2006 July 31 Monday
Roadside Bombs In Iraq More Than Double

A Washington Post article on Pentagon efforts to better detect roadside bombs (a.k.a. Improvised Explosive Devices or IEDs) in Iraq reveals a more than doubling of the roadside bomb attack rate in the last year.

The Pentagon has made some progress. The number of bombs detected before they detonated has increased, according to the Joint IED office. The office did not provide figures to back up that assertion.

Still, the number of attacks continues to rise and roadside bombs remain the deadliest weapon used against troops. There were 11,242 roadside bomb attacks through June of this year, compared with 5,607 in all of 2004 and 10,953 in all of 2005, according to U.S. Central Command. They are the leading cause of U.S. casualties, accounting for about 33 percent of deaths, according to the Brookings Institution.

So the roadside bombing rate doubled from 2004 to 2005 and more than doubled again so far in 2006.

On the bright side, US/UK/allied (all non-Iraqi) military fatalities have declined for 3 months in a row from 82 in April 2006, 79 in May, 63 in June, to 47 in July. The daily average death rate of 1.52 in June is below the war average of 2.28. Though March 2006 was 1.06 per day. So it is too early to declare this a sustainable trend.

While US and allied casualties are down the same can not be said for Iraqi security forces or Iraqi civilians. Iraqi security forces lost 205 in July as compared to 201 in April. Civilian deaths at 1042 in July 2006 are the highest reported since the 1524 figure for August 2005. I suspect that Iraqi civilian deaths are under-reported. Bodies dumped in remote locations may go unfound and uncounted. Ditto for some vaporized by bombs. Plus, burials might take place without a stop at the morgue on the way. Plus, the government simply might lie about the death toll.

A different method of counting the dead in Iraq puts the death toll at 3149 civilians killed in June 2006. Given the general increase in death squad activity that estimate seems more plausible.

The rate of attack against foreign allied forces has risen even as the death toll has fallen.

There has been a steady increase in attacks since January and February to a current level of more than 120 daily against U.S. and other foreign troops, U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces and civilians, said Army Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.

Civilians accounted for nearly 70 percent of all casualties, Johnson said.

What accounts for the decline in the death rate then? Better equipment? Better tactics? Are more of the attacks in the form of mortars into now well fortified compounds? Has vehicle quality improved in the last 6 months? Do US soldiers spend less time patrolling and more time in bases?

I've read that instead of patrolling at their own initiative US forces tend to spend more time responding to Iraqi military requests for help. So do they spend more time rather like firemen waiting for the alarm to ring? That might explain the complaints of Sunnis about attacks by death squads into Sunni neighborhoods within hearing distances of US bases with no US help forthcoming. Anyone know what is going on?

My guess (based upon a not-very-nice view of human nature and of Arab nature in particular): The Shia death squads, even though they are arbitrary and capricious in their selection of Sunni victims, might just bring the Sunnis around to a negotiated reduction in hostilities. Brutal unfairness, if sufficiently overwhelming, can work. This could work for the US military except that US domestic opinion would not tolerate it. So if US forces spend less time patrolling and effectively give the Shia militias freeer rein maybe Shia brutality could bring the Sunnis to accept Shia dominance.

Think of the Sunnis as like a horse that needs to broken or a dog that is used to the alpha position in the pack. They either need to be forced to accept a position of submissiveness vis a vis the Shias or they need to break away and form their own country. But the shift of US forces into Baghdad could prevent either of those scenarios from playing out.

The conditions in Baghdad have deteriorated so far that US forces there are going to get boosted by nearly half.

Washington’s decision to send an additional 4,000 troops into the capital itself demonstrates the weakness of the Iraqi government, which is widely despised as an instrument of the occupying powers and which would immediately collapse if the American-led troops were withdrawn. The additional forces will join the 9,000 American soldiers and 8,500 Iraqi troops already stationed in Baghdad.

Whereas a few months ago the Bush Administration was trying to decrease the number of US soldiers in Iraq instead the number is going to go up. I'm reminded of Thomas Hobbes writing in the Leviathan in the year 1651: "Hell is truth seen too late". That's the US story in Iraq.

US troops are not keen to be in Iraq.

"No one wants to be here, you know, no one is truly enthused about what we do," said Sgt. Christopher Dugger, the squad leader. "We were excited, but then it just wears on you -- there's only so much you can take. Like me, personally, I want to fight in a war like World War II. I want to fight an enemy. And this, out here," he said, motioning around the scorched sand-and-gravel base, the rows of Humvees and barracks, toward the trash-strewn streets of Baghdad outside, "there is no enemy, it's a faceless enemy. He's out there, but he's hiding."

"We're trained as an Army to fight and destroy the enemy and then take over," added Dugger, 26, of Reno, Nev. "But I don't think we're trained enough to push along a country, and that's what we're actually doing out here."

My sympathy is with these poorly led soldiers who are dying and suffering permanent bodily damage.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 July 31 08:24 PM  MidEast Iraq Military Needs

Wolf-Dog said at July 31, 2006 8:49 PM:

Iran is reported to be training the roadside bomb makers. Basically, Iran has its eye on not only the Iraqi oil, but also the Saudi oil. This is because within 15-20 years, the oil and natural gas reserves of Iran will become seriously depleted, and this means total economic collapse for Iran at that time. But to expand into these oil fields, Iran finds it necessary to develop nukes, and to divert attention from these nukes, Iran is probably igniting the war in Iraq, and more recently, Lebanon. At the end of August, the UN resolution will be tested by Iran's answer about its nukes. With so much chaos that has been depleting the US resources in the world, the US is not in a position to fight a guerilla war in Iran (at least not with ground troops.)

But more remarkable than the latter observations, the most tragic part of this war is that it is paradoxically diverting possible funds that were going to be spent for research on batteries for electric vehicles, and alternative energy sources to charge these batteries.

Stephen said at August 1, 2006 4:57 PM:

Wolf-dog, Iraq is a 100% US fuck-up, don't go blaming Iran for it. Lebanon dito, but that fuck-up is owned by Israel.

PS: I can think of a number of other things that are more 'tragic' about this war than the diversion of battery research funding. Also, why not rely on the standard private enterprise mechanisms to fund research into an alternative? Why should the tax payer do it?

Randall Parker said at August 1, 2006 5:25 PM:


Oil has big external costs for the United States that come in many forms including a foreign policy that is not in our best interests. We are in the Middle East due to oil. Whether Cheney's chief motivation for supporting the Iraq invasion was his obvious awareness that there's not enough oil or terrorism was his major motivation I do not know. But the Middle East would not be a problem for us if not for the oil.

Battery research could lead to such a large decrease in oil demand by causing a shift toward non-oil energy sources for transportation while also increasing energy efficiency. That would reduce pollution, reduce the trade deficit, reduce money flowing to terrorists, and reduce the US interest and motivation to intervene in Middle Eastern politics.

gcochran said at August 2, 2006 8:01 AM:

Oil must be a significant patrt of the driving force behind our current foolishness, but there's more: a defective ruling class. That may be esaier to fix - easier than developing new energy technologies, anyhow.

Stephen said at August 2, 2006 5:25 PM:

The US taxpayer already funds that type of research to the tune of a billion per year. How much more money can be thrown at the problem before the law of diminishing returns really starts to bite?

With proper application of CURRENT fuel efficiency technologies and rational government policies, the US could cut its oil demand by a percentage well into the double figures. Instead the US provides a tax break for SUV buyers.

This isn't difficult - even those socialists in europe can do it...

Stephen said at August 2, 2006 5:27 PM:

PS: I don't believe that oil is the only factor fueling the mad policies in the middle east - I think there are several other important factors, not sure how to weight them individually though.

Randall Parker said at August 2, 2006 6:36 PM:


"that type of research"? You mean the US government funds battery research to the tune of $1 billion per year? No, they do not do that.

Or do you mean that the US government funds $1 billion a year in photovoltaics research? Nope, nowhere close.

Fossil fuels, nuclear fission, and nuclear fusion get the biggest chunks of research money:

The Advanced Energy Initiative aims to reduce America’s dependence on imported energy sources. The FY 2007 DOE budget requests $2.1 billion to meet these goals, an increase of $381 million over FY 2006. Funding will help develop clean, affordable sources of energy that will help reduce the use of fossil fuels and lead to changes in the way we power our homes, businesses and cars.

The Office of Science ($539 million) budget incorporates funding for nuclear fusion, including the ITER project, an experimental reactor that puts the U.S. on the pathway to furthering the potential of nuclear fusion as source of environmentally safe energy solar, biomass and hydrogen research programs.

The Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology ($392 million) includes $250 million for the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) and also supports Generation IV, Nuclear Power 2010, and the Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative.

Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy budget requests $1.2 billion, $2.6 million (0.2%) more than the FY 2006 appropriations. Much of this funding is an integral part of the Advanced Energy Initiative and expands programs that focus on developing new energy choices, including: Hydrogen Fuel Technology ($114 million) Fuel Cell Technology ($82 million) Biomass ($150 million), including research into cellulosic ethanol, made from switch grass, wood chips and stalks the Solar America Initiative ($148 million) vehicle technology ($166 million) and wind projects ($44 million).

The Office of Fossil Energy ($444 million) supports the Coal Research Initiative and other power generation/stationary fuel cell research programs.

Note that efficiency and renewables funding are going down in inflation-adjusted terms.

Randall Parker said at August 2, 2006 6:49 PM:

Also, some (most?) of that solar funding does not go toward photovoltaics.

Randall Parker said at August 2, 2006 6:57 PM:

Here's a bit of breakdown in the Solar America Initiative (SAI) budget:

The proposed FY 2007 budget for the SAI is $148 million, a 78% budget increase, which includes $139 million for PV and $9 million for concentrating solar power. The Solar Energy Industries Association hailed this initiative as a key victory for the next great high-tech growth industry in the US: solar energy.

The US federal government used to spend more on purchasing photovoltaics than on research into photovoltaics. I do not know if that is still the case. The budget for solar is increasing substantially in percentage terms. Maybe most of it is going to research. Then again, maybe not.

I have not been able to find details of the SAI budget.

FightHardOrGetOut said at August 2, 2006 7:01 PM:

Randall Parker:
"the Middle East would not be a problem for us if not for the oil."

And Nazi Germany would have not been a problem for us if it didn't declare war on us after Pearl Harbor.
We could have easily coexisted with Europe under Hitler control with no problems whatsoever.

As we would have easily coexisted with nuclear Iran controling all MEast and at least Southern or may be most of Europe.
As long as one believes that Islam is sorta like Southern Baptism or something, not a fascist
ideology on the march.

Without oil Islam would have had much less money. But most of what they do cost very little. In the beginning Chechens were screwing russkies just using cash from cigarette smuggling. 9/11 cost less that $1M. Kidnap one sheik and you will get ten times as much in ransom. And poppy fields of Afganistan generate lots of cash.

If not for oil we would have paid little attention to Somali and Lebanon civil wars or to Iran-Iraq. However we cannot ignore attempts to restore caliphate by arms or by birth.

Randall Parker said at August 2, 2006 7:27 PM:

Somehow I missed what look like very favorable improvements in the Bush Administration's position toward renewables:

Overview: In a reversal of prior Bush White House requests, this year's presidential budget clearly establishes DOE's Office of Science (OS) as the Department's top funding priority. After years of flat or declining budgets that reduced the OS level of effort by almost one third, this year's budget would increase funding for every OS program substantially (see Table II-11). Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) would surge 36 percent, Basic Energy Sciences (BES) would jump 25 percent, Nuclear Physics (NP) would climb 24 percent, Fusion Energy Sciences (FES) would rise 11 percent and High Energy Physics (HEP) would go up 8 percent. Biological and Environmental Research (BER), the heavily earmarked account, would fall 12 percent in the aggregate but non-earmarked funding would rise by 13 percent.

The presidential request for DOE's Energy Programs also reflects a change in priorities. Once dominated by Fossil Energy, the presidential budget would increase spending on Renewable Energy Sources significantly, while cutting funding for Fossil Energy research. Joining Hydrogen and Nuclear Energy as Administration priorities, Solar Energy would soar 79 percent, Biomass would climb 65 percent and Wind Energy would increase 13 percent. The presidential budget would continue to expand Hydrogen R&D, boosting spending by almost 26 percent. The budget would also raise spending on Nuclear Energy R&D by 18 percent, largely to accommodate the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), which is aimed at proliferation resistant waste disposal and recycling technologies.

Randall Parker said at August 2, 2006 7:34 PM:


Iran couldn't afford a nuclear weapons development program if it did not have oil to sell. Some reports claim Pakistan with a few times more population than Iran needed Saudi funding for their nuclear program.

Islam is not a fascist ideology. You are applying Western ideological labels to a religion that predates secular Western ideologies by centuries. Just because Christopher Hitchens thought he could score points with leftist intellectuals by calling Islamic fascistic does not mean that he knew what he was talking about.

It is quite possible to reject the stupid fascism label and still see that Islam is radically different than Christianity.

Randall Parker said at August 2, 2006 8:01 PM:

More on Bush Administration energy policy and the SAI:

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel W. Bodman today announced $170 million over three years (from FY ’07-’09) for cost-shared, public-private partnerships to advance solar energy technology. This solicitation is part of President Bush’s Solar America Initiative (SAI), an integral part of the President’s commitment to diversify our energy resources through grants, incentives and tax credits. The SAI aims to bring down the cost of solar energy systems to make them competitive with conventional electricity sources in the U.S. by 2015. The goal of the projects funded by the solicitation is to reduce photovoltaic (PV) costs from 13-22 cents/kWh today, to 9-18 cents/kWh by 2010, on track with the SAI goals.


The $170 million solicitation, subject to Congressional appropriations, will fund projects in each of the following categories:

Systems Class Projects: These larger projects will address multiple technology improvements in PV system and component design, integration, and installation. Teams will be expected to deliver full turnkey systems for testing, and will be expected to conduct pilot-scale manufacturing demonstrations. Per project, annual DOE funding will be up to $10 million per year plus a 50 percent minimum cost share, for a total project value of up to $20 million per year. Between four and ten selections are expected.

Subsystems Class Projects: These smaller projects will focus on fewer technology developments on specific components or manufacturing equipment. Teams will be expected to deliver new components for testing, and will be expected to conduct pilot-scale manufacturing demonstrations. Per project, annual DOE funding will be up to $4 million per year plus a 50 percent minimum cost share, for a total project value of up to $8 million per year. Between ten and 15 selections are expected.

That does not sound like research.

FightHardOrGetOut said at August 3, 2006 9:09 AM:

"It is quite possible to reject the stupid fascism label and still see that Islam is radically different than Christianity."

Granted. I use fascism label as a shorthand, many people use it that way. I would prefer just to use Islam, as anyone who takes a few hours to study will know that it is a expansionist totalitarian ideology. Unfortunately at least 50% of people, may be as high as 80%, think Islam is sorta like any other religion. Including Moron In Chief and most of his sidekicks.

So there is a problem with labeling Islam so that 50% who don't pay attention would still understand the main idea.

Islam is a problem of 21 century, oil or no oil, Israel or no Israel.
Is is NOT a problem because of wealth or technological advances of Moslems. It is a problem because disease of Western Liberalism undermines from within.

I don't expect situation to change unless Moslems will kill 500,000 Americans in one day. Then problems will be solved by setting Moslem countries back to 9th century, they want to be there anyway.

However, if Moslems are smart, they will simply outbreed and take over first Spain, France and Brittain and the rest of EU, then India and Russia. Perhaps 22 century will have USA and China on one side and world wide caliphate on another.
Perhaps, before it could happen, Persian, Arab and Europian Moslems will rip each other guts out.

gcochran said at August 3, 2006 11:11 AM:

FightHardOrGetOut: I spent more than a few hours. You're a fool. Islam is not a big strategic problem. Only a silly person, one who cannot count very high, could ever think it was.

Now fools, they're a _big_ strategic problem.

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