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The Hotrod of the Apocalypse:
Mike Davis’ Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb

[1]2,067 words

Czech translation here [2]

Editor’s Note:

This essay is taken from Dr. O’Meara’s new book Toward the White Republic.

“L’automobile, c’est la guerre.”
— Léon Daudet

Mike Davis
Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb [3]
London: Verso, 2007

The prototype of the apocalyptic hotrod was “Buda’s wagon.”

In September 1920, shortly after the arrest of two Italian anarchists (the soon-to-be-famous Sacco and Vanzetti), another Italian anarchist, Mario Buda, drove an old horse-drawn wagon across lower Manhattan, parking it at the corner of Wall and Broad streets, near the federal Assay Office and the J. P. Morgan building.

The ensuing explosion of this dynamite-filled wagon killed 40 passers-by and injured another 200, leaving a deep crater in the heart of New York’s financial district.

Given the hysteria of the period—a hysteria which saw every foreigner as a possible Bolshevik or anarchist—Buda’s wagon sent a shock wave through the panicked ranks of America’s ruling elites, prompting them to call a national emergency and intensify the government’s effort to round up and deport dangerous aliens.

For Mike Davis, Buda’s wagon was the prototype of what we now know as the car bomb: this inconspicuous urban vehicle able “to transport large quantities of high explosives into precise range of a high-value target.”

Through the introduction of this simple, revolutionary weapon, a “poor immigrant,” with some stolen dynamite, a pile of scrap metal, an old horse, and an old wagon, succeeded in terrifying the inner sanctum of both American capitalism and government.

Thus was born a technique whose subsequent impact would be nothing short of explosive.

* * *

Buda’s wagon was, however, ahead of its time. According to A Brief History of the Car Bomb, it had, like many new technologies, to await a more propitious era before its potential would be fully realizable.

Davis claims it was only after the barbarism of World War II’s strategic bombing that the car bomb came into its own—as a “poor man’s air force.” There were accordingly only a few sporadic cases of its use in the interwar period (1919–1939).

The first stage in the car bomb’s postwar development began in British-occupied Palestine, where the Stern Gang (with the same morality of American bombardiers) devised a truck bomb to destroy a police station in Haifa. Other Zionists then employed it to disrupt and demoralize first their British, then their Palestinian foes. These attacks did not go unanswered, for British deserters who joined the Arab cause, and then Palestinians themselves, devised, in turn, similar bombs to exact their own revenge.

In the course of the 1950s and ’60s, car bombs found their way into the arsenal of various national liberation movements, especially in Vietnam and Algeria. But it wasn’t until 1970 that a second, more lethal phase in the car bomb’s development was reached. In that year four student opponents of the Vietnam War exploded a car bomb outside the University of Wisconsin’s Army Mathematics Research Center, a military think tank.

Based on information acquired from a Wisconsin Fish and Game Department brochure, the students had learnt that a powerful homemade explosive could be made from ammonium nitrate fertilizer and fuel oil (ANFO).

Cheap to make from readily available materials and extremely potent, such ANFO bombs would “elevate urban terrorism from the artisan to the industrial level.”

This was immediately evident in Northern Ireland, where the Provisional wing of the IRA, in its war against the British Army of occupation, began using “the black stuff,” this new generation of ANFO explosives, to destroy much of Belfast’s business center.

The car bomb (or the truck, van, and, more recently, SUV bomb) was thereby transformed into “a semi-strategic weapon that under certain circumstances was comparable to air power in its ability to knock out critical urban nodes and headquarters as well as terrorize populations of entire cities.”

It’s since become a great equalizer in “the war of the flea.”

The most prominent example of this came with the Hezbollah truck bomb that blew up the US Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 241 US troops (the worst single-day loss since Iwo Jima) and forcing a humiliating American retreat from Lebanon.

In Davis’s view, the vehicle bomb prevailed, in effect, over “the combined firepower of the fighter-bombers and battleships of the US Sixth Fleet.” An equally brilliant victory soon followed in south Lebanon, where Hezbollah’s “ruthless and brilliant use of car bombs” forced the withdrawal of the Israeli Defense Forces.

Hezbollah was also responsible for introducing a third phase of the car bomb’s development—the suicide or Kamikaze car bomb, which has given it a distinct Levantine touch.

In a way perhaps somewhat more accordant with the white spirit, the IRA made a somewhat less spectacular but no less significant impact with the car bomb in the City of London, the world’s second largest financial center, where the deployment of such devices in the early 1990s caused $5 billion in damages, nearly ruining Britain’s insurance industry and forcing the British government to the negotiating tables with the hated rebels.

The IRA’s and Hezbollah’s successful deployment of the car bomb against the high-tech forces of Israeli, American, and British armies did not go unnoticed, as insurgents in other theaters of conflict, as well as established governments, started employing its bloody possibilities for their own uses. Not to be left out, criminal organizations, like the Italian mafia and the Medellín drug cartel, also got into the business.

This globalization of “semi-strategic” car-bombing also owed something to the CIA, which, through Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, taught such techniques to thousands of mujahidin in the course of the 1980s. These techniques applied in “Charlie Wilson’s War” and in subsequent terrorist struggles in the Mideast, Bosnia, Chechnya, Indonesia, the Philippines, and elsewhere eventually “blew back” to the First World, particularly Western Europe, which has been the scene not only of various indigenous nationalist terror attacks (by the IRA, the Basque ETA, the Corsican FLNC, etc.), but also by jihadists from Europe’s inassimilable Muslim immigrant communities.

In what earlier would have been referred to as festivals de plastique, jihadists learnt that Buda’s wagon had an extremely persuasive effect on “the Crusaders and the Jews.”

Though most of their attacks on US targets have been in the Third World, such as those carried out against embassies and large-scale hotels and resorts catering to Westerners, the US homeland has not been spared its grim horrors.

That arrogant symbol of American capitalism, the World Trade Center, was attacked twice by former CIA alumni, first in 1993 and then, more spectacularly, when the vehicle bomb was given wings, in 2001.

And, of course, there was the notorious (and suspicious) handiwork of Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City, which killed 168.

As this weapon of terror—whose explosive capacity is often the equivalent to a B-24 bomb load—was globalized, its frequency and lethality have correspondingly grown, making it “the quotidian workhorse of urban terrorism.”

In Davis’s assessment, the successful globalization of the car bomb was due to its numerous advantages. For example, it’s an ideal stealth weapon, capable of inflicting enormous damage to property and human life. In addition to its powerful destructive impact on those it aims to harm, it is sensational in advertising the causes supported by “poor or marginal groups” without alternative means to propagate their cause. It’s easily made with readily available and relatively cheap materials, and it leaves minimal forensic evidence. At the same time, it’s operationally simple, creates turmoil and confusion in the enemy’s camp, inflicts high costs, and distracts security forces from other operations. And like the aerial bombardments of the great powers, it is “indiscriminate” in killing innocent civilians and spreading terror through targeted populations, becoming, in the process, what Régis Debray calls “manifestos written in the blood of others.”

This latter feature of the car bomb, Davis claims, makes it “an inherently fascist weapon,” leaving its perpetrators “awash in the blood of innocents.”

I thought this a somewhat unexpected “moral” judgment coming from a “tenured radical” favoring Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution, for the “morality” of the car bomb, as he himself shows, is not at all a matter of black and white. As the IRA reminds its English critics, the Royal Air Force killed more innocent people in any single raid over Hamburg, Berlin, or Dresden than Irish republicans have in the last 200 years, confirming, among many other things, the adage that one man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist.

With greater authority, Davis claims that the most important facet of the car bomb has been its “enfranchisement of marginal actors in modern history.”

In this sense, it has imbued weak, poorly equipped groups with a powerful weapon to promote their cause and humble their opponents, just as it gives “sharper claws” to resistance organizations with significant popular support, like the IRA and Hezbollah. At the same time, it is politically “neutral.” It’s been used by right and left-wing revolutionaries, by gangsters, by the foreign hordes occupying our lands—by the Mossad and the CIA, as well as by the IRA and the NVA.

It already figures prominently in contemporary “fourth generation” or “asymmetrical warfare.”

Combined with cell phones, the internet, and those international conduits that come with globalization, the car bomb seems now to be speeding us into a possible apocalyptic future, where all the traditional rules of engagement are being rewritten to accommodate the nightmare world our globalizing elites have dreamt up.

These car-bomb weapons (termed VBIED or Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices by the Pentagon) have stimulated numerous countermeasures, even in the metropolis, where streets to potential targets, such as Pennsylvania Avenue or Downing Street, are closed off; where Jersey barriers around key structures are installed; and where “rings of steel” surround city centers, transforming “urban geography into archipelagos of heavily guarded fortresses,” like Baghdad’s Green Zone, Belfast’s reconstructed business center, or Saigon’s former US comfort zone, Long Binh. These “gated communities” are now forcing car bombers to seek out softer targets—like markets or public transportation—which means civilian causalities are inevitably rising in the new theaters of war.

Davis predicts that “the car bomb probably has a brilliant future,” for “nihilism, if systematic, works.”

The next laser-guided missile falling on some distant village in any one of America’s expanding theaters of war may, indeed, turn out to be the motive of a future car bomber heading toward a Main Street near you.

Though proletarian in the negative way that gentile Marxists are, Davis nevertheless has a taste for the apocalyptic, even if it’s more Biblical than archeofuturist.

Attributing the spread of car bombs to globalization and making passing reference to the work of John Robb, his largely descriptive work is, however, at best suggestive, neglecting some of the more interesting aspects of the history he chronicles.

Of the things I think he misses most (or doesn’t care about) are the civilizational and ethnoracial character of the asymmetrical wars in which car bombs play a leading role. For it’s not just that globalization has facilitated the spread of VBIED techniques and that its social-economic changes have destabilized traditional societies, making them conducive to their deployment.

More important from our perspective are the ethnocultural dynamics of globalization: the international labor markets, the dissolution of borders, Third World race replacement, the weakening of the nation-state, the undermining of traditional identities and institutions, and everything else threatening the cultural-genetic heritage of European-descended peoples. For, contrary to the integration, inclusion, and benevolence imputed to it by our transnational elites, globalization is creating cultural, religious, and ethnoracial mixes that are inherently explosive, making the car bomb’s murderous civilian-killing capacities increasingly pertinent to the type of inter-communal struggles fostered by its radical destructurations.

It seems hardly coincidental that Buda’s descendants today target not just America’s or Israel’s imperial legions, but rival ethnicities and communities: in Corsica and Bosnia, in regions where Sunnis and Shiites are in proximity and thus at loggerheads, in the Philippines and Nigeria between Christians and Muslims, in Sri Lanka between Tamils and Sinhalese, in the Caucasus between Russians and Chechens, etc.

“The sorts of massacres, ethnic cleansing, pogroms, and genocide such Fourth Generation wars usually involve” (William Lind) have—unsurprisingly—made the car bomb a weapon of choice for many asymmetrical warriors.

* * *

As more and more American whites are forced into the fast lane of this new world order, it seems not at all unreasonable to think that they too will eventually catch a ride in the apocalyptic hotrod.

TOQ Online, September 27, 2009