March 05, 2004

The Scourge of I.E.D.s

Heightened measures to combat the gruesomely effective Iraqi guerrilla tactic of using improvised explosive devices ("I.E.D.s") to kill/wound U.S forces in Iraq are underway.

As commander Abidzaid put it in Congressional testimony: "The I.E.D. continues to be the greatest casualty producer among our troops in the field..."

Two days ago I was on a plane that was making a stop in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. There were a few G.I.s on the flight transiting to Afghanistan via the U.S. base in southern Uzbekistan.

I spoke to one of the G.I.s at length. He was firmly in favor of the war in Aghanistan and we talked about conditions there ("still tough") at some length. By the way, he does believe resources were diverted, in material fashion vis-a-vis the Afghan war effort and UBL hunt, during the peak period of the Iraq conflict.

Put differently, he didn't buy the 'we can walk and chew gum at the same time' line.

On Iraq, he had very strong feelings. He was against the war, had lost friends from First Cavalry in it, thought a civil war was a sure thing (after all the Shi'a killed by Saddam, and that long memories pervade the region, he saw it as a no-brainer that as soon as we leave, score-settling begins; and that, the more we stay, the more we are resented), and believed we had Saddam boxed in anyway.

He then asked if Iraq was worth "the 600 lives lost." It's harder to talk about the perilous intersection of WMD, rogue regimes and transnational terror groups as a valid casus belli when you are talking to a man who actively serves in U.S. forces and has lost friends in Iraq.

That said, we talked at length about Saddam's non-compliance re: 1441, his pattern of regional aggression, his WMD programs and widespread belief in the intel community that he possessed stockpiles too. It was a respectful and full exchange--but neither of us changed the mind of the other.

Why do I mention all this in this post, however?

Back to the I.E.D. issue.

"Man," he said, and here I paraphrase, "it's one thing to die in a fire-fight in a live battle, but it's very different to be randomly blown up by a roadside bomb. That's just scary."

I'm sure a lot of G.I.s in Iraq feel similarly. It's must be harrowing driving around not knowing when you might hit an I.E.D.

Here's hoping Abidzaid's and Co. initiatives save many lives in the months and years ahead.

Posted by Gregory at March 5, 2004 08:31 AM
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