The US dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on Afghanistan today, April 13, on a district that has a population of 180,000.
The weapon, technically named GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, but more commonly known as the “Mother of All Bombs,” or MOAB, weighs 21,000 pounds and has a blast radius of one mile in every direction.
Each of these absurdly big bombs costs $16 million, and the government spent $314 million to develop the MOAB (with plans to use it against Iran).
The Trump administration said it employed the weapon in order to destroy a tunnel system used by the genocidal extremist group ISIS in Afghanistan. The attack was touted by the right-wing media. Mainstream corporate news outlets uncritically echoed the government line, speaking of the weapon as if it would only hit ISIS fighters.
The New York Times, for instance, titled its report, “U.S. Drops ‘Mother of All Bombs’ on ISIS Caves in Afghanistan,” as if only ISIS could have been targeted. In this article, however, the Times noted that the US military’s statement on the attack “did not say how many militants were killed, or whether the bombing caused any civilian casualties.”
A crucial fact was left out of media reports on the bombing — namely, that 180,000 people live in the area.
News outlets did report that the bomb was dropped on Afghanistan’s Achin district, in the eastern Nangarhar province, near the border with Pakistan.
The website for the government of Nangarhar province lists the population for Achin.
According to Afghanistan's gov., the Achin district, where Trump just dropped the US' largest non-nuclear bomb, has a population of 180,000 pic.twitter.com/DkVrSH3ARW
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) April 13, 2017
This crucial fact was not mentioned in a single English-language news report on the attack. Yes, the government website is in Pashto, but it only takes very basic linguistic, internet research, and journalistic skills to discover this.
Some people on Twitter did worryingly note that some 95,000 Afghans live in the area, citing an outdated 2006 estimate on the Wikipedia article for Achin district, but even this is an understatement.
The Nangarhar province government website also indicates that Achin is 350 kilometers, or approximately 217 miles, in size. The district, then, is not small. And the attack reportedly took place in a remote part of the district.
Yet, still, the blast of a bomb this big encompasses roughly 1 percent of the total district. And this does not even take into consideration the additional adverse effects of the attack outside of the direct blast radius.
News reports should at least acknowledge the potential for serious civilian casualties.