The other day I mentioned that big bombings in Iraq can happen because security at many of the checkpoints is kind of a joke. Today, the New York Times give us a another punchline–the main device the Iraqis rely on to check cars for explosives don’t work.
The small hand-held wand, with a telescopic antenna on a swivel, is being used at hundreds of checkpoints in Iraq. But the device works “on the same principle as a Ouija board” — the power of suggestion — said a retired United States Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, who described the wand as nothing more than an explosives divining rod.
Still, the Iraqi government has purchased more than 1,500 of the devices, known as the ADE 651, at costs from $16,500 to $60,000 each. Nearly every police checkpoint, and many Iraqi military checkpoints, have one of the devices, which are now normally used in place of physical inspections of vehicles.
It’s funny, in that sad kind of Iraq way. But one of the headscratching sights for me at these checkpoints has been the Iraqi security forces pointing these magic wands at the cars–they’re new since the last time I was here, and even from a cursory glance, they seemed sort of silly and of dubious quality. And, as an Iraqi politician I spoke to said today: “The biggest evidence is that if these worked, the Americans would be using them!”