Thursday, August 14, 2003
Step One: Engage brain: Earlier this week I pointed out some thoughful responses to New York Times columnist Paul Krugman's latest attack on the Bush administration. One of the things I linked to, but didn't highlight, at the time was Krugman's assertion that U.S. troops in Iraq were being issued only two 1.5 liter bottles of water a day. Because this is insufficient, soldiers are dying from heat stroke.
As Phil Carter pointed out, that was not wholly accurate. Troops are being issued two 1.5 liter bottles of water daily in addition to all of the water they need from "water buffaloes," trucks with purified, but not very tasty, water.
Well, today Krugman responded by printing a letter to Stars and Stripes from a soldier complaining that he was only getting 2 bottles of water daily.
Phil Carter has again responded with this succinct point: "Quotation does not necessarily equal fact-checking."
Again, I don't dispute this fact -- I've seen it in Pentagon press briefings, and I've talked to Army logisticians who say this is true. But what he doesn't say is that his unit also has a supply of unbottled water -- "tap" water if you will. I stand by my original contention, because I've fact-checked it, that a soldier will die in a desert environment on 3 liters/water a day. (The same is true in a cold weather environment, actually) I've led soldiers in the frozen hills of Korea and in the hot Mojave Desert, and I know how much water it takes to keep them alive under body armor and full battle rattle. 3 liters/day would result in a lot more than 2 heat casualties in one MP company -- it would result in a dead MP company.
Let me illustrate Carter's point in a way that might get through to Krugman. As a hypothetical, if I made a post which stated: "Paul Krugman drowns puppies" and my friend Don Luskin linked to it and quoted it -- that doesn't make it accurate or truthful.
Don Luskin has also made some phone calls and done some fact-checking of the obvious. [Seriously Don, you had nothing better to do?]
Krugman's closing salvo in his defense of the indefensible was: "Critics, do your homework."
The problem isn't with Krugman's critics, the falsity of Krugman's 3 liters/day claim is apparent on its face. The problem is that Krugman doesn't realize how much 3 liters of water is. [That's something Taranto and Krugman have in common -- difficulties with the metric system.]
Here's a helpful photo of four 710 mL water bottles -- or 2.84 liters of water:
Professor Krugman, engage your common sense. Do you really believe that someone can survive in a desert environment where the temperature is commonly well over 100 degrees on that much water? While running around in full battle gear? Doing strenuous activity?
Krugman, engage brain.