Home / General / Ladies and gentlemen, appearing all this week in the Gold Room . . . the appropriately-named Senate Minority Whip

Ladies and gentlemen, appearing all this week in the Gold Room . . . the appropriately-named Senate Minority Whip

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In a Congressional Quarterly piece flagged by Ygelsias, we’re reminded that racism’s conceptual grammar is quite mobile:

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.

Lott is an idiot, and so might be excused for forgetting that his own august legislative body authorized a fabulous, illegal war that has needlessly condemned hundred of thousands of people to an early grave. Indeed, a communal civil war is a great deal more comprehensible than what Lott and his peers have allowed to happen over the past five years.

Stein’s larger point — which he’s made before, is that many congressional leaders and law enforcement agents haven’t the foggiest understanding of the basic social and theological elements of Islam, against whose militants we are presumed to be waging an existential war. To be fair, I recently had a conversation with a world history professor — employed at a somewhat reputable university I prefer not to mention by name or location — who insisted that the Saudi monarchy was Shi’a. Awkwardness ensued. I mean, for shit’s sake — this is basic knowledge about a region about which Americans are supposed to be deeply interested. If it were only Americans who suffered the consequences of our ignorance, I’d be tempted to argue that we get what we deserve.

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