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Keeping The Mother Of All Bombs At A Distance

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“…a lovely, bloodless, corpseless war, just the sort the politicians love.”

David Hackworth (1)

Still images from Pentagon footage of MOAB strike in Afghanistan
Still images from Pentagon footage of MOAB strike in Afghanistan

If images of war set the tone for public support, then the best images are the ones that tell almost no story at all. Such seems to be the case with the recent bombing of an ISIL network in a remote area of Afghanistan, otherwise known in American foreign policy circles as the first time the Mother Of All Bombs (MOAB) GBU-43. In combing through numerous articles, videos, and commentary over the event I am certain about one thing: the weapon is the only story available to be told.

From Al Jazeera to ABC, from Reuters to Russia Today, we are more likely to see images of the weapon being tested, in a warehouse, or the silent black and white drone footage released by the Pentagon that requires an expert to explain. If this bomb is indeed as powerful as all these sources are describing, where are the images of what it has actually done to the area in question?

The news sources I mention above do include witness testimony about “feeling” the Earth shake and “seeing” fire and smoke. Some of these witnesses were indeed thrilled by the idea of ISIL taking a hit, however others in Afghanistan are less happy with both the choice of weapon and the bombing itself. But to date, we have no verified images of the immediate aftermath or the devastation that must have followed. In an age where mobile and digital tools have forever changed the way we witness war, I find this an interesting and perhaps purposeful situation.

Am I suggesting that news networks are neglecting or suppressing images of Afghan suffering or collateral damage? No. If we do not have these images it is not because these things have not occurred, although it is possible they did not. I suggest it is because the Trump administration made a decision to bomb an ISIL target far enough away from international eyes and cameras so that the only narrative that could emerge was a clean and very distant view of a continuing military operation in Afghanistan that has proven very unpopular with the public.

If you’re going to wag the dog, its probably smart to make sure its a dog that people want to see.


Footnotes

  1. Young, Peter R, and Peter Jesser. The Media And The Military. 1st ed. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1997.

We are delighted to welcome Christa Blackmon for a stint as an LGM guest poster! Christa is a media anthropologist with critical experience in social media campaigns and opEd writing. A native of Miami, Florida she attended American University’s School of International Service from 2005 to 2008, focusing on Peace and Conflict Resolution in the Middle East. Christa was formerly the Senior Editor of Palestine Note and has frequently worked with BoomGen Studios as a social media strategist on various film and media projects, including the Oscar nominated documentary The Square. She completed her Masters program in Social Anthropology with Merit at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London . Her dissertation is, “Mediating Memory: Oral Histories of the Nakba Online”, was awarded a Distinction. A self-described “fiction junkie”, Christa has a passion for science fiction literature and media and its relation to social science. She also maintains a blog about the ethics of viewing images of suffering in Western media, sightofsuffering.tumblr.com.

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  • N__B

    Interesting post, thank you.

  • Wapiti

    The way I previously understood it was “wag the dog” was using a little war/bombing/reichstag fire to inflame the populace and garner support for the administration that way. But in the last few weeks we’ve seen the administration’s attempts and the media’s immediate swooning and proclamation of Trump as truly presidential. But public opinion doesn’t seem to have moved at all, or has hardened. Does wag the dog apply to the populace, or to the media?

    • John F

      But public opinion doesn’t seem to have moved at all, or has hardened.

      It’s moved, but not by a lot…

      “wag the dog” moments tend to be transient- Trump would have to up the ante to get movement again after his initial poll boost fades.

  • cpinva

    given the location, and relative lack of population other than ISIS, and that apparently mostly underground, I kind of wonder what there is to see? a big, black hole maybe? anything close to it would have been vaporized, the tunnels caved in, with all those in them either killed outright, or buried alive and dying, unseen from above.

    “Does wag the dog apply to the populace, or to the media?”

    both, I think. the media gets fooled, then reports it to the populace.

    • CP

      both, I think. the media gets fooled, then reports it to the populace.

      Yeah. And as we saw in the last election, the media does influence the population, even these days, no matter how widely distrusted they are and how savvy and cynical the public likes to think it is. Osmosis, if nothing else.

      Though if that hasn’t happened this time, well, that’s great news to me.

  • tsam

    Welcome, Christa

    What do you think of the idea that this MOAB was as much a message to North Korea as a means to put down an ISIS group?

    • Maybe it is, but I’d rather ask an Asian affairs expert.

      • AlanInSF

        Welcome, Christa (and continuing thanks to LGM for its excellent taste in bloggers). But more importantly, where do you stand on ketchup and aircraft carriers (discretely, not in combination)?

        • CP

          Combining ketchup and aircraft carriers, the Pentagon’s latest hearts-and-minds initiative…

        • Ketchup is inferior to mayo as a condiment for fries, but its still better to mix something into the mayo.

          Aircraft carriers carry things and that’s good?

        • liberalrob

          I thought it was battleships not carriers…also too, whether the Air Force ought to be abolished.

    • libarbarian

      Since the MOAB would be a LOT less effective against reinforced-concrete underground bunkers dug into North Korean Mountains …. not sure it would be much of a message at all.

      • West

        And aside from how well it would work against NK’s bunkers, I don’t believe it could be delivered there. It’s too big to go in or under any conventional bomber, it just gets shoved out the back of a C-130 cargo plane. C-130s are way too slow and juicy a target to send over North Korea. So I don’t think the North Korean military will be worried about this specific bomb.

        As for the more generic “message”, if Trump et al were just trying to say “we’ll bomb the snot out of anyone anywhere and will use previously un-used weapons”, well, that’s a message the US has sent so many times in the last fifty years that everyone’s lost count.

        • CP

          As for the more generic “message”, if Trump et al were just trying to say “we’ll bomb the snot out of anyone anywhere and will use previously un-used weapons”, well, that’s a message the US has sent so many times in the last fifty years that everyone’s lost count.

          True, but that doesn’t stop people from feeling the urge to send it again.

          Especially since the narrative is that those “messages” are diluted and forgotten because of soft liberal presidents that our enemies don’t respect, or backstabbing liberals tying the hands of our good presidents. So you have to “send a message” all over again, so that our enemies understand “there’s a new sheriff in town” and they’re not going to catch the kind of breaks that they did under Obama/Clinton/Carter/LBJ anymore.

        • Snarki, child of Loki

          Yeah, nothing could possible go wrong as a result of an attack on a nuclear-armed country, led by an isolated, unhinged fool.

          But NK might attack anyway.

          • Marek

            ISWYDT

    • cleek

      NPR’s breathless TRAPPED-IN-NK!!!!! reporter seemed to think Trump attack on Syria has NK all shook up.

      • John F

        I’ve read that for the past 25 years NK leadership has viewed every US military action anywhere as a diversion meant to distract from the impending attack on them – Desert Shield (build up to Desert Storm) was actually a public diversion meant to distract attention our impending invasion of them…

        9/11? Ditto…

        Think of an apocalyptic cult that keeps setting and re-setting the end date. Everything is a sign that points there.

        So if bombing Syria was meant as a message to NK, it’d be pretty odd if they missed it- they see EVERYTHING the US does as a message to them. If NK was a person, they’d be the most egocentric person you ever met- EVERYTHING is about them.

        • Ahuitzotl

          NK is the 7th day adventists? or the scions of Trump?

    • North Korea is much too heavily defended for this weapon to be used there.

      As previously stated, it’s pushed out the back of a C-130.

      We would require total air supremacy plus complete SAM suppression over the target area and ingress/egress routes.

      • How about we drop it from a gaggle of balloons cruising the ionosphere?

        …What, there might be some difficulty in aiming it? Faugh! Faint heart ne’er won fair lady.

        • libarbarian

          So we tie it to 99 Luftballoons?

          • ArchTeryx

            Heh. Neunundneunzig Luftballons was about nuclear war, specifically, about the hair-trigger doctrine. The titular balloons triggered a nuclear exchange in the (German) version of the song.

            MOAB may be a lot of things but it ain’t nuclear at least. That hasn’t stopped me from having nightmares about nuclear war, thanks to Trump and his apparent embrace of the idea that tactical nukes should be on the table. Him and the Congressional Republicans reminds me all too much of the cowardly Russian political leadership of Red Storm Rising.

      • tsam

        Ok–that makes sense.

        At the moment, I’m feeling like the administration maybe THINKS they’ve sent this message and it’s having the intended effect, which seems really dangerous.

      • ArchTeryx

        Yeah, I wouldn’t want to be in the Wild Weasel squadrons assigned to take out those SAMs, either. NK may be small and so poor that it starves most of its populice, but as far as conventional weapons are concerned it is armed to the teeth.

  • Jordan

    Very intriguing post.

    I am pretty sure the answer to this is “go read my blog” which, I mean, I will do in more detail (pretty interesting so far). But do images of the aftermath of US/coalition/whatever non-MOAB bombings in less-remote areas get much visibility in the western media?

    Anyways, welcome!

    • Sadly, I can only read/understand English language and French language media. If there are purported images of the blackened hole left by the MOAB in other language media I don’t have them and can’t evaluate their context.

      • Jordan

        Oh sorry, I didn’t write that comment all that well.

        Because I don’t know nearly as much about this as you do about this, I was wondering more about the contrast between this MOAB bombing (and its attendant non-coverage of the aftermath in western media) with images covered by western media of other recentish bombings in Afghanistan in more populated areas. Is it uniformly low, which would suggest the western media just isn’t interested in covering the aftermath? Or is it *not*, which would suggest the western media *is* interested, and so support your suggestion that the Trump Administration bombed a target far away from international eyes.

        Just an idle though, good post regardless.

        Does that make sense?

        • That makes sense. The effects on civilians of American military strikes is not that interesting for American media *commentary* that’s for certain. The reporting exists but it doesn’t have the same audience impact and it gets picked up less by the commentators. That would be my analysis.

  • Vance Maverick

    Welcome!

    Am I suggesting that news networks are neglecting or suppressing images of Afghan suffering or collateral damage? No. If we do not have these images it is not because these things have not occurred, although it is possible they did not.

    Say, for the sake of argument, these things have occurred, and the images aren’t reaching the networks. Are you suggesting that nobody took photos or video? Or that the administration is suppressing them?

    • I think its entirely more likely cameras just can’t get to those places for logistical or safety reasons. Which is why I believe that particular ISIS target was chosen out of let’s say something in Iraq.

      • delazeur

        Which is why I believe that particular ISIS target was chosen out of let’s say something in Iraq.

        This seems like a really key point.

        • Cheerfull

          But where in Iraq would you drop such a bomb? Unless you were willing to accept a really large number of civilian casualties in addition to killing ISIS?

          Is the question whether the MOAB was dropped in Afghanistan because there weren’t a lot of cameras around, or that it was dropped there because there was a reasonably important military target and not a lot of civilians around?

          Perhaps the concomitant lack of cameras was considered a desirable side benefit, but is the argument that that was the motivating purpose?

          • Anna in PDX

            Is the question whether the MOAB was dropped in Afghanistan because there weren’t a lot of cameras around, or that it was dropped there because there was a reasonably important military target and not a lot of civilians around?

            Many people here are military or ex-military and of course the military is full of professionals who make professional decisions for real operational reasons. but that does not mean that the top level of the military does not do things for political reasons and lie that there was a military one. Given past performance it seems like the credulous “well there must have been a military reason” attitude the press has is, well, giving them way too much of the benefit of the doubt.

            The Trump administration leadership does not fill me with confidence in this regard, either.

            • Cheerfull

              I could understand an argument that there was no reason to drop a bomb this big on this target, or to drop a bomb at all. But if the argument made is that the military was trying to find a place to drop this particular bomb and decided on Afghanistan because it was out of the way, seems strained.

              • Anna in PDX

                That’s sort of the impression I got though. Even in the discussion where Farley was on TV with the weird general, it seemed to me that they were discussing that the military wanted to use this weapon which had not been used before and that it had operational plans to do so but Obama had been too operationally involved and had refused to use it. Trump untied their hands and both Farley and the general mentioned that the military liked this. So maybe that was the main reason to use it. Why strained? They have to test its use somehow, I guess would be their mentality?

                Understanding, of course, that I am not a military person, but it does not seem that far fetched to me.

                • Cheerfull

                  I went back to check my impressions of the Farley video, and his statement was that he thought the bomb was a response to local conditions by tactical commanders, though also saying they may have felt more free to recommend use of this bomb under T. My takeaway sense from the interview is that under both Obama or T, an Afghani commander might have wanted to use the bomb on this particular type of target – an isolated set of caves and command posts, but that the commander might have been more emboldened to go forward with it now.

                  That still sounds different to me than what I think is the argument here, that the goal was from the top down – find a place to use this very big bomb where the damage it causes won’t be particularly visible, and this site was chosen, from the top, because it met those criteria.

              • Ahuitzotl

                Cheerful: except, that argument neatly outlines the behaviour of the Pentagon for the last 40+ years, in a variety of arenas, so maybe it’s more plausible than you think.

          • LFC

            @Cheerfull
            whether the MOAB was dropped in Afghanistan because there weren’t a lot of cameras around, or that it was dropped there because there was a reasonably important military target and not a lot of civilians around?

            While the Trump admin has shown in other contexts that it has arguably a rather cavalier (for lack of a better word) attitude toward civilian casualties (e.g. incidents in Mosul and west of Aleppo), in this particular case I’m inclined to think the decision to drop this bomb was made by the theater commander (or whatever the right designation is) and it was dropped on a place where it was thought, apparently correctly, that there were not many civilians around. (I say “apparently correctly” to indicate my lack of first-hand or even entirely reliable second-hand knowledge.)

            Also, the remoteness, the lack of cameras, and the apparent relative absence of civilians all go together. But I agree that the main question they prob asked was not “where can we drop this where there will be no pictures of the resulting damage?” but “where can we drop this where it will destroy what we want to take out and also not cause a lot of civilian casualties?” I’m speculating, but that wd be my guess here.

      • cleek

        i’m sure we have plenty of satellites hovering above that part of the world that can take ridiculously-detailed images.

        • NBarnes

          Yeah, but not really for media consumption. And even if the pics are highly detailed, it’s still hard to interpret them given the (lack of) color depth and (lack of) perspective.

          • Vance Maverick

            Images from above are also less impressive. To make satellite images tell a story of destruction, you have to use side-by-side comparisons. In this case what was there before may have looked like just rocks and desert to begin with.

            • cpinva

              “In this case what was there before may have looked like just rocks and desert to begin with.”

              which was my point way up top. this area could be any arid place in the world almost. little to no flora or fauna, or human population, because of lack of rainfall. put some mountains in the distance, and you have one of many places on the planet. the only difference afterward is going to be that big, blackened hole in the ground.

              the media likes to see stuff, blown up stuff: buildings, people, animals, etc. this could be lack of interest, because, just on the surface (aside from that big, black hole) there just isn’t anything to see of interest. as others have pointed out, this could have been intentional, except Strump doesn’t operate that way. he likes people to see what he’s done, in 1080. that being the case, we can expect pictures (for what they’ll be worth) to come out soon, so he can brag about them.

        • Jordan

          right, but that doesn’t distract from blackmon’s point. They only release the sanitized ones, and nothing else.

          • cpinva

            “right, but that doesn’t distract from blackmon’s point. They only release the sanitized ones, and nothing else.”

            agreed, but in this case, I don’t think there’s much to sanitize. it’s an unpopulated (other than ISIS) area, in the middle of an arid nowhere. there might be some buildings, but what was of interest was underground to begin with. it is now (presumably) even more underground, having been caved in.

            maybe they should have dropped some mannequins first, so it would look similar to the above ground nuclear test sites afterwards.

        • randy khan

          The U.S. requires the imaging satellites it licenses to grant it shutter control over designated areas. I’m not sure whether the U.S. would invoke it in situations like this, and it’s less useful than it once was because there are other countries that license imaging satellites, but it is one way to control what’s out there.

      • Cheerfull

        Are there ISIS targets in Iraq right now, or for that matter Syria, where dropping a bomb that does a lot of destruction in a one mile radius wouldn’t kill a large number of civilians in addition to ISIS combatants?

        My point is that there is a question of dropping the MOAB in Afghanistan or not. But unless we are truly just giving up on the question of civilian casualties, the question of dropping it in Afghanistan vs. Iraq seems much easier.

      • ajay

        I think its entirely more likely cameras just can’t get to those places for logistical or safety reasons. Which is why I believe that particular ISIS target was chosen out of let’s say something in Iraq.

        The first sentence is entirely sensible. The second question, though, is crazy. Don’t you know that the fighting against ISIS in Iraq right now is happening in cities?

  • econoclast

    From the way you started, I actually thought you were headed in a different direction — that there are no photos because the attack achieved literally nothing. They didn’t want a repeat of the Syrian runway that was operational one day later.

    • If the attacks did achieve nothing, I’ll let someone with defense expertise say that. My analysis of the media around it would support that argument.

  • randy khan

    I think the one lesson the military learned best from Vietnam is that control over what the population actually sees is very important. We have been seeing less and less of aftermath images and video over time, and more control over embedded journalists. (And in a case like this, no nearby journalists at all.)

    • CP

      Yep. I mean, the contrast between Desert Storm and the coverage of Vietnam a couple decades earlier is really striking. And even more so if you hear about what they chose not to publish – I recall a story about a reporter who caught a picture of a guy dying basically roasted alive in his jeep, and his paper just wouldn’t publish it because it was too gruesome. They really, really didn’t want any equivalents of the Vietnam era pics of the little girl running away from napalm or the prisoner with a handgun to his head about to be killed.

      (The entire “the media lost us Vietnam!” narrative that was built over the previous twenty years was largely about achieving that outcome, too).

      • q-tip

        the contrast between Desert Storm and the coverage of Vietnam a couple decades earlier is really striking

        As a side note: the movie Wag the Dog was based on a novel called American Hero, which mock-seriously* posited that Operation Desert Storm was completely stage-managed with the cooperation of Hollywood producers and Saddam himself.

        * I know (or think I know) that a) the scenario is fictional and b) Beinhart, despite his copious extra-diagetic footnotes, didn’t himself believe it to be literally true. But he sells the premise really well; I recommend it for fans of meta-genre fiction and/or people who enjoy conspiracy theories.

    • Bruce Vail

      Yes.

  • britlaw

    A very interesting post, and welcome to the blog. I’m personally very excited to see a fellow SOAS graduate contributing here. I was there in the early ’90s myself, and loved the school.

    • Denverite

      My only concern is that the LGM commentariat usually likes to see a bigger focus on Ghana from their American expat SOAS grads.

      • cpinva

        +3 gazillion! harsh dude.

  • CP

    We are delighted to welcome Christa Blackmon for a stint as an LGM guest poster! Christa is a media anthropologist with critical experience in social media campaigns and opEd writing. A native of Miami, Florida she attended American University’s School of International Service from 2005 to 2008, focusing on Peace and Conflict Resolution in the Middle East.

    Oh, hello! SIS 2005-2009 here, and also Middle East focused. Don’t believe I’ve actually met you, but the name sounded familiar.

    • Hello! I’m very active as @TheOdalisque on Twitter.

      • elm

        I just followed you and a quick scan of your timeline makes me regret not following you sooner. Oh, and welcome to LGM!

      • CP

        Ah, thanks! Will be following your tumblr, too.

  • NewishLawyer

    There is still a big part of me that can’t believe this weapon’s real name is the Mother of All Bombs and it gets painted on the side of the weapon.

    I can’t remember if I read this in Homage to Catalonia or some other book on the Spanish Civil War but it was a big thing for the Condor Legion to have a very casual kind of war. They got up in the morning, exercise, swam, ate lunch, did some bombing runs, and then were at some swanky club event looking resplendent in formal wear at night. The Fascists considered this a get propaganda victory and it probably was.

    The use of drones to bomb enemy targets thousands of miles away is the logical conclusion of that propaganda coup. It turns war into something like a video game (though from what I’ve read drone pilots do suffer horrible PTSD despite or because of this aspect to their work.) But for the public it makes war much more palpable especially because the chances of an enemy developing similar technologies is slim currently.

    But this is a shame for people like me who are not war mongerers but also not isolationists. I do want the United States to participate in International Affairs and be a force for good in those areas. I’m also quite suspicious of isolationists as being drive by a racist-nationalist right and a hazy and inchoate left.

    • Linnaeus

      But this is a shame for people like me who are not war mongerers but also not isolationists. I do want the United States to participate in International Affairs and be a force for good in those areas. I’m also quite suspicious of isolationists as being drive by a racist-nationalist right and a hazy and inchoate left.

      I know that you’re not doing this, but as an aside, I think it’s unfortunate how the term “isolationist” has been used in an increasingly loose fashion such that arguing against certain kinds of US intervention abroad, or even demonstrating some skepticism about the efficacy of US intervention (especially if it is military in nature) often gets one branded as an isolationist.

    • “Mother Of All Bombs” isn’t (allegedly) its “real name”, it’s a humorous deacronymization of MOAB, itself the acronym of its (alleged) real name, “Massive Ordnance Air Blast”. If I could, I’d drain the swamp and free the allegators, but I can’t.

      Also, re: “The Fascists considered this a get propaganda victory”, I find it surprising that they of all people would be particularly into promoting Jewish divorces.

    • Hogan

      There is still a big part of me that can’t believe this weapon’s real name is the Mother of All Bombs and it gets painted on the side of the weapon.

      Its official name is GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast. The nickname is probably a reference to Saddam Hussein’s calling the First Gulf War “the mother of all battles.”

    • efgoldman

      The use of drones to bomb enemy targets thousands of miles away is the logical conclusion of that propaganda coup. It turns war into something like a video game

      The development and use of drones is the logical conclusion of the military’s constant effort to minimize risk and expense. A drone costs a shit ton less than a fighter-bomber. There is no risk that a pilot can be lost (pilots are expensive – all that training, plus the human cost).
      I expect that crewless tanks and driverless supply trucks are under development for the same reasons. Not for nothing does dystopian fiction depict robot armies fighting each other.

      • ajay

        The development and use of drones is the logical conclusion of the military’s constant effort to minimize risk and expense. A drone costs a shit ton less than a fighter-bomber.

        Meh, not really. A Reaper costs $17 million; a Super Tucano that can do the same job costs about $12 million, and a better safety record. What you get from drones, most of all, is endurance. And, as you rightly say, no crew risk.

  • See Anthony Bourdain’s episode in Parts Unknown on Hue, Vietnam–in particular the interview with the man who as a child lived for 6 years in tunnels under his village near Hue, which was subject to interminable bombing. America has an unhealthy obsession with total victory. The best thing that happened to Vietnam was that we eventually lost. Perhaps the worst thing for Korea is that there was no victory, just stalemate, where both sides postured and entrenched themselves, generation after generation.

    • My uncle was a “tunnel rat” in Vietnam.

      His job was to go into the tunnels with a flashlight and a .45 pistol.

      • q-tip

        I hope he wasn’t saddled with the Christian name “Hieronymous.”

        Such a fucked-up assignment. And such a fucked-up situation for the Vietnamese forced into hiding in those tunnels.

        Has anyone turned it into a horror movie yet? Not that I would watch it.

  • Bruce Vail

    In an age where mobile and digital tools have forever changed the way we witness war, I find this an interesting and perhaps purposeful situation.

    Of course it is purposeful, and it has nothing to do with Trump.

    The great lesson the Pentagon learned from Vietnam is that it must control the news coverage coming out of the war zones to prevent unexpected political complications. The images we have recently seen from Syria and Afghanistan would have been exactly the same if they had been ordered by Hillary Clinton or by a different Republican president.

    • But would the target and the weapon have been the same? Maybe not. Trump’s choices are still unique to Trump.

      • Bruce Vail

        Yes, of course that is right.

        It’s not the attack itself which is pre-programmed by the Pentagon, but its presentation to the American public.

  • TopsyJane

    This bomb can only be dropped in a country with no air defenses to speak of. It hasn’t been used before because of the danger of excess “collateral damage.” (I think the current official limit is 25 innocents dead, tops, although that may change under Trump.)

    According to reports there are smaller and less showy weapons that would do the same job better, so my guess is this was theater.

  • Welcome. This was a fascinating post.

  • cleek

    they’re probably planning a silent drop to Wikileaks. it’s a viral marketing thing.

  • ajay

    Kudos to Dr Blackmon for admitting that she knows nothing about military affairs, nothing about Asian politics, and cannot read or speak any of the languages used in this region. But given all this… maybe her next post could be on a subject that she actually does know something about? Because this flailing around is a bit painful to watch.
    (Then again, Paul Campos on public health.)

    • I’m not a Doctor but I could play one on TV.

      Maybe you should pay attention to what I am telling you I am an expert on: English language media narratives of conflict and human suffering. I speak and understand French and I speak Arabic but not well enough to follow news reports. If you ask me about anything else, of course I’m going to deflect to another expert because I am not a middle aged man.

      • ajay

        You literally just wrote a long post about “anything else”.

        I suggest it is because the Trump administration made a decision to bomb an ISIL target far enough away from international eyes and cameras so that the only narrative that could emerge was a clean and very distant view of a continuing military operation in Afghanistan that has proven very unpopular with the public.

        This assertion is backed by zero evidence. You don’t know the region, you don’t know about the conflict in question, you don’t understand the limits of the technology involved. Your field of expertise is “English language media narratives of conflict and human suffering” – fine, but the whole point of your post is that, with regard to this incident, there are no English-language media narratives of human suffering!

        (In fact, by now, there are – the Guardian got a correspondent out there over the weekend.)

        For someone who’s not a middle-aged man, you definitely come across like one.

  • Woodrowfan

    To paraphrase a comment I heard elsewhere. The MOAB is like a republican male. He brags about its size, it can’t actually penetrate, but it does a lot of damage

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