Friday, May 21, 2004

Like you really need another reason to go read The Poor Man:
A few days ago in Iraq, however, we learned - if anything - that one gallon of sarin gas is enough to make two people slightly ill. Maybe one gallon of sarin could kill 60,000 people, much the way my pillow could also kill 60,000 people, if they lay down and let me smother them. In reality, though, neither one is a particularly useful estimate of lethality. For a more realistic measure, we can look to the Tokyo sarin attack in 1995, where 6 liters of sarin were released from 11 release points in a confined, over-crowded subway. Twelve people were killed, and over 5,000 injured, most of these of the "mild illness" variety. It's not fun stuff, but 60,000 is a completely unserious nember, offered by completely unserious people. Expect to see a lot of it.

We can, however, offer a very serious estimate of how many people had to die in order to find the (supposed) sarin gas shell, which we find by having it used on us. This estimate is somewhere around 20,000 and counting. This estimate is so accurate that we can actually tell you the names of many of the victims. These people died so a (maybe) sarin gas shell couldn't make two people sick, other than the two people it did. This is the wingnut justification which the NY Times shamelessly won't run with. I'm just glad that William Safire isn't alive to see it.

Like everything in life, the war has to be assessed in terms of costs and benefits. Through some combination of dishonesty and stupidity, this was not done; not seriously. If you will recall, the war was sold with a cost of essentially zero - the Iraqis would welcome us with open arms, oil would pay for reconstruction, Chalabi would handle all the detail work. The benefits were to be incredible - world peace, an end to terrorism, dispersing the threatening mushroom clouds, and showing up the French. When reality intruded, and costs came up, they were ignored. Don't you want Iraqis to be free? Do you want Saddam Hussein back in power? Promises were treated as hard currency, no matter how outlandish, because they know they'll never have to pay the bill. The more far out the better. Yesterday, millions of Iraqis were given a life free from terror. Today, tens of thousands were saved from deadly sarin gas. Arthur Andersen would be proud.

Nothing has changed. Treat any speculation which buttresses your political position as hard fact. Inflate all the benefits, and ignore all the costs. Spin any event as a vindication of your position. And if your spin is so lame that no one will buy it, blame the Times.