Monday, March 13, 2006
Three little words that changed a war
Improvised explosive device.

It's probably safe to venture that just a few years ago most Americans had never heard those three little words used together in one phrase.

Now, those words are invoked daily in news stories and military briefings, as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, have proven to be the deadliest weapon against U.S. troops in Iraq. Some 930 U.S. troops have been killed by these bombs, and 9,627 wounded.

Just as sectarian violence is on the rise in Iraq, with civilians now in the crosshairs of these explosive devices, the Pentagon is stepping up its efforts to deal with the IED problem. Officials are fond of saying there is no "silver bullet," no single solution. And they appear to be right.

Soldiers are trained to look for IEDs, but these weapons can be hidden in a pile of trash, in the carcass of a dead animal or in a cement curb at the side of the road. The Pentagon wants to spend more than $3 billion to develop new technologies to detect IEDs, but insurgents constantly change their bomb-making practices, so that each time there is a new U.S. detector, new types of bombs appear.

And now, the military has turned to the FBI to get help with forensic science and detective work, as they look for networks of bomb-makers and their funding sources as they try to dry up the deadly pipeline for these devices.
Posted By Barbara Starr, CNN Correspondent: 3:29 PM ET
What is the world is new about IEDs, except the name? Isn't an IED just a crudely designed land mine?
Posted By Anonymous Kim, Midland, Michigan : 3:54 PM ET
Because IEDs can be used in America, I believe the government should be spending as much money as necessary to find and prevent the detonation of these devices. Even Libertarians should be supportive of any funding for the detection of IEDs, since they believe protection is the primary responsibility of government.

Regardless of whether or not we are in Iraq or anywhere else overseas, IEDs can be utilized not just by terrorists, but also by gangs, theives, and depraved intellects.
Posted By Anonymous Aaron Collins, Pasadena, CA : 3:54 PM ET
3 other words that didn't help much either: "Bring it on."
Posted By Anonymous Steve, Atlanta, GA : 3:58 PM ET
Those $3 billion would be better spent going to something besides this ridiculous war. Did we really go into a war expecting there to be zero casualties? Don't get me wrong... every single life lost in this war is tragic... but $3 billion for IED detection? With that much money we could buy a government in that country that would put an end to the bomb-making themselves. Or better yet... let's fix our own country first.
Posted By Anonymous Colin, Northfield, MN : 4:05 PM ET
A bomb by any other name...
Posted By Anonymous Harry Balz, Intercourse, Pennsylvania : 4:10 PM ET
$3 billion is a small percentage of the total Federal budget.

City Comptroller for New York estimates the cost overall of the 9-11 attacks to be $95 billion. So musn't we have ongoing preventive measure spending against terrorist attacks?
Posted By Anonymous Tina Chicago IL : 4:21 PM ET
Being a usmc combat veteran, I can tell you there is no Silver Bullet. We will come up with numerous ways of giving ourselves the technological edge. But when you are immersed in battle where your enemy is using guerilla warfare tactics, they will always come out ahead of a unit that was trained to fight a war with defined battle lines and a defined enemy.
Look at what we did to the British during the Revolutionary war. We used Guerilla warfare, because we had to. We were severely out-numbered, out-supplied, and did not have the tactical advantage. The Brits' would try to coax us out into the open by telling us to "come out and fight like men!!". Good thing we didn't!!!!
This is the same thing that is going on in the Middle East.
History will ALWAYS repeat itself.
Posted By Anonymous Travis Milwaukee, WI : 4:22 PM ET
The obvious question here is this: Where are the insurgents getting the explosives to make dozens of these deadly IEDs each day?

And if I remember correctly, the answer may reside in the stories of former Iraqi military munitions depots being left unattended by our soldiers and subsequently pillaged by soon-to-be insurgents.

A major oversight by American leadership, to say the least. But hey, since they made the mistake themselves to begin with, we might as well give them $3 billion more tax dollars to fix it...

Typical: Poor leadership leads to a horrendous mistake. Better throw more money at it...
Posted By Anonymous Jake, Boulder, Colorado : 4:33 PM ET
Common to most all IEDs is the plastic explosive used to prep the fuse well on the ordinance used. In 2003 I thought that would be the rarest component of the IED and easiest to track coming in through the borders of Iraq. I guess I was wrong because in 2006 the IED threat is worse and we have nothing to show for our technical advantage. Still to this day the dismounted servicemember finds the most IEDs.
Posted By Anonymous Eric, Ft. Campbell, KY : 4:33 PM ET
With satellite spying technology and drone spy planes, I don't understand why we haven't been able to visually monitor the major areas patrolled by our armed forces. Shouldn't we be able to spot anyone planting these IED's?
Posted By Anonymous Richard, Portland, Oregon : 4:44 PM ET
What nobody wants to mention is that a whole lot of those IED's are made out of artillery shells that WE didn't have enough troops on the ground to guard at the beginning of the conflict. For all I know, we hadn't even sussed out where they were or discussed the NEED to guard them and prevent them from falling into the wrong hands. So, with bitterly sad irony, a lot of our boys and girls have been blown up by ordinance that was available to the insurgents because of... you guessed, the Rumsfeld/Bush way of waging war!!

It makes me sick!!
Posted By Anonymous Jim Houghton, Encino, CA : 4:52 PM ET
I had the honor of serving in the war as an infantryman. When we were over there in 2003 we had no clue what "IED's" were. As a matter of fact, there was no such thing as an improvised explosive device to the insurgents at that time. I still remember sitting down for a meeting at our compound to talk about this new "IED" threat. They told us about what to look for and where. Almost a year later, IED's had killed one of our own, as well as severely injured about half a dozen. I myself had a run-in with an IED but fortunately it did not detonate. This is a serious threat, however, I don't believe that any "device" or the FBI will be able to handle this situation. Sadly enough, I believe this is just something that we are going to have to get used to.
Posted By Anonymous Michael, Chicago IL : 4:55 PM ET
Unfortunately the IEDS and the insurgents have much in common...they are hard to detect, can show up anywhere, and change to meet new circumstances...
Posted By Anonymous Bob, Washington, DC : 4:59 PM ET
sadly this is the type of warfare(gorilla warfare) that beat us in vietnam. You can throw all the money in the usa at this, but as long as you've one guy willing to make IED's there no stopping these guys ever..sadly
Posted By Anonymous Dave , San Anselmo, California : 5:00 PM ET
Anything remotely detonatable can be detected with E&M wave probes(sort of like how you can scan for wires/mics on informants in the mob movies), because they HAVE to emit some signal in order to receive [even if only a small area]. One could run thru a constant sequence or array of possible detonation keys [must be limited by the tech that the insurgents have compared to our own] to try and prematurely detonate the devices.

For weight-activated IED's you can only try to pre-disturb the area you are going to travel over (give yourself extra room of course). but this is not foolproof at all and will not get 100% of the devices but is safer.

For time-activated IEDsthere is less to do, but i would go with the second solution as well.

i dont know why i wrote that, im sure it has all been tried and thought of before.
Posted By Anonymous Sam, Cambridge, MA : 5:04 PM ET
The IED problem appears to be a result of under estimating forces necessary to do the job in Iraq. Shortly after the "end of major combat operations", Iraqi munitions caches and bomb dumps abounded in Iraq. There were not enough coalition soldiers to maintain control of them. Now the enemy has the weapons.
Posted By Anonymous Keith Jenkins, Chandler, AZ : 5:07 PM ET
Maybe its time to shut off the explosives. The insurgents are getting the explosives from somewhere. If we were to encircle cities like Bagdad and search all vehicles entering the cities I think we would soon slow down the explosive trafficing.
Posted By Anonymous Rich, Council Bluffs Iowa : 5:08 PM ET
How can three little words change something that does not exist. We are not at war. We are in a police action, I do not care what the administration wants to call it. You can not go to war against an emotion. War creates terror. Ask an Iraqi citizen which causes them more terror, the guy placing the bomb or the guy setting it setting it off. We have got to stop listening to the advertisements that the administration continues to sell and start rationally looking at what it is we are doing. We ar not fighting a war against terrorism, we are the cause not the effect.
Posted By Anonymous Craig Niebauer, Naples, Florida : 5:08 PM ET
If you will recall, the US did not secure weapons and munitions warehouses in its headlong rush for Bagdad, only to discover later that high quality explosives had been looted. Also, if you will recall, in opposition to the military commander on the ground, the US did not clean up armed resistance in the south as it moved toward Bagdad. So, now we are supposed to be suprised that improvised explosive devices, some of very high quality, detonated by resistance fighters are a problem. The proper "silver bullet" or "technology" was to subdue and secure with the proper number of boots on the ground and resources on the way in. Our soldiers and family members are suffering the continuing consequences of our leadership's war waged "fast" and "cheap." The shock and awe campaign finally came to pass: I am shocked at the incompetence exhibited by the administration and awed by the absolute mess they have created.
Posted By Anonymous Sam, Florence SC : 5:11 PM ET
Of course, the Silver Bullet solution would be to get out of Iraq...but, that's not an option for the crusaders running the show, is it.
Posted By Anonymous Jesse Watts, omaha, nebraska : 5:21 PM ET
I just finished watching a report on I.E.D's on the Situation Room, and the ending scared me. "President Bush thinks the more sophisticated ones are being sent in from Iran".

I'm worried that Bush is going to use I.E.D.'s as a support pedastal to slowly build support against Iran. That scares me.
Posted By Anonymous Andres, Las Cruces, NM : 5:25 PM ET
The best way to beat these devices is to get out of their way, and the fastest way to do that is to get the locals trained, finish the job there, and get on home. At this point, it's a waste of energy to rehash the decisions that got us into the war.
Posted By Anonymous Matt Crowder, Naples, Florida. : 5:26 PM ET
Yes, but the three BIG, irresponsible words that changed the war were delivered by our commander in chief in July of 2003. And it went something like this: "Bring It On"... and they did!
Posted By Anonymous Robert Buckman, Fort Lauderdale, Florida : 5:26 PM ET
Here's why IEDs are a problem, and another phrase more Americans need to become familiar with: asymmetric warfare. IEDs are only the beginning.
Posted By Anonymous Dave, Spokane, Washington : 5:30 PM ET
I am wondering how many of the IED are around because the military did not secure Iraq's weapons sites in the rush to Bagdad. I personelly beleive that most of the raw material is being supplied by the Bush administrations error for not putting enough boots on the ground in the first place.
Posted By Anonymous Mike Wackerly Auburn, Michigan : 5:33 PM ET
Boy and I thought the 3 little words were 3 little letters... WMD. Now just another 3 letter to remember. My little American, self-rightous mind can't hold it all in.
Posted By Anonymous Rachel-Albuquerque, NM : 5:40 PM ET
I am prior service USMC. I think the IEDs are yet another sign of how we were unprepared to wage war. Chickenhawks and fortunate sons will be on the record saying, "how could we have possibly known that they would use unsecured arms and explosives against us?" Our soldiers are dodging IEDs while these idiots are collecting checks, allowing unwarranted DOMESTIC wiretaps and going on elite hunting trips.
Posted By Anonymous Richard, Indianapolis, In : 5:45 PM ET
Ever since Bosnia and Somolia it should have been clear that a hummer or any other soft-skinned vehicle are not sufficient for peace keeping dueties. Many nations--such as Britain in its fight with the IRA--learned that ARMORED vehicles must be specifically desiged to minimize the damage of land mines and other gorila-type weapons. The French VBL is a wonderful example of a vehicle that can cope with most of the dangers involved in IRAQ. They would also be great for civilian police forces here at home because they can operate even in the eye-wall of a hurricane to allow police to rescue people. They are amphibious and a good off-road vehicle which also makes them great for going around storm damage.
Posted By Anonymous Chris Eldridge Harrisburg PA : 5:51 PM ET
It's easy to make a bomb (just ask Ted Kaczynski), especially in a place swarming with weapons, such as Iraq. But it appears the better-made, more lethal IEDs are being made in factories in Iran. Many of the detonators come from there as well. They're not "improvised" at all; they're manufactured.

Another parallel to Vietnam, and one from which we might learn something, is not to give a safe-haven to your enemies' supply lines.

As easy as it is to mock the hapless team running this war (the political guys, not the troops), don't forget that we still do in fact need to win.
Posted By Anonymous Zak Johnson, Portland, OR : 5:52 PM ET
The "four words" that changed war were "weapons of mass destruction" and in my opinion were the words that will change the world to make this administration one of the most shameful in history.
Posted By Anonymous Bill, Foley, AL : 5:52 PM ET
Through out our history roadway land mines in Korea and the crude booby traps in the jungles of Vietnam have caused us untold pain. If history repeats its self it took three atom bombs to end the the japanize kamikaze rain of terror.
Posted By Anonymous Dave Winfield Quincy, Il : 5:55 PM ET
One thing I have to disagree with is that IED's have changed the view of the war. The media changed the view. Where is the reports of troops helping Iraqis. Where is the hearts and minds reporting that the world could react to positively. So far the only place I hear about the things we do aside from dying is on the Military News feed. Pretty sad that the military is the only place I can trust to get non-opinionated reoprting.
Posted By Anonymous Jeff - Houston Texas : 6:03 PM ET
how idiotic is this? to spend billions in counter measures against ied's. our leaders are the worlds fools and this article should be about the 3 more important words that should have changed a war: "no connection between" al queda and iraq.
Posted By Anonymous paul b, minneapolis mn : 6:08 PM ET
I was an Infantryman in Viet Nam and IEDs were a daily threat for us. In one four day period my rifle company lost about 16% of our total strength to what we called booby traps. My heart goes out to the men in Iraq. Tragically their war seems even more useless then my war - what a waste. There is nothing like seeing a few traumatic amputations on the battle field to make one a believer in using our troops wisely.
Posted By Anonymous Greg Hudson, San Diego CA : 6:10 PM ET
You can't tell me that this is surprising to the administration. They HAD to have known how they would fight back .. and still made the decision to go. One country did not attack us... some men (numerous) attacked us and will continue to do so and probably soon because all of our protection is guarding and dying for Iraq. The whole war never should have begun and IED is just some words put together for effect. Has everyone been oblivious throughout history how terrorists attack? They didn't announce to the world that if we didn't start believing in their religion and life and get our people out of their countRIES (plural) they were going to attack the World Trade Center in 3 days. No ultimatims no warning they just did it... just like Japan did. If it is obvious to the rest of the world (who didn't want to get involved with us and a war w/ Iraq)that we're messing with a whole different set of people and behaviors then why wouldn't it have been obvious to the administration that we couldn't stop terrorism because it's EVERYWHERE, THEY'RE everywhere...... does no one get it? they've always been sneaky and manipulative... why is everyone so surprised now?? They have opened pandora's box and there's no closing it now! All in the name of protecting our country and democracy and getting rid of terrorism. Wake up!
Posted By Anonymous Robin Ft. Lauderdale, FL : 6:28 PM ET
In response to Greg Hudson from CA.

To be truthful, your post brought tears to my eyes. Please know that none of your efforts, nor the efforts in Iraq are in vain. I may hate the way, and the administration, and I may be pretty liberal, but I know that our troops are of utmost importance.

Please don't think it is all in vain. Good really is being done in Iraq, however little we do here through whatever media sources we use (Please take no affront CNN), it really is helping some people out. Sure it's not the most widely displayed of news, but we are improving the lives of some in Iraq.

Thank you for your service to our country, people may not have valued our men and women back during vietnam; but I know most of us 20 somethings now a days support the troops. A lot of us may say we are not in the least bit in support of the war in Iraq, but let it be known that we do support our service men and women. The people who don't support the troops need a reality check, and a plane ticket to somewhere besides the US.
Posted By Anonymous Blake Logan, Boston MA : 6:33 PM ET
This is the worst kind of weapon to defend against. They are unlike other weapons because someone could have there finger on the trigger and watch from a distance away. Changing the mindset of the enemy is the only way to defend against this cruel weapon.
Posted By Anonymous Wayne Alan Law, Bible Hill, Nova Scotia : 6:41 PM ET
What happend to the 4 words that started the war -- Weapons of Mass Destruction?
Posted By Anonymous Otis Wright, Hoboken, New Jersey : 6:49 PM ET
Amen, Steve from Atlanta and Robert Buckman of Fort Lauderdale. When I saw the headline of "Three Little Words"< "Bring It On" were what first came to mind.
Posted By Anonymous Andrea, Seattle, WA : 6:50 PM ET
My son is in Iraq facing the daily threat of IED's during missions, I can tell you that our soldiers are very frustrated with the Army's inability to detect these type of weapons. The comments from the brave soldiers who have already posted ring so very true, unless you've been there to experience losing a buddy to these, you'll never really know what a huge threat they are, I hear it in my son's voice every time they lose a buddy so senselessly.
Posted By Anonymous Terry Flynn, Townsend, Mass. : 7:21 PM ET
IED's are the new face of terror. Something not seen, something that comes out of our fear--the goal of all terrorists--destroying the routines that makes us feel safe. The face of fear during the Cold War was annihilation and Nuclear Winter--a holocaust all would share. Now our fears fit in a handbag, next to our cell phones.
Posted By Anonymous Garrett Osborne, Marina Del Rey CA : 7:26 PM ET
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