By MARC McDONALD
Taking a look at the latest troop casualties from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq, it quickly becomes apparent that IEDs remain a lethal threat to the U.S. military. In April, May and June, IEDs killed at least 54 U.S. troops, causing over half the 104 combat deaths suffered by the military in those three months.
It's clear that the U.S. military's $10 billion program to defeat the IED threat isn't working. The program (officially called the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization) was launched by the Pentagon in 2005 to foil IED attacks.
The program has increasingly come under fire as ineffective and poorly run. As WorldTribune.com reported in September, the program is a "boondoggle" that a Joint Forces Staff College review concluded is "mired in red tape and has relied excessively on technology."
Astonishingly, the U.S. has now spent more on this anti-IED program, in equivalent dollars, than it spent on the Manhattan Project installation that produced plutonium for World War II's atomic bombs.
Insurgents have enjoyed great success with IEDs, despite the fact the devices are remarkably low-tech and are often detonated with ordinary remote controls or cell phones.
What is particularly stunning about the whole IED saga is the fact that ordnance used in these devices was looted by insurgents in the first few weeks of the Iraq War. The Pentagon admits that over 250,000 tons of ordnance was looted--enough to build 1 million 500-pound bombs.
One might wonder why arms depots across Iraq were left unguarded in the early stages of the war. Well, it appears the U.S. military had higher priorities.
One of the few buildings left untouched by looters in April 2003 was the massive Oil Ministry building in Baghdad, which was heavily guarded by U.S. troops. When U.S. forces entered Baghdad, they immediately surrounded the building with 50 tanks, while sharpshooters positioned themselves on the roof and in the windows.
Oil fields in Iraq were also heavily guarded in the early days of the war. Amnesty International criticized the attention placed on controlling oilfields, which it noted must have taken "much planning and resources."
But while the U.S. military lavished great care on securing the Baghdad Oil Ministry and Iraq's oil fields, hundreds of arms depots remained unguarded in April 2003.
Five years later, the ordnance looted from those arms depots continues to be used to build IEDs. And despite spending $10 billion to defeat IEDs, the Pentagon has yet to come up with an answer to this lethal threat to our troops.