I mentioned awhile back about a scam perpetrated on the Iraqi’s by a British con man in which he sold them fake boom detectors. The story is topical for two reasons, firstly that he’s been found guilty of fraud, although inevitably his sentence will be a fraction of what it should be (given the numerous deaths due to bombs that passed through check points thanks to his fraud).
However what is more relevant is reports that the Iraqi’s were still using these devices (a good two years after the fact that journalists at the BBC showed them to be little more than a dousing rod and a half baked con). This is despite numerous studies (by the US Army and MoD, which no doubt the Iraqi’s have seen, which show the devices don’t work and cannot possibly work. Their “operators” still cling to a belief that they must shuffle their feet “too build up static”, keep a claim mind (we’re talking bomb squad blokes here!) and that if they get a false positive its due to tooth fillings or petrol spills or something. I mean the Iraqi’s would be as well off dressing a guy up in a wizards robes, giving him a pointed hat, broomstick and wand and having him walk down the check point screaming “bomba detectous” for all the good it would do!
Such is the power of myth. The Iraqi’s were clearly under pressure due to the bombings during the insurgency. The bulk of terrorist bombs were not blowing up Americans but Iraqi civilians and security forces (it would seem that these Jihadi’s believed that murdering their fellow Muslims would please they’re god….while I don’t know alot about what the Koran says, I’m kinda doubting that!). They probably wished for some sort of magically device that could detect bombs. And surprise, surprise someone comes along and tells them what they want to hear.
No doubt that had they had the good sense to run the idea by a boffin over at Baghdad university, there is little doubt he would have told them what we now know – these devices don’t work, can’t work and you should arrest at once the criminal con artist trying to sell them to you. But such was the power of myth that they did not think to doubt these devices.
Now while bribery clearly oiled the wheels here, indeed there are a number in jail in Iraq over this affair. Not that this is any surprise given that Iraq is reputed to be awash with corruption. In the immediate aftermath of the American invasion many tens of billions of dollars literally vanished as a consequences of poor accounting an amateurish behaviour by Bush adm. So this bomb detector scam is probably just the tip of a fairly large iceberg.
But this sorry tale clearly shows how it is an unfortunate reality that humans will frequently choose comforting lies over harsh and inconvenient truths.