Thaier Al-Sudani / Reuters An Iraqi policeman inspects a car with a bomb detector at a checkpoint after reopening a main street due to improvements in the security situation in Sadr city in northeastern Baghdad, April 28, 2012.

Iraq and the Big Swindle

Golf and the Troubling History of Baghdad's Fake Bomb Detectors

Adel Aljaf was a young, multitalented Iraqi man from Baghdad. He graduated from law school, released seven music videos, and was involved in a recent protest against corruption in Iraq. But his real passion was dancing. He wanted to perform in New York, and it seemed like he might get the chance. “In April, 2015, Battery Dance managed to get a grant from the Prince Claus Fund (Netherlands) to bring Adel from Baghdad to Amman,” Jonathan Hollander, the founder and the artistic director of Battery Dance, a New York-based dance company, posted on his Facebook page. “He trained…and performed in two festivals. He spread his radiant light and joy among us and everyone he met.”

But in July, as Adel was preparing to marry his fiancée, he was killed with 306 other Iraqis in a car bomb explosion in Baghdad. Most of the fallen were, like Adel, young Iraqi professionals. It was the deadliest blast in Baghdad’s history. The neighborhood where the explosion took place is devastated; two shopping malls that were hit by the car bomb are now packed with memorials.

While announcing his resignation after the bombing, the Iraqi minister of interior said the car had come from Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, which means that it would have passed through dozens of checkpoints outfitted with devices that supposedly detect explosives. And there were plenty to detect. Leaked documents related to the official investigation of the bombing state that the terrorists’ car had carried 550 pounds of explosives.

The tragedy seems senseless enough. Yet if anyone dared tell the families of Adel and those lost in Baghdad that the game of golf might be blamed for the carnage, their pain might be all the worse. In fact, a golf ball finder, a product called the Gopher, has turned out to be one of the world’s deadliest hoaxes.

The Gopher was introduced to the market in the 1990s. It is still available to eBay shoppers for $20. It is similar

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