fundamentalism by different routes, but tracing those routes would require a degree in Islamic law. All that we really need to know is that they both advocate a return to the roots of Islam, stripped of innovations like human rights, democracy, tolerance and making peace with infidels. Ultimately the Sunni-Shiite distinction probably won't come into play until we are defeated and they start dividing up the spoils.

You'd think the author would be more interested in explaining the distinctions to his readers than in ridiculing people without giving a clear explanation of why it matters. I thought the points made by his prey in this game weren't all that irrelevant, or as pathetic as he seems to think. His questions certainly didn't demonstrate why the details are so important, or how it could make much of a difference in knowing how to defeat terrorism. As far as I can see, the techniques of Sunni terrorism and Shiite terrorism aren't all that distinctive. One thing I do know is that Al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein and the Palestinians are all Sunni and Arabs.

But don't get the idea that this is a connection between Saddam and 9/11. That would be really, really ignorant, wouldn't it?

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