Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bombmaking, Algerian-style

Few people may need reminding, but the 1962 film "Battle for Algiers" nicely depicts how "insurgents," "rebels," "terrorists" -- whatever you want to call them -- have for a long time turned to bombing of civilians to challenge government authority.

Though this movie is from 40 years ago, it has a documentary style and a setting -- North Africa -- that might remind many viewers today of certain countries to the east of Algeria, including Iraq of course. A few scenes show bombmakers putting their bombs together, and hiding them in, among other things, ladies handbags. The women aiding the Algerian nationists are pretty and dress in Western-style clothes, and thus have an easier time getting through checkpoints and planting the bombs in cafes, airline offices, and other places French people hang out.

The technology depicted is simple, but the fact that simple bombs are still used today in many countries shows that what's simplest often works best. Regarding the improvised explosive devices in Iraq, the Pentagon recently posted a video "news" clip on the US DoD website about progress they claim is being made capturing bombmakers in Iraq. The US may well be arresting more bombmakers lately, but is it a sign of progress, or just that there are more people making bombs in Iraq and therefore more people to arrest?

For those planning to relax during the upcoming holidays, another movie worth seeing for its depiction of military technology and the context in which it is employed is "Thirteen Days," a film made in 2000 about the Cuban-missile crisis. Among other things, there are some good scenes of aerial reconnaissance over Cuba -- the Philippines serves as a stand-in, with Philippines Defense Department aircraft (and a few miniature model planes) standing in for the US military.

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