Bogus bomb detectors are still being used in Iraq five months after a British businessman who supplied the devices was found guilty of fraud.
More than 4,500 people are estimated to have been killed in Iraq – 979 of them in September alone – since James McCormick, a former policeman, was convicted at the Old Bailey in April. His trial heard that the devices he was selling, called ADE-651, were based on novelty golf-ball finders and had no scientific means of detecting explosives.
The Iraqi government promised after the trial that the fake detectors would be phased out. But they were still in use at checkpoints two days ago when 55 people were killed by bombs packed into cars in Baghdad. The responsibility for the attacks was claimed by an al-Qa’ida-linked group, which began its current campaign of violence around five months ago.
A journalist who has worked for The Independent in Iraq in the past, described his surprise at seeing the fake detectors each time he went back to Baghdad. Hassan Ali (not his full name, which has been withheld for security reasons) said from Baghdad: “Some of the junior ranks actually believe they work; more senior ones say it is better than nothing and acts as a deterrent… Some say that the first batch they got worked, the other ones that came later did not. Of course it’s all nonsense.”
Bad habits die hard. And there are sometimes collateral casualties. This is disappointing but unsurprising. I suspect it may be difficult to get the word out to the very end of the communication chain. I hope that it does happen. However, I suspect that those who still BELIEVE it works will continue to use it. I mean, look at all the precedence we have – dowsing has been tested over and over and fails, psychics fail, astrology fails, all sorts of divination is nonsense but still people cling to it as a security blanket.