Suicide Bombings in Operation Iraqi Freedom

By Bunker, Robert J.; Sullivan, John P. | Military Review, January/February 2005 | Go to article overview

Suicide Bombings in Operation Iraqi Freedom


Bunker, Robert J., Sullivan, John P., Military Review


This article, reprinted with permission of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), is adapted from the original copyrighted article published in September 2004 by the Institute of Land Warfare (ILW) as Land Warfare Paper No. 46W. AUSA and ILW publications are available on the AUSA web page at .

The ILW's purpose is to extend AUSA's educational work by sponsoring scholarly publications, including books, monographs, and essays on key defense issues, as well as workshops and symposia. A work selected for publication as an ILW paper represents research by the authors that, in the opinion of the editorial board, will contribute to a better understanding of defense or national security issues.

SUICIDE BOMBING is the act of blowing oneself up while trying to kill (destroy) or injure (damage) a target. The target might be military or civilian or both. Typically, the killing or physical destruction of the target is less important than the terror generated by the act. Suicide bombing is a disruptive firepower capability (based on bond-relationship targeting) used by opposing forces (OPFORs) that lack traditional destructive firepower.1

Suicide bombing is a criminal warfighting technique because it almost always falls within the not crime/not war overlap of nonstate OPFOR operations. When state forces, such as the Iraqi military, use the technique, they violate the rules of war by taking off their uniforms to appear as noncombatants (thus mimicking nonstate OPFORs) for stealth-masking purposes. The Japanese use of Kamikaze aircraft during World War II is considered a legitimate use of military force against military force, but that early prototype form of suicide bombing has not been used for almost 60 years.

Persistent suicide bombings during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) (in pre-, trans-, and postmajor combat operations) suggest this "criminal-warfighting" technique will be used with increasing frequency against U.S. Army and allied forces deployed for combat and humanitarian missions in and around Islamic lands.2 Therefore, U.S. Army, Marine, and constabulary personnel must develop appropriate intelligence, countermeasure, and force-protection capabilities to interdict, mitigate, and respond to what has become a threat against U.S. forces in the global war against radical Islamic terrorism and insurgency.

Suicide Operations and Military Traditions

Suicide operations (bombings and attacks) fall within three dominant philosophical military traditions: Western, Oriental, and Islamic, each of which holds varying views on this offensive technique at individual and unit levels of doctrinal employment.

Western tradition. At the individual level, the Western tradition does not advocate suicide operations. Soldiers or pilots might, on their own initiative and typically when mortally wounded, take as many opposing soldiers with them as possible. In this instance, the combatant has nothing to lose, as in the case of a dying U.S. torpedo-bomber pilot ramming his aircraft into a Japanese warship during World War II. In rare instances, uninjured individuals heroically sacrifice their lives against hopeless odds in defense of their comrades, as did two Delta snipers in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993, who chose to help a downed Black Hawk crew.3

At the unit level, desperation in war can result in suicidal or near-suicidal operations. The holding action of King Leonidas and his Spartan bodyguards at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. forms the basis of what might be considered a "heroic" activity. More than a millennium and a half later, the battles of Verdun and The Somme during World War I were clearly suicidal operations as opposing forces repeatedly attempted to break the trench stalemate with massed human-wave attacks. In the early days of the Korean War, Task Force Smith's hasty blocking action was almost suicidal but required by dire circumstances.4

Even so, U.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Suicide Bombings in Operation Iraqi Freedom
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.