Since that first fatal detonation of what is now known as an improvised explosive device, more than 81,000 IED attacks have occurred in Iraq, including 25,000 so far this year, according to U.S. military sources. The war has indeed metastasized into something "completely different," a conflict in which the roadside bomb in its many variants — including "suicide-vehicle-borne" — has become the signature weapon in Iraq and Afghanistan, as iconic as the machine gun in World War I or the "smart bomb" in the Persian Gulf War of 1991.
IEDs have caused nearly two-thirds of the 3,100 American combat deaths in Iraq, and an even higher proportion of battle wounds. This year alone, through mid-July, they have also resulted in an estimated 11,000 Iraqi civilian casualties and more than 600 deaths among Iraqi security forces.
To the extent that the United States is not winning militarily in Iraq, the roadside bomb, which has killed or wounded more than 21,000 Americans, is both a proximate cause and a metaphor for the miscalculation and improvisation that have characterized the war.
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