George Bush's solution to the Iraq intelligence scandal--a new "bipartisan" investigative panel, whose members, appointed by Bush, are neocons and Democratic pro-war hawks--will probably be a whitewash, but the panel is serving a useful purpose for the Bush administration: it's distracting the media and the public from hearing the details about the worst case in modern history of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has, in recent weeks, uncovered the shocking revelation that Pakistan, the US' long-time ally, has sold nuclear technology and equipment to Libya, North Korea, and Iran. General Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani President, has been quick to blame the head scientist in Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, as a lone agent selling information for personal gain. But the truth is far more disturbing.
Pakistan's trade in secret weapons technology has been going on since at least the 1980s. Pakistani and British newspapers have listed some of the details, including former Prime Minister Benazir Butto's trip to North Korea in 1994, where she traded nuclear weapons blueprints for medium-range missile technology at the request of the Pakistani army chief of staff. WMD experts and Pakistani political analysts say that the Pakistani military, which has effectively run the country since independence, has always kept tight control over the facilities where Dr. Khan worked and would've had knowledge of his activities, if not actually signed off on them. News has leaked that nuclear centrifuges were shipped to Libya on Pakistani military cargo planes.
Dr. Khan, for his part, confessed last week that three consecutive chiefs of staff of the Pakistani army were involved in approving the trade in nuclear weapons technology with North Korea. This includes Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's current president. In a move to silence Khan, Musharraf asked him to sign a confession--under duress, according to Khan's family and opposition politicians--and then Musharraf pardoned Khan from prosecution. A trial would bring out the dirty details and expose the full extent of Pakistani government and military complicity in arming its trading partners in violation of international treaties.
Has George Bush called for the removal of Gen. Musharraf from power in Pakistan? Has he called him a grave and impending threat to international security? Of course not. Musharraf is perceived as the only bastion against a growing Islamic fundamentalist movement in Pakistan. As a secular government, albeit one with an atrocious human rights record, Pakistan is deemed a valuable ally in fighting the resurgent Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan, in spite of the Pakistani military's history of having fostered the Taliban, and current suspicions that it could be doing more to clamp down on them now. The Pakistani military's bloody record in suppressing the Kashmiri separatist movement argues for a capability that it hasn't shown regarding Taliban recruiters who now have free run of Pakistani border towns and villages.
None of this serves as an adequate excuse for allowing Pakistan to sell proscribed and highly dangerous technology. The Reagan administration knew that Pakistan was building a nuclear weapon in the early 1980s, as a secret State Department briefing memo date June 23, 1983, can attest. The Clinton administration slapped sanctions on Pakistan when it tested its first nuclear bomb in May 1998, and US intelligence analysts have known for some time that Pakistan's medium-range missiles are based on North Korean technology. As recently as late 2002 and early 2003, US officials confronted Pakistan with evidence that North Korean nuclear technology was based on Pakistani designs.
But instead of declaring a war against the real purveyor of WMD, the Bush administration lifted sanctions against Pakistan in 2002, in the hopes of using Pakistan as a base to stage the war against Afghanistan. The Bush administration then went on to give the Pakistani government millions in US taxpayer funds: $375 million in 2003, and the current budget for the 2004-5 fiscal year would increase that amount to a staggering $700 million.
To reward a nation that's done more than any other to arm Bush's "Axis of Evil" highlights the enormous hypocrisy of George W. Bush's entire foreign policy and makes a complete lie of Bush's program of preemptive war. It reveals that the Bush administration could care less about WMD and international security. The new panel Bush has appointed should not examine US intelligence services--they've been doing their job quite adequately in regards to Pakistan, the real WMD threat--but the Bush administration's terrible mismanagement and misuse of the United States' whole foreign policy apparatus.
Sources for this article: "Musharraf knew I was selling secrets, says nuclear scientist," James Astill, The Guardian, 2/4/04, http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,4850959-103595,00.html
"Musharraf named in Nuclear Probe," John Lancaster and Kamran Khan, Washington Post, 2/3/04, p. A13, http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A6884-2004Feb2?language=printer
"Dr. Qadeer 'forced' to give statement," The Dawn (Pakistan), 2/6/04, http://www.dawn.com/2004/02/06/nat9.htm
"Pakistan's Nuclear Crimes," WP, 2/5/04, p. A20, http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A14272-2004Feb4?language=printer
"Pakistan Caught in a Web of Evidence," Douglas Frantz, Paul Watson, and Mubashir Zaidi, Los Angeles Times," 2/3/04
"ARD planning to launch remove-Musharraf drive," The Dawn, 2/6/04, http://www.dawn.com/2004/02/06/nat2.htm
"After the apology," The Dawn, 2/6/04, http://www.dawn.com/2004/02/06/ed.htm
"$700 million US funding likely," The Dawn, 2/5/04, http://www.dawn.com/2004/02/05/top12.htm
"Pakistanis Question Official Ignorance of Atom Transfers," David Rohde, New York Times, 2/3/04
watchdog to persist in inquiry despite Pakistani refusals,"
Agence France Presse, 2/6/04.