Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sabotage in War to Save a Life

Many people are dismayed by the deaths of more than 3,500 American soldiers in Iraq, thinking their deaths have been in vain. Considering one unused technology, which could have thwarted many of these deaths, I am starting to agree with them.

Is sabotage of one's enemy in wartime ethical? Of course. Deception is one of the best tools in the arsenal of a winning military force.

The Improvised Explosive device is the most deadly killer of American soldiers. In 2004, we could have likely greatly curbed the number of such deaths, if we had gone ahead with some sabotage technology:

The insurgents who kill our young soldiers are ruthless, but we have sometimes been cautious in our response. Take the question of targeting bomb makers: There may be an unlimited supply of explosives in Iraq, but there is not an unlimited supply of people who know how to wire the detonators. In 2004, CIA operatives in Iraq believed that they had identified the signatures of 11 bomb makers. They proposed a diabolical -- but potentially effective -- sabotage program that would have flooded Iraq with booby-trapped detonators designed to explode in the bomb makers' hands. But the CIA general counsel's office said no. The lawyers claimed that the agency lacked authority for such an operation, one source recalled.

Instead of having short-circuited one of the least discriminating killers (probably more civilians are killed than soldiers by IEDs), we spend a great deal of time defusing a plethora of bombs that might not have been placed.

A fair number of roadside bombs are placed by poor Iraqis just trying to make a buck. It's easy, it pays well, and it pays even better if your bomb disables equipment--and especially if it kills US troops. If a sudden rash of unexplained IED-setter deaths had occurred in 2004, these people would have found other sources of income.

Not only would the sabotaged IEDs have been "deactivated", there would be far fewer of them being emplaced today.


rmwarnick said...

From the same article: "The simple, low-tech answer to the IED threat is to reduce the number of targets - by getting our troops off the streets during vulnerable daylight hours, to the extent possible."

Too many Americans are driving around Iraq looking for IEDs, endangering themselves and nearby civilians.

Danny said...


You make it sound like you have been there. Let me tell you, getting troops off the street during daylight hours is not going to help. When I was there, I remember very specifically seeing and hearing more IEDs go off at night. It is also a simple, low-tech answer: You can see in the day.

Frank Staheli said...


Sounds logical...I think...I guess not. Whenever we're not monitoring the streets they have a heyday placing bombs. I suspect al Qaeda would be glad to continue planting them to keep the Iraqi citizens in check long after we're gone if we leave before AQ is toast.

Elizabeth said...

I'm sorry Frank, that plan sounds like it would have been a recipe for disaster and it was good it was scrapped. You don't know who might pick up one of those things out of curiousity--a child for example. Nor do I believe bomb-makers would seek "other employment" because there is none.

Frank Staheli said...

Oh, but the reason there isn't as much employment as there should be is because there are so many bombers. If we can cut that down, then there will be more industry.

Basra is doing fairly well, and Kurdistan is booming.

Danny said...

Elizabeth, I just want to ask you a question, so humor me for a minute. Lets say you have a family, kids, a poor excuse for a house, and no job. You and your family are threatened. Not only by AQ or terrorists, but by famine and disease as well. Your neighbor is a bomb maker. He tells you that you are going to go set this bomb up to kill people and if you do then you will get paid so much money for so much damage. What do you do?
Let me give you some choices.
A) You tell him no, you are considered an enemy to this radical islamic Allah, and they kill you or your family.
B)You say ok, I will do it. Your family is saved (this time) and you get a paycheck too.
A couple side notes in response to your comment as well. Kids know not to play with bombs over there. They, unfortunately, have been exposed to them for far too long not to know. Secondly, there would be a lot of industry if there wasn't any bomb makers. The factories and businesses they use are numerous. If they weren't there, there would be a legitimate business to hire honest, good working people.