… And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail…
And ‘mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war! …
I would build that dome in air…
And all should cry, Beware! Beware! …
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
– Samuel Coleridge, ‘Kubla Khan‘
The Atlantic’s November issue has an excellent article on Abdul Quadeer Khan, the fat man behind Pakistan’s Little Boy. It’s the first in a two-part series about how Khan stole nuclear plans and procurement lists from a nuke lab in the Netherlands and turned funding from Pakistan, Libya and Saudi Arabia into a nuclear arsenal.
‘If your forces cross our borders… we are going to annihilate your cities.’
– Zia to Rajiv The full text isn’t online, so here are some key bits:
Khan had become something of a demigod in Pakistan, with a public reputation second only to that of the nation’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and he had developed an ego to match. He was the head of a government facility named after him–the Khan Research Laboratories, or KRL–which had mastered the difficult process of producing highly enriched uranium, the fissionable material necessary for Pakistan’s weapons, and was also involved in the design of the warheads and the missiles to deliver them… A. Q. Khan was seen to have assured the nation’s survival, and indeed he probably has–up until the moment, someday in a conceivable future, when a nuclear exchange actually occurs. [Link]
- ‘… Khan’s success… turned this runt called Pakistan into a runt with a gun.’
- ‘… a Pakistani device… would be handled as a “Muslim” bomb to be spread around… Libya and Saudi Arabia… are both suspected of having funded Khan early on…’
- After an Indian buildup on the border in 1987, Gen. Zia is rumored to have threatened Rajiv Gandhi at a cricket match in India: ’If your forces cross our borders… we are going to annihilate your cities.’
- 5/27/98: The day of Pakistan’s nuclear test, the Saudis fed Pakistan a rumor that Israeli jets were on their way to bomb their reactors. Pakistan scrambled its jets and missiles; India scrambled its own forces, and there was a risk of nuclear war. Pakistan called the U.S., which denied the rumor.
- The nations have a tiny response window to nuke launches because of close physical proximity
- A sleepy Dutch anti-proliferation regime resisted a Dutch whistleblower in its midst, a guy who was friends with Khan; they saw him as a low-ranking troublemaker stirring up accusations against a Ph.D.
- Europeans knowingly sold parts to Khan because they resented the U.S.’ non-proliferation pressure, thinking the U.S. was just trying to corner the global arms market
- In the long run, procurement of Euopean parts turned out to be even more important than stealing the designs
- Like most Western accounts, the article totally glosses over the Pakistani army’s genocide in Bangladesh; it mentions the war but not the killing
It’s remarkable, the short-sightedness of European countries which cut off their noses to spite their faces. And they may suffer a loose-nuke attack as a thank you.
There’s no question a nation right next to a nuclear-armed enemy will figure out how to build the bomb, it’s only a matter of time. And I don’t even think nuclear self-defense is wrong in the abstract. I can’t fault Pakistan for that, even if it is against the interests of its neighbors and the world’s hyperpower, because it’s vital to its security. But what puts the entire world at risk is a leadership which has proven itself subject to military coup, loose nuclear controls and selling nukes and nuclear tech to the world’s flakiest and most dangerous regimes — North Korea, Libya, Iran. That mercenary attitude is irresponsible and scary. That makes non-prolif an important mission.
In the same issue:
- The U.S. Supreme Court cited its Indian counterpart in a death penalty case. Justice Stephen Breyer cited an Indian Supreme Court decision in a death penalty dissent, saying that spending a lengthy period of time on death row is itself a form of cruel and unusual punishment; Clarence Thomas protested strenuously.
“He said, ‘We’re not the only court in the world. See what they have to say.’” Breyer has come to refer to proponents of this approach–namely, judges who use international legal precedents for context as they interpret the U.S. Constitution–as “comparativists…” [Link]
- Bookies are giving Ravi Shankar 20:1 odds on winning this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. The best odds are on someone related to tsunami relief. [Link]