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U.S. Drops Its Biggest Non-Nuclear Bomb on Afghans, Already Traumatized by Decades of War

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In Afghanistan on Thursday, the United States military dropped its most powerful non-nuclear bomb ever—the Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or MOAB, nicknamed "The Mother of All Bombs." The 21,600-pound bomb reportedly unleashed an explosion equivalent to 11 tons of TNT with a mile-wide blast radius. This comes as the United Nations recently published a report saying airstrikes from the Afghan government forces and the U.S.-led coalition killed nearly 600 civilians in 2016—almost twice as many than in 2015. The U.S. war in Afghanistan is the longest war in U.S. history, extending into its 16th year. We are joined by Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a campaign to end U.S. military and economic warfare. She just returned from Afghanistan earlier this month. We also speak with Wazhmah Osman, professor of media and communication at Temple University and member of the Afghan American Artists and Writers Association.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: In Afghanistan, the United States military dropped its most powerful non-nuclear bomb ever—the Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or MOAB, nicknamed "The Mother of All Bombs." The U.S. military dropped it on Achin district near the Pakistan border. The 21,600-pound bomb reportedly unleashed an explosion equivalent to 11 tons of TNT with a mile-wide blast radius. Bill Roggio of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told the Military Times, quote, "What it does is basically suck out all of the oxygen and lights the air on fire." This is White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

PRESS SECRETARY SEAN SPICER: The GBU-43 is a large, powerful and accurately delivered weapon. We targeted a system of tunnels and caves that ISIS fighters used to move around freely, making it easier for them to target U.S. military advisers and Afghan forces in the area. … The United States took all precautions necessary to prevent civilian casualties and collateral damage as a result of the operation.

AMY GOODMAN: Thursday’s blast was so powerful, it shook the ground in neighboring districts. A parliamentarian from Nangarhar province told The Guardian the explosion killed a teacher and his young son. The U.S.-backed former president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, denounced Thursday’s attack. He said, "This is not the war on terror, but the inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country as testing ground for new and dangerous weapons." Marc Garlasco, a Bush-era Pentagon official, told The Intercept the weapon was built for use in Iraq but never used "due to collateral damage concerns." At the White House, President Trump said he was "very, very proud" of those who carried out the bombing.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Very, very proud of the people. Another—really, another successful job. We’re very, very proud of our military. Just like we’re proud of the folks in this room, we are so proud of our military. And it was another successful event.

REPORTER: Did you authorize it, sir?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Everybody knows exactly what happened, so—and what I do is I authorize my military. We have the greatest military in the world, and they’ve done a job, as usual.

AMY GOODMAN: Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California said in a statement, quote, "President Trump owes the American people an explanation about his escalation of military force in Afghanistan and his long-term strategy to defeat ISIS." The U.S.-backed former president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, denounced Thursday’s attack. He said, quote, "This is not the war on terror, but the inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country as testing ground for new and dangerous weapons."

We’re going to turn right now to our guests, both in studio, and also we’ll be going to Kabul after break to speak to people in Afghanistan. We turn right now to Kathy Kelly, who is with Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She was twice nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. We’re also joined here in our studio by Wazhmah Osman, who is professor of media, culture, communication at Temple University. She’s a member of Afghan American Artists and Writers Association and co-producer and director of Postcards from Tora Bora.

Let’s begin with Wazhmah. Your response to what took place? The largest bomb, non-nuclear, was dropped on Afghanistan, the largest bomb in the history of the world, outside the two atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan. Your thoughts?

WAZHMAH OSMAN: Well, ever since we found out about what happened yesterday, my organization, Afghan American Artists and Writers Association, and in dialogue with my family, we’ve all been trying to wrap our brain around why this, a bomb of this magnitude, would be dropped on a people that have already been traumatized by and terrorized by almost four decades of war. And it’s partially because the war hawks are empowered by the Trump administration. And they call this psychological warfare, and it’s back to the shock and awe, so overwhelm them with sheer firepower. But this isn’t going to subdue ISIS or the Taliban. It’s not going to subdue them into submission. What’s going to happen is it’s going to kill more innocent people and enrage people and radicalize people to join the ranks of the ISIS and Taliban. So, contrary to what they’re saying, that this is a counterterrorism measure or strategy, this is actually creating terrorism. This is a big setback for peace. That’s our mission with AAAWA. We want to make that clear. And it is a big setback for peace not just in the region of Afghanistan and Pakistan, but globally. And it’s a huge win for the war hawks and warlords, both in Afghanistan, Pakistan and in the U.S.

And I think what people don’t realize is that ISIS and the Taliban have been losing support, not that they had that much to begin with, but they’ve been losing support, and the public—the tide of public opinion has been turning against them, because they’ve been terrorizing people in the region with suicide bombs, with, you know, publicly beheading journalists and all types of things. And, you know, this undoes that. So it’s going to turn people back toward supporting them and joining their ranks.

And I think what’s also important to keep in mind is that this undoes all of the hard work that local reformers and progressive people have been doing on the ground there, as well as the international donor community. Since 9/11, you know, over 90 countries have invested in civic approaches, as opposed to military approaches, to rebuilding the nation with educational programs, economic programs, to give people some hope. You know, people there, just like here, want peace and security, and want a better future. And so, this thwarts the peace process that people have worked for, including the U.S. government. You know, the U.S. government has successfully initiated many nation-building projects, including building the media sector, training media professionals and, once again, the economy and education. And this is a big blow and a big step backwards for everybody who’s been working for peace in the region.

AMY GOODMAN: Kathy Kelly, you’re here in New York because you’re on a hunger fast against U.S. militarism. You’re protesting outside of the United Nations. But you just recently came back from Afghanistan. First, your response to the dropping of this, well, what the U.S. military, as well, calls "The Mother of All Bombs," developed during the Bush years, but not used by President Bush or President Obama because of the massive concern about civilian casualties. It has a mile blast radius.

KATHY KELLY: I think the mother of all bombs is really greed. It’s greed on the part of the people who are just itching to pull the trigger and try out their latest, but to try it out over Afghanistan, a country where the air and the water are already so horribly contaminated. I mean, just having coming back from Afghanistan, you wonder how people make it through those very harsh winters, when the air is so terribly polluted. I mean, people brush their teeth, and they’re dealing with black saliva. The children in the refugee camps are going without breakfast, lunch and dinner sometimes. Mothers weep and say, "I can’t feed my children." And now there will be more refugees, because who knows what that bomb has done to the water? And, sure, it’s had a psychological effect. People are terrified.

So it’s a country that’s already got 1.5 million refugees. Kabul is so filled with people who are unemployed and have no food, that it’s the children who go out and do the labor. One-point-eight million are going to be pushed back into Afghanistan, if Iran and Pakistan and Europe go ahead with plans to force people to go back. And so, the United States has put $112 billion into nonmilitary programs, but what can we see as the result of those programs? So, don’t we think this is going to feed, as Wazhmah has said, resentment and anger and a desire for revenge? And, you know, where are all these guns coming from? It’s the United States, according to C.J. Chivers in The New York Times a year ago, that brought probably 700,000 pistols, assault rifles, carbines, weapons into Afghanistan. And that’s where the jihadist groups get their weapons.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break and then come back to this conversation with Kathy Kelly, nominated twice for a Nobel Peace Prize, on hunger fast against violence in front of the U.N. right now, as well as Wazhmah Osman, who is a professor of media, culture and communication at Temple University. She is Afghan-American. And we’re going to go to Kabul to speak with guests in Afghanistan. Stay with us.

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Afghans Respond to Insult of U.S. Dropping Massive Bomb: "Would a Mother Do That to Any Children?"

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