Plenty has been written on MOAB, the biggest non-nuclear weapon used by any side in any war since the end of World War II. But nobody has examined the story like we do, here. There is another dimension to this, entirely. We’ll explore it in detail.
First, a couple of quick comments on impending world affairs that need detangling.
Some quickie “whys” on France’s election, Brexit, and maybe Frexit
The French election happens this weekend. If no one wins a majority—which is a near certainty—then a run-off decides the election on May 7. Realistically, at least four, and perhaps five, of the eleven candidates are vying for votes to get those top two spots. The French multiparty system is far superior to ours. If we had their system, Bernie Sanders would be president and Congress would not be preordained by gerrymandering. But that’s not the reason we’re including this as a brief topic.
We’ll spare you a lot of names you don’t know. We need to focus on one leading candidate: Marine Le Pen of the National Front is being portrayed as the French Donald Trump. And that’s one more example of US corporate mainstream media oversimplifying everything for the American audience with the short attention span they’ve indulged and conditioned with polarized absolutes. For starters, Le Pen is highly educated—no comparison with Trump’s insular elite schooling. Second, the question of whether France should “Frexit” the European Union is one she would answer in the affirmative, in the steps of Britain’s Brexit.
And that’s where all the stuff comes from about racism and xenophobia and generally ugly characterizations. Another time, we’ll examine the pros and cons of the EU, and the abundant reasons why the average working European is less than enamored with his or her nation’s EU membership. Here, let’s stick with one point for the French election.
France is a cohesive culture easily identified with fine wine, good cheese, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, Joan of Arc, La Marseillaise (a national anthem older than ours), Les Misérables and other great literature by Victor Hugo before it was a Broadway musical, great literary figures who include Voltaire, Verne, Camus, Sartre, Proust, Zola, Sand, Descartes, Flaubert, Colette, and many more, and artists that include Gauguin, Van Gogh, Pissarro, Manet, Monet, Cezanne, Renoir and Degas. Contrary to the excruciatingly boneheaded remark by Emmanuel Macron, one of the candidates, that “France has no culture.” It is also a nation that built a colonial empire after it ended the excesses of a monarchical state, and it lives with the consequences of ongoing involvement with some of its former colonies.
But culture and its key role in masking economics, is at the center of this election. France’s population today contains 8.8 percent foreign-born immigrants. Now, contrary to much opinion, about half that number are European born—and the majority is neither Muslim nor African, from former French colonies or otherwise. France does have real issues with acts of anti-Semitism, from basic discrimination to sometimes brutal. And the French have been taking to the streets in demonstrations that have become riots, protesting police brutality—which is almost an inevitable product of living in a national state of emergency since 2015’s terrorist attacks in Paris. But France remains the world’s fourth-most popular destination for migrants of all national origins. That doesn’t include all the refugees stuck in France because they’re trying to get into the UK.
All that brings us to the central point that US mainstream media isn’t covering. Despite the easy-to-tap fervor over Trump’s two attempts at de facto Muslim bans that would last a few months? Americans don’t want waves of immigrants from the nations we have destroyed in the past 16 years of endless wars. Yet we look with disdain when the people of other nations, including Britain and France, don’t want those same war refugees in their countries. Big Media goes on a tear about “xenophobic candidates like Marine Le Pen.” It goes so far that it gets into what Europeans call their “n” word—Nazi.
Even in today’s Germany, which has—perhaps in a national act of penance—admitted more refugees than anyone else, there is tension over preserving wages, loss of jobs, and other issues involving immigrants.
So look at the French election without imposing the narrative crafted by corporate mainstream media. You can start with the fact that, on Tuesday, British prime minister Theresa May suddenly called for a snap election to be held in the UK on June 8—if parliament agrees to it today. It’s all about May consolidating power to achieve the version of Brexit that’s most acceptable to her Conservative Party and London banksters. And stopping Scotland’s renewed fervor for independence because it wants to stay in the EU. Which seems a little crazy since it is ruled by Frankfurt banksters. Though there’s no indication the Scots are ready to accept refugees from Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan, either.
Everyone really should have a basic understanding of the French election, free of the corporate mainstream narrative. A good short run-down on the top five candidates is here.
MOAB—the Mother of All Bombast
Now, for our major focus. We have far more to report than you’re seeing elsewhere. And it goes to the heart of arrogant muscle-flexing, sword-waving, and inappropriate decisions to theatrically use the wrong weapons.
The MOAB bomb—Massive Ordnance Aerial Blast bomb—is the GBU43/B, which the press promotes in its cutesy penchant for sabre-rattling as the “Mother of All Bombs.” It’s the one that was dropped last week on Afghanistan. It was uniquely dropped there. By order of the commander in chief. Or by some cadre of generals acting with a measure of carte blanche from a US president not seen since the two world wars. Depending on who is explaining things on any given day.
It cost $340 million to develop MOAB. Depending on your source, as few as 15 and as many as 20 were built. Each cost $16 million to put in the inventory, and who knows how much to build a new one to replace the one just dropped.
The cost of replacing anything expended from the inventory is always far more than its initial cost as part of an order. Whether that’s replacing one or more of 20 MOABs or anything else that goes bang in the night. Tom Hall explored this in relation to the puzzling use of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles that struck, but did not disable, a Syrian airfield earlier this month.
There is some indication that the GBU-43/B MOAB has a big brother bomb called the GBU-57, based on the same design. But bigger. There seem to have been no more than 20 of those built, and none has been used. So far.
The official reason given for dropping a MOAB, this—wait for it—weapon of mass destruction—was “to collapse an extensive network of caves and tunnels being used by ISIL.”
Given what else is in the inventory, that doesn’t make sense. Let’s examine the facts and circumstances.
Former CIA agent Jack Rice says, “Some of this underground complex goes back millennia.”
Indeed, nearly all caves are quite ancient, based on the natural forces that form them, and mountainous Afghanistan is riddled with caves. As for the rest, the tunnels that were dug by man? Multiple sources indicate those tunnels were dug by the CIA.
Rice allows, “Could some of the tunnels have been dug by the CIA and blown up by the US military? It’s conceivable, and laden with irony. The ironies go way, way back.”
More to the point of the sudden desire to destroy one specific underground complex, Rice said, “Let’s be clear—this is never about one theatre of operation. This is a message for all theatres of operation.”
The detonation of that MOAB produced the most powerful single-bomb explosion in any war, exclusive of the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan. If there are historical competitors for boom-factor, they were the magnified blasts caused by massive explosions of shipboard magazines filled with 14-to-15-inch-diameter artillery shells and cordite triggered by incoming explosives, like the British battleships vaporized at Jutland in WW I and the Japanese bomb that destroyed the battleship Arizona in the Pearl Harbor attack.
But in terms of dropping a bomb and having it do, on its own, what it is designed to do? Since Big Media is fond of invoking its sports analogies in war, we’ll repeat the factoid from their rah-rah: MOAB has a destructive radius of 15 football fields.
In human terms a MOAB bomb kills all living things within a mile. That’s a radius on par with the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atom bombs. MOAB is such an exotic weapon that it isn’t something lying around in some bunker. The cost of getting it to where it could be loaded aboard a bomber is substantial. And it isn’t likely that standard bomb shackles or “weapons hard points” on many aircraft are set to hold the thing.
Each MOAB is nearly 30 feet long, in addition to its 21,000-pound weight and other physical dimensions.
It isn’t something that’s a grab-‘n-go item at the armorer’s mini-mart.
Now let’s get past all the shock and awe. Because if the purpose in dropping the MOAB in Afghanistan was to cave in tunnels, as stated, it is an odd choice for the job.
A different bomb “sucks the oxygen out of caves”
MOAB isn’t the only brobdingnagian bomb in the US inventory. Most notably, there are two others.
One is the BLU-118/B “Fuel-Air-Bomb,” or FAB. It’s the 15,000-pound “thermobaric” weapon designed to release a vaporized cloud of explosive fumes on the way down, then utilize oxygen from the surrounding atmosphere to detonate the explosive mix of lethal air. The big flash then destroys an enormous area with a intense, high-temperature blast-heat-shock wave. It boasts a significantly longer duration of cook time than a conventional condensed explosive. That one might have dry roasted anyone underground. Or, as advertised, incinerated outright all or most of what was down there simply by raising the temperature. Plus its design spec is all about “sucking the oxygen out of a cave.”
As if the irony of calling the thing FAB isn’t enough, this bomb’s name within the military is the “Daisy Cutter.” It was used by the US in combat in Afghanistan in November 2001, and was the most powerful non-nuke single bomb ever dropped to that time.
As far as mega-weapons go, it’s still more than one-fourth smaller than MOAB. But it comes with far greater lethality for anyone underground. So that raises the issue of whether the element of theatrics trumps purpose. In addition, it still wouldn’t be the first choice for assuring destruction of underground installations.
If FAB is better than MOAB, but neither one passes the three bears’ porridge test, what’s left? A third choice was a far more likely choice for collapsing an enormous network of caves and tunnels. Especially if the CIA had all the maps and diagrams to know exactly how massive a cave-in was required.
The top pick, far and away, is the infamous “Earthquake Bomb.” It’s the “Massive Ordnance Penetrator,” a 30,000 pound US bomb designed to attack “very deeply buried targets.” More than twice as heavy as the 15,000 pound FAB/Daisycutter bomb, it’s also nearly a third bigger than the supposed “Mother of All Bombs,” since MOAB weights 21,000 pounds.
You may recall that one from its advocacy by John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and the rest of the nest of neocons-neoliberals. You know, those whose advocacy for using military action is the one-size-fits-all solution to everything.
The Earthquake Bomb—also called a seismic bomb or “tectonic weapon”—was argued as “the way to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability, since their facilities are located deep underground where they are impervious to bombs that detonate [and destroy everything] on the surface.”
Funny that the same cadre of retired generals who celebrated MOAB on cable news didn’t advocate it instead of the earthquake bomb when the talk was about starting a war with Iran. Of course, they knew that MOAB would have just killed a lot of people and fried a lot of stuff without collapsing the underground installation. Which none of them applied to last week’s bomb drop on Afghanistan. Because it didn’t fit the narrative.
The earthquake bomb isn’t something you can dismiss due to variables or unknowns. The concept and the devices that derived from it have been around for a long time. British aerospace engineer Barnes Wallis developed it early in World War II, and its ever more lethal refinements saw use in that war. They even worked on a derivative—a tsunami bomb to cause tidal waves that would have wrecked Japan’s coastal cities.
Those 1940s seismic bombs were the heaviest things any airplane of the time could carry. The 12,000-pound “Tallboy” and 20,000-pound “Grand Slam” bombs were in the same weight class as MOAB and FAB. As earthquake bombs, they used the same principle as today’s exponentially more powerful 30,000-pound counterpart. They work by being dropped from up high where the air is thin, so they hit the ground at supersonic speed. Using a thickly-armored nose cone, the bomb penetrates like a bullet fired into a tree trunk. Then it goes off as far underground as you can get, and the results are literally earth-shattering.
Whether it would actually trigger seismic faults or simply produce enough of a manmade earthquake of its own, the Pentagon isn’t saying.
As to whether it would destroy aquifers and water wells over vast regions by collapsing all the layers of semi-porous strata that enable subterranean flow of water?
Or send flows of fluids under pressure, including groundwater and gas and oil, from known layers and predictable wells into muddled underground quagmires or surface spills that might happen at the bomb site or miles away?
Or even trigger volcanic eruptions in areas where magma is close to the surface, like Yellowstone National Park, the Big Island of Hawaii, Mt. Lassen, Mt. Shasta, Mt. Rainier, or the Mammoth/Bishop area—it seems no one knows.
But if the goal is to collapse everything underground and pulverize it into an undifferentiated muddle, that’s why our tax dollars were spent on this one.
The parade must play all the military service anthems
Amidst all the star-anchors special coverage of flashes and bangs, whether from the “shock and awe” of a hotel roof in Baghdad or vicariously covering launches of shipboard missiles, airtime is important. Inter-service rivalries must be placated. The Navy gets to launch 59 cruise missiles. The Air Force gets to drop a MOAB. The Marine Corps is getting a share of the Joint Strike Fighter production—the plane that’s three years behind schedule and $200 billion over its original budget.
So the Army must get full production approval for its new super-weapon, the “Kinetic Energy Projectile.” They used to call them tank artillery rounds. That’s passé. This one is “a tungsten-based warhead launched at more than three times the speed of sound that bursts into numerous flaming, metal fragments easily capable of piercing most conventional types of armor.”
In the world of planning for all eventualities of international conflict, there’s a reason all these different apocalyptic weapons exist, in addition to MOAB. And they’ll tell you that reason is to avoid the use of nukes. Though they’ll never address the circular reasoning of needing apocalyptic weapons to protect you from the apocalyptic weapons you needed.
So, if expending a MOAB wasn’t the likely choice from the inventory… and if 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were like going after an ant with an elephant gun, and missing… and if, in both cases, those were predictable outcomes… then it seems it’s all just theatre. That it’s far more about sending messages than accomplishing any task that is the stated purpose of the attack.
Fifty-nine Tomahawk cruise missiles launched into a Syrian military base caused so little damage that the base was operational again within hours. What remained was a need to change the dialog, since the US has no declaration of war against the sovereign nation that was attacked. Attacked in act that, rather inconveniently, violates international law. Not that it was a first, of course. We’ve been bombing Syria, and Libya, and Pakistan, and Yemen, for some time now, either directly or by using proxies. Not that any of it is making things go our way.
The narrative feeds the beast, until…
So the narrative dutifully takes to the air. Shut up and watch the “beautiful” launch that caused Brian Williams to outrageously invoke lyrics from the late Leonard Cohen. Listen to the gushing generals and the stupidity of a reset that had mainstream media’s cult-of-personality hosts deeming Trump was “acting presidential.” Even CNN’s Fareed Zakaria took time to note Sunday that “Dropping bombs does not make someone presidential.”
Zakaria himself had been so happy about the missile-bomb two step that Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept, said on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources,” “If he [Zakaria] could have sex with that cruise missile strike, I believe he would!”
At least Zakaria had the balls to acknowledge the words, if not the speaker, on his own Sunday show. The rest of the cheerleaders simply held the pom-poms behind their backs when criticism arrived.
The late Marshall McLuhan told us, and it feels like a very long time ago, “The medium [aka the media] is the message.”
John Wayne made commercials that he was “Votin’ for Ronald Reagan!”
Ronald Reagan proved that style is more important than substance.
Barack Obama ordered the mission to kill Bin Laden then smiled his way through a state dinner to avoid alerting anyone.
Trump hit Syria with cruise missiles while having dinner with the Chinese president, and told him, apparently just after Trump himself was told. And that last part sorta lets the air out of the barrage balloon.
So the tweets had to continue unabated about handling North Korea alone if China won’t.
And the real terrorism du jour is that Trump defused the part of the coup supported by war hawk Republicans by giving the pugilists their Christmas wish-list, early.
That included sending Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Moscow to act belligerent—to retire the last vestiges of claims-without-evidence that he’s too kissy-kissy with the Russians whose mind control won the election for him.
It’s a pattern that’s both set by, and dependent on, the narrative.
Saturday Night Live made everyone believe Sarah Palin could see Russia from her house. Then, without the laughs, the narrative said Hillary could see Russia from her bedroom window. Which wasn’t the White House window because, well, you know.
US corporate mainstream media spins its narratives while covering its failures and unwillingness to question, and it does that by vilifying anything that is “Not invented here.”
Donald Trump is as much a product of the BS and baloney of reality TV as he is of cutthroat business deals.
So he must remember what Fonzie told Richie: “If you want people to think you’re tough, you have to beat up somebody sometime, at least once.”
And when you do, it even brings maps in “Newsweek“ that show the overwhelming approval of NATO allies for blowing-up sh*t.
Given the absence of meaningfully competing sources of news and information—and the co-opting of pop culture and social media by creating an echo chamber to parrot the narrative—that “Hey! Wait a minute!” moment is ever more elusive. Those who suggest the need to take stock are easier to ridicule. Since all the Big Media outlets are dominated, if not actually controlled, by megagiant corporations with multifaceted interests to promote, it’s easier to marginalize contrarians.
But sometimes they fail. As when, ever so rarely, the excruciatingly pliable, famously fickle commodity of public opinion expresses itself well beyond the stacked-deck questions so carefully and purposefully crafted by the pollsters. To wit:
George Orwell’s 1949 classic of a dystopian future, “1984,” suddenly went from decades of obscurity to record sales in late winter and early spring.
And last week, Google searches for the term “World War III” suddenly hit their highest monthly totals, by far, since Google’s spyware began keeping search records in 2004.
“It would appear the abyss is staring back,” noted Tyrell Ventura of “Watching the Hawks.”
Brian Becker, Director of the antiwar “Answer Coalition,” suggests that the MOAB drop “won’t scare North Korean officials, but it is a demonstration weapon. It must be seen in terms of the mounting tensions on the Korean Peninsula. That is the most militarized place on the planet right now.”
He adds, “Trump used the weapon as a demonstration to anyone who defies US dictates.”
Becker charges, “The generals in high places in the Trump administration, the Pentagon getting its huge increase in funding, elected Republicans and Democrats alike who are proponents for the war industry are essentially working together. They have given a blank check to the Pentagon and the generals. They’ve never been able to do it before [i.e., drop a MOAB] but they have a blank check now.”
This week’s video
We’re continuing the theme of the lunacy of the US war machine as a hideously expensive, often incalculably costly, replacement for diplomacy. And how America has lost the simple regard for the way other people want to live in their own countries. Emphasis on the fact that people do indeed want to live.
Lee Camp talks with retired infantryman Ernest Miller IV, who served in Iraq. Miller describes, as Camp says, “his gripping tale of barely surviving a car bomb and how little support the military gave him. He also describes billions in cash that went missing in Iraq.”
This aired as the Thursday edition of “Redacted Tonight,” which is the serious counterpart to each Friday’s satirical edition on RT. Camp says, “If you only watch one of my interviews, watch this one.”
See you next week. Meantime, don’t get tangled in “the narrative.”