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»  October 3, 2008


We Are the New Pakistan

At an increasing pace after the end of the Second World War, the US has sold arms and munitions to countries around the world. Everything from bullets to landmines to tanks to jet fighters to missiles. It's a time-honored tradition for countries with weapons technology to directly or indirectly supporty the sales of that technology as a ready source of cash (see Krupp). There's always a market for a more efficient way to kill the enemy.

The US is far from alone in the market, of course. For the entirety of the Cold War, the Soviet Union was a major exporter of weapons, with China following up, even making knock-offs of the famous AK-47 rifle of Soviet design. Everyone with the production capacity got into the game. An enormous amount of the "foreign aid" the US has handed out over the past decades has been paid back into the hands of private American arms manufacturers.

There were a few things that had to be done sub rosa, however. Cluster bombs and land mines, well, their sales were perfectly acceptable to the US government, because we did out best to torpedo any treaties or resolutions banning their sale or use. Technology for nuclear weapons, however, was another matter. That's something that's just not talked about, because the US was nominally on board with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NNPT). It's been an open secret for a long time that Israel has nuclear weapons, but they don't talk about it, and we don't ask about it, in a sort of radioactive version of the military policy on homosexuality.

When the wrong people are involved, though, and it gets out in the open, as it did with Pakistan and A.Q. Khan a few years back, people got the heebie-jeebies. Pakistan saw an opportunity to make some much-needed money from Libya and Iran, as well as gaining missile technology from North Korea. Each of those countries, in turn, could get standard armaments from other sources, but weren't on the approved list for nukes. A win-win situation all around for them.

At the time, of course, the Bush administration was incensed (at least, as incensed as they got with good buddy Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf). Now, though, we've got the opportunity to make a few bucks of our own from nukes -- and as you may have heard, there a sort of money crisis going on -- so the House and Senate have agreed to sell nuclear fuel, technology, and reactors to Pakistan's friendly neighbor India, a country that (like Pakistan) hasn't agreed to the NNPT.

In exchange, India agreed to open up 14 civilian nuclear facilities to international inspection, but would continue to shield eight military reactors from outside scrutiny.


Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, called the deal a "grievous mistake" that would reward rogue behavior. "We have said to India with this agreement: 'You can misuse American nuclear technology and secretly develop nuclear weapons.' That's what they did. 'You can test these weapons.' That's what they did," Mr. Dorgan said.

He added: "And after testing, 10 years later, all will be forgiven."

Mr. Dorgan and Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, tried to amend the agreement to explicitly require the United States to cut off nuclear trade if India conducted a new nuclear test. The agreement's backers defeated the proposal, arguing that it was unnecessary and that nuclear trade would be halted in such a situation.

Sen. Ron Wyden voted for this stinker, which passed 86-13-1 in the Senate (Sen. Gordon Smith supported it, as well). Representatives Darlene Hooley, David Wu, Earl Blumenauer, and Peter DeFazio all opposed its passage in the House (298-117).

Fri Oct 03, 2008 12:24 -0700