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War and Virility

The Humvee Style

The Humvee, the emblematic utility vehicle of the US Army since the Persian Gulf War, is currently being sold in its civilian version by General Motors and has become an indispensable accessory for nationalist millionaires. Originally conceived for out of combat movement, the Humvee is used in Iraq to carry troops but it seems too vulnerable even in its armored version. The Iraqi resistance has learned how to destroy it and US soldiers are already afraid of using it.

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After integrating in its prediction model the latest data about the non exploitation of “giant” oilfields (those than can produce more than 500,000 oil barrels per day) planned until 2007, the ASPO (Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas) has just finished revising its predictions and evaluating the peak date for 2008, with a global production decrease starting in 2010. In this context, part of the automobile industry shows signs of adapting although they are not enough to avoid necessary sacrifices. However, at least they are becoming aware of the phenomenon: with the war in Iraq in full swing, the last automobile exhibition in Paris was dedicated to the hybrid models in spite of the evident preference that consumers show for four-wheeled motor “gluttons”. Growth loves excess and the latter is expensive in energy terms.

From the Army to the Civilian Population Thanks to Television

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Arnold Schwartzenegger, seller of Hummers before becoming Governor of California

In this category of vehicles, the undisputable king - for its power and its size - also enjoys a particular status that guarantees an increasing success while the United States, the only country where it is currently sold, deploys its army across strategic zones around the world.

Ironically, oil wars effectively offer the Hummer [1] free publicity through their news casts and reports about the occupation and combats in Iraq. In a country that, let us not forget, currently consumes 25% of the world oil production and imports 65% of its domestic consumption, driving around the four tons of steel of a Hummer that usually consumes more than 25 liters of gas per every 100 kilometers is a way to say, since the Gulf War in 1991 and its first appearance in television screens, that this “way of life” is not “negotiable”.

A worthy successor of the jeep, whose image will also remain linked to World War II and who civilian version also had certain success, the Humvee has become the symbol of the war against Iraq. Mobility and high speed give it a privileged place in the occupation war unlike the Abrahms tank that would probably be more frequently seen in a conventional conflict.

In 1983, the AM General department of the LTV Aerospace firm (currently AM General Corporation) was granted a contract to deliver the first lot of 55,000 Humvees to the US Army in a five-year period, with the possibility of a 100% extension of the contract every year.

In 1985, the Humvee officially substituted the Jeep as the regular utility vehicle of the US Army which today has 140,000 of them - 19,000 in Iraq. The Humvee has also been given a role in “homeland defense”: outfitted with the ultra-sophisticated Avenger air defense system, it is used to guard the White House, the Pentagon and other official buildings in Washington [2]. After the Gulf War, an upgraded version - better adapted to the conditions of the desert - went into service.

The Humvee became known to the public thanks to the extreme media coverage of the Gulf War, mainly by CNN, in 1991 [3]: Hypnotized by the images of the vehicle crossing the dunes of Kuwait, hundreds of people flooded the main offices of the AM General with phone calls asking for the sale of a civil version of the Humvee. In 1992, the company offered its first model, the Hummer H1, an identical “demilitarized” version of the Humvee with the same features (V8 6.5-liter diesel engine, 37-inch wheels, and a payload capacity of two tons).

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“Tuning” Version of the Civilian Model

In 1999, AM General sold the rights to the civilian and military version to General Motors. Which, in order to get advantage of the publicity effect of the Iraq invasion in the spring of 2003, on the following summer launched a new civilian version: the smaller Hummer H2 - built off the bones of the Chevy Tahoe - whose only similarity with the military version is its outside aspect with its flattened nose and its straight lines.

One thousand Hummer H1s have thus far been sold, mainly to movie stars, pro athletes and rich ranchers as it is very expensive - around 90,000 dollars (some 60,000 euros) - while more than 50,000 Humvees of the new version have been sold for around 50,000 dollars each.

Methods Used to Eradicate the Invasion of Humvees in Iraq

Referring to the crucial role of this vehicle in the ground forces, John Gresham, a military analyst and co-author along with Tom Clancy of the book Special Forces, was categorical: “Eliminate the Humvee and you will globally reduce to its half the mobility, usefulness, and deployment capacity of the US Army”. And the Iraqi resistance seems to have understood it too.

The resistance has thus concentrated its efforts in trying to destroy the Humvees that can frequently be seen in Iraqi cities, specially taking into account that not all of them have an armor, according to the army, capable of withstanding a 12-pound land mine in the front or a four-pound mine in the back.

Without noticing these details, the resistance members generally use 155-milimiter howitzers that they bury at the sides or in the middle of the roads. These artifacts are generally US-made warheads that did not explode during the bombings and that the resistance has recovered.

They disarm the detonator and replace it with C-4 military explosive, for example, - that has been kindly left at their disposal in unwatched military deposits - before incorporating an electronic detonator (a mere toy today) operated through a wire or by remote control).

The result, as you can see in the video that you can download to your PC (see end of the article), is devastating with a minimum cost and risks for the attackers. Everything else is a matter of synchronization. In this regard, the experience and skills acquired by the resistance thanks to their little exposure to the enemy fire constitute an important tactical advantage.

The RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) is another symbol of this war of ambushes, mush less shown by media but deadlier than the Humvee. This Russian-made weapon - versatile, unsophisticated and safe - is, some say, easier to find in Iraq than the Kalachnikov AK-47 assault rifle, although the latter spread since the Iran-Iraq war.

The RPG can launch a load that can penetrate armors or a fragmentation warhead for anti-personal use, etc. Its easy way to use, as seen in this video of a surprise attack in an urban zone where the shooter seems to be positioned behind a window (see at the end of the article), leaves few chances to those under attack.

It is evident that the US soldier in the gun turret of the Humvee is very exposed, whether or not he has lateral armored sheets to improve his protection.

It is not difficult to realize, after seeing these examples, up to what point the fire power of the occupier becomes an illusion in this kind of conflict [4] . With an organized logistics and command network, the Iraqi resistance could multiply its actions, which currently go over 100 per day across the entire country.

In retaliation, the US Army frequently launches mass bombings against urban areas which encourages more people to join the resistance until the lack of ammunitions force them to limit their actions.

It seems, however, that the number of weapons in Iraq is enough for another decade of resistance as a result of the Iran-Iraq war and the military ideology of the Baas party that armed the country to the teeth.

The increasing number of US casualties in ambushes also quickly undermined the morale of US troops. Unlike a situation when a soldier can use his skills in a conventional fight, his possibilities to defend himself when he is driving along a road inside a vehicle are limited.

At the beginning of the invasion, only a fourth of the 19,000 Humvees stationed in Iraq were up-armored as they were built after 1996 and after the M1114 new model - with an extra ton of steel sheets - went into service. The lack of protection of the other vehicles quickly became a cause of discontent among the troops, which led to the urgent delivery of additional armor plating from the United States.

However, it was a temporary solution as the Humvee was never conceived as a real armored vehicle but as a utility one, like the Jeep. Currently, all Humvees lacking armor plating are banned from leaving their bases in Iraq unless they are transported by trucks [5] .

However, according to recent news, many US soldiers are forced to reinforce their vehicles with steel sheets they pick up in the battle field as indicated in a new counterinsurgency handbook [6] , something of which they have not hesitated to complain to Donald Rumsfeld.

Let us do a quick calculation. If they admit that a fourth of the US fatal combat casualties (250 dead soldiers) could have been avoided if all Humvees had been properly armored since the beginning for an extra cost of 450,000,000 (900 Humvees without armor multiplied by the 50,000 dollars that the armored version costs), it means that the Pentagon thought it was not necessary to spend 1,800,000 dollars for each soldier life whose death could have been avoided since the first moment.

There is no other choice than blaming that decision on the weak recuperation of the investment generated by war (difficulties in the exploitation of oil, etc.).

Taking into account the tactics of the resistance and the widespread use of the Humvee in Iraq, its production had to be increased up to 450 vehicles a month (compared to 20 at the beginning of the war).

The Humvee, initially destined to replace the Jeep as a multiple-use out-of-combat vehicle, is increasingly being used as a means of transportation for troops although it does not guarantee the necessary protection. However, it allows to occupy the territory very quickly, something that is a priority for the Pentagon. So, it was not surprising that the CBS network announced in its program 60 Minutes that 5,500 US career military people have already deserted since the invasion began in March 2003.

The images that accompany this article come from different Iraqi resistance groups. Their exhibition here, out of its original context, aims only at illustrating our opinion about the vulnerability of the Humvee.

[1] Hummer literally means “bumblebee” due to the humming that is typical of high power diesel engines. The military version is known as “Humvee”, a name that corresponds to the pronunciation of HMMWV (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle).

[2] “Persian Gulf star Humvee back in spotlight”, by David Kiley, USA Today, March 23, 2003

[3] See “L’effet CNN”, by Thierry Meyssan, Voltaire, May 19, 2003

[4] For a more detailed analysis of these aspects, see article “Opération Phénix”, by Arthur Lepic, Voltaire, November 16, 2004

[5] Facts on Humvee Armor Big Media Ignores, Free Republic, October 12, 2004

[6] See “L’économie de la guerre en Irak”, by Arthur Lepic, Voltaire, November 24, 2004

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