The US dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat on eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing at least 36 Isis militants and, as local people told the Guardian, sending tremors through the ground “like a boat in a storm” as flames enveloped the sky.
But to Fox News – which celebrated the bombing in an excited segment of the show Fox and Friends on Friday morning – this was what freedom looked like.
Grainy black-and-white footage of a bomb exploding and flattened Afghanistan desert played on the morning show, accompanied with country music, as if it were a music video.
“You hear Mother Freedom / Start ringin’ her bell / And it feels like the whole wide world is raining down on you / Brought to you courtesy of the red, white and blue,” crooned country singer Toby Keith, timed perfectly with the explosion.
“That video’s black and white, but that is what freedom looks like,” declared Fox anchor Ainsley Earhardt. “That’s the red, white and blue.”
The talkshow host Geraldo Rivera replied: “One of my favorite things, in the 16 years I’ve been here at Fox News, is watching bombs drop on bad guys.”
So Fox News aired footage of the MOAB explosion to the tune of Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue" pic.twitter.com/5QTUnYaBLa— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) April 14, 2017
But while Fox News applauded the Afghanistan bomb footage, others in the US media were a little more skeptical.
“Thursday’s bombing had a feeling of deja vu,” wrote CNN’s national security analyst Peter Bergen, referring to the deadly daisy-cutter bombs used in Afghanistan in 2001. “That’s a useful reminder that very few military campaigns are won from the air.”
On the more liberally minded MSNBC show Morning Joe, guests seemed sceptical about the need for the bomb.
“This is a strange use of this very large ordinance,” said David Ignatius, a foreign policy commentator.
“I think the statement is: ‘Hey folks, the gloves are off.’ The military benefits of using it in Afghanistan in this way are probably limited but the signal is pretty powerful,” said Ignatius.
Apart from that of Fox News, the media reactions were more subdued than those last week when 58 Tomahawk missiles were dropped on Syrian airfields in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons against civilians, and the media greeted the news excitedly.
“I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night,” said Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN’s flagship foreign affairs program, after the Syria attack.
The New York Times headlined an opinion piece “On Syria attack, Trump’s heart came first” before later toning it down online.
“It was hard not to feel some sense of emotional satisfaction, and justice done, when American cruise missiles struck an airfield in Syria on Thursday,” read a Times editorial.
Brian Williams, the NBC host who publicly fell from grace after he presented falsehoods about his experiences, called the footage of the US military striking Syria “beautiful pictures” twice, and noted: “I am tempted to quote the late Leonard Cohen: ‘I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons,’” a reference to the Cohen song First We Take Manhattan.
“I mean this with all due respect: the sales department at the Pentagon, especially in the era of moving pictures, is very effective,” Williams said.