The first few days into the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan, mainstream media reporting was about 50/50 – with about half the coverage being reporters and anchors trying to cover for the Biden administration with the other half being surprisingly honest and blunt about the dire situation on the ground.
As conditions deteriorated even further in the ensuing days, criticism from the media towards President Biden and various administration officials responsible for the ultimate decision-making on Afghanistan grew, in what I'd say was about a 25/75 split – with the 75% being critical.
In turn, I began to notice that people who you normally would see praising the media to the hilt suddenly began whining about how “unfair” they were being to Biden. Keep in mind it wasn't necessarily because what journalists were saying about what was happening was wrong; rather, it was just that these same newfound critics weren't used to the shoe being on the foot with respect to how Democrats get covered by the press. The result has been a lot of temper tantrums and bizarre accusations of “warmongering” towards various reporters simply for pointing out the obvious about what's taken place over the last two+ weeks.
There is perhaps no better example of how this exact scenario has played out on social media and among the political punditocracy on shows like Joy Reid's than the reaction to the brutally honest assessment done of the Afghanistan legacy by NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, who has been reporting from Kabul and providing up to the minute updates on the goings-on.
Here's some of what he reported today as the United States officially moved out of Afghanistan:
.@RichardEngel: "This was a humbling day for the United States, a day of humility for a world superpower. Afghanistan has been called the graveyard of empires…The [U.S.] fought [there] for 20 yrs and is now…withdrawing…in defeat. This is a difficult moment for the military" pic.twitter.com/pSw4ezkxq7
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) August 30, 2021
.@RichardEngel: "The world's greatest military couldn't hold on and ultimately, handed the country back to the same extremists that they had toppled just a few weeks after 9/11…The next Osama bin Laden might be watching what is happening right now[.]" pic.twitter.com/7C0VQTTnhX
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) August 30, 2021
“But if you'd step back and look at what is going on, this is the United States, after 20 years. This war used to be called Operation Enduring Freedom, and it's turned out not to be enduring and they're not leaving a society that is free,” he said in the below clip. “It is only free according to what the Taliban says will be free, the Taliban promises that it will be free.”
“You could also look at this as a tremendously humiliating – moment of American humiliation leaving, forced to leave on the Taliban's clock and with the Taliban's good graces,” Engel continued. “So tactically, it makes sense, but I'm not sure how history – I think history will judge this moment as a very dark period for the United States.”
— Kyle Drennen (@kjdrennen) August 24, 2021
I think his analysis was pretty much on the mark – what he says largely matches up with what I've seen come from veterans of the war in Afghanistan who are furious and heartbroken at the same time over what's happened. But Twitter leftists, some of them with very large followings, apparently do not agree. As I write this, “Richard Engel” is trending on Twitter, with high-profile accounts describing him as a “warmonger,” with others telling him to “f** off,” with some suggesting he's “obsessed” with war because of the extensive post-9/11 reporting he's done in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I'm sure military veterans and those who have served in war zones could explain it way better than me, but I'll do my best here. The reality is that one doesn't have to be a “warmonger” to see the writing on the wall.
When you've spent 20 years in a country where American and Afghan blood was spilled, with thousands losing their lives and thousands more being wounded, some of them gravely, there's no way you can look at the videos and photos of what we've seen going on in Afghanistan and not feel enraged and horrified, especially considering the fact that much of it has happened thanks to the way this administration botched the withdrawal.
As Engel noted in his assessment, we toppled the Taliban in a matter of weeks after 9/11. And now, after 20 years, in a matter of weeks the Taliban has control again and it's because of the way the exit was done.
Few wanted a so-called “forever war,” but even fewer wanted to see all the work our military and their allies have done over the years unraveled in the blink of an eye. It makes the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform and those who worked alongside them seem to be in vain, which is another deeply unfortunate side effect of Biden's disastrous exit strategy.