Danger Room reports that US troops will use biometrics to distinguish between terrorists and civilians in Iraq.
[T]he Americans intend to take fingerprints and other biometric data from every resident who seems to be a potential fighter after they and Iraqi forces have gained control of the western side of the city. The Americans will also test for the presence of explosive material on suspects’ hands."Let's hope that very few innocent Iraqis take nitroglycerin for their hearts, or use ammonium nitrate on their farmland. And that the insurgents aren't sophisticated enough to contaminate, say, money with trace amounts of explosives in order to flood the system with false positives.
To me, this project sounds unreliable, alienating, and eminently exploitable. Regardless, "$320 million from the latest war-funding bill will go towards biometric programs." What it'll cost to address the insurgents' adaptational tactics remains to be seen.
Danger Room also reports on the US effort to thwart IED attacks, which costs about $4 billion per year (or roughly four times the amount Bush has allocated to alternative-energy research). The good news is, it works. The bad news is, it doesn't make any difference:
At the beginning of the Iraq war, an agency official tells DANGER ROOM, the ratio of bombs to coalition casualties was about 1-to-1. Today in Iraq, it's on the order of 6-to-1 -- meaning, it now takes more bombs to hurt or kill a servicemember. Unfortunately, the number of attacks has gone up six-fold, too. So the numbers of wounded and killed has stayed more or less constant.The Pentagon says that this means insurgents have to work harder to inflict the same number of casualties. Which is probably true. But the thing is, that level of casualties is unsustainable for us, as is the $4 billion we spend per year to address this single tactic. With enough R&D, and enough money, we may come up with a technological fix that'll reduce IED attacks dramatically. But at that point, the insurgents will simply try a new approach. And if it's successful, we may well be right back where we started.
Apropos of which, an article in Time profiles an Iraqi bombmaker:
[H]is tools are primitive — soldering irons, old printed circuit boards, discarded TV remotes and other bits of electronic detritus. But he has a talent for fashioning instruments of death from such dreck, turning an old toy walkie-talkie into a trigger for an explosion 100 yards away or programming a washing-machine timer to set off an IED two hours later.In an uncharacteristically lucid moment, Deleuze and Guattari observed that "it is precisely its impotence that makes power so dangerous." It's not just that we can't defeat this sort of enemy with technology; the larger problem is that our reliance on technology is itself a vulnerability.
"They are not going to defeat me with technology," he says. "If they want to get rid of IEDs, they have to kill me and everyone like me."
Speaking of vulnerability, an article in the LA Times portrays the US Embassy in Iraq (cost: $592 million) as essentially suburban:
This is not the architecture...of domination or empire. This is the architecture of manufactured, blast-resistant banality. What BDY is selling to its government client is a compound whose spaces are wide open enough to admit a quiet, essentially suburban kind of sprawl.Where does one start? First, domination and empire are foundational concepts of suburbia, as its history of racially restrictive covenants and other exclusionary practices demonstrates. Second, imposing "manufactured banality" on a disintegrating city like Baghdad is domination par excellence. Putting aside the violence that makes its construction possible, the Embassy's design amounts to an expression of contempt and an act of provocation; it's architecture as the extension of war by other means. Which is why, to paraphrase W.G. Sebald, it casts the shadow of its own destruction before it.
Meanwhile, with only forty percent of Baghdad "under control" (whatever that means), we're escalating airstrikes on Iraqi neighborhoods and infrastructure. As William S. Lind says:
Nothing could testify more powerfully to the failure of U.S. efforts on the ground in Iraq than a ramp-up in airstrikes. Calling in air is the last, desperate, and usually futile action of an army that is losing. If anyone still wonders whether the "surge" is working, the increase in air strikes offers a definitive answer: it isn't.Maybe not, but it was worth a try, right? Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Or vice versa, if desperate measures happen to be your stock in trade.