The term IED was first used in the early 1970s by the British Army when the IRA made bombs from fertiliser and Semtex.Using the first timers in bombs decades back, skills evolved to fit timing mechanisms and methods of detonation, command wire, radio control, radar with light initiation and anti-handling mechanisms. The bomb that blew up the Grand Hotel in Brighton was aimed at assassinating the entire British Cabinet of Thatcher, was the first to incorporate a video recorder's long-delay timer. Radio-controlled devices were used from model aircraft. Irish republicans also use car parking timers. Under-vehicle IEDs, were fitted with a novel and deadly booby-trap devices, like the mercury-tilt switch.IED's were also common in Vietnam where the Vietcong made them from unexploded American ordinance. In Afghanistan today in the battle for Marjah, the coalition has 15,000 soldiers ringing an estimated 400 Taliban fighters. It first appears like no contest. Still the advance is so slow and bloody because the Taliban have ringed the town with IEDs in what is known as the “belt of death”.
The IED's now rival the Kalashnikov as the freedom fighters weapon of the 21st century. It can be assembled by villagers in a shed and it enables them to take on the invader, who have huge numbers and massive fire power, just as the US industrial war complex Stinger surface-to-air missiles, enabled the Mujaheddin to neutralize Soviet air power in the 1980s..“The operational word of IED is ‘improvised’. Constantly changing expertise that stays ahead of the game. The Pentagon on the other hand has spent $15.5 billion and employed the top scientific minds in an effort to come up with the best ways to detect and survive IEDs. Its scientists and engineers for the last three years have been working round the clock on robots, lasers, chemical detectors and even specially trained bees.In 2003 there were 81 recorded IED incidents in Afghanistan. Last year there were 8,159. In Helmand soldiers vomit before they go on patrol, because the chances of being hit are so high. In September 2003 in Iraq, there were 100 explosions a month, rising to 2,000. US central command in July 2003, asked the Pentagon for a “Manhattan project-like” approach. The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organisation (Jieddo) now has more than 3,000 staff and funds of $4 billion a year.The man in charge is General Michael Oates, a four-tour veteran of Iraq. “The war against IEDs is very personal,” he says. “I’ve lost many of my men to them and I’ve been in proximity many times. A vehicle behind you blowing up, a vehicle in front, your own vehicle getting hit ... My driver killed. Virtually every soldier I know has seen an IED or been close to one or knows someone who died.”About half of all American soldiers who died in Iraq were killed by IEDs, while in Afghanistan the figure is now about two-thirds. But insurgents quickly learnt that they inflict more than just death and injury. The IED is a tactical weapon in that people not only use it to maim and kill but also a strategic weapon in that it impacts the will of countries that invade.The Netherlands for example has just voted to withdraw its 2,000 troops in Afghanistan.Sergeant John Stricklett did four tours in Baghdad, often taking the “long walk” to defuse a bomb. He can operate the Talon robot from a laptop in a case, studying the area from its four mounted cameras and manoeuvring its claw-like hands.“It becomes my hands and disassembles the bomb, while I can stay at remote distance,” he says. “On my last deployment I lost three robots. If I’d walked down that street instead, they would have got me.”At $150,000 a time, the robots are expensive, but cheap in comparison with the lives they save. When robots don’t work, the technicians have to put on a blastresistant suit and a transparent face shield, resembling an astronaut’s mask.The lunacy of amassing all this money and brainpower to invade and try to defeat a bunch of Afghan farmers, like the Vietnamese rice farmers before them in Vietnam, who actually defeated the Americans seems to be lost on the invaders. Meanwhile the locals carry on assembling bombs in their mud houses, using fertiliser packed in jugs leaving the modern expert to scratch his head and conclude, “Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to defeat,” he says. “As Americans we like technology, we like complicated things. That’s what I’ve been trying to get my head round, how to think more simply.”A research laboratory in Los Alamos has found that honeybees because of their acute sense of smell can be trained within 20 minutes to recognise a particular chemical. The small hairs that bees use to detect pollen can be used to detect any scent, prompting them to stick out their tongues. It proposes putting bees in a detecting machine with a monitor that registers a signal when the bees stick out their tongues. But the logistics of carrying bees inside army vehicles moving around Afghanistan have proved unworkable.The main testing site for the counter-IED programme is an island in Chesapeake Bay. About 100 yards away a copy of the latest Taliban IED is blown up and the screens all light up. As it explodes, the device sends out lethal fragments and explosive gases, and what we are doing is using X-ray imaging to capture this. The information enables a team to design better armour for army vehicles. Experts admit that, whatever his team comes up with, the farmers always seem to be one step ahead.The army strengthened their Humvee from a 1.25-ton chassis to 2.5 tons. Then it built 20-ton MRAPs, mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles with V-shaped hulls to deflect blasts. Now all of those are being hit as the farmers adapted by using larger explosives.“You might argue, why don’t you just armour more,” says Oates. “But the problem is, you reach a crossover point where you can so protect yourself you can’t do your mission. We really want to stop farmers placing IEDs and we can’t do that if we’re inside vehicles so protected we can’t go outside.”.The invaders try get into the minds of the insurgents. They sit in offices plastered with maps of Pakistan and Afghanistan and try to predict what future IEDs might look like. but the farmers keep come up with things never expected.They take something extremely simple and make it extremely complex, they are really creative. Old mobile phones, wires, circuit boards, 7-Up cans, toy cars, walkie-talkies, key rings, handheld electronic games. The IED petting zoo, otherwise known as the ‘petting zoo of death’.The most common IEDs in Afghanistan are simple pressure plates, two wooden blocks with metallic strips inside that make contact when a person or vehicle goes over them, attached to a command wire that sets off the explosion. Pressure plates so intricate that the farmers are now budding engineers. A wire with several pressure plates along it, is what’s known as a Christmas tree light.For a while, insurgents were using wireless devices that could be triggered by punching a code into a cellphone as a convoy passed. When coalition forces started using jammers on their vehicles to block the phone signal, the farmers devised a new command-wire and pressure-plate IEDs. These are hard to detect because they use graphite for the connections to avoid being found by metal detectors, though this is expensive. The insurgents are also working on ways to defeat the jammers.The farmers are not believed to have a centralised IED unit, and there is a lot of regional variation. But everyone under a certain regional commander will usually use the same design. The farmers are good at disguising IEDs in rubbish, potholes or craters from previous blasts. But for all the fancy technology, a high percentage of the IEDs found are spotted by soldiers noticing something doesn’t look right.The money spent to counteract the farmers IED's is almost double the entire spending of the Afghan government. Not everyone agrees throwing all this money at the problem is the best way to go.Oates does not agree. “After you’ve survived one but clearly felt the effect, you know the feeling next time you go out, when you’re looking around all the time so much your neck hurts, waiting for the next,” he says. “Try and explain that to someone. That’s why we’re doing this.”The Afghan farmers like their Vietnamese rice farmer comrades don't agree either, neither do they bother to explain, their IED"s seems to be the only language the invaders listen to, as the Dutch parliament withdrawing 2,000 troops, wisely did yesterday.Back in Ireland between 1970 and up to today in 2010, Irish republicans continue to detonate a staggering 20,000 IEDs on occupied Irish territory territory to date. Irish republican IED's are exclusively aimed at destroying economic infrastructure and killing or injuring those viewed to be instrumental in continuing British rule in occupied Ireland, not aimed at ordinary civilians, which is a war crime and counterproductive to the cause of liberation.
Recently the British establishment were badly advised that political prisoners were the soft underbelly of Irish resistance, quite the contrary, nothing could be futher from the truth. Improvised prison resistance, from the blanket protest, to the dirt protest to the deaths of 12 Hunger strikers relatively recently have been the most effective IED in Ireland. It is not a matter to be undertaken lightly or in an unmeasured or unorganized way but it is particularly explosive when used correctly with proper leadership on the outside among the people.
One of Ireland's leading republicans Padraig Pearse who was executed by the British declared; "They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools! - they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace."He could have replaced, Fenian dead with Fenian prisoners which has proven to be Ireland's most effective IED. Ask any young Fenian in Lurgan or west Belfast today what Bobby Sands or Colin Duffy means to them. The newly named British police in occupied Ireland are about to learn exactly what they mean, as the latest foolish police target of IED's in Ireland will testify.
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