By:Sherwood Ross

Even though it has spent at least $60 billion to destroy them, the Pentagon is losing the battle to combat the Improvised Explosive Devices(IEDs), which have accounted for two out of every three U.S. casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. This won’t stop the Pentagon, though, from spending another $10.1 billion on them next year as it struggles to reduce the human toll the IEDs are taking in its longest-ever war.

While 10 to 15 percent of the IEDs that go off maim or kill U.S. soldiers, “The statistical likelihood of (an enemy) being killed or hurt while planting a bomb was close to zero”, writes Andrew Cockburn in the November issue of Harper’s magazine. By May, 2007, he reported, some 70,000 IEDs were planted in Iraq alone.

“Assembled from cooking pots, mobile phones, flashlight batteries, farm fertilizer, and other commonplace items, these home-made weapons have altered the course of the Iraqi and Afghan wars,” Cockburn writes. “They are also as far removed from our industrial approach to warfare as it is possible to be.”

According to Wikipedia, “In 2009, there were 7,228 IED attacks in Afghanistan, a 120 percent increase over 2008, and a record for the war.

Last year, “IED attacks in Afghanistan wounded 3,366 U.S. soldiers, which is nearly 60 percent of the total IED-wounded since the start of the war…Insurgents planted 14,661 IEDs in 2010, a 62 percent increase over the previous year,” Wikipedia said.

“As a general rule, we find about 50 percent of the IEDs before they go off,” General Michael Oates told Cockburn. The other 50 percent do detonate but of this group one-third do no harm because they were set incorrectly or were not sufficiently lethal or failed to pierce the protective gear of the troops, Oates continued. But, “Somewhere between 10 and 15 percent kill or harm our soldiers or our equipment, and that number’s been very stubborn since about 2004.”

Military analyst Rex Rivolo said the human networks employed making, planting and triggering the IEDs provide jobs for 15,000 workers so that it “counts as a definite growth sector.” IED-planters earn about $15 per job. Rivolo said the best way to inhibit their deployment was to operate low-flying light aircraft over areas where IEDs might be planted.

“When Rivolo oversaw a test-exercise in Jordan in 2005 that clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of the light-aircraft approach, all copies of the resulting report were recalled and destroyed,” Cockburn wrote. Rivolo told him, “It was too cheap for their taste.” Rivolo headed research  at the Counter-IED Operations Integration Center in Baghdad.

A concurring view comes from Franklin Spinney, a former Pentagon analyst, who said that those who come up with simple responses to nullify the IED impact “are the antithesis of the techno-war that keeps the money flowing. The American military has sold the idea that complex technologies coupled to step-by-step analytical procedures can negate all the uncertainties and surprises of combat to solve any problem in war.”

A big part of the U.S. response money has been plowed into sophisticated surveillance systems. The Air Force and the Army are hard at work building blimps costing $211 million and $517 million, respectively, that can hover 20,000 feet or higher for a week at a time that will spy over large areas to detect IED planters.

Those who plant IEDs are regarded as High Value Targets, or HVTs, and their eradication is “the ultimate objective of our entire counter-IED strategy,” Cockburn writes. Yet, when HVT bomb-planters are killed, attacks within three miles of their strikes increase by an average of 20 percent, he writes.

According to Rivolo, the reason is “our principal strategy in Iraq is counterproductive and needs to be evaluated.” The slain HVTs were almost always replaced at once, usually within 24 hours and, Rivolo said, “The new guy is going to work harder.”

If the strategy is counter-productive, a cynic may well wonder if the goal in Afghanistan isn’t so much to win—-as to spend.       #

(Sherwood Ross, who worked formerly as a columnist for major dailies and wire services, writes on current affairs and runs a public relations firm “for good causes.”)

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  • Sherwood Ross  On December 20, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Yasmeen, now that he’s assumed the powers of a dictator, I’ve become a staunch supporter of President Obomber. Hope you find this piece humorous. Sherwood


    By Sherwood Ross

    Dear DEAR President Obama,

    Now that you have signed the National Defense Appropriation Act into law giving yourself the power to arrest and imprison any American indefinitely, I want to tell you how very very very very very sorry I am for all those nasty things I wrote about you. Name-calling is never appropriate and I should have known better, especially when I compared you to Benito (“Three cheers for war!”) Mussolini for making undeclared wars in Africa. In retrospect, I was way off base. Since the NDAA nullifies the Constitution, you might agree with Mussolini’s viewpoint, “Mankind is tired of liberty” but that’s definitely where the comparison stops. Mussolini was a fat slob whereas everyone can see you are the leanest, trimmest, handsomest president we’ve had in the White House since JFK, maybe handsomer.

    Likewise, I’m exceedingly sorry I wrote U.S. forces in Afghanistan are killing innocent people every day. I know that is not their intent. As Hermann Goring once said, “I am in the habit of shooting from time to time and if I sometimes make mistakes, at least I have shot.” Since comparing your actions to a top Nazi is odious, let’s just say as the noted American gangster Mickey Cohen once boasted, “I never killed a man that didn’t deserve it.” Sure, it’s technically an “assassination” to execute people without a trial but your suspects were fingered by the CIA. We need to keep in mind you’re striving to reduce terrorism, not necessarily uphold the law for, to quote J. Edgar Hoover, “Justice is incidental to law and order.”

    If the CIA had the smarts to grab you right out of college and give you a job, I’d be surprised they could be so mistaken as to order the execution of innocent people. The late President Nixon may have said of them, “What the hell do those clowns do out there in Langley?” but what did he know? Actually, you can now take comfort from Nixon’s words, “When the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.”

    Anyway, while I’m apologizing to you, please tell the CIA I take back all those nasty things I wrote, saying they’re the world’s biggest criminal syndicate ever, and comparing it to the Ku Klux Klan for operating in secret, kidnapping and lynching. We all know the CIA’s critics do tend to exaggerate. Some say the Agency’s overthrown 30 countries by force and violence when it’s probably been just 26 or so. As ex-CIA Director William Colby once said, “I have definitional problems with the word ‘violence.’ I don’t know what the word ‘violence’ means.” At times, the Agency may have run amok here and there but at least it showed its smarts by not copying the KKK’s cross burnings, which definitely would have made us look bad in Muslim countries.

    So I’m glad you refused to prosecute CIA torturers. Incidentally, when the Agency destroyed its torture flicks, it didn’t prove obstruction of justice so much as not wanting to make Hollywood producers look like action movie amateurs. Imagine a scene in which a CIA agent says of a waterboard victim, “He sleeps with the fishes” and it’s for real, not fictional like in “The Godfather.” When you leave the White House, you might consider Hollywood. You’d grasp the true meaning of Samuel Goldwyn’s words, “A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on” because without a Constitution now everything’s gonna be verbal.

    I also apologize for describing you as the moral opposite of Rev. Martin Luther King, because he was anti-war while you have been making wars at the drop of a bomb. Whose to say MLK would criticize your wars in Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, and Yemen, right? And that’s just a half dozen countries out of 200, so what’s the big deal? You’re only trying to be friendly as you expand the number of U.S. military bases abroad. We’ve only got 900. As JFK’s Secretary of State Dean Rusk, once said, “While we are sleeping, two-thirds of the world are plotting to do us in.” Or as Billy the Kid warned: “I see many enemies around and mighty few friends.”

    As for my disparaging you for assuming “king of the world” powers of life-and-death over all human beings on the planet, well, while that’s technically true, I know you are not the sort of guy to actually exercise those powers, even if misguided liberals do mock you as “President O’Bomber.” The NBA is always advertising the good its players do in their communities and you’re a basketball player yourself, right? I mean, indiscriminate killing is not something an NBA player would do, is it? So, logically, you wouldn’t do it, either. Actually, I think that if you had the desire to play basketball professionally you obviously would have been a top star like Dwayne Wade or Kobe Bryant. Am I right, bro’? You don’t mind if I call you bro’, do you?

    In closing, I think you can take satisfaction knowing that you outperformed the Nixon regime, whose Henry Kissinger once said, “The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little bit longer.” The fact is, after only three years in office you have inspired 300 million Americans to be on their very very best behavior, or else, no mean achievement. Yours Truly, your friend, loyal supporter, Cheerleader-in-Chief, and soon-to-be-campaign contributor, Sherwood Ross P.S. May you have four more years! (And me, too.) #
    (Sherwood Ross is a public relations consultant whose clients have just left him. He’s indebted to Robert Singer’s “The Bad Guys’ Quote Book” from Avon Press, from which he lifted many of the quotes for this article.)

    • Nusrat Kamal  On December 21, 2011 at 9:10 am

      I am still laughing, but with real tears in my eyes.

      Henry Kissinger once said, “The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little bit longer.”

      The above quoted from the article should be further elaborated by “… and the legal we never do!”


  • TMH  On December 20, 2011 at 11:56 am

    InshaAllah, very surely United States is on a down ward slide.


  • M Saleem Chaudhry  On December 20, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    All this is reflective of the games people play and a dreadful series of complex and nefarious tactics of vested interest and economic vampires out to suck blood out of national exchequers to leave nothing for the starving bottom 10% as quoted by ED Schultz in his book,”Killer politics”. The ulterior objectives of this breed must be probed and exposed not only for saving Americans but humanity at large

  • Mohammad Chaudhry  On December 20, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    All this is reflective of the games people play and a dreadful series of complex and nefarious tactics of vested interest and economic vampires out to suck blood out of national exchequers to leave nothing for the starving bottom 10% as quoted by ED Schultz in his book,”Killer politics”. The ulterior objectives of this breed must be probed and exposed not only for saving Americans but humanity at large

  • Faisal Imam  On December 21, 2011 at 9:11 am

    every bad law hits the framer in the face.
    Bhutto passed a law not allowing foreign lawyers to plead in Pakistani courts, he eventually suffered.
    Mush passed the NRO, he has been replaced with Zardari. and the story goes on.
    Nobody learns from the past.

    • Mohammad Chaudhry  On December 26, 2011 at 1:55 am

      Learning from history calls for posessing requisite set of positive traits that none of this lot,Bhutto,Musharaf or Zardari did,so each has to meet his fate and cycle goes on.


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