‘Wash Post’ Launches Special Iraq ‘IED’ Series

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By: E&P Staff

The Washington Post launches a special four-part print and multimedia online series this weekend, surrounding the issue of IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan. It features Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter/author Rick Atkinson, who was embedded with forces in Iraq for the Post during the invasion in 2003.

The Web site, washingtonpost.com, will offer video interviews, reader discussions with Atkinson and U.S. military personnel, and picture essays, including a personal IED encounter by well-known photographer Andrea Bruce.

The series declares in its introduction: “IEDs have caused nearly two-thirds of the 3,100 American combat deaths in Iraq, and an even higher proportion of battle wounds. This year alone, through mid-July, they have also resulted in an estimated 11,000 Iraqi civilian casualties and more than 600 deaths among Iraqi security forces.

“To the extent that the United States is not winning militarily in Iraq, the roadside bomb, which as of late September had killed or injured more than 20,000 Americans, is both a proximate cause and a metaphor for the miscalculation and improvisation that have characterized the war.

“The battle against this weapon has been a fitful struggle to regain the initiative — a relentless cycle of measure, countermeasure and counter-countermeasure — not only by discovering or neutralizing hidden bombs (the so-called fight at the roadside) but also by trying to identify and destroy the shadowy network of financiers, strategists, bombmakers and emplacers who have formed at least 160 insurgent cells in Iraq, according to a senior Defense Department official.

“But despite nearly $10 billion spent in the past four years by the Defense Department’s main IED-fighting agency, with an additional $4.5 billion budgeted for fiscal 2008, the IED remains ‘the single most effective weapon against our deployed forces,’ as the Pentagon acknowledged this year.

“As early as 2003, Army officers spoke of shifting the counter-IED effort ‘left of boom’ by disrupting insurgent cells before bombs are built and planted. Yet U.S. efforts overwhelmingly have focused on ‘right of boom’– by mitigating the effects of a bomb blast through heavier armor, sturdier vehicles and better trauma care — or of the boom itself, by spending, for example, more than $3 billion on 14 types of electronic jammers that sometimes also jammed the radios of friendly forces.

“For the most part, the effort has been defensive, reactive and ultimately inadequate, driven initially by a presumption that IEDs were a passing nuisance in a short war, and then by an abiding faith that science would solve the problem.”

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