Commentary: About Our Visitors from Missouri

by Alan McNarie

That rumbling that many of us have been hearing over the past couple of days hasn’t all been thunder.  Apparently our Air Force has been using using the Army’s controversial  bombing range at Pohakuloa to practice with one of its most expensive toys: the B-2  long-range stealth bomber, which has been flying here all the way from Whiteman Air force Base in my home state of Missouri to drop high explosives in the lava fields. The B-2 is a strategic bomber, designed originally to replace the aged B-52s in carrying nuclear bombs to countries such as Russia–a job that, quite arguably, could be done far more efficiently with nuclear missiles.  But the U.S. has been finding other uses for it ever since, as a tactical bomber in conflicts such as Afghanistan and Iraq, for which it’s been waaaaay overqualified. It’s quite arguably a weapons system that should never have been built, but now that it’s there and we’re trying not to have a war in Iraq and Afghanistan any longer, we apparently have to keep its pilots in practice by bombing Hawaii.

This brings back memories of a journey I took back in 2001, less than a month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I was going to Missouri to visit my son, who was then still living with his mother.  But given what had just happened, I decided to take Amtrak from L.A. to Jefferson City, Missouri to see if trains, at least on the mainland, were still a viable alternative to airliners that, as 9/11 had made abundantly clear, were potential flying bombs themselves.   One result of that trip was an essay called “The Amtrak Diaries,” which I still think may be one of the finest things I’ve ever written.

Only an hour or so from the end of my journey back then, I watched two giant B2s from Whiteman fly over the train on their way to bomb Afghanistan.  The passage describing that encounter is given below.  You can read the entire essay here.


Near Knob Noster, Missouri, passengers stare in awe at a different sight: two B-2 stealth bombers, taking off from Whiteman Air Force Base on their way to Afghanistan. One flies almost directly over us. It casts a shadow like an enormous black bat.

“Boy, that’s a big plane,” remarks the middle-aged farmer behind me. “I hear they fly about 900 miles per hour.”

He’s wrong. The B-2 is supposed to be sub-sonic. But these planes are enormous, with wingspans larger than those of most commercial airliners and a payload capacity of 20 tons of explosives. Each plane costs approximately 1.3 billion dollars. Those two planes up there represent more money than the entire estimated annual gross national product of Afghanistan.

Those planes are flying literally halfway around the world to bomb one of the world’s poorest countries. Figure in the cost of fuel–even cheap fuel–pilot and crew training, depreciation, maintenance, and $20,000 smart bombs, and each mission probably costs tens or hundreds of times more than anything it destroys on the ground. And the other side has learned how to kill thousands of Americans with only a few hate-filled lives and some box openers….

7 replies
  1. joy cash
    joy cash says:

    It is not a coincidence that secret TransPacific Partnership trade/security agreements are being negotiated this week, at same time military muscles are being flexed & displayed here on our island.

  2. hangloose
    hangloose says:

    Actually, a B2 cannot fly across the Pacific with a full bomb load. Bombing lava fields is a sloppy sentence. They are only dropping inert duds for target practice. And its doubtful they are heard, they are flying at very high altitude. They aren’t on their way to Afghanistan, they are on their way to Diego Garcia first. They weren’t designed to fight a guerilla war, but they are the only planes that can carry high precision bunker busters that can penetrate mountain caves. Why don’t the lives of all the women and children the Islamic extremists have killed count into the dollar value?

  3. Alan McNarie
    Alan McNarie says:

    Hangloose, a strategic bomber that can’t cross the Pacific with a full bomb load isn’t much use in a nuclear war, which is what these planes were designed for. They were certainly equipped to refuel in flight. At least at the time, in 2001, I found news articles saying they were on their way to Afghanistan. It does make sense, however, that they would stop in Diego Garcia, which is much closer to the action, and base out of there once they were in the area.

  4. Puna Ohana
    Puna Ohana says:

    Insane uncontrolled military industrial complex will bomb the world into oblivion. NO LIVES MATTER! The only thing that matters if CONTROL of GOD by the Petrodollar.G.O.D. Gold (IMF). Oil (Seven Sisters). Drugs (AMA/FDA/DEA).
    As long as sheeple stay “Plugged in” TV/dumbphone/pod/tablet with mindless content, the complex will continue to grow it’self. You made a monster. Rummysfeld $400 BILLION? 9/10

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