It is tempting to treat the jailing of fake bomb detector salesman James McCormick as comedy, so risible were his completely bogus detectors. Indeed, one day I have no doubt we shall be seeing a television film treating him as a lovable rogue; the con-man figure is the staple of many movie plots. He will probably be played by Alfred Molina.
But the seriousness of the case goes much wider than the fact that people have probably died as a result of the non-protection of his fake bomb detectors. This case speaks volumes about the Iraq the western armies have created. We are continually told the media that the war, justified on weapons of mass destruction – a much bigger con, killing far, far more people than Mr McCormick – is post hoc justified because at least we brought democracy to Iraq. What we brought, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, are the world’s most corrupt governments. According to the widely respected Transparency International, Iraq is the 169th most corrupt country in the world and Afghanistan the 174th. Out of 174.
It does not take a great deal of acuity to work out that McCormick’s bomb detectors – which contain no working electronics – are fakes. He did not succeed by persuading buyers they really worked. He succeeded by persuading Iraqi officers, officials and ministers to accept cash in return for buying rubbish with state funds – most of which funds were supplied by the American taxpayer.
But McCormick was just small beer. He was the unauthorised con. The authorised con involved more money by a factor of twenty million; it was a multi trillion dollar con involving entirely fake and planted evidence as a justification for a war in which millions were killed or maimed, the infrastructure of a modern country bombed back to the Middle Ages, and vast personal fortunes made in the arms, mercenary, military support, banking and oil industries.
Yes McCormick should be in jail. But those much, much more guilty are walking around, opening libraries and giving lecture tours.