TCS Daily

An Ugly Little Reality

By Ralph Kinney Bennett - November 2, 2005 12:00 AM

The bomb attack on the Palestine Hotel, in Baghdad, last week was typical of the vast majority of terrorist bombings in Iraq. It was a military failure, but to some extent a propaganda success in that it got the attention of the journalists living in the hotel and hit the refresh button on continuing chaos in Iraq.

The attack showed evidence of rather elaborate planning and some skill in execution, but in the end it was thwarted because an in-depth perimeter defense prevented complete success. According to an Associated Press analysis of security camera images this was the sequence of events in the attack on the Palestine Hotel:


It was late afternoon and as usual there was a lot of auto and truck traffic on the streets of Baghdad.

At 5:21 p.m. a white car stopped on the traffic circle in front of the concrete blast barrier at the outer perimeter of the hotel (this is at Firdos Square, the scene of the famous Saddam statue toppling during the capitulation of Baghdad, April 9, 2003). This car, which probably contained a "shaped" charge to direct the force of the explosion, detonated and blew a large hole in the barrier.


At 5:23 p.m. a second car bomb exploded on the other side of the traffic circle, near the Agriculture Ministry and a mosque. This vehicle, an SUV, may have been trying to reach the breach made in the wall by the first explosion or it may have been attempting to divert the attention of security guards. It appears to have come under fire from Iraqi security guards and whether by chance or choice it blew up about 100 yards away from the first explosion.


At 5:24 p.m., as confusion continued in the wake of the two blasts, a huge cement mixer truck lumbered through the breach in the blast wall. At a point between the Palestine and Sheraton Hotels it appears to have become entangled in the coils or razor wire positioned there. As the driver rolled the truck back and forth, trying to disentangle the trucks axles from the wire, an American soldier and perhaps other security personnel directed fire at the vehicle. At 5:25 -- whether as the result of this gunfire or the actions of the driver -- the truck exploded spectacularly, sending a huge mushroom of smoke above the city.


At least six innocent passers-by were killed and a number injured, mostly by the blast of the SUV. A number of journalists and others in the Palestine Hotel were slightly injured by the cement truck bomb. The Palestine and other buildings in the area sustained considerable damage.


Al-Qaeda and a terror group made up of Baathist and former Saddamist thugs claimed joint credit for the attack, and rumors flew that the bombs might have been part of a general terrorist assault on the hotel. The Palestine has been the target of several "shoot and scoot" rocket and mortar attacks, and three car bombs exploded near the hotel on October 8, killing about 20 innocent bystanders.


Although they still have the luxury of striking when and where they wish, the Islamomaniacs have an embarrassingly poor record in pressing large-scale bomb attacks through to success against high-profile targets that are reasonably secured and hardened.


They do best against soft targets, like crowded marketplaces or mosques, or the chance prey of the moment. They are superb at murdering defenseless civilians.


Analysis shows that the terrorists are successful in about one out of every ten bombing attempts against coalition forces, usually with roadside bombs employed against moving convoys. This is not a very economical brand of warfare and the fact that it continues is partly because explosives are still in such abundant supply all over Iraq.


Although the bombers' successes are few and far between they loom large in the American media and, possibly, the public consciousness. One of the most notable was the huge bomb which destroyed a 28-ton armored vehicle, killing 14 Marines near the Syrian border back in August.


It was the equivalent of an artillery direct hit. The bomb was detonated at precisely the right second under a moving target; not an easy thing to do, as many of those who have survived close calls can attest.


Countering IEDs (improvised explosive devices) is a harrowing, nerve-wracking, dangerous business, consuming a lot of manpower, time and technology. But it is the overriding necessity of this strange stage in the war against Islamic terrorists.


And lest someone think all these bombers are some sort of Muslim patriots motivated by removing the infidel from their soil, read the redoubtable James Dunnigans short profile of "IED Gangs" at his Strategy Page here. Most of the bombing crews are motivated by the pay and hire out to whoever will employ them.


These gangs, mostly Sunnis who worked for Saddam, include location scouts, bomb makers, "emplacers," and teams of triggermen and ambushers, who actually detonate the bombs and then try to attack the target vehicles to "mop up" after the explosion.


American reconnaissance has even tracked bomb crews as they go home, being dropped off at their various houses after another days work. One fervently hopes these houses were visited by the authorities soon after.


Although the vast majority of the terrorist bombs are detected before detonation, detonated prematurely, discovered while being emplaced, or fail to achieve maximum effect for a variety of reasons, the 10 percent of successful IEDs take lives in a disheartening, headline-grabbing way.


From a purely military point of view, these bombings, for all their sound and fury, signify nothing. They have not prevented our military from carrying out its missions. They have not prevented the growth of Iraqi security forces. They have not prevented progress toward democracy. They have not intimidated the Iraqi people.


The American and other coalition troops in Iraq -- like seasoned troops in all wars -- have learned to live with IEDS (and sometimes die with them) as an ugly little reality of war, like mortar or artillery barrages, strafing, or land mines.


It is as if the Islamonazis had a very expensive and complex sort of Rube Goldberg artillery piece which requires immense time and labor between reloadings and seldom hits its intended target. But, cumbersome and inefficient as it may be, it is their primary weapon and they continue to employ it because they hope it will dishearten and wear out the decadent Americans and their government.


This is the real point and the possibility of these wretched bombings. The Islamic murderers know they cannot defeat the American and coalition military. But they are tantalizingly aware of the possibility that if they can just keep on bombing -- keep a steady diet of death on the media menu -- there are those in the United States, in its Congress and its "elites," who appear only too willing to stir the pot of defeatism and discouragement and serve it up to the people.


It is really inaccurate to call these Islamic gangsters terrorists. They do not terrify the American military. They do not terrify the Iraqis. Yet they continue to murder them en masse and without compunction. What a dishonor to our troops and to those millions of Iraqis who merely want to live in peace; what a capitulation to Evil, if we, the American people throw up our hands in weariness and despair and leave the field to these hate-filled murderers.


The Islamofascists bombs will not succeed in Iraq. Will they succeed here?


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