Republican Brains

Brian Zick

Our most important fundraising drive of the year is now underway. After you're done reading, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to ensure that In These Times can continue publishing in the year ahead.

National security editor at Congressional Quarterly Jeff Stein writes in the NY Times that he's been interviewing Washington counterterrorism officials, and has asked them this rather fundamental question: “Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?” After all, wouldn’t British counterterrorism officials responsible for Northern Ireland know the difference between Catholics and Protestants? (…) But so far, most American officials I’ve interviewed don’t have a clue. That includes not just intelligence and law enforcement officials, but also members of Congress who have important roles overseeing our spy agencies. How can they do their jobs without knowing the basics? (…) Take Representative Terry Everett, a seven-term Alabama Republican who is vice chairman of the House intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence.“Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?” I asked him a few weeks ago.Mr. Everett responded with a low chuckle. He thought for a moment: “One’s in one location, another’s in another location. No, to be honest with you, I don’t know. I thought it was differences in their religion, different families or something.”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.” Think Progress has video of House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King saying that being in Baghdad is "like being in Manhattan."

Support progressive media

As a nonprofit, reader-supported publication, In These Times depends on donations from people like you to continue publishing. Our final, end-of-year fundraising drive accounts for nearly half of our total budget. That’s why this fundraising drive is so important.

If you are someone who depends on In These Times to learn what is going on in the movements for social, racial, environmental and economic justice, the outcome of this fundraising drive is important to you as well.

How many readers like you are able to contribute between now and December 31 will determine the number of stories we can report, the resources we can put into each story and how many people our journalism reaches. If we come up short, it will mean making difficult cuts at time when we can least afford to do so.

If it is within your means, please make a tax-deductible donation today, to ensure that In These Times can continue publishing in the year ahead.

Subscribe and Save 66%

Less than $1.67 an issue