Cheney + Pakistan
By Jason Leopold
11 August, 2005
news last year of Pakistans clandestine nuclear program showed
how the country's top nuclear scientist was secretly selling atomic
bomb blueprints to Iran and North Korea, the so-called Axis of
Evil" (along with Iraq), world leaders waited to see how President
Bush would punish Pakistan's President Pervez Musharaff.
Bush has, after
all, spent his entire time in office talking tough about countries and
dictators that conceal weapons of mass destruction, and even tougher
about individuals who supply rogue nations and terrorists with the means
to build WMDs. For all intents and purposes, Pakistan and Musharraf
fit that description.
Bush, Vice President
Cheney and top members of the administration reacted with shock when
they found out that Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistans top nuclear scientist,
spent the past 15 years selling outlaw nations nuclear technology and
equipment. So it was sort of a surprise when Bush, upon finding out
about Khans proliferation of nuclear technology, let Pakistan
off with a slap on the wrist.
But it was all
an act. In fact, it was actually a cover-up designed to shield Cheney
because he knew about the proliferation for more than a decade and did
nothing to stop it.
Atomic Energy Association launched an investigation two years ago in
an attempt to uncover how Iran obtained components and parts for P-2
centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium into fuel for civilian
Iran secured most
of its supply on the black market, from the network run by Khan. The
network was uncovered last year, leading to Khan's arrest in Pakistan.
An ex-Dutch prime minister, Ruud Lubbers, said the CIA had asked the
Netherlands in 1975 not to prosecute Khan because US intelligence wanted
to find out more about Khan's contacts while he was working as an engineer
at the top secret Dutch uranium enrichment plant at Almelo, the BBC
IAEA head Mohammed
ElBaradei said in June that he was looking for "additional documentation
regarding offers of equipment made to Iran, as well as for information
on associated technical discussions between Iran and intermediaries
in the procurement network."
The Bush administration
had mountains of evidence on Pakistans sales of nuclear technology
and equipment to nations vilified by the United States -- nations that
are considered much more of a threat than Iraq -- but turned a blind
eye to the threat and allowed it to happen.
In 1989, the year
Khan first started selling nuclear secrets on the black-market, Richard
Barlow, a young intelligence analyst working for the Pentagon, prepared
a shocking report for Cheney, who was then working as Secretary of Defense
under the first Bush administration: Pakistan had built an atomic bomb
and was selling its nuclear equipment to countries the United States
said was sponsoring terrorism.
findings, as reported in a January 2002 story in the magazine Mother
Jones, were politically inconvenient.
that Pakistan possessed a nuclear bomb would have triggered a congressionally
mandated cutoff of aid to the country, a key ally in the CIA's efforts
to support Afghan rebels fighting a pro-Soviet government. It also would
have killed a $1.4-billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Islamabad ,
Mother Jones reported.
critics say, was let off the hook so the United States could use its
borders to hunt for al-Qaeda leader and 9-11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Barlows report because he wanted to sell Pakistan the F-16 fighter
planes. Several months later, Cheney told a Pentagon official to downplay
Pakistans nuclear capabilities when he testified on the threat
before Congress. Barlow complained to his bosses at the Pentagon and
later, in 1992, a high-ranking Pakistani official admitted that the
country had developed the ability to assemble a nuclear weapon by 1987,
Mother Jones reported. In 1998, Islamabad detonated its first
During the time
that Barlow prepared his report on Pakistan, Bryan Siebert, an Energy
Department analyst, was looking into Saddam Hussein's nuclear program
in Iraq. Siebert concluded that, "Iraq has a major effort under
way to produce nuclear weapons," and said the National Security
Council should investigate his findings. But the first Bush administration
-- which had been supporting Iraq as a counterweight to the Ayatollah
Khomeini's Iran -- ignored the report, the magazine reported.
not a failure of intelligence," Barlow told Mother Jones. "The
intelligence was in the system."
Cheney went to
great lengths to cover-up Pakistans nuclear weaponry. In a New
Yorker article published March 29, 1993, investigative reporter Seymour
Hersh quoted Barlow as saying that some high-ranking members inside
the CIA and the Pentagon lied to Congress about Pakistans nuclear
arsenal in an effort to ensure the sale of the F-16 fighter planes to
Islamabad, which was secretly equipped to deliver nuclear weapons. Pakistans
nuclear capabilities and the had become so grave by the spring of 1990
that then CIA deputy director Richard Kerr said the Pakistani nuclear
threat was worse than the Cuban Missile crisis in the 1960s.
It was the
most dangerous nuclear situation we have ever faced since Ive
been in the U.S. government, Kerr said in an interview with Hersh.
It may be as close as weve come to a nuclear exchange. It
was far more frightening than the Cuban missile crisis.
is leading the CIAs review of prewar intelligence into the Iraqi
threat cited by the second Bush administration.
Still, in l989,
Cheney and others in the Pentagon and the CIA continued to hide the
reality of Pakistans nuclear threat from members of Congress.
Hersh explained in his lengthy New Yorker article that reasons behind
the cover-up revolves around the fact
that the Reagan Administration
had dramatically aided Pakistan in its pursuit of the bomb.
Reagan and his national-security aides saw the generals who ran Pakistan
as loyal allies in the American proxy war against the Soviet Union in
Afghanistan. Driving the Russians out of Afghanistan was considered
far more important than nagging Pakistan about its building of bombs.
The Reagan Administration did more than forgo nagging, however; it looked
the other way throughout the mid-nineteen-eighties as Pakistan assembled
its nuclear arsenal with the aid of many millions of dollars worth
of restricted, high-tech materials bought inside the United States.
Such purchases have always been illegal, but Congress made breaking
the law more costly in 1985, when it passed the Solarz Amendment to
the Foreign Assistance Act (the amendment was proposed by former Representative
Stephen J. Solarz, Democrat of New York), providing for the cutoff of
all military and economic aid to purportedly non-nuclear nations that
illegally export or attempt to export nuclear-related materials from
the United States.
ability to keep the Pakistani nuclear-arms purchases in America secret
is the more remarkable because (since 1989) the State Department, the
C IA, and the Defense Department (under Cheney) have been struggling
with an internal account of illegal Pakistani procurement activities,
given by a former CIA intelligence officer named Richard M. Barlow,
Hersh reported. Barlow
was dismayed to learn, at first
hand, that State Department and agency officials were engaged in what
he concluded was a pattern of lying to and misleading Congress about
Pakistan s nuclear-purchasing activities.
by Hersh of what took place in mid-1990 is eerily reminiscent of what
is taking place today in terms of the current Bush administrations
foreign policy objectives.
scores of intelligence and administration officials for his March 1993
New Yorker story and many of those individuals confirmed Barlows
claims that Pakistani nuclear purchases were deliberately withheld from
Congress by Cheney and other officials to avoid a cutoff in military
and economic aid that would adversely affect the prosecution of the
war in Afghanistan.
is the author of the explosive memoir, News Junkie, to be released in
the spring of 2006 by Process/Feral House Books. Visit Leopold's website
at www.jasonleopold.com for updates.
© 2005 Jason