Dowd's Awkward Clang
General John R. Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, testified Tuesday in front of the House Armed Services Committee. The circumstances were deeply somber. In the wake of the bloody Koran-burning riots, the deaths of U.S. servicemen at the hands of their Afghan counterparts and the tragic massacre of sixteen Afghan civilians, Allen was tasked with reporting on the state of the mission. But even the crushing weight of this situation wasn’t enough for the New York Times’s Maureen Dowd to forgo her characteristically flippant tone.
Dowd recounts the words of Congressman Walter Jones, a longtime critic of military operations in Afghanistan (and notably omits Allen’s responses), but her column has little to do with what happened at the House meeting. From its opening rhyme—“when the gentleman from North Carolina mentioned ‘Uncle Chang,’ it hit with an awkward clang”—to its closing “epitaph of our Sisyphean decade of two agonizing wars,” this is an opportunity for Dowd to revel in hyperbole. Grandiose statements such as “When you’re buried alive in the Graveyard of Empires, all you can do is claw your way out” do a disservice to the gravity of the topic at hand.
Dowd notes Jones’s change of heart: The congressman was “once so gung ho about W.’s attempts to impose democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan that, after the French opposed invading Iraq in 2003, he helped lead the effort to rename French fries ‘freedom fries’”—but now hopes that “somebody will come to the Congress and say the military has sacrificed enough. The American people have paid enough.”
But Dowd’s insistence on emphasizing that Jones now thinks “that he was silly about the fries” shows how disconnected she is from reality. She doesn’t know what Jones is thinking behind the dais, and it’s hard to imagine he’s reasoning in the sort of fanciful terms she so freely employs. Dowd should recognize the gravity of the situation and let the Congressman’s words speak for themselves. Her tired approach of sacrificing the facts for jokes earns her a flawed rating.