Pattern of Stupidity

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on July 15, 2003

The New York Times' twin dimwits, Nicholas Kristof and Paul Krugman are back, and they're nuttier than ever.

Let's start first with Krugman, whom I mistakenly suggested last week may have been designated an unlawful combatant and shipped off to Gitmo -- I was apparently incorrect.

Krugman's vacation hasn't mellowed him, but after comparing his latest screed to that of Ted Rall, I'm getting very close to consciously ignoring Krugman too.

[M]ore than half of the U.S. Army's combat strength is now bogged down in Iraq, which didn't have significant weapons of mass destruction and wasn't supporting Al Qaeda. We have lost all credibility with allies who might have provided meaningful support; Tony Blair is still with us, but has lost the trust of his public. All this puts us in a very weak position for dealing with real threats. Did I mention that North Korea has been extracting fissionable material from its fuel rods?

Normally I wouldn't be skeptical about solid numbers (with the exception of some poll numbers), but with Krugman, experience has taught me to be wary. According to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on yesterday's "Meet the Press," the number of troops we currently have in Iraq is about 147,000. Now, not all of those are "combat" troops, though everyone over there, even the supply clerk, has a firearm. According to the Defense Department, the total number of Army personnel as of April 30 (the latest figure available) is 491,309. There is a stop-loss order in effect, so that number isn't going down. That leaves 344,309 Army personnel who aren't in Iraq.

In fact, a May 7 report by the Christian Science Monitor has the Army deploying "more than one-third" of its combat troops in Iraq. Journalists like easy fractions -- 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, 1/3, 2/3 -- you'll seldom see them use any others. And they always pick the nearest one to the ratio they need to report.

Is Krugman exaggerating for effect? Well, lessee "bogged down?" Yes, I'd say that Krugman is exaggerating. In fact, if I were Krugman and Krugman was (God forbid) the president, then I think I (Krugman) would accuse him (the President) of lying.

Krugman also says that there are no "significant" weapons of mass destruction. Note the qualifier. If we find ten 55-gallon drums of VX nerve gas, enough to kill tens, even hundreds, of thousands of people, Krugman will dismiss it as not "significant."

The rest of Krugman's piece is merely a recitation of's talking points. Though I do want to draw attention to this laughable and frivolous line:

What about the risk that an invasion of Iraq would weaken America's security? Warnings from military experts that an extended postwar occupation might severely strain U.S. forces have proved precisely on the mark. But the hawks prevented any consideration of this possibility. Before the war, one official told Newsweek that the occupation might last no more than 30 to 60 days.

I love this, Bush and all other administration officials who actually go on the record, repeatedly say "This won't be easy" ... "It will take a long time" ... "We're in this for the long haul," but Krugman highlights an unnamed official as saying 30 to 60 days and "Hah! Bush lied!"

Nicholas Kristof's Africa: Kristof, a knowledgeable world traveler, takes on the "Infamous 16" completely accurate, but shouldn't have been in the State of the Union speech, words that are the cause of much angst amongst the anti-war elite. Kristof pats himself on the back for revealing to the world the "fact" that Iraq didn't try to buy uranium from Niger. Now, Kristof never actually quotes the "Infamous 16," so the casual reader would likely sumrise that his Niger "scoop" is definitive.

[A]fter I wrote a month ago about the Niger uranium hoax in the State of the Union address, a senior White House official chided me gently and explained that there was more to the story that I didn't know.

The president's actual statement: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

Number of times "Niger" appears: Zero.

Fact: The British Government stands behind the statement.

Despite that fact, which Kristof is certainly aware of, he refers to it as a "hoax" and a "falsehood." The central claim of his column is that the Bush administration is creating intelligence to meet its war aims. The president, however, is more powerful than even Kristof knows, because he apparently controls the British intelligence too! Why else would they stand behind a "discredited" statement.

Actually, I have to agree with Ms. Rice that the focus on that single sentence in the State of the Union address is a bit obsessive. It was only 16 words, attributed in a weaselly way that made it almost accurate, and as any journalist knows well, mistakes do get into print.

So the problem is not those 16 words, by themselves, but the larger pattern of abuse of intelligence. The silver lining is that the spooks are so upset that they're speaking out.

Actually, the "weaselly" way it's attributed is exactly the same way that Kristof, and every other journalist in America, attributes anything they report.

Let's use Kristof's column for example:

But Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, a group of retired spooks, issued an open letter ...

One insider complains:...

Patrick Lang, a former senior D.I.A. official, says that many in the government believe...

The latest issue of the Naval War College Review describes...

Very weaselly. Why doesn't Kristof just say this stuff himself?

Bill Keller took over as the Times' executive editor yesterday. A good place to start regaining respectability might be to add a conservative or two to your stable of columnists. This kind of loony leftism may play well among the intellectual elite in Manhattan, but it doesn't play well in the rest of the country.

There is not a major newspaper in the country whose collection of columnists are so dominated by one ideology. Diversity doesn't just mean skin color.

Yes, Mr. Keller, I'll entertain any job offers.

*UPDATE* Thanks to the Instapundit for pointing out this story, published yesterday, that goes even further to making Kristof's claims of deception alarmist and misplaced.

British officials admitted that the country was Niger but insisted that the intelligence behind it was genuine and had nothing to do with the fake documents. It was convincing and they were sticking with it, the officials said.

They dismissed a report from a former US diplomat who was sent to Niger to investigate the claims and rejected them. "He seems to have asked a few people if it was true and when they said 'no' he accepted it all," one official said. "We see no reason at all to change our assessment."

The fake documents were not behind that assessment and were not seen by MI6 until after they were denounced by the IAEA. If MI6 had seen them earlier, it would have immediately advised the Americans that they were fakes.

The report also indicates that the perfidious French are the ones who got the original intelligence, but refused to share it with the United States.


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July 2003



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