Friday, September 18, 2009

Roadside Bombs

Thursday the Tacoma News Tribune (TNT) front page had two stories on the recent death of soldiers in Afghanistan. I'm not going to discuss the issue of Afghanistan, at least not here, or the soldiers, who deserved the recognition for their duty to our country. The deaths are sad and a sad reminder of the cost of war. I would, however, like to address the story itself, a small semantic argument with the writers.

In the caption to the photo, the TNT wrote, "...when their vehicle was attacked with a pair of improvished explosive devices.", and in the story below this one with the photo, the TNT wrote, "Two Stryker soldiers from Fort Lewis were killed when a roadside bomb hit their vehicle Monday..."

Well, the stories are true except for one fact, Improvished Explosive Devices (IED's) and roadside bombs don't move. They can't attack anything and they don't hit anything. IED's can be detonated by running over them or by being detonated remotely with a trip wire, radio signal or cellphone. In Afghanistan it's almost always by being run over, and roadside bombs are detonated when run over.

This means the vehicles have to run over the devices to detonate. So the bombs didn't attack anything but detonated after being run over and the explosion hit the vehicles. This is a small and pick distinction, especially when it's soldiers who die, but the TNT should get the facts correct. As was often said about similar situations in Iraq, the papers always wrote the soldiers died when their vehicle hit a IED or roadside bomb.

I'm not going to get into the discussion over roadside bombs, IED's, mines whatever. They're a fact of war and as much as you want to complain about the enemy's use of them in Iraq and now Afghanistan, the US is the biggest producer of them and the US historically been the biggest dispenser of them in the world. And while we perfected them, the Taliban are using more old-school simple ones.

And as we discovered the new armored vehicles built especially for Iraq don't work well in Afghanistan and the ones currently in Afghanistan aren't working. It's why those soldiers died. While the Army keeps selling Congress the need for bomb-resistant vehicles and keeps geting more money for research and production, the vehicles aren't getting better to protect soldiers.

And they're costing $1 Million each. Yes, each, and once blown up, they're pretty much only good for parts for existing vehicles. The Army keeps saying they're for the soldiers, but until they stop been killed by roadside bombs and IED's, the enemy isn't the bombs but the Army brass, Congress, and the companies.

I want to see the headline, "Army vehicles works againts IED's", and maybe some day I will, but not with the state of vehicles now and the enemy getting better with the roadside bombs and IED's, importing the technology and techniques from Iraq. For now, they'll be more headlines, more ceremonies and more grieving families.

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