Sunday, June 20, 2010

A) Magic Wand B) Bomb Detector C) Magic Wand Bomb Detector D) None of the Above

Every day people tell us to be careful. That's because every day the bombs going off across the country make it into the news. Many of them are in Baghdad. Most of them are car bombs. Just today 27 people were killed.

Officials have known for a very, very long time that stopping car bombs is a top priority. That's why they invested in expensive bomb detectors, and outfitted every checkpoint with them. When I say expensive, I mean more-than-the-price-of-your-car-expensive. They're between $20,000 and $60,000 a pop. And when I say every checkpoint, I mean the roadblocks that are set up about every ten feet or so. Seriously, it's hard to go more than a minute without encountering a checkpoint. That means every car driving through the city has dozens of opportunities to be sniffed out for TNT and other explosives that will turn the vehicle into a deadly inferno.

So why are there still so many car bombings?

This device has come to be known as the Magic Wand Bomb Detector. You don't need to be an explosives expert to know that any self-respecting bomb detector could never inspire you to want to say, "Abracadabra." You also don't need to be an explosives expert to question how it could possibly work when it looks like a squirt gun with a 1970s TV antenna sticking out of the barrel.

I won't keep you guessing. The device is total junk. The U.S. military determined about a year ago that the magic wand is just as likely to make a bunny materialize from thin air as it is thwart a suicide bomber heading to a shopping market near you. But that doesn't stop Iraqi policemen and soldiers from using it. Everywhere.

Here's video of a policeman in Samarra. If you watch very closely, you'll notice that the antenna swivels toward the truck. What does that mean? RUN! This truck is going to blow!

Of course, the truck isn't going to blow, and this policeman can't even be bothered to pretend anything is wrong. Usually when the antenna points toward your car, you get pulled over for a more extensive (read: waste of time) search. When one soldier was asked why dogs aren't used instead, he lamented turning Baghdad into a zoo. Better, then, to turn it into a morgue.

The only good news part of the story is that the head of the British company that made the device has been arrested for fraud.

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