Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 8, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

McCAIN BEFUDDLEMENT WATCH....Ilan Goldenberg is watching the Crocker/Petraeus hearings so you don't have to. Second person up is John McCain, who suggests that despite its recent problems, al-Qaeda in Iraq is still an important threat in Iraq (video here). "Certainly not an obscure sect of the Shi'ites all overall?" he asks Petraeus — before hastily adding "or Sunnis or anybody else." Ilan Goldenberg comments:

So, I've watched this video a number of times because I really wasn't sure at first. But McCain did genuinely mix up Sunnis and Shi'a again. Saying that Al Qaeda was a Shi'a group before quickly correcting himself. Now, I know that there is a bit of gotcha going on here. But this man claims that his greatest qualification for the Presidency is that he understands foreign policy. But the differences between Sunni and Shi'a matter. They matter a lot! And this nasty habit of mixing it up just seriously needs to stop.

I suppose that eventually the press is bound to notice that McCain is seriously confused about the religious and political dynamics of Iraq and the greater Middle East, right? Maybe around December or so.

In other AQI news, Dana Goldstein reports that McCain isn't the only person in the room sowing confusion. Ryan Crocker's seems a little more deliberate, though:

Throughout this Senate hearing, Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker have persisted in shortening "Al Qaeda in Iraq" to plain old "Al Qaeda," despite the fact that these two organization have different leaderships, geneses, and missions. Yet when Crocker mentioned "Hezbollah in Iraq," he made sure to clarify, "That doesn't imply a connection to Lebanese Hezbollah."

Hmm. Could there, just maybe, be a political motivation for confusing our "Al Qaeda" terms?

Ya think?

Kevin Drum 1:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

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Comments

Next up: The Baghdad Renaissance, The Kirkuk Enlightenment, The Mosul Rejuvenation, and The Karbala Revival.

Posted by: gregor on April 8, 2008 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

I caught a little of Sen Chambliss (douchebag-GA) stating in the context of a question that Al Queda in Iraq is our main concern. I was too pissed to leave the tv on to see how far that nonesense went.

Posted by: Martin on April 8, 2008 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

There's no confusion here. The situation is simply a mess. So obviously everyone's descriptions are a mess and are confusing.

Posted by: optical weenie on April 8, 2008 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder what people think causes McCain to constantly screw up this information. With two groups it would seem that he has a 50% chance of getting it right, so there should be plenty of examples when he gets it right.

I suspect that it is something else, not intentional, but due to the way he learned the information in the first place.

I suspect that he first associated Al Qaeda as the enemy which existed in Iraq from the beginning, the reason for getting into Iraq. But as the threat in Iraq became to Iranian support, he associated Al Qaeda with Iran. This happened at a level of thought above religious association, he never had this level of information.

Then, this new piece of information, that many groups are religiously segregated, the largest division being Shi'a and Sunni. To McCain these are just words, he never thought in these terms, and was never able to use this information to make reasonable assumptions based upon it.

At some point he learned the incorrect association, maybe a year or so ago. In the present, he has learned that this association is incorrect, he knows it is incorrect, but can't remember which one is actually correct when he speaks. So what comes out is the incorrect initial association. Now to cover this up he just spits out a whole list of potential associations. He can't pick, so he just lists all the ones he remembers.

Unfortunately this same problem clouds the MSM, us bloggers and everyone not familiar with Iran. I have relatives from Iran, and I ran this absurd situation by a few of them: Iran associated with Al Qaeda. The consensus is that anything is possible in Iran. But this doesn't mean that the Iranian government is supporting Al Qaeda, only that the borders are very open, there are many factions in Iran. I think there are also Kurds in Iran. The confusion is that Iran is both a government and a geographic location.

Posted by: tomj on April 8, 2008 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Ilan Goldenberg of Democracy Arsenal? No thanks.

Dana Goldstein: "Could there, just maybe, be a political motivation for confusing our "Al Qaeda" terms?"

It's been going on for at least 3 or 4 years. One day, years from now, our mainstream media, like the NYT and Washington Post, might notice. Then again, maybe not, as it coincides with their ideological predispositions.

Posted by: luci on April 8, 2008 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

All enemies/opponents of the United States are fungible. Always have been, alway will be. To make distinctions among them is a sign that one's hatred of said enemies is not pure enough. We are all for purity of thought!

Posted by: bigTom on April 8, 2008 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Listen, McCain is simply ignorant, slow and belligerent. He has ALWAYS been remarkably dense and slow on the uptake. Once he gets something in his head, right or wrong, there it stays. And if you challenge him on it, he will lash out angrily. This well documented state of affairs is getting worse with his old age, not better. This is likely the best he can do. Seriously.

Posted by: bmaz on April 8, 2008 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Notice how NASDAQ fell just as the hearing concluded You can type in the DJIA to see its fall, also. Apparently traders found nothing positive from the testimony of Petraeus and Crocker.

The illegal war in Iraq and its financial backers just don't inspire confidence in anyone anymore. Look for new market lows by Friday.

Posted by: Kevin Hayden on April 8, 2008 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

So, you got any Petraeus puts available?

Posted by: bmaz on April 8, 2008 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, but McCain's is a manly man who knows how to put a woman in her place. Who cares if he doesn't know Shi'a from shinola? Neither do I. Get me a beer, babe.

Posted by: thersites on April 8, 2008 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

What's there to be confused about? They ain't Americans, right?

Posted by: dr sardonicus on April 8, 2008 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

BeTrayUs is putting a halt to troop withdrawal from Iraq, YEH just keep on listening to these stupid republicans and like McCain "The WarHawk" said we will be over there for a 100 years, just how fvcking stupid can these republicans be? I would say pretty fvcking STUPID. The military is streched thin now because of the whacko we have now in the white house now if you want at least four more years of Bush then vote for his older brother whacko McCain.

Posted by: Bert on April 8, 2008 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Didn't Leiberman make an allusion to "Democrats in Iraq" being responsible for much of the recent uptick in violence? Or maybe it was Democrats talking about Iraq. Or having anything to do with Iraq. Except STFU. I don't know, it is so confusing, isn't it?

Posted by: steve duncan on April 8, 2008 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

It will be very reassuring if McCain's VP is Condoleeza Rice. McCain might be confused on the details, but VP Rice will be at his side, dispensing the same wise counsel as she provided to President Bush as he made some of the wisest foreign policy decisions in American history.

Posted by: thersites on April 8, 2008 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

All right, its time McCain fess up. What he meant to say is "Al Qaeda in Iraq isnt just some little piss ant organization." But he quickly cleaned it up before he got CSpan in trouble with the FCC. And this Befuddlement BS is all you got? This is funny as hell. McCain is going to be a great POTUS cause he's going to piss you all off more than Bush did.

Posted by: DF on April 8, 2008 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

Thersites - get with it! It's "get me a beer b*tch".

Posted by: optical weenie on April 8, 2008 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Weenie; the "b*tch" is saved for if I have to ask twice.

Posted by: thersites on April 8, 2008 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

There are two reasonable interpretations of McCain's quick self-correction: 1) He realized that he had made a mistake, but didn't want to admit it, so he pretended that he had really meant to speak more broadly, and 2) He realized that he might have made a mistake--who can keep sunnis and shiites apart anyway?--and so better cover himself. Both possibilities indicate confusion; the second, rather more than the first.

Posted by: Tony Greco on April 8, 2008 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Look, is there a difference between a Sioux and a Cheyenne? The only good Injun is a dead one.

Posted by: George Armstrong Custer on April 8, 2008 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

Wait until Joe L. tells McCain that the Shias are fighting among themselves. Right now he is only struggling with the Sunni/Shia split.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on April 8, 2008 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

The goofs that McCain seems to display with ever increasing regularity are not as foreboding as his frequent displays of anger,

Think about how villified Dean was for an outburst not too many years ago. Yet, when McCain blows his fuse, the MSM gives him a pass.

It is ominous to think that a potential POTUS has a short fuse. How on earth is that a good quality in a leader?

Pay close attention to his temper. When he blows, it's usually because he is appalled that someone is actually asking him to be accountable for something that he has said.

I detect beginning alzheimer's. The hostility is real.

God Bush America!

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on April 8, 2008 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

The goofs that McCain seems to display with ever increasing regularity are not as foreboding as his frequent displays of anger,

Think about how villified Dean was for an outburst not too many years ago. Yet, when McCain blows his fuse, the MSM gives him a pass.

It is ominous to think that a potential POTUS has a short fuse. How on earth is that a good quality in a leader?

Pay close attention to his temper. When he blows, it's usually because he is appalled that someone is actually asking him to be accountable for something that he has said.

I detect beginning alzheimer's. The hostility is real.

God Bush America!

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on April 8, 2008 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

I suppose that eventually the press is bound to notice that McCain is seriously confused about the religious and political dynamics of Iraq and the greater Middle East, right? Maybe around December or so.

Won't make any difference if the MSM starts trumpeting the fact today, most Americans don't give a rat's arse about the difference. For the 30% of Americans who get their news from Faux News, the fact that McCain is the Republican nominee will be enough to excuse any dementia that McCain exhibits during the campaign and Murdoch's out and out lies will be sufficient cover for them to write off the MSM stories as partisan attacks.

The upshot is, as long as McCain is willing to continue to bomb, kill and maim foreigners, there is a base of support out there for him, no matter how mistaken his reasoning.

Posted by: majun on April 8, 2008 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

McCain doesnt piss me off, DF, I just have no idea what he stands for which I doubt you do either. Speaking of pissed off, seems to me McCain is almost always pissed off. Calling his wife a trollop and a c*nt? The man doesnt even respect his wife.

Im really surprised McCain [and Petraeus] has not started with the Iran proxy war spiel yet.

Posted by: Jet on April 8, 2008 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe McCain was calling Al Qaeda in Iraq Shiites because he wants people to be confused into thinking the original Al Qaeda has something to do with Shiites and Iran.

If so, he may be trying to angle us into getting into another Middle East war on false pretenses. That's a pretty screwed-up thing to do.

Posted by: Swan on April 8, 2008 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

6th from the bottom in his class and you have to wonder if he only got in because of his father and grandfather. Plus being 71 and starting to lose it. I see naps,falling asleep at cabinet meetings and singing Bomb Bomb Bomb BombIran over open mikes.Who'll be runing things behind the scenes this time?

Posted by: R.L. on April 8, 2008 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Who'll be running things behind the scenes this time?

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Posted by: thersites on April 8, 2008 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

Thersites - You mean Cheney is going to be VP again? That must be why they are planning on continuing his secret service security detail. Never saw that coming. Hmmmmm

Posted by: optical weenie on April 8, 2008 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

It also struck me as a bit odd that McCain seemed to be referring to Al Qaeda as a "sect." Al Qaeda in Iraq is a military organization. Sure, it's religiously inspired, but countless wars have been fought for religous reasons. That does transform the armies fighting those wars into religious sects.

Posted by: Kenneth Almquist on April 8, 2008 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

Ask any parent with two or more kids how many times they call one by another's name in a given week - I don't think this is a real problem.

Posted by: loki on April 8, 2008 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

Weenie,

Cheney knows enough to stay out of sight. But whoever his paymasters are will put someone reliable in the VP's office, don't worry.

Posted by: thersites on April 8, 2008 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

America has no strategic interests in Iraq except to keep their oil flowing to the spot market.

We shouldn't fear some ragtag group of AQ sympathizers there since there are plenty of Shia Iraqis who would smash 'em to bits quicker than General Petraeus couuld say "AQ in Iraq".

We need to leave Iraq now.

Posted by: MarkH on April 8, 2008 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

Loki wrote:

Ask any parent with two or more kids how many times they call one by another's name in a given week - I don't think this is a real problem.

There is a lot less pressure on a parent who is speaking to his or her kids in private and possibly has other things on his or her mind to get the kids names right 100% of the time, then there is on a Senator who is speaking in public, before cameras and microphones on matters of public interest- life and death matters, with lots of money riding on them, too- and it's not a dress-rehearsal. I think you're aplogizing for this guy, and I think the real explanation for his words is more like what I suggested in my 5:43 comment.

Posted by: Swan on April 8, 2008 at 9:39 PM | PERMALINK

McCain is only faking befuddlement. He is doing what all good pro-war advocates do, trying to make a classical learning connection between al Qaeda and Shiites or any other victim he should desire to destroy with US military power. Saying al Qaeda justifies all types of war making.

Posted by: Brojo on April 8, 2008 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

Christ! It's excuciatingly clear what a McCain presidency will be like: he'll do one idiotic thing after another while constantly whining sanctimoniously and querulously that it's unfair for people to criticize him because he MEANS well. Four years of that...

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on April 9, 2008 at 1:19 AM | PERMALINK

I hate to disrupt a good rant session, but you know, I've been known to call my own children by each other's name. And I'm not the only one, for sure. It's going to take more than his mixing up two very similar names to illustrate his shallowness to the American people.

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