Appearing on Monday on MSNBC’s “Deadline: White House” show to discuss Mr Biden’s evening address on Taliban crisis, Mr Zeller said he will never forgive the United States for this “moral injury.”
His full interaction with hosts Brian Williams and Nicolle Wallace was full of counters to the claims the president made in his address. They came as Mr Williams began his question praising Mr Biden for “owning up” to his decisions.
Mr Williams said the president’s address showed “he didn’t run” from his responsibility to the Afghan people and “owned the fact that, as he put it, the buck stops with him.”
To which Mr Zeller responded: “I hope he gets to own their deaths too.”
“I feel like I watched a different speech than the rest of you guys,” he continued. “I was appalled.”
Mr Biden in his speech on Monday said, “We planned for every contingency,” however, he added that things did “unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.”
Pointing out this quote from the president, Mr Zeller, who is also a co-founder of an organisation helping Afghan and Iraqi interpreters, slammed the administration labelling it a “profound bold-faced lie.”
“I have been personally trying to tell this administration [about possible consequences] since it took office. I have been trying to tell our government for years this was coming. We sent them plan after plan on how to evacuate these people. Nobody listened to us.”
“They didn’t plan for the evacuation of our Afghan wartime allies, they are trying to conduct it now at the eleventh hour,” Mr Zeller said. “The thing that they were most concerned about was through the optics of a chaotic evacuation.”
MSNBC's Brian Williams on Biden's speech: "He didn’t run from it, he owned it. He owned this decision. He owned the fact that, as he put it, the buck stops with him."
Afghan vet @mattczeller: "I feel like I watched a different speech than the rest of you guys. I was appalled!" pic.twitter.com/AMSulYnNrp
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) August 16, 2021
“They got exactly what they were most concerned of, by failing to do what was right when we could have done it. We had all the people and equipment in place to be able to save these people months ago and we did nothing.”
He also countered Mr Biden’s claim that some Afghans didn’t want to be evacuated. “I am appalled that he thinks we only need to take two thousand people. There’s 86,000 people who have been left behind in Afghanistan alone,” Mr Zeller said, adding that his organisation has identified them for the government.
“I’ve no idea why he claims people don’t want to leave Afghanistan, I have a list of names of 14,000 names right now, of people who want to get out of Afghanistan.”
He also countered Mr Biden’s statement holding the Afghan military responsible saying that they were fighting with limited resources and without getting paid properly. “How dare us for having to blame these people for not having the audacity to survive a Taliban onslaught.”
“What we need to be doing right now, and I’m appalled that the president didn’t say this, is we need to be talking about how we are going to get every single one of them out,” he said.
“We made these people a promise. The Taliban are now actively killing them, and if we don’t take them they’re going to die,” Zeller said. “That’s the thing is we have the means to do this. We have just simply lacked this entire time the conviction to do the right thing.”
Mr Zeller also acknowledged his own guilt in leaving citizens behind for the Taliban, stating he’ll “never forgive” his country for doing so.
“I can’t forgive myself and I’ll never forgive my country for doing this. I know exactly what every Vietnam veteran has been warning me about now. I’m going to live with the moral injury for the rest of my life,” Mr Zeller said.
Mr Biden has faced scrutiny over his handling of Afghanistan debacle recently, especially after his past statements where he denied possibility of this degree of chaos.