The U.S. military dropped two BLU-118b “experimental” bombs during its “Operation Anaconda” in eastern Afghanistan over the March 1 weekend.

The bombs, used to penetrate deep underground bunkers or caves, are so deadly that some experts say they should be classified as weapons of mass destruction.

The 2,000-pound “thermobaric” bomb was in development for two years, yet rushed into production after Sept. 11. After conducting a test 85 miles northwest of Las Vegas on Dec. 14, the Pentagon shipped 10 to Afghanistan.

One report called the bombs a “new kind” of weapon that “may be used to kill or flush out al-Qaeda or Taliban fighters who may still be hiding in caves of eastern Afghanistan.”

The bomb creates a two-stage explosion where all the oxygen gets “sucked out” during the second explosion supposedly leaving the structures intact, but obliterating any near by life and crushing internal organs of anyone at the fringe of the ignition point.

“Instead of boom, this bomb goes BOOOOOOOM,” Capt. Joe Della Vedova, an Air Force spokesman at the Pentagon, told the Las Vegas Review Jan. 21. “This thing kills the earthworms,” he said.

Russian media reported that a severe earthquake, which struck northern Afghanistan and was felt as far away as India, might have been caused by the powerful bombs. The tremors were unusually long and powerful, one expert said, adding that the disaster was unprecedented in Afghanistan with 150 people killed and 500 houses destroyed.

“It is not unlikely that the use of powerful bombs led to the quake,” a geophysist said. There is a body of thought that underground bombing, including nuclear weapons testing, leads to the destabilizing of the earth’s fault lines.

The United States used a similar weapon, called a fuel-air explosive (FAE), during the Vietnam and Gulf wars. Human rights groups have condemned FAEs for their massive and indiscriminate destructive power, killing civilians in large numbers.

“I can’t say whether this is or isn’t a weapon of mass destruction,” Peace Action Communication Director Scott Lynch told the World. “However, like in other wars, it becomes a big arms bizarre, demonstrating weapons because they want to sell them.”

The production of the new thermobaric bomb resulted from a partnership among the Department of Energy, Navy, Air Force and Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

These departments and agencies contract with huge corporations like Halliburton, Bechtel and Raytheon. Vice President Dick Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton. Lynch said they have always been frustrated at not “getting” Iraqi President Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War, even though the use of “bunker buster” bombs was an attempt to do that.

The use of this new experimental bomb “could send a signal to Iraq,” he said, “We have to assume that [the Pentagon] is sending a message.”

Lynch warned against the Bush policy of an unending war. “Is this really a productive way to make sure we are safer? Unfortunately, American [soldiers] will pay with their lives” for this “fool’s errand,” he said.

Peace Action is one of the groups sponsoring a national march on Washington, D.C. on April 20. Lynch said it is extremely important to participate in that demonstration. This will be the first national demonstration calling for the end to the war, he said.

It will encourage the recent “signs of life,” in Congress. Last week Senators Daschle (D-S.D.) and Byrd (D-W.Va.) both criticized the Bush administration stating the executive branch doesn’t have a blank check. Congress is concerned about the unilateralism of the Bush administration.

The author can be reached at talbano@pww.org.

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