Friday, July 10, 2009


An Atlantic correspondent on IEDs (improvised explosive devices).

It's hard to appreciate how devilish these devices are until you watch one blow. I first saw a controlled explosion of an IED ten years ago, when I worked at The Cambodia Daily. An occasional trick among Phnom Penh goons was to rig up one of the country's millions of scattered landmines and put it under a rival's tire, to be driven over when he pulled out of his parking spot. The rival spotted the device, and hours later a bomb squad came and detonated it in situ with spectators gathered a few blocks away. I expected a loud firecracker-boom, followed by a little puff of dust and golf claps from the assembled onlookers. Instead, the boom arrived like a thief, stealing my senses from two hundred meters, rattling my eyes in their sockets, and flinging a huge cloud of dust and sand over me and the rest of the fleeing crowd. It was, quite simply, a concentration of force unlike anything most of us have ever seen, unless we work in demolitions.

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