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Sunday, October 14, 2012

DECEPTION: Pakistan, the United States and the Global Nuclear Weapons Conspiracy

DECEPTION: Pakistan, the United States and the Global Nuclear Weapons Conspiracy

Reviewed by Christina Lamb

Times Online

In the mid-1990s, I was at a wedding in Islamabad when a buzz went round about a very special guest. None of the ministers and generals present was causing the stir. Instead, holding court under an awning, was a tall man in a suit with greying hair, undistinguished yet with a superior air.

“It’s AQ Khan,” somebody whispered. “The father of our bomb.” At that time, Pakistan had not yet exploded its first nuclear bomb (that came in 1998), but most Pakistanis believed they had the technology to do so. For a country with a huge inferiority complex, the idea of matching India, its far larger neighbour and rival, made Abdul Qadeer Khan eclipse even its cricket stars as a hero. Yet, since 2004, Khan has been under house arrest, forced to confess to selling nuclear know-how and parts to rogue states.

Nobody seriously believed President Musharraf’s claim that Khan was acting alone. Not only was there the well-documented use of military C-130 planes to transport the parts to Iran, Libya and North Korea, but also the sales trips led by army chiefs such as General Beg. Pakistan’s nuclear facility at Kahuta was a no-go area under heavy military guard. Unsurprisingly, Khan has been kept away from interrogators from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Deception is not the first book to piece together a story that starts in the 1970s, when Khan was a metallurgist in Holland, disgruntled by being rejected for a number of jobs back home in Pakistan. Determined to be noticed, he returned in December 1975 with three suitcases of stolen top-secret blueprints for a new process to arm a nuclear bomb.

Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark tell this tale better than their predecessors, however, and with an added twist. The story of how one country used theft, lies and fraud to build a nuclear bomb then started selling it on, would be alarming enough, particularly in the Islamic world. But when that country is also the West’s key ally in the region, you have to wonder – with friends like these, who needs enemies? Pakistan’s nuclear programme was started by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, one of the country’s few democratically elected leaders, who pledged, “we will eat grass if we have to” in order to build a bomb. He was ousted in 1977, and the project was taken over by the military, in particular ISI, the military intelligence. When Bhutto’s daughter Benazir became prime minister in 1988, it was on condition that the military retained full control of the nuclear programme.

If Bhutto was in the dark, Washington was not. In 1979, when the Russians invaded Afghanistan, Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, decided that it was more important to defeat the Soviets (with Islamabad on side) than to worry about Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation. This book makes clear that every subsequent administration has turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions and trading – even when it involved the offer of nuclear warheads to Iraq, Iran and Saudi and Osama bin Laden. Worse, those who tried to tell Congress the truth were discredited, including the Pentagon analyst Richard Barlow who saw his career and marriage destroyed when he was falsely labelled an alcoholic and a spy. Whenever Washington comes near to confronting Pakistan, something happens to make Pakistan’s friendship crucial. So it was after 9/11, when Musharraf convinced the West that he was their greatest ally in the war on terror.

Why Richard Barlow is living in a trailor 

'They sold out the world for an F-16 sale' 

As this July 7 Washington Post article recounted, Barlow is not a happy camper, even though he lives in one.

To excerpt briefly:

Once a top intelligence officer at the Pentagon who helped uncover Pakistan’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, Barlow insisted on telling the truth, and it led to his undoing.

He complained in 1989 that top officials in the administration of President George H.W. Bush — including the deputy assistant secretary of defense — were misleading Congress about the Pakistani program. He was fired and stripped of his security clearances. His intelligence career was destroyed; his marriage collapsed.

“This case has been put before the Congress to right a wrong, and for various reasons, they’ve failed to do it,” said Robert Gallucci, dean of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and an expert in nonproliferation. “It’s infuriating.”

Gallucci has known Barlow since the late 1980s, when Barlow was tracking the work of A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani scientist amassing materials to produce nuclear weapons. Some of the men setting policy at the Defense Department at the time of Barlow’s firing — Stephen J. Hadley, Paul D. Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney — resurfaced in the current Bush administration, which Democrats and others have accused of shaping intelligence on the Iraq war to fit political goals.

Barlow’s intelligence work began at the CIA, where he analyzed nuclear programs in other countries. He contributed to the National Intelligence Estimates and presented findings to national security agencies, the White House and congressional committees. He received the CIA’s Exceptional Accomplishment Award in 1988.

The next year, he became the first intelligence officer for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, charged with analyzing nuclear weapons developments involving foreign governments. He answered to Gerald Brubaker, the acting director of the Office of Non-Proliferation. Supervising Brubaker was Victor Rostow, the principal director. Rostow reported to Deputy Assistant Secretary James Hinds, who reported to Assistant Secretary Stephen J. Hadley.

At the time, the government was poised to sell $1.4 billion worth of new F-16 fighter planes to Pakistan to help the mujaheddin fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. But Congress, through two laws passed in 1985, had forbidden the sale of any equipment that could be used to deliver nuclear bombs.

Barlow wrote an analysis for then-Secretary Dick Cheney that concluded the planned F-16 sale violated this law. Drawing on detailed, classified studies, Barlow wrote about Pakistan’s ability, intentions and activities to deliver nuclear bombs using F-16s it had acquired before the law was passed.

Barlow discovered later that someone rewrote his analysis so that it endorsed the sale of the F-16s. Arthur Hughes, the deputy assistant secretary of defense, testified to Congress that using the F-16s to deliver nuclear weapons “far exceeded the state of art in Pakistan” — something Barlow knew to be untrue.

In the summer of 1989, Barlow told Brubaker, Rostow and Michael MacMurray, the Pakistan desk officer in charge of military sales to Pakistan who prepared Hughes’s testimony, that Congress had been misled.

Within days, Barlow was fired.

“They clearly didn’t want the nonproliferation policy to get in the way of their regional policy,” Gallucci said. “They were worried someone like Rich [Barlow], in his stickler approach, would insist that if there’s going to be testimony on the Hill about the F-16 aircraft, that the answers be full and truthful. He was a thorn in their side, and they went after him. And they did a very good job of screwing up his life.”

It was not until 2002 (when an Iranian exile group revealed that Iran had been building two secret nuclear sites including an advanced facility to enrich uranium to weapons grade) that intelligence known to the CIA for more than a decade was forced into the open. The Iranian plant had been kitted out by Pakistan, which was also sending teams to Pyongyang – despite claiming to have ceased this trade. Even then the Bush administration helped Musharraf finesse the scandal, blaming it all on Khan.

The book’s overall thesis is not new, nor are there any really shocking revelations. The missing voice is that of Khan. But the authors have carried out some fascinating interviews, which, combined with the sheer weight of detail, give by far the most readable and authoritative picture to date. One of the most astonishing episodes was in 1993, when Benazir was prime minister for the second time and agreed to visit North Korea to ask for Nodong missiles, at Khan’s request. She stammered with nerves as she requested “a favour” from President Kim over a state banquet of chestnuts and steamed fish. She left with a bag of computer disks to pass on to her military.

Deception paints a picture of a duplicitous country where civilians have no control. Yet when I spoke to a senior Pakistani official who I thought would be annoyed by the book, he replied, “No, it made me proud.”

For anyone who worries about the future, this really is a volume to keep you awake at night.

DECEPTION: Pakistan, the United States and the Global Nuclear Weapons Conspiracy by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark
Atlantic £25 pp586

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