The case for reasonable doubtSome people find business opportunities in the misery of others. James McCormick, a former policeman in the United Kingdom, thought he could make big money by selling bomb detectors to Iraq, where people struggle with bomb attacks on a daily basis. His idea turned out to be profitable and he made a fortune.
McCormick named the bomb detector “ADE” for Advanced Detection Equipment. He supplied 1,500 units of a model named ADE-651 for three years to the Iraqi government and was paid a total of £52 million ($68.6 million).
If ADE had worked, Iraq should have seen fewer bomb attacks, but in reality, it didn’t help. Since 2007, more than 2,000 bombing attacks killed approximately 5,000 people in Iraq. On July 3, an attack in the commercial district of Karrada in Baghdad coordinated by Islamic State members resulted in the deaths of 281 people.
McCormick got inspiration from Gopher, a $20 golf ball detector sold in the United States in the 1990s. This device helped golfers find missing golf balls. But McCormick claimed that his product detected hazardous substances like explosives or drugs. He falsely claimed that when a card containing a target substance is inserted in his device, the antenna can detect the existence of that substance within a 600 meter (1969 feet) radius.
There was no room for reasonable doubt among Iraqi government officials. They were desperate — and needed a vehicle through which they could rake in kickbacks. After a nominal demonstration session, the Iraqi government decided to buy ADEs in large volumes. The device, which costs £150 to produce, was sold for as much as £25,000 per set. 75 percent of the money went to Iraqi officials, police and military as kickbacks. In 2013, McCormick was arrested by British police and his fraud came to an end. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail and is now in prison. As the myth of ADE was created by fraud and corruption, Iraq sacrificed the lives of its citizens and wasted a large amount of government money.
It is unreasonable to compare ADE and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system. They are different from the start. ADE was an outright fraud from the very beginning. A crook exploited Iraq’s desperate situation and its widespread corruption to his business benefit. Thaad is a weapons system created in the greater frame of global strategy called missile defense, or MD, by the U.S. government. Major defense contractor Raytheon produced the missile interception system in accordance with the U.S. government’s orders. But both ADE and Thaad were introduced without being used in actual situations.
Intercepting a missile can be compared to the miracle of shooting down a flying bullet. In fact, it is harder. The drop speed of missiles is 10 times the speed of sound and three times the speed of a bullet. Therefore, the theoretical effectiveness of Thaad is valid as it shoots at an enemy’s missiles high in the air, way before low-altitude Patriot PAC missiles would intercept them, which is in the final stage of their flight. But the problem is their effectiveness in real-life situations.
Though Thaad showed an over 90 percent success rate in performance tests, they were held in staged experiment conditions. There is also the fundamental issue of collateral damage being inevitable when the missile is successfully shot down but the warhead is not completely destroyed. The U.S. military and Raytheon considers an incomplete destruction of the warhead as “mission kill” if the trajectory is changed and the missile did not fall on the target area.
The actual situation needed to test Thaad is a war. While no one wants the Korean Peninsula to become a test site to verify the effectiveness of Thaad, it is the fundamental irony of the effectiveness of Thaad that no one can be sure of its validity until a war breaks out.
Theory and war are different things altogether. The United States lost the Vietnam War when it seemed theoretically impossible to lose.
Blind trust in science and an excessive trust in weapons could bring about a catastrophe. While it may seem futile, we should not stop having reasonable doubt over Thaad. If we choose convenient silence over reasonable doubt, we cannot completely rule out the possibility of repeating the fraudulent myth of ADE in Korea.
JoongAng Ilbo, August 2, Page 30
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.