Meet new Washington Post columnist Jim Geraghty and his flawed noggin


Photo credit: Alice Swain/The Intercept

The Washington Post The Opinion Department recently announced that it has hired seven new columnists. One of them is Jim Geraghty, a longtime National Review writer whose brain is the size and power of AAA batteries.

I have been fascinated by Geraghty since writing a post on Iraq/weapons of mass destruction in 2006. To understand how badly Geraghty has gone astray here, you need some background that he clearly lacked.

I want to emphasize that this background was available in 2006 to anyone who 1) could read English, 2) had a library card and Internet connection, and 3) had enough intellectual capacity to eat breakfast with cereal in their mouth instead of food. Cannes It was number 3 quality where Geraghty fell short.

Until 1981, Saddam Hussein’s government had only vague and unorganized ambitions to develop nuclear weapons. On June 7 of that year, Israel bombed Iraq’s Osirak reactor near Baghdad. It would later be hailed by current Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg as “putting to rest — forever, as it turned out — Saddam Hussein’s nuclear ambitions.”

In reality, the Osirak bombing sparked Saddam’s serious nuclear ambitions. The Osirak reactor was poorly suited for producing weapons-grade uranium or plutonium. But — Iraqi scientists unanimously said after the 2003 U.S. invasion — Saddam immediately ordered the creation of a true nuclear weapons program because of the Iraqi vulnerability demonstrated by the Israeli attack.

The program made significant progress in the 1980s, thanks to $5 billion in financing from Saudi Arabia. The Saudis, worried about the rise of Shiite Iran, wanted to support the development of a “Sunni bomb” and eventually seize possession of some nuclear devices if Iraq succeeded. The administrations of Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush were well aware of this but ignored it as Iraq was then seen as a US ally.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, its nuclear weapons program was a year away from developing a working nuclear bomb. However, inspections conducted by the United Nations after the 1991 Gulf War completely dismantled the Iraqi nuclear effort. As the CIA’s Iraq Survey Group reported after the 2003 US-led invasion, Saddam “ended the nuclear program after the Gulf War in 1991. The ISG found no evidence to suggest a concerted effort to restart the program.”

For obvious reasons, this conclusion upset George W. Bush’s super fans. The justification for Operation Iraqi Freedom was the threat posed by Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. Was it not possible that the CIA and the entire US military missed Iraq’s vast arsenal of WMD? In fact, didn’t it seem suspicious that these agents of the deep state were so united in their decision that Iraq had nothing?

The solution, congressional Republicans decided, was to “take advantage of the Internet” by putting online tons of Iraqi government documents captured by the United States and its allies. Then the spies on the right can comb through them and surely uncover the secrets that lie within. After Republicans on the Hill proposed the necessary legislation, the Bush administration uploaded the material to a website called the Operation Iraqi Freedom Document Portal.

Just turned out to be a problem. The Iraqi government wrote extensive reports for the United Nations about its nuclear program. As the New York Times said in a November 3, 2006 story, the documents “included detailed information on how to build nuclear firing circuits and build explosives, as well as the radioactive cores of atomic bombs.” And it was now available to anyone in the world with internet access Phew! The US government quickly took down the entire website.

Here’s how The Times describes how it happened. Note especially the last sentence:

Among the dozens of documents in English were Iraqi reports written in the 1990s and 2002 for UN inspectors tasked with ensuring Iraq abandoned its unconventional weapons program after the Persian Gulf War. Experts say that at the time Mr. Hussain’s scientists were on track to build a nuclear bomb, as much as a year away.

Now we come to Gerati’s post in response to the Times story. Here is what he wrote:

I’m sorry, did the New York Times just put this on the front page Iraq had a nuclear weapons program and was plotting to build a nuclear bomb?

this Exciting all-caps bold questions deserve a Exciting all-caps bold answer. Here it is:


Anyone curious about the story of Iraq and its nuclear weapons program understood what this sentence — “Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein’s scientists were on the verge of building a nuclear bomb, less than a year away” — meant. It wasn’t announcing that Iraq was just a year away from developing a nuclear weapon just before the 2003 war, but that it was a year away in 1990, 13 years earlier.. What the Times was saying was no revelation; This is something that has been known since the early 1990s.

This is the first funny side of Geraghty’s glitchy old noodle. What really happened with Iraq and nuclear weapons is a fascinating story of international conspiracy and blatant government lying by the US government in particular. Yet he never bothered to learn anything about it, perhaps because the reality would sadden him. Meanwhile, he did not allow his mind to be a completely blank slate from holding strong opinions on the matter and expressing them to all the world.

The second funny part is that Gerhardt didn’t need to know anything about the fact that he was obviously wrong. The question of whether Iraq had a nuclear weapons program has recently become one of the biggest political issues on the planet. Even without knowing anything, Geraghty realized that the Times probably wouldn’t tell the whole truth about George W. Bush and his war in a confusingly written sentence in paragraph 14 of a story about something else. Likewise, it is unlikely that the Bush administration will fail to point out that they have been proven entirely correct.

This brings us to the third interesting thing about Geraghty and his frayed dendrites. He took his complete ignorance and used it as a foundation upon which to build a gigantic skyscraper of additional intrigue. The New York Times, you see, intended to make Bush look bad, but instead they “just ripped the heart out of the anti-war argument, and they’re apparently completely oblivious to it.” Also, this clearly means that Iraq was actually looking for yellowcakes in Niger.

This immediate leap of conspiracy is harmful and common as dirt in conservative thought. If you don’t understand basic facts about the world, you’ll inevitably fill in the blanks to force everything to “make sense.” For example, climate scientists working together to keep the sweet grant money flowing, or Anthony Fauci wanting us to get vaccinated because it depletes our precious bodily fluids.

Geraghty seems never to have mentioned his remarkable discovery again. Seventeen years later, his first column for the Post indicated that he was still speeding down the Boulevard of Thought at his standard two miles per hour.

In the column, Geraghty praised Virginia’s GOP congressional candidate Hong Cao for his smarts. Kaw is perhaps best known for declaring, “More people die from stabbings than from shootings,” in response to a question about gun control right after the Uvalde, Texas school massacre. In fact, guns are used in about 80 percent of US homicides. You can see why Geraghty sees someone with a skull full of mashed potatoes and recognizes a kindred spirit.

In any case, readers of the post will now be considered for greater scrutiny. David Shipley, The Post’s editorial page editor, said in the paper’s announcement that the Post was trying to reach “a broader readership.” Geraghty’s appointment demonstrates that they absolutely mean it.