HUFFINGTON POST

Richard Engel's "Agenda": Not To See "Rotting Bodies, Bodies Buried In Shallow Graves." That Okay With You, NRO?

Yesterday, Howard Kurtz ran a profile of NBC Middle East bureau chief Richard Engel, who has the (dubious) distinction of being the TV news correspondent with the longest-running tenure in Iraq at 3 1/2 years. Here's a sampling of what he's seen:

Earlier this month he interviewed a woman whose 13-year-old son was kidnapped. After she paid the $12,000 ransom, the boy was tortured and killed anyway.

"It's horrible," Engel says. "I've seen hundreds of dead bodies -- rotting bodies, bodies buried in shallow graves. One time I watched a dog carry a severed human head in its mouth. You're smelling bodies, you're seeing people who are so angry and insanely distraught. The people who are being killed are too old, too stupid, too poor, too young or too weak, socially or otherwise, to leave."

This is the same war Bush described the U.S. as "winning" earlier this week.

Engel's story is pretty incredible as Kurtz tells it, and his work from Baghdad, both on print and on NBC's "Blogging Baghdad" has been thorough and regular and above all human — this report filed from a Baghdad orphanage is truly heartbreaking and triggered a massive response at NBC, prompting it's re-airing. Says NBC anchor Brian Williams:

"In an era of instant media criticism, he calls balls and strikes in the middle of a war zone," says NBC anchor Brian Williams. "He is completely unbothered by any Web site that may have problems with his reporting while he's over in Iraq dodging bullets. . . . He is the most agenda-less person I've met in our business, I think, in the past 20 years."

Oh, reeeaaaaally? Tim Graham at the NRO's Corner blog begs to differ. He doesn't think Engel is agenda free — since he's a pacifist! Oooh, gotcha. The ever-intrepid Graham thinks Engel has been "remarkably gloomy from Baghdad" (yeah, where's the gloss on that severed head, dammit?) and he raises an eyebrow that "no critics of Engel's reporting" were cited, even though a correspondent from a competing network who is, you know, on site was consulted. Note Graham's problem with Engel's mother being interviewed; I suppose Laura Ingraham would have been more approrpriate to comment on Engel's early life.

Says Engel: "Whether you agree with the war or not, I have a very soft spot for the guys who are out there. These guys have saved my life on more than one occasion, and they are dying at the rate of two a day, and they deserve to be talked about." Yes — but only if you follow the script. Right, NRO?