It was one of the most significant al-Qaida communications of the Iraq war, but it wasn't intercepted by the National Security Agency, you didn't need a security clearance to listen to it and you didn't need to know a word of Arabic to understand it.
All you needed was to visit the Website of the Middle East Media Research Institute.
On Sept. 14, 2005, al-Qaida's Jihad Media Battalion posted online an audiotape of al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi. MEMRI retrieved the tape, and posted the audio and a transcript of the translation on its own Website.
It was Zarqawi's declaration of "total war" against Iraq's Shiite population.
"(T)he al-Qaida organization in the Land of the Two Rivers has ... decided to declare a total war against the Rafidite Shiites throughout Iraq, wherever they may be," said Zarqawi.
"Rafidite," MEMRI's transcript noted, is a term for Shiites "used derogatorily by Sunni extremists."
"There are only two camps -- the camp of truth and its followers, and the camp of falsehood and its Shiites," said Zarqawi. "You must choose in which of the two trenches you lie."
The masterstroke of Zarqawi's evil plan to stoke the flames of sectarian war came on Feb. 22 of this year. That is when al-Qaida terrorists bombed the Golden Mosque in Samarra, one of Shiite Islam's holiest shrines. Zarqawi was later killed in a bombing raid by U.S. forces. But his death came too late to stop the explosion in Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence that he had hoped to inspire.
"Sectarian conflict is the principal challenge to stability," the Iraq Study Group said last week in perhaps its least controversial conclusion.
Now comes House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi's choice for House Intelligence Committee.
Pelosi passed over Rep. Jane Harman, the Californian who developed a reputation for bipartisanship as the committee's ranking Democrat. She then correctly declined to name Rep. Alcee Hasting, the Florida Democrat, who sits on the committee, but is a former federal judge who was impeached and removed from the bench.
She finally settled on Rep. Silvestre Reyes, a Texas Democrat, who is a Vietnam veteran popular on both sides of the aisle.
But when Reyes was interviewed last week by Jeff Stein of Congressional Quarterly, he could not answer a basic question, the answer to which could be gleaned simply from reading newspaper reports about the war, not to mention publicly available al-Qaida communications translated by MEMRI.
The question was: Is al-Qaida Sunni or Shia?
"Al-Qaida, they have both," said Reyes. "You're talking about predominantly?"
"Sure," said Stein.
"Predominantly -- probably Shiite," said Reyes.
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