02/19/04 — Lucky guy: Nuclear dealer pardoned,and the U.S. goes along

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Lucky guy: Nuclear dealer pardoned,and the U.S. goes along

Nothing, not even the London Symphony’s rendition of Beethoven’s Fifth, could look more orchestrated than the confession by Abdul Qadeer Khan and his subsequent pardon by President Musharraf of Pakistan.

Khan is the scientist who is the father of the nuclear arsenal held by Pakistan, the new best friend of the United States. For years, the United States suspected that rogue nations like North Korea were getting nuclear secrets from Pakistan, but Musharraf has denied it. Now comes Khan saying that he personally has sold blueprints, hardware and nuclear know-how to the North Koreans, and that he did it without the Pakistani government finding out.

The United States has not protested Musharraf’s pardon of Khan.

We are in a tenuous position, both militarily and morally.

Here are some of the facts:

(1) Pakistan, under pressure, became a great help to the United States in our war against Afghanistan’s Taliban. Musharraf, whom we once considered a demon, we now regard as a hero and friend for allowing us to use Pakistani territory in fighting terrorists across his border.

(2) The United States is involved in a stand-off with North Korea over the extent of its nuclear program.

(3) We are still involved militarily in Afghanistan. Al-Qaida still hides out in its hills, as does Osama bin Laden, presumably.

If we were to punish Musharraf for the proliferation of the nuclear technology, it would send a message to other nations that our alliances are subject to quick termination.

Having gone along with Musharraf’s pardon of Khan, we put ourselves in the position, just possibly, of being able to get information from Khan on North Korea’s nuclear program.

Finally, if we punished Musharraf, we might lose his help in our military efforts in Afghanistan. Sanctions against him, for example, could cause him to lose his grip on the country and eventually be replaced by someone less reliable to us.

So, even though Khan is a devout Muslim who names bombs after Muslim generals who have fought for the spread of Islam, even though he admittedly sold nuclear technology not only to North Korea but also to Iran and Libya, even though he is the kind of fellow the United States normally would summarily destroy, we are giving him a pass.

When the story of Khan first began to emerge, he implied that Pakistani generals, including Musharraf, either knew what he was doing or helped him. One story said he had sent his daughter out of the country with a tape that named accomplices.

Then, lo and behold, Khan confesses, says he did it all by himself without any help from Pakistan’s government, and is forgiven by Musharraf on the advice of his Cabinet. Either Khan is one of the luckiest men alive, or that whole story is a set-up.

Published in Editorials on February 19, 2004 11:08 AM