Friday, November 6, 2009

Blood money

There's one of those sad stories on Slashdot, today, illustrating the real purpose of the Iraq war...

It points to a New York Times story about how the Iraqi army is using, basically, divining rods to detect explosives at checkpoints. There's a predictable slew of comments attacking unscientific methods in general and dowsing in particular, uncited studies supposedly debunking unverifiable anecdotes, all of it illustrating the boundless arrogance of random people on the Internet. But what really strikes me is the price of these divining rods.

Apparently, the Iraqis buy them for anything between US$16,500 to US$60,000.

That's a lot of money for a stick.

And they bought them - 1500 of them, so far - from a British company. That is to say, from one of the occupying powers.

I don't know how much Britain has spent on the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Billions, I presume. So it's nice that they've got $50 million or so back like this. Except, of course, that the money came from the taxpayers, but the return is going into the pockets of private investors. In other words, it's yet another redistribution of cash from (everyone) to a very select group of people.

It'd be vastly more efficient, to say nothing of costing many fewer lives, simply to let them dip their hands in the till directly. Looked at in that light, the "MPs' expenses" business looks positively enlightened.

Personally, if someone offers me a dowsing-based bomb-detection system, I'm perfectly willing to listen. If they put on a good demo, I'll even set up some tests of my own. But I also have this belief, which I can't quite shake, in the concept of a "fair price" - something that is at least vaguely related to the cost of production. Don't tell me that price was set in a free market.


HiStandards said...

Having cared for injured employees of those "free enterprise" contractors who've made blood money in the wars fought for (what?) more blood money (IMHO), it all makes my personal blood boil.

Sure it's free trade, BUT the armed forces are still there to protect the company men who go back and forth. Tax dollars pay for that AND the soldiers are at risk while enterprise goes on and on and on...

The average guy who takes that job with Big Business, jumping at the opportunity to make bucks without paying income tax and is then injured in line of fire may have to be cared for and taken out of harm's way by our soldiers. Everyone is at risk, and it costs money. In the meantime, the dollar machine keeps churning.

Divining rods. Indeed. Dick Cheney must be so proud.

vet said...

Boiling blood is an entirely reasonable response.

I've come to realise that "war" and "capitalism" share a very close, very intimate relationship. Most wars, for the past 150 years or so, have been fought to secure either markets or raw materials for industry.

Sadly, nobody has yet discovered a peaceful economic system.