The 21,000-pound GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb that the US dropped on an Afghan town of almost 150,000 residents last week was the largest non-nuclear bomb used in history. US officials say the bomb’s intended target was an underground tunnel system allegedly held by ISIS, but let us be clear: this bomb was not just a weapon to target people underground. It was a tool for psychological warfare. It was a weapon of mass destruction. It was a blast that destroyed whatever was in its path for miles and caused severe hearing damage.
In addition to contending with many forms of short-term damage and injury, Nangarhar province will be affected for generations to come by the toxic effects left behind by the bomb in its air, water and soil. War is an environmental issue and a health issue that affects us all. Our entire planet is saturated by toxins due to these bombings in the long term because we share the same atmosphere.
This bomb was not just a weapon to target people underground. It was a tool for psychological warfare.
Though the US military, in collaboration with the Afghan government, claimed to target only ISIS operatives, the truth is that the innocent people living in Nangarhar will endure the effects of this bomb for decades to come.
One resident told a local politician in Nangarhar: “I have grown up in the war, and I have heard different kinds of explosions through 30 years: suicide attacks, earthquakes, different kinds of blasts. I have never heard anything like this.”
The Afghan military says the bomb has killed 92 ISIS militants, but we don’t know the full extent of the destruction, as the US military has not confirmed the Afghan numbers. But even US numbers must be questioned because the US military often considers any male killed aged 18-49 as “enemy combatants.” And as of April 17, there are reports that US officials have prevented Afghan authorities from fully accessing the blast site. There are also few and unconfirmed reports of civilian casualties.
This bomb, like the drones, air strikes, night raids and the destruction that came before it, was used as a tool for warfare that prevents the stability of people living in provinces all across the country. We must demand accountability for this war crime. Afghans have suffered 16 years of this so-called “war on terror” illegally waged by the US and its allies. This war has worsened the chances for world peace. The MOAB was nicknamed as the “Mother of All Bombs” but there is nothing mothering about this or any bomb. Mothering is about reproducing and protecting life — not killing and destroying it.
In 2016, when President Obama was still in office, the US dropped at least 1,337 bombs on Afghanistan, while the international community claimed the country was safe and forced thousands of refugees to return to it. And since Donald Trump took office, there were more than 150 strikes on Afghanistan, with more than 100 airstrikes in just the first two weeks of April. The use of the MOAB bomb signals an escalation in an already protracted and vicious war that has cost Afghans our homeland.
It is past due for people of conscience in the US to step forward and demand an end to the murder of the Afghan people and the poisoning of our land. The terrorism waged by the US and its allies in the name of the “war on terror” far outstrips the violence of those they claim to fight. It is time for the global community to demand that all militaries stop using our people and our lands as the testing grounds for war and weaponry. It is time to end the occupation of Afghanistan.