Stop calling the Boston Bombs “IEDs”
As of this writing, there’s little known about the bombs used to attack the Boston Marathon Monday, other than that they were “unsophisticated” and “homemade.” But there are quite a few people who want to call the devices used “IEDs,” and this – while the suspects are still unidentified by name and at large – seems incredibly dangerous.
Before you decide to Google the definition of “IED” and tell me I’m wrong, let me just tell you that I joined the U.S. Army shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, and took many mandatory classes in IED detection and response. IEDs have been one of the most lethal countermeasures U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have faced, and countless soldiers have occupied Walter Reid Medical Center and other military hospitals after having been maimed by these devices. Many others never made it to any hospital and were killed outright.
An IED is an “improvised explosive device,” and the acronym is typical of the military’s hatred of specificity and love of capital letters. An “explosive device” means any bomb, so let’s leave that part out of the equation for how. “Improvised” means built out of materials at hand. So on a technical level, the bombs used to attack the Boston Marathon were in fact IEDs.
But so was the one Timothy McVeigh used to attack the federal building in Oklahoma City. So were the ones Ted Kacyznski mailed to his targets. So was the one that blew up Apollonia in the first Godfather movie. We simply don’t refer to white people bombs as “IEDs,” even if the term technically applies.
The point is, the term “IED” is a technical military term that the public only knows in the context of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. IEDs are what “terrorists” use to attack US troops in convoys – they’re made with what the military calls UXO: unexploded ordnance. That means old mines and artillery rounds left over from the last war fought there.
Referring to the Boston bombs as “IEDs” adds precisely no information to the story – only innuendo. If you don’t believe me, check out this headline from the UK’s Daily Mail.
Calling the pressure cooker bombs used to attack the Boston Marathon IEDs serves only to feed the public desire to pin this crime on a very specific group of people – Arab Muslims. Never mind that all American Muslim groups have issued press releases denouncing the attack as a crime against humanity; using “IED” to describe the devices used in Boston serves only to pin the attacks to a group of people who we seem to have very little difficulty hating.
With each hour that goes by since the bombing, the likelihood of a foreign terrorist group being involved decreases. And now that the FBI has narrowed the suspects down to people who apparently live within US borders, let’s keep track of how often the Boston Bombs are called “IEDs” henceforth.