The milk of Paradise

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.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists now uses India-Pakistan as one of its benchmark for its infamous Doomsday Clock. It now sits at seven minutes to midnight. Damn you, Peter Sellers.

· Â· Â· Â· Â·

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]

14 thoughts on “The milk of Paradise

  1. Another tidbit from the article on Khan’s communalism:

    In 1980 Khan responded to a report in the British Observer with a vitriolic letter to the editor, in which he wrote: “The article on Pakistan in the issue of 9.12.1979 by Colin Smith and Shyam Bhatia was so vulgar and low that I considered it an insult to reflect on it. It was in short words a bull-shit, full of lies, insinuations and cheap journalism for money and cheap publicity. Shyam Bhatia, a Hindu bastard, could not write anything objective about Pakistan. Both insinuated as if Holland is an atomic bomb manufacturing factory where, instead of cheese balls, you could pick up “triggering mechanisms.” Have you for a moment thought of the meaning of this word? Of course not because you could not differentiate between the mouth and the back hole of a donkey.”

    And the usual Pakistani sight-unseen paranoia of Jewish people:

    When the Dutch finally prosecuted Khan, it was not for espionage but for the letters he had written to Veerman [Khan’s office mate in the Netherlands] requesting classified information. “Attempted espionage” was apparently the best they could do. Khan was convicted in absentia, and sentenced to four years in prison. Khan saw dark forces at play. Zahid Malik [a journalist who for years praised Khan in public and published an adoring biography of him in 1992], faithfully writes, “This court was comprised of three judges, and was presided over by a woman who was a Jew. Another of the judges was also a Jew. It looked as if this case was instituted under pressure from the Israeli Prime Minister, and its verdict was also written in Tel Aviv.”
  2. Manish: yeah, I was quite peeved at the reference to the Pakistani army actions in East Pakistan as simply “large numbers of civilians were killed” or something like that.

    SMR: You highlighted an important passage, because this sort of communalism is hardly unique to Khan. Hamid Gul and many others routinely express such views.

  3. Gotta stop by a newsstand on the way home. But a couple of points. India has never objected to Pakistan having nuclear weapons in self-defense, but Indians have been warning about the proliferation regime that was centered in Pakistan.

    Also, the 3-minute flight time is often used by non-proliferation hawks as an example of why balance-of-terror will not work in the subcontinent. What they forget is that during the Cold War, the Americans and Russians had subs patrolling along each others coasts, and a sub-launched missile had a flight time of under six minutes. I don’t know what the flight time would be for a nuke launched from West Germany towards Moscow, but it would be less than the thirty minute flight time for ICBMs launched from the U.S.

    And the Western media’s continuous omission of the genocide in Bangladesh helps them to frame the dispute between the “Hindu India” adn “Muslim Pakistan” as opposed to the more accurate “India versus Pakistani Army Incorporated”

  4. I dont blame Pakistan for having nukes – but the way they proliferated the technology and had a vision of spreading nukes around the Islamic world is proof of yellow bellied toad life – and the hateful psychosis of the man himself makes him a spine chilling ghoul of the worst kind.

    And it is shameful that the genocide in Bangladesh for which the Pakistani Army was responsible is downplayed or ignored – along with the image of Khan it makes the leadership of Pakistan appear to be little more than a confederacy of Jihadi psychotics.

  5. Real Politik: There’s no way Khan operated as a lone gunman without the Karachi power structure and ISI fully behind him; Bush and the neo-cons look the other way so they can penetrate the Pak-Afghan border without too much resistance as Musharaf like Phaëthon pretends to have the full reins of Pakistan.

    So little penetrative analysis by the American mainstream media at the time…Scary.

    Hmmm…I smell a filmi version of War Games coming out. Vivek Oberoi as the hacker-protagonist who foils the evil Dr. Khan’s (Om Puri) plans of mutual destruction. Stirring score by Adnan Sami..gotta keep it secular!

  6. And it is shameful that the genocide in Bangladesh for which the Pakistani Army was responsible is downplayed or ignored

    saw this comment. my version of the story is that the root cause was West Pakistan’s inability to accept Sheikh Rehman’s (from East Pakistan) assuming presidency of the country. The military’s overthrow caused a large number of Bangla’s migrating to India which led to India declaring war. This is the indian version of the story and there might be a nationalist bent to it. I would like to hear a Bangla perspective on it – if anyone could oblige. thank you.

  7. Dhaavak: what your version leaves out is the West Pakistani “army action,” beginning in late March 1970 and continuing until nine months later (i.e. well before the war with India). In this “army action,” anywhere from 1-3 MILLION people were killed, and an additional 10-15 million fled to India. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of women were raped. One clear target of the “army action” was the intellectual class (Dhaka’s principal university was hit on Day 1 of the action, and thousands were killed in Dhaka alone the first day). Don’t know what else one could call this but the g-word. Sure the West Pakistani inability to accept Mujib was there, but that inability arose precisely BECAUSE he was Bengali– and by 1970-71, Bengalis were regarded as suspect (as being too “pro-Hindu,” as having a culture that was “too Hindu,” etc.). Some East Pakistani parties and factions actively collaborated with the army (one of them– the Jamaat-e-Islami, is now a coalition partner in the government, and is busy at work changing the Bangladeshi school textbooks to minimize Pakistani atrocities).

    Consider this quote (not from a Bangladeshi or Indian site): “On February 22, 1971 the generals in West Pakistan took a decision to crush the Awami League and its supporters. It was recognized from the first that a campaign of genocide would be necessary to eradicate the threat: “Kill three million of them,” said President Yahya Khan at the February conference, “and the rest will eat out of our hands.” (Robert Payne, Massacre [1972], p. 50.) On March 25 the genocide was launched. The university in Dacca was attacked and students exterminated in their hundreds. Death squads roamed the streets of Dacca, killing some 7,000 people in a single night. It was only the beginning. “Within a week, half the population of Dacca had fled, and at least 30,000 people had been killed. Chittagong, too, had lost half its population. All over East Pakistan people were taking flight, and it was estimated that in April some thirty million people [!] were wandering helplessly across East Pakistan to escape the grasp of the military.” (Payne, Massacre, p. 48.) Ten million refugees fled to India, overwhelming that country’s resources and spurring the eventual Indian military intervention. (The population of Bangladesh/East Pakistan at the outbreak of the genocide was about 75 million.)”

    This link about genocide in general (including ’71) is expressly aimed sensitizing Muslims to the issues (run apparently by a Bangladeshi).

    I came across this interesting abstract (on a paper about genocide denial), and I paste an interesting quote below:

    “Though there is little scholarship on the Bangladesh genocide, there is some disagreement as to the exact nature of the genocide. The Pakistani Army is alleged to have single out Hindus, who were regarded as a fifth column allied with India, for death and expulsion. Bengalis who were thought to be important to the independence movement such as writers, teachers, professors, Awami League activists, and political leaders were singled out for execution. Finally, there was a general effort to terrorize the population of East Pakistan into submission. The Pakistani government denies that any genocide took place in Bangladesh. Others within Bangladesh deny a particular a portion of the genocide, such as that aimed at Hindus. This paper will seek to explain the political motivations that lead to a denial of all or part of the Bangladesh genocide.
    It will be argued the fact that perpetrator regime, the Pakistani government, was never toppled facilitates the denial of the genocide in general. The internal politics of Bangladesh, specifically the alliance of the military that ruled the country from 1975-1990 and Islamic parties, will be examined as a source of the internal politics of genocide denial.
    Finally, little attention is paid to the 1971 Bangladesh genocide in the United States. Since the U.S. was allied with Pakistan in 1971 and is allied with that country again in the post September 11, 2001 period, many officials past and present deny genocide in 1971 if they devote any attention at all to the subject.”

  8. On the anti-Hindu nature of the genocide:

    The Sunday Times wrote on June 13, 1971:

    “The Government’s policy for East Bengal was spelled out to me in the Eastern Command headquarters at Dacca. It has three elements:

    The Bengalis have proved themselves unreliable and must be ruled by West Pakistanis;

    The Bengalis will have to be re-educated along proper Islamic lines. The – Islamization of the masses – this is the official jargon – is intended to eliminate secessionist tendencies and provide a strong religious bond with West Pakistan;

    When the Hindus have been eliminated by death and fight, their property will be used as a golden carrot to win over the under privileged Muslim middle-class. This will provide the base for erecting administrative and political structures in the future.”

    And check out Edward Kennedy on the genocide and associated refugee exodus (Senate hearings were held on the issue)):

    “A traveler today in eastern India cannot help but see, smell, and feel this misery. It is etched in the faces and lives of refugees in countless ways. It is the malnourished child hanging limply in its mother’s arms – one child out of a half million who, in a matter of hours or days, can easily die from the lack of protein and adequate medical care. It is a young girl, quivering in a refugee camp in Tripura, still in a shock after seeing her mother and father slaughtered by Pakistani troops. It is a 14-year-old boy in Jalpaiguri hospital, whose face is contorted from the pain and anguish that he has experienced since he saw his family shot before his eyes and since he received a bullet wound in his spine which has paralyzed him for life. And it is the expression of hundreds of thousands of refugees living in sewer pipes on the outskirts of Calcutta, while overworked relief officials struggle to provide some food and shelter and hope for a needy and hopeless people.

    To drive the roads of West Bengal is to tour a huge refugee camp. For miles along the old Jessore road north of Calcutta toward the border of East Bengal, literally millions of people sit huddled together waithing for food, or line up in endless queues for refugee registration cards, or simply encamp on the roadside under hastily constructed lean-tos. And each day their number continues to grow.


    The continuing flow of refugees into India is without parallel in modern history. In less than 200 days-from April 1 to mid-October-more people have found it necessary to flee their homes and lands in East Bengal than the total number of refugees generated by the IndoChina war, or the millions displaced by the natural disasters which have struck East Bengal over the past decade. In this short period, 9,544,012 refugees have been officially recorded as having crossed into India, and additional hundreds of thousands have been uprooted and victimized within East Bengal.

    Since March 25th a constant stream-sometimes a flood-of refugees has crossed each day into India. The average daily influx of new refugees, according to official reports, has been 48,000-with peak periods in May and June exceeding well over 100,000 new arrivals each day. In May alone, for example, a total of 2,820,922 new refugees were registered by Indian officials.” (5)

    “To avoid communal (religious) clashes, the government, where possible, has tried to keep Hindus and Muslims in seperate camps, the camps being sited in corresponding communal are as of India. Reflecting the communal representation of the refugees generally, an approximate grouping in many camps, however, is 80 percent Hindu, 15 percent Muslim, and 5 percent Christian and other.” (19)…”

    “As the Pakistan army moved out into the countryside to “crush the Awami League,” all evidence-including the simple fact that the bulk of the refugees ! in India are Hindu-suggest this objective was coupled with a policy of terror directed primarily at the minority Hindu population.”

  9. Finally, little attention is paid to the 1971 Bangladesh genocide in the United States. Since the U.S. was allied with Pakistan in 1971 and is allied with that country

    Very important point Umair!! If I am not mistaken the conversation Nixon (or Kissinger) had with the US Ambassador to BDesh was released some time back and it had Kissinger/Nixon saying “Gen. Yahya is our guy” It fits right into the “He is our SOB” foreign policy. This is completely contradictory to argument of ‘Saddam’s massacre’ as a reason for Iraq war, but unfortunately lot of people have bought it.

  10. My dad and my grandfather always spoke about the atrocities during the war. It is true that around that time, a Hindu did not have a chance at all unless he/she posed as a Muslim and was not interrogated further. It is also true that, during raids the Pak military would round up all the young men they could find and take them to death squads. They also killed anyone they suspected of being aligned to Awami League(Mujib’s party). Both my dad and my grandfather narrowly escaped when they came looking for them.