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:
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail