Deception: Pakistan, the United States, and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons

!! The book traces Pakistan’s nuclear history, wherein Pakistan with Chinese, Saudi, American and North Korean help (and a whole lot of private contractors) developed numerous types of nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

The book is really interesting, not because of the exact details of how Pakistan developed the bomb, but the insight it gives on how Pakistan really operates. It was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who kicked of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, famously declaring “we will eat grass if we have to, but we will make the bomb”. For the next 20 years this statement was literally and figuratively true – everything took a backseat was tens of billions of dollars were poured into two competing nuclear labs.

This is the most depressing account of Pakistani/American political history I’ve read. The old maxim “the end justifies the means” was the one and only motto of the Pakistan Army & the Republican Party, which ran the country for the next 30 years, sucking in practically every dollar of foreign aid and diverting it to nuclear weapons development and regular arms procurement. They had to let parts of the billions of dollars pouring in for the Afghan war though, under American pressure, but development aid money was mostly fully diverted to the bomb.

According to the book, Pakistan was going around selling nuclear technology to just about every unsavory character on the world stage – to make money. The nuclear programme demanded a lot more cash than Pakistan had, so no stone was left unturned. Selling nukes, stealing money from the civilian budget, you name it, the army did it. They snatched the very books and school buildings away from an entire generation of children…

Now, while it can be understood that the Pakistan Army was willing to do anything to develop the bomb, it’s surprising how much (they knew everything) the American govt. knew all along, and actively helped Pakistan along it’s nuclear path. Considering the importance of nuclear non-proliferation in American politics, it’s amazing how US President after President lied to Congress, to save Pakistan from being cut off from American aid, while knowing full well that American money and arms were being diverted to the nuclear programme. Even after the Soviets were pushed out of Afghanistan, and the American’s no longer needed Pakistan, the Republican party happily covered up Pakistan’s nuclear activities, as they didn’t want the US to be distracted from it’s upcoming war on Iraq. Anyways, the demons of the the Republican party are their own…

Back in Pakistan, the civilian governments were just a front, for the army was running the show completely. It puts into perspective why the government of Benazir was so lacking – she was just a figurehead, while behind the scenes the Army generals went about doing their best Dr. Strangelove impressions. While the army let the civilians fiddle about with things they didn’t care about, the civilian govt. had no say, or often time no knowledge about important issues like deciding to sell nuclear technology, funding terrorist groups, starting a proxy war with India, the nuclear alert level, funding militants in Afghanistan – you get the picture, everything the army cared about, it didn’t let the civilian govt intrude upon.

Some of the army generals discussed, like Beg, Hamid Gul, and even Musharraf, come across as batshit insane individuals, whose colonial views of reality coupled with the “any means to their ends” motto brought a country to it’s knees as they tried their best to go to war with India. It’s not so much the individuals, as the post of the Army Chief, who’s juggling everything from small time terrorists, to running a country, selling nuclear technology on the black market, in their spare time even running a army, controlling political parties, and a whole of other stuff, that it’s no wonder that they crack under all the pressure.

The dog and pony show about AQ Khan selling nuclear tech under the nose of the military was just that – a dog and pony show conjured up by Musharraf for the American government, who just wanted to sweep the whole issue under the carpet while they got on with invading Iraq. It was always the military directing all the selling and buying, with the Army chiefs running everything directly.

All those people in Pakistan still clamoring for military rule should read this book – Pakistan muddled through in spite of military rule, not because of, this book (along with basic economics) makes clear.

The blurb from the back of the book:

bq. The shocking, three-decade story of A. Q. Khan and Pakistan’s nuclear program, and the complicity of the United States in the spread of nuclear weaponry. On December 15, 1975, A. Q. Khan–a young Pakistani scientist working in Holland–stole top-secret blueprints for a revolutionary new process to arm a nuclear bomb. His original intention, and that of his government, was purely patriotic–to provide Pakistan a counter to India’s recently unveiled nuclear device. However, as Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark chillingly relate in their masterful investigation of Khan’s career over the past thirty years, over time that limited ambition mushroomed into the world’s largest clandestine network engaged in selling nuclear secrets–a mercenary and illicit program managed by the Pakistani military and made possible, in large part, by aid money from the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Libya, and by indiscriminate assistance from China

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