The Whispers of Bombs
The older style, "improvised" roadside bombs were often nothing more elaborate than one or several artillery shells strung together with some kind of triggering mechanism, perhaps a cell phone, or maybe just a pressure switch that would set the chain of shells off when a heavy object rolled over it. The graphic above is a one-shell, primitive affair, but nonetheless a machine waiting to butcher. Such bombs were bad enough: the shrapnel, the concussion, and the explosive heat catching things on fire could kill pretty efficiently. Even a well-armored Humvee could be flipped and/or cleaved open if the shells went off at just the right second. According to the Voice of America, the one that killed the Marines was a giant of the old style, so powerful that it threw a 27-metric-ton amphibious armored personnel carrier like the one at left into the air, tore it open, and thereby killed fourteen soldiers inside. The scale of force necessary to do such damage is beyond what most people have ever seen in their lives, even those who have been around or operated heavy equipment. The effect of that bomb on the doomed amphibious assault vehicle in Haditha can be seen at left, below.
The traditional, improvised explosive devices of the Iraqi insurgents are a bit tricky to set up. A pair of insurgents usually puts the device together along the side of the road, lays the trigger on the road bed, and sometimes even puts a can in place to warn locals of the danger. Done at night, the operation is somewhat perilous for several reasons: the ordnance being used can go off; and there's always the possibility that a Coalition sniper is watching from an elevated position at some distance, patiently and methodically setting up a kill shot.
A lot of those bombs were laid, though—so many, in fact, that it wasn't their kill rate that was as important as the perception that they were all over the place on the roads between the cities of Iraq: some of the bombs were in the ditches; some were mounted on the undersides of overpasses; some were just right there, waiting for an inexperienced or scared driver flying down the road to see the killer too late to swerve. It wasn't just the death: it was the fear.
Something new is coming, though. Plenty of old ordnance is lying around Iraq just waiting to be turned into crude roadside killers and murderous weapons hidden in the backs of parked trucks and carts, but those weapons of opportunity are now being supplemented by bombs made from shape charges, which are essentially an explosive chemical—powder, plastique, perhaps even liquid—with a metallic component—shrapnel, if you will—all inside a container that focuses the explosion. A well-designed shape charge like the commercially available one at left can cause the shrapnel to fly at speeds of as much as 10 kilometers per second, thereby turning it into a hail of slugs capable of fully penetrating practically any armored vehicle's plating. Once compromised, the armor then becomes the tomb of personnel inside the armored vehicle as the slugs, having been slowed down in the initial penetration, rattle around hundreds of times inside, shredding flesh, while the killing heat, gasses, and other metal from the device take advantage of the initial breaches to pour in more death and destruction.
Iraqi patrols at the Iranian border have caught smugglers shuttling shape charges into Iraq from Iran. In a find on July 20 of this year, not only were pre-fabricated shape charges seized, but so were the tools necessary for Iraqi insurgents to build them inside Iraq, thereby removing the time and risk involved in importing the devices. This means that the insurgency in Iraq has been gearing up not only to use more sophisticated weaponry, but it has also been laying the plans to create a self-contained, domestic weapons manufacturing industry right in Iraq, itself. This is important: although used, scavenged, and imported weapons will always be an important part of the insurgency's inventory, a localized weapons building matrix points to a far deeper, much more difficult occupation for the Coalition forces. Stopping inbound traffic at the Iraq/Iran border is difficult enough, given the enormous length of the border and the often treacherous, forbidding terrain of the frontier; but halting bomb building at the factory level inside a giant city like Baghdad is far more difficult.
On April 4, 2004, the United States led a full-scale assault on a huge slum called Sadr City in Baghdad. The seige was the culmination of a series of confrontations between the Iraqi occupation authorities and firebrand Shia cleric Moqtada al Sadr, who stood accused of instigating the assassination of a rival cleric. Mr. al Sadr was protected by a provisional paramilitary group called the Mahdi Army, whose ranks comprised primarily impoverished young men armed with little more than assault rifles and some rocket propelled grenades. After a bloody battle in which Mahdi Army commandos and al Sadr himself holed up inside a mosque, an agreement was reached that allowed al Sadr to escape prosecution in exchange for him and his men quitting the mosque and entering the mainstream political process then being contemplated for Iraq. In an article dated August 15, 2005, the Chicago Sun-Times describes Sadr City as it is now as "one of the brightest successes for the U.S. security effort [in Iraq]." However, in an article dated August 18, 2005, the highly reliable, if unabashedly pro-Israel, news source DEBKAfile has this to say: "[T]he shape charges smuggled into Iraq from Iran are now locally manufactured in the Sadr City slum of Baghdad."
And so, as the war against Coalition forces enters yet another phase of more lethal weaponry being deployed by the insurgency, the mainstream media touts to Americans as one of the 'brightest successes' in all of our trials of the Iraqi War the very pit from which more young Americans will be wounded, maimed, and killed.
And the American people will perhaps enter yet another phase of confusion about how so much success paraded before them, not just by their government, but also by their trusted news sources, can lead to so many wounded, maimed, and killed young Americans. Eventually, perhaps they'll figure it out.
The Dark Wraith has spoken.