Man Without Qualities

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Krugmanian Shell Game II: Krugmania- Pottsylvania Anschlus

Paul Krugman posts on his personal website an oddly distracted reply to criticisms of his preposterous broadside which, among other things, purported to find a "pattern" of Bush Administration pathology in every discomfort experienced by American troops serving in Iraq and the now decades-established use of private companies to provide services once performed by soldiers. As a textual matter, the posting at first misrepresents itself as providing mere helpful answers to routine enquiries: Some people have asked me for the source of the letter about water shortages in Iraq. It's not Hackworth's site ... Then there is the extensive FT quote, introduced with only: And here's an excerpt from the Financial Times story on 8/11: Yes, yes - the kindly professor from Whattsamatta U dolls out the details at the request of some fan mail from some flounder.

But after lulling us with the chipper "Hey Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat! Nothin' up my sleeve! Presto!" act, Herr Doktorprofessor pulls out the snarling lion he's had there all along and addresses the audience he's really had in mind from the git-go:

Critics, do your homework!

That is what I call a message! None of that "I still never jumped the shark" here. No-sir-ree. Well, Jawohl, Herr Doktorprofessor, Fearless Leader! We know who's in charge here - because you tell us!

Just one question, Herr Doktorprofessor: Can we make a deal where the critics agree to do more homework if you agree to prepare more for your classes? The FT fragment you provide (Again without link! Not even a link for the article that requires a subscription.) doesn't support your column. It does confirm that the privatization you condemn is not a Bush Administration innovation - so it would be pretty hard for it to be part of your silly, paranoid "pattern." And to the extent it addresses Iraq, the part of the article you quote is just a reflection of the same old Newhouse News Service article that your column already misused and the FT article quotes.

And, yes, there have been soldier deaths from the heat (over 115 F degrees - to as high as 140 F degrees - three thousand people have died from the same heat wave in France) in Iraq. But nobody at the Washinton Post is talking about those deaths being related to any water shortage or privatization issues, although the Post devotes an entire article to investigating the deaths and the heat. Your misuse of those deaths and the soldiers' letters is pretty horrible. Your phony posture of "concern" for the soldiers' well being, where your real agenda is transparently nothing more than scoring the usual points against the President, is just indecent. The Post says that sleep is all but impossible with the heat in Iraq, but the same effect can be created by the kind of conscience you should be developing about this.

MORE: Don Luskin actually spoke to an army colonel about this. He said that there is no water shortage, in fact the soldiers are under “forced hydration.” The only “shortage” is a limit on bottled water, as Mr. Carter says. Luskin points out that the demand for such bottles means soldiers are in favor of privatization, at least of water.

STILL MORE: Phil Carter answers. Mr. Carter's gracious effort to find at least something in Herr Doktorprofessor's screed worth respecting is further evidence that many US servicemen (and ex-servicemen doing time in law school) have very big hearts and very generous spirits. But asking whether the use of private companies in war zones can have problematic aspects is not what Herr Doktorprofessor's column is about - that question has been raised and worried over extensively by military planners for decades, planner who really do care about soldiers. What Herr Doktorprofessor seeks to add to the mix is his perceived "pattern" of pathology in the current Administration, including a supposedly completely new emphasis on privatization: The U.S. military has shifted many tasks traditionally performed by soldiers into the hands of such private contractors as Kellogg Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary. The Iraq war and its aftermath gave this privatized system its first major test in combat — and the system failed.

Herr Doktorprofessor's cites to logistics troubles and soldiers' letters are highly abusive and don't support his claims even though there have been logistics problems and the troops have had to endure punishing conditions. His abuse of such reports for cheap political gain is still horrible. Herr Doktorprofessor might want to do something in the nature of old fashioned penance after reading Mr. Carter's generous, good hearted reply, something like writing a nice big check to the USO or some other private soldiers-aid-oriented outfit.

UPDATE: Tom Maguire has more - including the keen observtion that Brad DeLong quietly yanks the rug out from under Herr Doktorprofessor on this one. That must be the workings of some ingrained self-preservation instinct on DeLong's part.

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