Buda's Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb PDF ✓

Buda's Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb This was a fascinating read Car bombing is one of those things I have vivid mental images associated with, but that I had never really challenged myself to think deeply about Verso does a great job of seeking out that kind of subject matter So much of this book was interesting because it was a history I wasn t familiar with and much of Davis argument is a well reasoned critique of our approach to handling the war on terror We are still in many ways attacking the wrong problem 8 years after This was a fascinating read Car bombing is one of those things I have vivid mental images associated with, but that I had never really challenged myself to think deeply about Verso does a great job of seeking out that kind of subject matter So much of this book was interesting because it was a history I wasn t familiar with and much of Davis argument is a well reasoned critique of our approach to handling the war on terror We are still in many ways attacking the wrong problem 8 years after the publication of this book But what most stood out to me was first his description of car bombing as the poor man s air force which struck me as embarrassingly self evident once I wrapped my head around it and second a point he made within that same chapter about how important it is for a car bomb to be loud In almost all of the examples listed throughout this history, that stood out as a common theme The car bomb is the ultimate instrument of terror because of its innocuousness in one chapter planted exclusively in a middle style of Italian car and the chaos it creates in the loud explosion after detonation But also in many ways car bombs were loud because they were giving a voice to a marginalized group They act ass both bomb and megaphone Car bombing has been a way to undermine the narrative we were fed over the last fifty years about how the US has had impossibly complicated conflicts under control Davis contempt for the practice of car bombing obviously shone through, but no less so than his horror at the incompetence or nefariousness of the institutions and governments those bombings representatively attacked In that way I found this book to be an incredible read The only drawback for me was that a couple of chapters felt like they were just sort of lazily pulled straight from other books I ve already read specifically Killing Pablo and The Looming Tower with little added or divergent commentary i really like mike davis I read CITY OF QUARTZ , awhile back and it gave a sharp pair of lenses to analyze SoCal Buda s Wagon is written in the same sensational style Mike Davis has really figured out a beautiful way to use the language of academia to say MAN, can you believe this SHIT I appreciate the fact that Mike Davis goes to great lengths to condemn the senselessness of a car bomb especially one that kills innocents while admiring its power in the hands of people with a politica i really like mike davis I read CITY OF QUARTZ , awhile back and it gave a sharp pair of lenses to analyze SoCal Buda s Wagon is written in the same sensational style Mike Davis has really figured out a beautiful way to use the language of academia to say MAN, can you believe this SHIT I appreciate the fact that Mike Davis goes to great lengths to condemn the senselessness of a car bomb especially one that kills innocents while admiring its power in the hands of people with a political agenda There were a few sections that fell short, hence the four star rating Its a short book, that skips for example commuter bus bombs in Israel Makes me wonder what else was left out for brevity s sake Mike Davis is ALWAYS a good read.My goodreads buddy Suzanne is ALWAYS right Especially when it comes to books The car bomb, or VBIED Vehicle Born Improved Explosive Device , if you have an MSAF Milspec Acronym Fetish is the guerrilla smart bomb In itsbasic form, it marries the mundane infrastructure of urban life like trucks and driveways, to easily available explosives like ANFO and diesel fuel, to a deadly weapon Whether abandoned in a parking garage or brazenly crashed through the front gates of an embassy by a suicide bomber, the car bomb is a way for poor organizations to hit sensitive t The car bomb, or VBIED Vehicle Born Improved Explosive Device , if you have an MSAF Milspec Acronym Fetish is the guerrilla smart bomb In itsbasic form, it marries the mundane infrastructure of urban life like trucks and driveways, to easily available explosives like ANFO and diesel fuel, to a deadly weapon Whether abandoned in a parking garage or brazenly crashed through the front gates of an embassy by a suicide bomber, the car bomb is a way for poor organizations to hit sensitive targets with precision.Davis rolls through the long history of the car bomb, from its invention by Italian anarchist Mario Buda, to its perfection by the Zionist terrorist group Irgun, to its proliferation across the world in the hands of the Tamil Tigers, the IRA, and Al Qaeda in Iraq There s an odd tonal disconnect between coldly clinical history and near conspiratorial glee at CIA blowback, as car bombs disrupt French, British, and American imperialism, but in a short and breezy book the style mostly works.Davis is by training a Marxist urbanist, and he s best in noting that car bombs arethan cheap precision weapons used to hit hard targets like embassies and barracks The generalized threat of car bombs is paralyzing, demanding a Ring of Steel to protect downtowns and upper class districts Indiscriminate in their death, car bombs can be used against soft targets like schools and markets to foster ethnic violence and sidetrack peace negotiations Finally, given the ease by which vehicles circulate through cities, there s no way to ensure security Buda s wagon is the hotrod of the apocalypse There s not much original research in this book, and in some ways the threat of car bombs has been supplemented by the pure kinetic energy of ISIS vehicular attacks Still, afun little military history worth a read I wonder if it s a sign that I m getting older that I m not as enad with Mike Davis style as when I was red eyed collegiate trying to keep up with whatever the cool smart kids liked to read The thing that s beginning to exasperate me is his assumption of my cultural historical knowledge, the way he ll drop countless terms, historical events and references without describing what they were Sure, I m supposed to be historically literate, I get it, that s my obligation and I can use Wikipedi I wonder if it s a sign that I m getting older that I m not as enad with Mike Davis style as when I was red eyed collegiate trying to keep up with whatever the cool smart kids liked to read The thing that s beginning to exasperate me is his assumption of my cultural historical knowledge, the way he ll drop countless terms, historical events and references without describing what they were Sure, I m supposed to be historically literate, I get it, that s my obligation and I can use Wikipedia to instantly look up just about anything And I understand that you want to write a book about interesting things without having to over fatten it with summaries of events that may have been better described elsewhere But would it kill you shove in a quick description How bad could it be to just tack on a subordinate or parenthetical clause Minor example he says on page 79 that Hezbollah fighters in Beruit in the early 1980s had an obvious understanding of Viet Cong tactics in the Battle of Saigon Cool But, um, I don t Could you throw me a bone, Mister Davis What were the relevant Viet Cong tactics in the Battle of Saigon that Hezbollah understood Or am I just being a lazy, whiny reader When Planet of Slums came out a few years ago, I eagerly bought the first copy I could get my hands on But as I tried to fight my way through the first chapter, the notecard on which I write down unfamiliar words or events that I need to look up filled up frighteningly quickly Battered by bindonvilles and chawls, alongside jargon and theoretical references I could barely penetrate, I gave up Buda s Wagon seemed a littlemanageable, a mere 200 pages about shit that blows up, how hard could it be And there is something darkly, evilly fun about this book You can almost imagine Ramzi Yousef as some sort of inverted James Bond reimagined for this nightmare world we inhabit He travels the planet s exotic locales Manhattan, Bangkok, the Phillippines, Pakistan s impenetrable mountains wreaking havoc on an unsuspecting world Instead of specially prepared BMWs or Audis paid for by car companies buying product placements, he pulls up in Nissan refrigerator trucks or Toyota delivery vans, stuffed with villainous concoctions of fuel oil, fertilizer and aluminum dust The corpse of the stolen truck s driver, stuffed in the cargo area with the cleverly designed bomb stands in for the henchman s lackey that Bond would so casually take out.I like the book s coverage of what are in the US media usually such obscure fighting groups, be they the French Algerians of the OAS, the Black Tigers of Tamil Sri Lanka, the Senderistas of Peru, or the Stern Gang and its offshoots in Palestine It does hop around from conflict to conflict in service of its theme of talking about car bombs, but I don t particularly mind that Some of the interesting quotes Contrasting Green Zones like the one in Baghdad and other specially secured installations in the world s cities, Davis writes The vast majority of us will continue to live in the Red Zones, vulnerable to sinister Fiats and Ryder vans As Rhiannon Talbot points out in a reflection on the IRA s Bishopsgate bombing, No matter how many police officers are on duty or how many special constables and auxiliary police officers are drafted we cannot guard every building of significance in the country nor every street where hundreds could die if a devastating bomb were to be detonated Such common sense, of course, must be pounded into the heads of politicians and police officials besotted with fantasies of beating the terrorists with panoptical surveillance, ion detection technology, roadblocks, and, that sine qua non, the permanent suspension of civil liberties p 194 He also quotes Irish journalist Tim Pat Coogan, who says the need to decommission the IRA arsenal, so fetishized by Loyalist and British politicians, was actively debunked, not by an Irish spokesperson as one might have imagined, but by a senior RUC Royal Ulster Constabulary officer, who also offered a remarkable assessment of the role of car bombs in the Troubles This is not a military issue, it is a political issue The major portion of damage and death caused over the entire period of the troubles did not come from hand guns and rifles, from home made mortars, or even from Semtex explosive It was caused by the fertilizer bombs which can be made up by anyone with a schoolboy knowledge of chemistry Two men with shovels can make up a thousand pound bomb in a Fermanagh cowshed and, if for some reason the operation has to be aborted, they can decommission it again, all within twelve hours You can t decommission shovels It s minds which have to be decommissioned pp 194 195 This quote is from Milt Bearden, one key CIA official who channeled arms, money and know how to the Afghan mujaheddin in the mid 1980s that is to say, he is no starry eyed peacenik I saw him talk at a conference put on by Sandia National Labs here in Albuquerque, I think in 2002 or late 2001 He wrote in the New York Times in 2003 that, There are two stark lessons in the history of the 20th century no nation that launched a war against another sovereign country ever won And every nationalist based insurgency against a foreign occupation ultimately succeeded p 179 Referring to the broad mix of bombers who emerged in the 1990s In contrast to the old, unitary menace of the Soviet Union, Washington now faced a chaotic spectrum of enemies, spontaneously generated by the contradictions of globalization as well as the blowback of past policies rogue assets like Sheik Rahman, megalomaniac bomb school graduates like Ramzi Yousef, hometown militiamen like McVeigh, self organized Islamists like the Riyadh bombers, super Capones like Pablo Escobar, and remnant Maoists like Sendero Luminoso and then there was the enduring spectre of Hezbollah s Imad Mugniyah, the General Giap of urban guerrilla warfare Calling them all terrorists a playground epithet in the serious business of geopolitics hardly advanced anyone s understanding of the post Cold War world p 149 I really like that phrase, a playground epithet in the serious world of geopolitics It really captures the lethally childish state of my country s political scene and political thinking Here s an awesomely phrased death threat sent out by Pablo Escobar s cronies We are friends of Pablo Escobar and we are ready to do anything for him We are capable of executing you at any place on this planetin the meantime, you will see the fall, one by one, of all the members of your familyFor calling Mr Escobar to trial you will remain without forebears or descendants in your genealogical tree p 110 Theatrical and ghoulish indeed.Reagan era CIA director William Casey, I learned on page 92, was a fervent Franco supporter during his college days in the 1930s I often forget about the unashamedly pro fascist community that thrives in the US right But every time you see that or Thomas Frank s recounting of international festivals that Jack Abramoff organized on behalf of Jonas Fucking Savimbi, it makes my mental jaw drop Shouldn t college students in the 1930s been dreaming of running off to fight in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade But no Ultimately, the most powerful people in the world end up being the ones who rooted for the annihilation of the anti fascist fighters, the destruction of Spanish democracy, or stable African independence.But again and again, the Cheneyite philosophy of dealing with the dark side proves counter productive Casey in 1980s sends support to the Afghan anti Soviets by way of Pakistani dictator Muhammed Zia and his Islamist intelligence chief at the Inter Services Intelligence agency The ISI vetted the selection of trainees and generally restricted the flow of arms and explosives to the four most extreme Islamist groups, fatally weakening themoderate and modern factions By the late 1980s, writes Steve Coll, the ISI had effectively eliminated all the secular, leftist, and royalist political parties that had first formed when Afghan refugees fled Communist rule p 93 Casey, who saw political Islam and the Catholic Church as natural allies against the Kremlin, was delighted with the carnage in Kabul and Afghanistan It was the greatest transfer of terrorist technology in history there was no need for angry Islamists to take car bomb extension courses from Hezbollah when they could matriculate in a CIA supported urban sabotage course in Pakistan s frontier provinces pp 94 95 Finally, I want to write down a quote from Robert Pape s celebrated study showing that most suicide terrorists are actually local patriots responding to collective injustice, above all the humiliation of foreign occupation, especially when the occupier is seen as seeking to impose an alien religion or value system Few suicide attackers are social misfits, criminally insane, or professional losers Most fit a nearly opposite profile typically they are psychologically normal, have better than average economic prospects for their communities, are deeply integrated into social networks and emotionally attached to their national communities They see themselves as sacrificing their lives for the nation s goodhe bottom line, then, is that suicide terrorism is mainly a response to foreign occupation Buda s Wagon details the sordid history of the car bomb from its first incarnation as a wagon bomb parked on Wall Street to the current horror that is US occupied Iraq It also sheds light on a subject I had no knowledge of, which is the terrorist campaign fought by the Israelis against the British The Stern Gang introduced the car bomb to the troubled area while fighting their colonial masters but they soon turned their sadistic weapon on the Arab populace, who of course retaliated in kind Buda s Wagon details the sordid history of the car bomb from its first incarnation as a wagon bomb parked on Wall Street to the current horror that is US occupied Iraq It also sheds light on a subject I had no knowledge of, which is the terrorist campaign fought by the Israelis against the British The Stern Gang introduced the car bomb to the troubled area while fighting their colonial masters but they soon turned their sadistic weapon on the Arab populace, who of course retaliated in kind We all know how that story never ends, so I ll not bore you with further details, and neither does Davis, though he does bore us with further details of other conflicts Normally I love his books but this one fell flat for me it takes too much time to discuss the details of individual bombings and the thousands of people who are killed by them, and not enough time discussing the broader significance Essentially, it could have been shorter though it is already quite short I just didn t find myself being particularly interested in the details of bombing campaigns and found the brief descriptions of the overall political atmosphere and the conditions leading up to the terrorist attacks to be too light and sometimes confusing Chapters are generally under twenty pages and the vast majority of those pages are dedicated to the describing the impact of the bombs in a literal and physical way I found myself not following the non bomb related events but wanting to knowabout the individual struggles Too often Davis also assumes the reader hasknowledge about the struggles than I think most people have, at least that was the case with me I do enjoy reading his prose though so I struggled through the sometimes tedious parts and found the book to be on the whole enjoyable, but not nearly as packed with intriguing information as his other efforts Many of the pages devoted to details of a given bomb, how it was made, how it was set, how much damage it did, snuck by with me zoning out thinking of other books by Mike Davis, all of which are great and should be read by everybody The book feels like a 2.5 day cruise of all Europe glitzy and withstyle but ultimately shallow and unsatisfying.The title is catchy Davis prose is lively and pithy This bookhowever, does not measure up to his earlier works such as Prisonersof the American Dream I think the problem is with the subjectitself All Davis discussion to the contrary, a car bomb is arelatively unsophisticated device One bomber does not have much tolearn from another some fertilizer, fuel oil, a detonator and The book feels like a 2.5 day cruise of all Europe glitzy and withstyle but ultimately shallow and unsatisfying.The title is catchy Davis prose is lively and pithy This bookhowever, does not measure up to his earlier works such as Prisonersof the American Dream I think the problem is with the subjectitself All Davis discussion to the contrary, a car bomb is arelatively unsophisticated device One bomber does not have much tolearn from another some fertilizer, fuel oil, a detonator and astolen car and one has a poor man air force Thus, it is difficult tocover the history of a car bomb from a purely technicalperspective Like one could do with, for example, fighter planes orassault rifles The action of a car bomb is pretty similar so there islittle to describe a loud bang, smoke, flying debris and body parts,mangled and bloodied people wringing in agony Davis tries to bediscreet in his explosion descriptions, yet it gets repetitive by theend of the book.So the car bombs is a ruthless and indiscriminate tactic employed byguerrillas of all stripes The most fascinating aspect of the carbombsis social Why does a certain group or a movement chose to usecarbombing And this is where Davis falls short The format of thebook does not allow him to describe in detail each individualmovement Instead, he tries to quickly and impartially describe themovement and proceed to the bombing itself The effect however is thathe lumps together the truly progressive independence movements withthe cults like Sendero Luminoso and everything in between He does,however, cite good books that cover each individual conflicts insufficient enough detail to explain the causes, the reasons and thedynamic of the struggle in each individual case The Vietnam Wars1945 1990 by Marilyn B Young, A Secret History of the IRA by EdMoloney, or Pity the Nation The Abduction of Lebanon by RobertFisk The facts about the conflicts that I am not familiar with suchas the details about the Stern Gang of Palestine and Arab reprisalsare quite interesting The coverage of the ongoing conflict in Iraq iscertainly incomplete, Davis coverage of it feels truncated Buda s Wagon details the sordid history of the car bomb from its first incarnation as a wagon bomb parked on Wall Street to the current horror that is US occupied Iraq It also sheds light on a subject I had no knowledge of, which is the terrorist campaign fought by the Israelis against the British The Stern Gang introduced the car bomb to the troubled area while fighting their colonial masters but they soon turned their sadistic weapon on the Arab populace, who of course retaliated in kind We Buda s Wagon details the sordid history of the car bomb from its first incarnation as a wagon bomb parked on Wall Street to the current horror that is US occupied Iraq It also sheds light on a subject I had no knowledge of, which is the terrorist campaign fought by the Israelis against the British The Stern Gang introduced the car bomb to the troubled area while fighting their colonial masters but they soon turned their sadistic weapon on the Arab populace, who of course retaliated in kind We all know how that story never ends, so I ll not bore you with further details, and neither does Davis, though he does bore us with further details of other conflicts Normally I love his books but this one fell flat for me it takes too much time to discuss the details of individual bombings and the thousands of people who are killed by them, and not enough time discussing the broader significance Essentially, it could have been shorter though it is already quite short I just didn t find myself being particularly interested in the details of bombing campaigns and found the brief descriptions of the overall political atmosphere and the conditions leading up to the terrorist attacks to be too light and sometimes confusing Chapters are generally under twenty pages and the vast majority of those pages are dedicated to the describing the impact of the bombs in a literal and physical way I found myself not following the non bomb related events but wanting to knowabout the individual struggles Too often Davis also assumes the reader hasknowledge about the struggles than I think most people have, at least that was the case with me I do enjoy reading his prose though so I struggled through the sometimes tedious parts and found the book to be on the whole enjoyable, but not nearly as packed with intriguing information as his other efforts Many of the pages devoted to details of a given bomb, how it was made, how it was set, how much damage it did, snuck by with me zoning out thinking of other books by Mike Davis, all of which are great and should be read by everybody the big problem with this piece isn t that Davis doesn t understand an important technology because he clearly does understand how carbombs are applied to asymetrical warfare but this really vapid liberal analysis of historical events that infects his writing Like, perhaps rather than taking this weird no one is at fault but we can agree if a carbomb kills a child it is the fault of the person who planted it like his really weird laying of blame on the ETA for a failure of the police to eva the big problem with this piece isn t that Davis doesn t understand an important technology because he clearly does understand how carbombs are applied to asymetrical warfare but this really vapid liberal analysis of historical events that infects his writing Like, perhaps rather than taking this weird no one is at fault but we can agree if a carbomb kills a child it is the fault of the person who planted it like his really weird laying of blame on the ETA for a failure of the police to evacuate a building Or where he will admit that certain governments are absolutely despotic but will act like carbombing the housing district of their police is somehow morally different than carbombing for property damage I guess what i am circling on here is that because he won t render judgement on things opting for BOTH SIDES ARE AT FAULT there isn t really anything to his analysis other than PHWAW car bombs are pretty dangerous and really switch the terrain of conflict Which like, is i think almost self evident, but what the ready availability of the ingredients to and application of an ANFO bomb means is utterly missing What does this technology do other than create a cat and mouse game because i will guarantee it is something and why do different groups use a carbomb why does Davis refuse to situation the usage within particular contexts ex the Provos use of the carbomb was by the playbook to force military occupation of Ireland and force the contradiction while some applications are based in martyrdom which he reviews the psych literature on to talk about how suicide bombers make sense but then goes back to calling car bombers crazy in this really frustrating way and never looks at the psychology of why someone would choose an attack that in the best case nets a K D ratio that is satisfying to someone that definitely isn t them How does media culture and spectacle play into this Why is this book 90% a genealogy of a tactic and 10% interesting unanswered questions Isn t the transmission and adaptation of an idea interesting forreasons than it simply happened IDK Short book on an explosive subject Histories like these, whose prime mover is technology, make it easier to follow society without filtering it through ideology first Also, the author can play favorites without risk of censure for doing so it s not like light bulbs are going to complain about being ignored for the sake of car bombs.It wasn t until I read this book that the magnitude of destruction engendered by these attacks both in this century and a large part of the last became clear The Short book on an explosive subject Histories like these, whose prime mover is technology, make it easier to follow society without filtering it through ideology first Also, the author can play favorites without risk of censure for doing so it s not like light bulbs are going to complain about being ignored for the sake of car bombs.It wasn t until I read this book that the magnitude of destruction engendered by these attacks both in this century and a large part of the last became clear The news has a way of numbing the viewer, either by sanitizing the reports, or, at the other extreme, projecting too much emotion onto events and thereby thwarting those of the audience The latter effect is like when a person laughs at a joke too soon just to prove they are clever and so ruins the timing of the comic.I really enjoy Mike Davis s style He doesn t have the richness of memoir that Ryszard Kapuscinski brought to his work, but his ability to translate fact into experience is nearly as acute The pieces don t just fit, they assemble Awareness is reached, instead of merely conclusions.Be sure to order this book online with a credit card like I did as to maximize your chances of getting into some spooky government database Cheers On a September day in , an angry Italian anarchist named Mario Buda exploded a horse drawn wagon filled with dynamite and iron scrap near New York s Wall Street, killingpeople Since Buda s prototype the car bomb has evolved into a poor man s air force, a generic weapon of mass destruction that now craters cities from Bombay to Oklahoma CityIn this brilliant and disturbing history, Mike Davis traces its worldwide use and development, in the process exposing the role of state intelligence agencies particularly those of the United States, Israel, India, and Pakistan in globalizing urban terrorist techniques Davis argues that it is the incessant impact of car bombs, rather than the apocalyptic threats of nuclear or bio terrorism, that is changing cities and urban lifestyles, as privileged centers of power increasingly surround themselves with rings of steel against a weapon that nevertheless seems impossible to defeat


About the Author: Mike Davis

Mike Davis is a social commentator, urban theorist, historian, and political activist He is best known for his investigations of power and social class in his native Southern California He is the recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship and the Lannan Literary Award He lives in San Diego.


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