FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How the U.S. Has Secretly Backed Pakistan’s Nuclear Program From Day One

by ANDREW COCKBURN

“If the worst, the unthinkable, were to happen,” Hillary Clinton recently told Fox News, “and this advancing Taliban encouraged and supported by Al Qaeda and other extremists were to essentially topple the government … then they would have keys to the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan.”  Many will note that the extremists  posing this unthinkable prospect were set up in business by the U.S. in the first place.  Very well buried is the fact that the nuclear arsenal that must not be allowed to fall into the hands of our former allies has been itself the object of U.S. encouragement over the years and is to this very day in receipt of crucial U.S. financial assistance and technical support.

Back in 1979, Zbigniew Brzezinski, intent on his own jihad against the USSR, declared that  the “Afghan resistance” should be supplied with money and arms.  That, of course, required full Pakistani cooperation, which would, Brzezinski underlined, “require a review of our policy toward Pakistan, more guarantees to it, more arms aid, and, alas, a decision that our security policy toward Pakistan cannot be dictated by our nonproliferation policy.”  In other words, Pakistan was free to get on with building a bomb so long as we could arm the people who have subsequently come back to haunt us.  Asked for his views on Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions, Ronald Reagan replied “I just don’t think it’s any of our business.”  During the years that the infamous A.Q. Khan was peddling his uranium enrichment technology around the place, his shipping manager was a CIA agent, whose masters seem to have had little problem with allowing the trade to go forward.

Now comes word from inside the Obama government that little has changed.  “Most of the aid we’ve sent them over the past few years has been diverted into their nuclear program,” a senior national security official in the current administration recently told me.   Most of this diverted aid — $5.56 billion as of a year ago –  was officially designated  “Coalition Support Funds” for Pakistani military operations against the Taliban.  It may be that this diversion came as a terrible shock to Washington, but the money has been routinely handed over essentially without accounting being required from the Pakistanis.  The GAO has huffed at items such as the $30 million shelled out for non-existent roads, of the $1.5 million for “naval vehicles damaged in combat” but that was as far as public complaints went.  In the meantime, as Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mullen confirmed recently, the Pakistanis have been urgently increasing their nuclear weapons production.

A former national security official with knowledge of the policy explained this insouciance to me.   “We want to get in there and manage [their nuclear program]. If we manage it, we can make sure they don’t start testing, or start a war.”  In other words, the U.S. is helping the Pakistanis to modernize their nuclear arsenal in hopes that the U.S. will thereby gain a measure of control.  The official aim of U.S. technical support, at an estimated cost of $100 million a year, is to render the Pakistani weapons safer, i.e.,  less likely to go off if dropped, and more “secure”, meaning out of the reach of our old friends the extremists.

However,  in pursuit of this objective, it is inevitable that the U.S. is not only rendering the warheads more operationally reliable, we are also transferring the technology required to design more sophisticated warheads without having to test them, a system known as “stockpile stewardship.”

Conceived after the U.S. forswore live testing in 1993 as a means to “test” weapons through computer simulations, this vastly expensive program not only ensures the weapons’ reliability (at least in theory) but also the viability of new and improved designs.   In reality, the stewardship program has been as much a boondoggle for the politically powerful nuclear laboratories at Livermore and Los Alamos as anything else, so outreach in the form of assistance to the Pakistanis in this area can only gratify our own weaponeers.

“If you’re not confident that weapons are safe to handle, you’re more likely to keep them in the basement,” says nuclear command and control expert Bruce Blair, President of the World Security Institute.  “The military is always pressuring to deploy the weapons, which requires an increase in readiness.” In 2008 Blair himself was approached by the Pakistani military seeking advice on means to render their weapons more secure.  Their aim, he says, was clearly to render their nuclear force  “mature,” and  “operational.”  In the same way, says Blair, a few years ago an Indian military delegation turned up at the Russian Impulse Design Bureau in St. Petersburg, to ask for help on making their weapons safer to handle.  “They said they wanted to be able to assure their political leadership that their weapons were safe enough to be deployed.”

Pakistan’s drive to build more nukes is an inevitable by-product of the 2008 nuclear cooperation deal with India that overturned U.S. law and gave the Indians access to US nuclear technology, not to mention massive arms sales, despite their ongoing bomb program.

The deal blew an enormous hole in the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but initial protests from congressional doves were soon smothered under human-wave assaults by arms company and nuclear industry lobbyists.  The Israelis lent  additional and potent assistance on Capital Hill.  Not coincidentally, Israeli arms dealers, promised a significant slice of the action, have garnered at least $1.5 billion worth of orders from Delhi. (The respected Israeli daily Haaretz has highlighted Indian media reports that the bribes involved totaled $120 million.)  Nuclear power’s handmaiden, the global warming lobby, was also a wellspring of ardent support, led by Rajendra  Pachauri, the Indian railroad engineer who is Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which shared Al Gore’s Nobel prize.)  Even the Dalai Lama was drafted in to use his influence with impressionable members of congress.

The consequent success in overturning a longstanding arms control treaty, which in turn has led to the U.S. extending a helping hand to India’s nuclear rivals in Pakistan, should only be seen as the wave of the future.  Instead of foaming at the Iranian nuclear program, we should be standing at the ready to oversee their design of safer, more reliable nukes, and after that, who knows?  North Korea’s bomb probably need work too.

ANDREW COCKBURN writes about national security and related matters. His most recent book is  Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall and Catastrophic Legacy. He is the co-producer of American Casino, the feature documentary on the ongoing financial collapse. He can be reached at amcockburn@gmail.com.

Andrew Cockburn is the Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine.  An Irishman, he has covered national security topics in this country for many years.  In addition to publishing numerous books, he co-produced the 1997 feature film The Peacemaker and the 2009 documentary on the financial crisis American Casino.  His latest book is Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins (Henry Holt).

More articles by:
July 27, 2016
Richard Moser
The Party’s Over
John Eskow
The Loneliness of the American Leftist
Arun Gupta
Bernie Sanders’ Political Revolution Splinters Apart
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Humiliation Game: Notes on the Democratic Convention
M. G. Piety
Smoke and Mirrors in Philadelphia
Guillermo R. Gil
A Metaphoric Short Circuit: On Michelle Obama’s Speech at the DNC
David Macaray
Interns Are Exploited and Discriminated Against
Norman Pollack
Sanders, Our Tony Blair: A Defamation of Socialism
Claire Rater, Carol Spiegel and Jim Goodman
Consumers Can Stop the Overuse of Antibiotics on Factory Farms
Guy D. Nave
Make America Great Again?
Sam Husseini
Why Sarah Silverman is a Comedienne
Dave Lindorff
No Crooked Sociopaths in the White House
Dan Bacher
The Hired Gun: Jerry Brown Snags Bruce Babbitt as New Point Man For Delta Tunnels
Peter Lee
Trumputin! And the DNC Leak(s)
Brett Warnke
Storm Clouds Over Philly
Ann Garrison
Rwanda, the Clinton Dynasty, and the Case of Dr. Léopold Munyakazi
Chris Zinda
Snakes of Deseret
July 26, 2016
Andrew Levine
Pillory Hillary Now
Kshama Sawant
A Call to Action: Walk Out from the Democratic National Convention!
Russell Mokhiber
The Rabble Rise Together Against Bernie, Barney, Elizabeth and Hillary
Jeffrey St. Clair
Don’t Cry For Me, DNC: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Angie Beeman
Why Doesn’t Middle America Trust Hillary? She Thinks She’s Better Than Us and We Know It
Paul Street
An Update on the Hate…
Fran Shor
Beyond Trump vs Clinton
Ellen Brown
Japan’s “Helicopter Money” Play: Road to Hyperinflation or Cure for Debt Deflation?
Richard W. Behan
The Banana Republic of America: Democracy Be Damned
Binoy Kampmark
Undermining Bernie Sanders: the DNC Campaign, WikiLeaks and Russia
Arun Gupta
Trickledown Revenge: the Racial Politics of Donald Trump
Sen. Bernard Sanders
What This Election is About: Speech to DNC Convention
David Swanson
DNC Now Less Popular Than Atheism
Linn Washington Jr.
‘Clintonville’ Reflects True Horror of Poverty in US
Deepak Tripathi
Britain in the Doldrums After the Brexit Vote
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Threats: Arbitrary Lines on Political Maps
Robert J. Gould
Proactive Philanthropy: Don’t Wait, Reach Out!
Victor Grossman
Horror and Sorrow in Germany
Nyla Ali Khan
Regionalism, Ethnicity, and Trifurcation: All in the Name of National Integration
Andrew Feinberg
The Good TPP
400 US Academics
Letter to US Government Officials Concerning Recent Events in Turkey
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail