Thursday, November 4, 2010

"This piece of junk did, in fact, signficantly contribute to an unknown -- and pathetically large -- loss of innocent lives."

You might want to sit down for a minute, because I have some shocking news: the explosives-detection equipment that the Iraqi interior ministry spent up to $85 million purchasing via shady no-bid contract, and which one American officer described as "nothing more than an explosives divining rod" that "works on the same principle as a Ouji board"... well, it doesn't detect explosives at all. That's not really the story, though, because most people already knew that: Americans have been warning Iraqi police that the device was useless for over a year, and the British government has imprisoned the manufacturer and banned further exports. But the Iraqis have continued to insist that the wand works, at least those Iraqis charged with making public statements on the matter. (A number of not-for-attribution quotes suggest that Iraqi policemen are more circumspect.) That is, until the Special Inspector General for Iraq's October report to Congress, in which the inspector general of the Iraqi Interior Ministry, Aqeel Al Turaihi, "reports that many lives have been lost due to the wands' utter ineffectiveness."

One might imagine that such a revelation would cause a wave of recriminations throughout the Iraqi government, and that things surely wouldn't end well for the guy responsible. After all, that's why you have an IG in the first place, right? Well, the Interior Ministry "shelved the report and quietly granted immunity to the official who signed the no-bid contracts," the Times reports. All of which is even more horrifying if you look back to January of this year, when the leader of Iraq's Supreme Board of Audit announced that the device's procurement would be investigated, with specific focus on those officials who had previously insisted to auditors that the equipment was technically sound. Or when you see the comments of Iraqi MP Ammar Tuma, a member of the parliament's Security and Defense Committee:
“This company not only caused grave and massive losses of funds, but it has caused grave and massive losses of the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians, by the hundreds and thousands, from attacks that we thought we were immune to because we have this device.”
It now appears that such an investigation either never took place or was successfully concluded, then ignored. We can say that there's a culture of impunity and corruption, that this kind of thing happens in the developing world, that people will always find opportunities to steal and enrich themselves in time of conflict. And all of that may be true, but it doesn't make it less appalling or noteworthy. Surely the failure to form a government in Baghdad has impacted the effectiveness of legislative oversight on matters like this, too.

I hope you'll click through the links and read about this if you missed it the first time around or don't remember the details, because the story is almost literally unbelievable.


  1. This would be comical if it weren't for all the people dying because of it. At least that guy is serving time for this.

  2. Christine O'Donnell's next gig???