Academic journal article Military Review

BUDA'S WAGON: A Brief History of the Car Bomb

Academic journal article Military Review

BUDA'S WAGON: A Brief History of the Car Bomb

Article excerpt

BUDA'S WAGON: A Brief History of the Car Bomb, Mike Davis, Verso, London and New York, 2007, 228 pages, $22.95.

The title of Mike Davis's short, lively history refers to an explosivesladen horse-drawn wagon that radical anarchist Mario Buda detonated on Wall Street in September 1920. The carnage wrought by Buda's prototype vehicle-borne improvised explosive device-40 dead and 200 wounded-anticipated the frequent employment of powerful vehicular bombs through the rest of the 20th and into the 21st century. Davis describes a dozen or more criminal, terrorist, and guerrilla campaigns in which impoverished or marginalized elements used car bombs to destroy enemies and wreak havoc. The ubiquity of such bombs, Davis observes, reflects their lethality, their ease of production and deployment, and the inability of military and police forces to counter them effectively.

A leftist historian and social critic associated with the University of California, Irvine, Davis writes in the racy style of a pop journalist. Calling car bombs the "'poor man's air force' par excellence" and the "hot rod of the apocalypse," he reports that they have "proliferated across the planet like a kudzu vine of destruction." At times, however, Davis lapses into academic jargon: "The car bomb plus the cell phone plus the Internet together constitute a unique infrastructure for global networked terrorism that obviates any need for transnational command structure or vulnerable hierarchies of decision-making. …

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