Take Representative Terry Everett, a seven-term Alabama Republican who is vice chairman of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence.Fortunately, someone saw fit to inform the President about this ... just a couple of months before the Iraq invasion.
“Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?” I asked him a few weeks ago.
To his credit, he asked me to explain the differences. I told him briefly about the schism that developed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, and how Iraq and Iran are majority Shiite nations while the rest of the Muslim world is mostly Sunni. “Now that you’ve explained it to me,” he replied, “what occurs to me is that it makes what we’re doing over there extremely difficult, not only in Iraq but that whole area.”
January 2003 the President invited three members of the Iraqi opposition to join him to watch the Super Bowl. In the course of the conversation the Iraqis realized that the President was not aware that there was a difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. He looked at them and said, “You mean ... they're not, you know, there, there's this difference. What is it about?”Since the President made the decision to go ahead and invade, I'm sure that he carefully considered the situation and concluded that Rep. Everett was mistaken, and this wouldn't present much difficulty at all.
Billmon at Whisky Bar has some additional analysis of this article, including a dark observation that a better-educated leadership wouldn't have made the invasion of Iraq a better idea.
The Brits, after all, had T.E. Lawrence and Gertrude Bell, and they still failed in the Middle East—although not as badly as Don Rumsfeld and Condi Rice.