For nearly a decade, anyone driving through one of Baghdad’s many checkpoints was subjected to a search by a soldier pointing a security wand at their vehicle and watching the device intently to see if its antenna moved. If it pointed at the car, it had supposedly detected a possible bomb.
The wands were completely bogus. It had been proven years ago, even before 2013 when two British men were convicted in separate trials on fraud charges for selling the detectors. The devices, sold under various names for thousands of dollars each, apparently were based on a product that sold for about $20 and claimed to find golf balls.
Yet the Iraqi government continued to use the devices, spending nearly $60 million on them despite warnings by U.S. military commanders and the wands’ proven failure to stop near-daily bombings in Baghdad.
It took a massive suicide bombing that killed almost 300 people in Baghdad on July 3 – the deadliest single attack in the capital in 13 years of war – for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to finally ban their use.