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World View: Massive Bombing Attack in Baghdad Blamed on Bogus Bomb Detectors

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Iraq declares 3 days of national mourning after massive Baghdad bombing
  • Iraq orders police to stop using bogus ‘bomb detectors’
  • Former ambassador Jim Moriarty describes the dancing people of Bangladesh

Iraq declares 3 days of national mourning after massive Baghdad bombing

Aftermath of Sunday's bombing in Baghdad's Karrada district (EPA)
Aftermath of Sunday’s bombing in Baghdad’s Karrada district (EPA)

At least 125 people were killed and 200 wounded in two bombing attacks on Baghdad on Sunday. The first attack occurred when a large refrigerator truck packed with explosives blew up in a busy marketplace in the mostly Shia Karrada district of Baghdad, killing 120 people, and partially collapsing four buildings. The second attack occurred when a roadside bomb blew up hours later in a market in al-Shaab, another Shia district, killing at least two people. The so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) claimed credit for the attacks.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited Karrada to view the damage, and was greeted by angry rock-throwing crowds who blamed government corruptions and incompetence for the fact that it seems helplessly unable to prevent ISIS from striking anywhere, anytime, as desired. Later, al-Abadi announced three days of national mourning.

The bombings came about a week after Iraqi government forces recaptured the city of Fallujah, an ISIS stronghold near Baghdad. The Iraqi government had hoped that liberating Fallujah would increase security in the capital as authorities believed Fallujah was a launch pad for such attacks. In fact, ISIS has lost about half the territory it controlled as of about a year ago, but still can use suicide bombers to strike Baghdad at will. NRT (Iraq) and BBC and Rudaw (Iraq-Kurds)

Iraq orders police to stop using bogus ‘bomb detectors’

Six years ago, the Iraqi government learned that a manufacturer had been supplying the country with bogus “bomb detectors.” They came to be used and trusted by soldiers, police, border guards, and hotel security staff, and were (and are) used at security checkpoints, where they’re supposed to protect the public from suicide bombers by detecting bombs before they can be exploded.

Some reports indicate that Sunday’s bombing at Karrada was made possible because the bomber was not stopped at a security checkpoint because the bogus detectors did not set off an alarm.

So Sunday’s truck bombing can be blamed on the bomb detectors that have been known for years to be phony. So it was not until now, Sunday, that prime minister al-Abadi finally ordered police to stop using the so-called bomb detectors, which are little more than empty boxes containing electronics that do nothing.

The bomb detectors were a scam. A British businessman named James McCormick would buy novelty “golf ball detectors” for $20 each, changed the label, and sold them to the Iraq government as bomb detectors for $5,000 each. McCormick is thought to have made $75 million from the scam. He is currently serving a ten-year sentence in jail, after being convicted in 2013.

So why the hell are the Iraqi police still using them years after they were known to be pieces of junk? This is one of these stories that drives me completely crazy, but is so typical of what goes on today. Why did it take a massive truck bombing for al-Abadi to order the change?

I’ve seen this kind of credulity and duplicity repeatedly in the computer industry in the last 25 years. It’s perfectly obvious that a software development project is going to fail, and I say so to my manager and I get fired. You can say that I must have some obsessive compulsion to keep doing this, and maybe I do, but I’m always right, and every one of these projects crashed after I left. I wrote about some of this in my article “Healthcare.gov — The greatest software development disaster in history”.

What’s happening is that a software development manager with a project that’s going to crash doesn’t care that it’s going to crash. He just wants to keep the project going, get as much money for himself as possible, and then simply move on to the next project, after describing his experience on the project in glowing terms on his resume.

I also see the same kind of thing in financial media, including CNBC and Bloomberg. Ten years ago, during the housing bubble, I was telling people not to buy real estate, and all I got was grief. One friend who bought a house anyway actually blamed me when she lost everything, as if I’d caused the bubble to crash. The “experts” didn’t even admit that there had been a housing bubble until after it started crashing.

I’ve written repeatedly that the stock valuations are astronomically high, most recently last week ( “25-Jun-16 World View — Fallout from Brexit: Impact on geopolitics, economics, and stock markets”). But every day on CNBC and Bloomberg, you hear experts say that stocks are “underpriced.” I used to post the names of these people and call them liars and crooks, but nobody cares, so I don’t bother anymore. That’s the thing that never ceases to amaze me. People openly and blatantly provably lie about stock valuations on CNBC and Bloomberg, and nobody cares. It’s incredible.

And why shouldn’t they lie? No one is going to call them on it, except a nobody like me. And when the bubble bursts, they’ll just come back on and say, “Wow! That sure was a ‘black swan.’ Who could have seen that coming?” Incredibly, these experts have absolutely nothing to lose by lying, and everything to gain, and it’s just grief for anyone who calls them on it.

So let’s relate this back to the situation in Iraq. The Baghdad police have been using bogus “bomb detectors” for years, and everyone in the government knows that they’re bogus. Corruption runs deep in Baghdad, so probably a lot of people in government and in the police have made a lot of money reselling these bogus bomb detectors. So what if people’s lives are at stake? “If there’s ever a bombing, I’ll just say I didn’t know.” Better to let hundreds of people be killed than to tell the truth.

That’s the world we live in. Everyone in Washington, on Wall Street, in London, and elsewhere have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain by lying and defrauding people. If there’s a problem, they find a scapegoat like James McCormick.

Bankers created tens of trillions of dollars of phony subprime mortgage backed securities, with the result that millions of people lost their homes or went bankrupt. But barely a single person has gone to jail, even though the people who committed fraud are well known to the Justice Department. Why should the Obama administration prosecute anyone? These criminals have donated millions of dollars to Obama’s election campaigns and projects as payoff, so it’s better to be a criminal than to prosecute criminals. Meanwhile, the same bankers are still in their jobs in banks, still defrauding people, causing more people to go bankrupt and lose everything.

And that’s how the government officials in Baghdad undoubtedly feel. Al-Abadi has ordered that the police stop using the bogus devices, but the same Iraqi officials are all in the same jobs, finding new forms of corruption, and not caring in the least how many more people end up with their guts sprayed around a public market somewhere in Baghdad. Guardian (London-16-June) and Middle East Eye

Former ambassador Jim Moriarty describes the dancing people of Bangladesh

In the aftermath of the Friday overnight terror attack in Bangladesh’s capital city Dhaka, the BBC interviewed James F. Moriarty, America’s ambassador to Bangladesh, 2008-11. Here’s what he said (my transcription):

You’re talking about the eighth most populous country in the world, you’re talking about a country with probably 150 million Muslims, most of them pretty moderate in terms of their religion, and I think that’s why you’re seeing such a big emphasis from the external terrorist groups right now. They’re really want to see countries like Bangladesh or for example Indonesia come under a lot of stress, and see whether they can turn fairly moderate countries into bastions of support for extreme Islam…

I think in both cases it’s going to be fairly tough [for the terrorists]. Bangladeshis have a fairly strong sense of national identity. Part of that is Islam, but as I said it’s a fairly moderate form of Islam, and a large part of that is a Bengali nationalism, not necessarily tied directly into the sense of being an Islamic nation. It’s got traditions, it’s got singing, dancing, it’s got things that go back in history before the region became Muslim.

This is about as silly as you can get. Moriarty paints a picture of Bangladesh as a land of singing, dancing moderate Muslim Bengalis being invaded by terror groups like ISIS.

As I’ve written several times, most recently yesterday, there are two ethnic groups in Bangladesh, the dominant Bengalis and the subservient Biharis, and outcome of the bloody civil war of 1971. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of Biharis living in refugee camps in filthy conditions, with the largest camp just north of Dhaka. So Friday’s attack was from a local group of activist Biharis, inspired by ISIS. When these people see singing, dancing Bengalis, the visceral reaction would be to kill them, not join in the dancing.

At first I thought Moriarty was just another hack who had been given an ambassadorship in return for a campaign donation, but I looked up his background and it’s quite impressive. It’s almost certain that he knows that his statement is completely ridiculous.

If that’s true, then why did he do it? My guess is that it’s the same thing as the stock valuations or the bogus bomb detectors or crashing software projects. You can’t tell the truth because all you get is grief. But if you lie, then you get plush jobs and invitations to speak on the BBC.

In fact, just last month, he was appointed as the Bangladesh Country Director by the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, a platform of 28 North American retailers and brands. He will lead strategic oversight and outreach activities, with key stakeholders in Bangladesh’s Government, garment industry, and non-governmental and non-profit organizations. That’s his reward for lying. Apparel Resources (23-May)

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Iraq, Baghdad, Karrada district, Haider al-Abadi, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, Fallujah, James McCormick, Bangladesh, James F. Moriarty, Bengalis, Biharis
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