Dowd Column: Fair Advocacy Or Exploitation Of A Fallen Hero?

I felt myself cringing from the very beginning of Maureen Dowd's column this morning. You had a dread sense of where the story was headed when Dowd opened by writing "Nick Rapavi’s family and friends described him as a tough guy with a selfless streak. He’d wanted to be a Marine since high school, and his dress uniform had a parade of medals for heroism in Afghanistan and Iraq, including a Purple Heart." Sure and sadly enough, Dowd informed us that "the kid described as being 'full of life' died Friday in Anbar Province, the heartless heart of darkness in western Iraq, the hole-in-the-desert stronghold of the Sunni insurgency and Al Qaeda fighters."

Predictably, Dowd used the story of Rapavi's heroic death - he died approaching a gate on patrol after telling his men to stay back while he went through - to make her case against the war.

Dowd sneered at the suggestion that one solution to the current situation might be to send more troops: "Just what the election said Americans want: More kids at risk in Baghdad. (W.’s kids, of course, are running their own risks, partying their way through Argentina.)" Citing the leaked NSC memo describing Prime Minister Maliki as clueless, disingenuous or incompetent, she concludes "It’s bad enough to say that about the Iraqi puppet. But what about when the same is true of the American president?"

Dowd let us know that her knowledge of Rapavi came via a Washington Post story that quotes the fallen Marine's mother. Googling, I found the WaPo story, and discovered that Mrs. Rapavi-Burnley is anything but a Cindy Sheehan, having told the Post: "We are all very proud of him," adding that he was "a true American hero we were blessed to have as our son, brother and friend."

So what about it? Was Dowd's discussion of Marine Nick Rapavi's death fair use, or exploitation of a fallen hero to devalue the cause for which he gave his life?

Finkelstein recently returned from Iraq, where he spent a week in Anbar province. Contact him at

Foreign Policy Iraq

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