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November 03, 2006

Cry, The Beloved Stupid Country

There are stupid people everywhere on earth. In most countries they quietly putter their lives away, trying to grow mangos in Nova Scotia and getting into occasional bar fights with people who tell them Jean-Luc Picard isn't a real person.

What's unique about 21st century America is that we have a gigantic industry devoted to finding these people and giving them jobs opining about politics. "Can't tie your own shoes?" read the want ads. "Believe two plus two equals nine, and willing to say so in public? Apply today for a career in the Right Wing Media!"

Thus there are dozens, hundreds, thousands of these cretins toiling away in the subsidized vineyards, making their Idiot Wine. But I think we need to stop today and salute Jim Geraghty of National Review, who has produced perhaps the Stupidest Vintage ever.

Here's why:

As we've known since the early nineties, Iraq got close to building a nuclear weapon before the 1991 Gulf War. The shortest estimates are that Iraq would have needed perhaps another year (without the sanctions imposed in August, 1990 after the invasion of Kuwait).

After the Gulf War, however, the Iraqi nuclear program was destroyed by the IAEA and never reconstituted. During this time the IAEA required Iraq to explain in detail exactly what their pre-91 nuclear program achieved. Copies of these documents were given to the U.N. on repeated occasions, including in fall, 2002. Before any were publicly released, sensitive information about weapon design, etc. was excised.

After our newest war huge numbers of Iraqi government documents were captured. America's right pushed for them to be publicly released online. (They believed the documents would hold overlooked clues to Saddam's Chamber of Secrets hiding his WMD and valentines from Osama.)

Now the New York Times has reported that the uncensored versions of the nuclear documents were accidentally included in the online release:

...the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq's secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb...

Among the dozens of documents in English were Iraqi reports written in the 1990s and in 2002 for United Nations inspectors in charge of making sure Iraq had abandoned its unconventional arms programs after the Persian Gulf war. Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein's scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.

Here's where Jim Geraghty and his Brain The Size Of A Grain Of Rice come in. In a post at National Review, he asks:

I'm sorry, did the New York Times just put on the front page that IRAQ HAD A NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM AND WAS PLOTTING TO BUILD AN ATOMIC BOMB?




What's confused Mr. Grain of Rice Brain, of course, is the difference between what Iraq had done before the Gulf War in 1991 and twelve years later before the recent war.

Now, making this mistake is remarkably stupid to start with. Still, you can imagine that someone who knows nothing whatsoever about the subject could do so. Where Jim "My Brain Weighs Eight Milligrams" Geraghty really outdoes himself is going ahead and writing something about it. Because doing so required him to consider whether it was more likely that all these things were true --

1. The CIA spent $1 billion without finding any trace of an Iraqi nuclear weapons program.

2. The New York Times discovered Iraq actually had a nuclear weapons program a year away from a bomb and decided to reveal it in an ambiguously-worded sentence in paragraph 14 of a story about something else.

3. The Bush administration knows about this program and has modestly decided not to say anything about it.

-- or whether it was more likely he'd misunderstood something. And then decide it was the former.


Even better, he then takes the stupid foundation and builds a giant Mansion of Dumb on top of it. (Doesn't this incredible revelation mean that Joe Wilson has been proven completely wrong?!???)

But again, we shouldn't blame Mr. Geraghty. He's doing the best he can with his three neurons. In other times and places he would have lived a happy, simple life, whiling away the hours trying to milk chickens. The responsibility truly lies with the owners of National Review, who've plucked him out of his natural habitat.

In other words, it's the puppet-masters who matter, not the puppets. Although given Mr. Geraghty's performance here, that analogy is an insult to the intelligence of puppets.

EXTRA BONUS STUPID: While Jim Geraghty is Patient Zero, the Idiot Virus has spread here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and surely millions of other places thanks to this.

Posted at November 3, 2006 07:48 AM | TrackBack

A Tiny Revolution...

where Donald Barthelme's been hiding all along.

Posted by: Sully at November 3, 2006 09:33 AM

You shouldn't throw stones from your feeble minded house.

Posted by: Kat at November 3, 2006 10:47 AM

I simply cannot cope with so many "here"s leading but to one appalling "this." No one should have to shoulder such a burden. No one.

Posted by: Jesus B. Ochoa at November 3, 2006 10:53 AM

I'm in a sunny mood today....So we gave away nuclear secrets on the internets? To anybody? Including, conceivably, to Iran? And the the Iranianoids might test a nuclear weapon quite soon as a result?

And then we won't be able to attack them? Like we can't flatten North Korea (again)?

That covers the Axis of Evil, then. 1 out of 3 is pretty good in baseball. Mission Accomplished!

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at November 3, 2006 11:21 AM

While you were busy screaming about stupid people, you might have paused to actually read & comprehend Geraghty's column. He asked a rhetorical question about the implications of the NYT article, which appears at odds with the "Bush lied, no WMD's" bias of the paper. Geraghty asserted only what the various inspection teams have also concluded: that Saddam did indeed have a nuclear weapons program which in 1991 was only a year away from success, that the various WMD programs were largely, but not entirely dismantled in the late 1990's, that designs, documents & some specialized equipment had been hidden, and that Saddam intended to reserect his WMD programs once sanctions were lifted.

Recall that in early 2000, Russia & France, who's oil companies Lukoil & Total Fina ELF, respectively, held huge contracts for developing Iraqi oil fields, were arguing at the Security Council to lift the sanctions while the US was holding out for more limited "smart sanctions". Then came 9/11 and all the changes that attack has wrought.

The evidence for all of these conclusions was noted by the various inspection teams. True, the inspectors did not find evidence of existing large stockpiles of WMD's. They did find small stores of older weapons, some WMD manufacturing machinery, stocks of precurser chemicals, small stores of anthrax samples, & yellow cake & enriched uranium, & many, many documents relating to the Iraqi WMD programs. The inspection teams also concluded that Saddam intentionally made appearances that he did have an active WMD program, as he felt it intimidated his many enemies.

It is, to use your own favourite term, "stupid", to draw the conclusion that there was zereo evidence of any WMD related activities, and that Saddam never, ever intended to resume his WMD programs. Geraghty was pointing out the inherent contradictions in the NYT article which many still don't seem to grasp.

Posted by: Kenneth at November 3, 2006 11:41 AM

Lacking an ability to read minds and divine events through a crystal ball, I have to go with what Geraghty said and what has actually happened. That's the frequency, Kenneth.

Posted by: J. Alva Scruggs at November 3, 2006 11:47 AM

Joe Wilson: "There are no tinfoil hats anymore."

Hey lizards!

Posted by: Joe Wilson at November 3, 2006 11:59 AM


Thanks for the Donald Barthelme reference. Given all the stories of his I've read, he in fact is hiding in a section of my brain.

St Wendeler,

You're right that Tom Maguire deserves a mention in the stupid column for that hackish "partisan flip flopper" comment. But I'm trying to focus on just one particular strain of stupidity here.


You shouldn't throw stones from your feeble minded house.

Thanks, that's a really stupid metaphor.


Agreed, but life's unfair.


Actually, if I had to guess these documents probably weren't useful to Iran or North Korea. That part of the story has probably been hyped beyond what it warrants.


Your misunderstandings—both of what Geraghty wrote and what happened in Iraq—are beautiful in their scope and depth. If you were trying to prove my point, well, mission accomplished. So to speak.

Also: when demanding people not call you stupid, it's best if you don't write something riddled with spelling errors.

J. Alva,

This focus of yours on reality is really getting me down.


Thanks for stopping by.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at November 3, 2006 12:17 PM

I find it very hard to believe that these pundits are stupid, mainly because this suggests that they are not responsible for what they do. I think they know what they do: they intentionally mislead the public. This is why they get paid as much as they do. To us, their comments sound stupid, but to many who are unwilling to accept reality such stupidity reaffirms their false beliefs --and we all know where this has lead us thus far.

Posted by: Dimitria at November 3, 2006 01:14 PM

Slightly off topic, but relevant:

Do you find it odd (inconsistent) that the NYT has intentionally repeatedly published stories with confidential data or documents in them that have at least the potential to undermine our global conflicts, then points fingers at the government for mistakenly posting this content to the web?

Posted by: Josh at November 3, 2006 01:36 PM


this suggests that they are not responsible for what they do

Well, I'm not suggesting that being an idiot absolves you of responsibility. On the contrary. I'm just looking in slack-jawed wonder at the level of stupidity our current system demands of its participants. It's extraordinary.


the NYT has intentionally repeatedly published stories with confidential data or documents in them that have at least the potential to undermine our global conflicts

Josh, bad writing is the enemy of clear thinking. Go back and consider again what it is you want to say, and try again. In particular, get rid of the phrase "at least the potential to undermine our global conflicts."

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at November 3, 2006 01:57 PM

Ok, I padded my comment a but. I added phrases that were meant to avoid a response that ignored my point. I guess I wasn't successful. Here's the trimmed-down comment:

The NYT has a difficult time calling out the govt for mistakenly posting documents, while at the same time knowingly publishing confidential documents and information.

Sorry - I suffer from stupid as well, which is why I have to post comments that are hard for ultra-smart people like yourself to follow.

Posted by: Josh at November 3, 2006 02:45 PM

I was somewhat concerned too, Josh. It appears that the Bush administration publicizes things that are, at very least, enormously harmful to their stated goals and their credibility. Then NY Times reports that this has happened. This is strikingly at odds with Judith Miller's reporting for the paper, in which she emphasized what terrible things could be happening, somewhere, somehow. It's incoherent, is what it is, and tends to support my theory that the NY Times is not actually a newspaper. It's a pterodactyl.

I told Jonathan about this and he kindly arranged for me to get an interview at the National Review.

Posted by: J. Alva Scruggs at November 3, 2006 02:56 PM


The NYT has a difficult time calling out the govt for mistakenly posting documents, while at the same time knowingly publishing confidential documents and information.

Again: bad writing is the enemy of clear thinking. Think back to what your 10th grade English teacher told you. Instead of speaking vaguely about "documents" and "confidential documents and information," be specific. Give concrete examples. Only in this way will you be able to communicate effectively.

J. Alva:


I once had a long, enjoyable conversation with someone about how "pterodactyl" is the funniest sounding word in the English language. Generally speaking, it's comedy gold.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at November 3, 2006 02:59 PM

I love these idiot interpretations, which seem to hinge on not understanding which phrase is being modified by another phrase in the next sentence.

"Among the dozens of documents in English were Iraqi reports written in the 1990s and in 2002 for United Nations inspectors in charge of making sure Iraq had abandoned its unconventional arms programs after the Persian Gulf war. Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein’s scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away."

But wait, they say. Of course it means they had WMDs! So there! Hah! Yes, but, um, well, it doesn't exactly refer to 2002, bozos. The mind-boggling thing is that it seems like they don't understand that you can agree Saddam was dangerous and probably had an eye to develop weapons -- which Bush, in what seemed like a good move initially, wanted to stop by getting inspectors back into the country -- without saying the invasion was justified or the right thing to do. No, to them, it's all or nothing. Morons.

Posted by: Dave at November 3, 2006 04:30 PM

Stupid. Like a fox.

Posted by: opeluboy at November 3, 2006 04:48 PM

That's all well and good, but, hey...Jean-Luc Picard isn't a real person?

You're shitting me.

Posted by: SPIIDERWEB™ at November 3, 2006 05:56 PM

Jonathan was just kidding Spiiderweb. Picard is a gentleman mango farmer in Nova Scotia. I trade him chicken milk cheese for fruit every now and again.

Posted by: J. Alva Scruggs at November 3, 2006 06:40 PM

"that the various WMD programs were largely, but not entirely dismantled in the late 1990's"


Probably under Kenneth's bed. (hope he doesn't wet the bed....)

Posted by: at November 3, 2006 07:53 PM

you might want to call the CDC. the stupid virus has invaded your comments!

Posted by: almostinfamous at November 3, 2006 08:51 PM

Jonathan: I know you're just playing dumb for Josh, but I'll respond for you.

Josh: the NY Times does publish confidential information. This information sometimes undermines the foreign policy goals of the U.S. For example, the Times published the Pentagon Papers, which showed that the U.S. had lied about the situation in Vietnam.

This is quite different from what the administration did with the nuclear documents. Rather than just harming U.S. foreign policy interests, these documents may have provided diagrams and information that could help people and institutions make nuclear bombs. Given that these documents were previously considered too sensitive for U.N. ambassadors, it does seem odd that they were put on the Internet just to satisfy Congressman Dana R's inability to face reality.

That said, I'm not a fan of secrecy, and I think the world would be better off if all information were freely available to everyone. I can't think of many people I trust less with nuclear secrets than Donald Rumsfeld.

Posted by: hedgehog at November 3, 2006 10:06 PM

btw, anyone who uses the comparative "Stupider" and the superlative "Stupidest" isn't exactly bright in my book.

but hey... I'm a nit-picker. Perhaps I'm just more retardeder than you.

Posted by: St Wendeler at November 3, 2006 11:01 PM

There are some limits to ways in which one might describe stupidity. It moves past the descriptive and edges over into vituperation after a while. That may be appropriate, but some people find it counterproductive. Now I would call Geraghty a cretin with a "kick me" sign sewn onto his jacket and describe his cheerleaders as deliberately fatuous twits. Does that work better for you?

What makes him and them really stupid is their refusal to do anything beyond a reflexive defense of wingnut idiocy. They fail to grasp that two administrations lied about Iraq's nuclear program. To belabor the obvious, which is often what it takes to make things clear to the stupid, one administration was Democratic and the other Republican. That they both lied suggests they share a goal and hold views in common. Sadly, the deliberately fatuous twits can't see their way clear to thinking about that. They choose stupidity instead, and by that choice makes themselves into living arguments in favor of misanthropy.

But hey, they'll have plenty of company come the elections, when Evildum squares off against Evildee and their partisans legitimize war and lies all over again.

Posted by: J. Alva Scruggs at November 3, 2006 11:44 PM

So much of import to which to possibly respond, and yet I feel strangely compelled to reply to SPIIDERWEB:

Jean-Luc Picard isn't a real person YET. Come back in the 24th century.

(I do like Star Trek, and was rendered speechless once by meeting Patrick Stewart, but it's downright frightening how long the "Jean-Luc Picard" entry in wikipedia is. I'm guessing most US presidents or current world leaders don't have an entry this long.)

Posted by: Whistler Blue at November 4, 2006 02:56 PM

You're wrong about the 3 neurons, Pete. If this rooster had another neuron, he'd have a synapse.

Posted by: magnetics at November 4, 2006 10:00 PM

J. Alva, what the fuck are you doing out of bed? You are SUPPOSED to be comatose, or afflicted with Brian-Wilson-like social anxiety. That's what I've been telling myself is the reason you haven't posted anything awesome recently.

Posted by: saurabh at November 4, 2006 10:36 PM

How embarrassing this must be for Jim Geraghty’s father.

Posted by: Scott at November 5, 2006 02:37 PM

I don't think Jim Geraghty is stupid, I think he is deliberately trying to obfuscate the issue. He is like so many of the psycho-loons out there who hear a snippet of information about some tiny aluminum canister and then shriek that they have found the smoking gun, ignoring the entirity of the report or the actual facts of the case.

I wonder why they hate America?

Good story though, good for you for exposing more of the lying liars and the lies they tell.

Posted by: al lorentz at November 5, 2006 08:20 PM

Wow, Ad Hominem for the win.

I find it amusing that the twin arguments of "The United States should fix its mistakes" and "The United States should never fix its mistakes" are so cleverly placed one after the other. Maybe you forgot to place the United Charity announcement between them?

The simple, and yes it is simple enough, truth is this: No one knows if the big-Hussein had any WMDs (God, I hate that acronym), chances are he didn't. However, he would not have hesitated to arm himself with them come the time the sanctions were lifted.

Really, does anyone disagree that SH would have tried to make himself a threat again if he had the ability? Those who do disagree: Hey, reality called, he's sorry about those mean things he said, but he think he can make the relationship work again.

The U.S. invasion was the only thing that prevented the lifting of the sanctions formally or informally (Read, in violation of U.N. orders. What? Countries would violate U.N. orders? THE HORROR!), ergo, the U.S. invasion prevented acquisition and use of WMD by Saddam Hussein, a man worse than the looniest dreams about the man who currently resides in the White House.

Posted by: Berkeley Non-conformist at November 6, 2006 01:12 AM