Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb

Mike Davis

Historian Davis suggests that the current weapon of choice in most parts of the world has a long history. Opening with an Italian anarchist exploding a horse-drawn wagon filled with scrap iron on Wall Street in 1920, Davis traces the evolution of the “poor man’s air force” throughout the 20th century. Invoking George Orwell—using a simple weapon gives claws to the weak—he takes us on a whirlwind tour from 1940s Haifa and Jerusalem through Vietnam in the ’60s, Belfast in the ’70s, Beirut in the ’80s, London in the ’90s, and the “winged car bomb of 9/11” to Iraq. He suggests that car bombs, not threats of nuclear or bio-terrorism, are the agents of change for the shapes and lifestyles of cities.