Nuclear Deception: Pakistan, the U.S., and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons
August 20, 2010
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This harrowing book by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark (2007, Walker and Company) lays bare the myth that "atoms for peace" and nuclear weapons are -- or can ever be -- kept separate. This comprehensive telling of the story of A.Q. Khan follows Pakistan's "Father of the Bomb" from his initial obscurity, to stealing "civilian" uranium enrichment centrifuge blueprints from his Dutch workplace in the early 1970s, to developing the key part of the Islamic Republic's secret atomic weapons infrastructure (unveiled to the world in nuclear test blasts in 1998), to his central role in the Pakistani government's and military's extensive nuclear weapons blackmarket. This worst ever proliferation ring involved, at various times, the likes of Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea, Iraq, Iran, and Libya, as well as Western European, North American, Middle Eastern, and Malaysian suppliers; despite Khan's downfall in 2004, tentacles of this network may still be in operation! 

A recurring theme in the book -- very little reported, and perhaps even less appreciated -- is that, in addition to the U.S.-Pakistani military/political alliance (first aimed against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and for the past decade against the Taliban and Al Qaeda), which led to the U.S. government, at the highest levels, "looking the other way" as Pakistan first developed "the Muslim bomb," then sold it or gave it away for its own mercenary or even more sinister reasons, there was the commercial nuclear power dynamic. U.S. atomic firms had wares to sell in such places as China and North Korea. Such "atoms for peace" commerce led to the necessity of pretending not to know how out of control the bizarre atomic weapons bazaar had grown.

An especially egregious chapter occurred during the White House reign of Bush Sr., with Dick Cheney as Secretary of "Defense." To clear the way for an F-16 jet fighter sale to Pakistan's military -- worth several billions to such firms as General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin -- Cheney Pentagon and State Dept. henchmen, including Paul Wolfowitz and "Scooter" Libby, and their bureaucratic underlings, ruined the career and life of the top federal intelligence officer monitoring Pakistan's nuclear weapons capabilities. They did so to block him from doing his job and interferring with the executive branch's false mantra, that not only did Pakistan not have nuclear weapons, but the F-16 could not be adapted to launch Pakistan's non-existent nuclear weapons. The opposite, in fact, was true. Pakistan's arch nemisis, India, for one, knew better, although the U.S. Congress was kept in the dark, greasing the skids for approval of the F-16 transfer, despite U.S. laws prohibiting such sales to nuclear weapons rogue states like Pakistan.

Another frightening area this book covers is the very close ties between the likes of Osama Bin Laden, and numerous other Islamic terrorists at work in such places as Afghanistan and Kashmir, and the highest echelons of the Pakistani military and ISI (Inter Services Intelligence directorate, its secret police). But more frightening still are the documented instances of such ties involving the Pakistani atomic weapons establishment, including A.Q. Khan himself.

Nuclear Deception should not be confused with The Nuclear Power Deception: U.S. Nuclear Mythology from Electricity "Too Cheap to Meter" to "Inherently Safe" Reactors, another excellent must read by Arjun Makhijani and Scott Saleska (Apex Press, 1999).

Article originally appeared on Beyond Nuclear (http://www.beyondnuclear.org/).
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