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Depressing, Terrifying Article about Pakistan’s Nukes


COMMENT: The Atlantic has pub­lished an arti­cle that should scare the Hell out of any­one with half a brain. It is no secret that Pak­istan, while nom­i­nal­ly a U.S. ally  and the recip­i­ent of vast amounts of U.S. aid, active­ly sup­ports the Tal­iban and Haqqani fight­ers, who are killing U.S. troops, as well as Islamist ter­ror groups affil­i­at­ed with the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood.

Fol­low­ing the Abb­otabad raid to neu­tral­ize Osama bin Laden, the Pak­istani polit­i­cal and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship have been tak­ing steps to see to it that the Unit­ed States can­not con­duct a sim­i­lar raid to seize their nuclear arse­nal.

Among the tac­tics they are using is the employ­ment of low-secu­ri­ty deliv­ery vans to move vir­tu­al­ly bat­tle-ready nukes around through every­day traf­fic. This would make it espe­cial­ly easy for those weapons to fall into the hands of ter­ror­ist groups, known to have infil­trat­ed Pak­istani secu­ri­ty forces and enjoy­ing the sup­port of that coun­try’s ISI intel­li­gence ser­vice.

The entire arti­cle is worth read­ing and tak­ing to heed. It is not for the faint­heart­ed.

The Ally from Hell” by Jef­frey Gold­berg and Marc Ambinder; The Atlantic; December/2011.

EXCERPT: . . . .Still, Gen­er­al Kid­wai promised that he would redou­ble the SPD’s efforts to keep his country’s weapons far from the pry­ing eyes, and long arms, of the Amer­i­cans, and so he did: accord­ing to mul­ti­ple sources in Pak­istan, he ordered an increase in the tem­po of the dis­per­sal of nuclear-weapons com­po­nents and oth­er sen­si­tive mate­ri­als. One method the SPD [Secu­ri­ty Plans Divi­sion] uses to ensure the safe­ty of its nuclear weapons is to move them among the 15 or more facil­i­ties that han­dle them. Nuclear weapons must go to the shop for occa­sion­al main­te­nance, and so they must be moved to suit­ably equipped facil­i­ties, but Pak­istan is also said to move them about the coun­try in an attempt to keep Amer­i­can and Indi­an intel­li­gence agen­cies guess­ing about their loca­tions.

Nuclear-weapons com­po­nents are some­times moved by heli­copter and some­times moved over roads. And instead of mov­ing nuclear mate­r­i­al in armored, well-defend­ed con­voys, the SPD prefers to move mate­r­i­al by sub­terfuge, in civil­ian-style vehi­cles with­out notice­able defens­es, in the reg­u­lar flow of traf­fic. Accord­ing to both Pak­istani and Amer­i­can sources, vans with a mod­est secu­ri­ty pro­file are some­times the pre­ferred con­veyance. And accord­ing to a senior U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cial, the Pak­ista­nis have begun using this low-secu­ri­ty method to trans­fer not mere­ly the “de-mat­ed” com­po­nent nuclear parts but “mat­ed” nuclear weapons. [Ital­ics are mine–D.E.] West­ern nuclear experts have feared that Pak­istan is build­ing small, “tac­ti­cal” nuclear weapons for quick deploy­ment on the bat­tle­field. In fact, not only is Pak­istan build­ing these devices, it is also now mov­ing them over roads. . . .


7 comments for “Depressing, Terrifying Article about Pakistan’s Nukes”

  1. It’s a rather scary arti­cle, but unfor­tu­nate­ly, the sad truth is, there very well could come a day when for­eign, or per­haps even DOMESTIC, ter­ror­ists, could, in fact, det­o­nate a low-yield atom bomb or two in a major U.S. or oth­er West­ern city......frankly, even Rus­sia can’t be immune to nuclear ter­ror from either source.

    Posted by Steven L. | November 7, 2011, 4:17 am
  2. Strange­ly, the fol­low­ing recent news item has made no trac­tion in the hys­te­ria cloud of cable news. I’ve seen no clar­i­fi­ca­tion or fol­lowup, either debunk­ing or devel­op­ing the sto­ry.


    Report: Libya’s NTC chief says nuclear weapons locat­ed
    10/30/2011 23:26

    The out­go­ing pre­mier of Libya’s NTC, Mah­moud Jib­ril said Sun­day that nuclear weapons were found in the coun­try, accord­ing to the Al Ara­biya TV net­work, Israel Radio report­ed.

    Jib­ril also said that the Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency (IAEA) will pro­vide fur­ther details on the weapons found in the next few days, accord­ing to the report.

    Posted by R. Wilson | November 7, 2011, 11:23 pm
  3. A side note about the author of that piece, Jef­frey Gold­berg:

    Gold­berg has a some­what con­tro­ver­sial track record, hav­ing pushed for war with Iraq on the basis of his cer­tain­ty over WMD, and his cer­tain­ty of Al Qae­da ties to Sad­dam Hus­sein, then briefly report­ed that WMD were found in Iraq.

    Gold­berg also report­ed imme­di­ate­ly fol­low­ing the Nor­way shoot­ings that unnamed “Jihadists” were respon­si­ble, before it was deter­mined that Breivik was the shoot­er. Gold­berg did not retract his claims but added a post-hoc “pos­si­bil­i­ty of right-wing ter­ror­ism” to his orig­i­nal arti­cle.

    None of this is to say that details with­in the Atlantic arti­cle aren’t valid or cor­rect. I have read else­where about Pak­istan’s nuclear weapons being kept mobile in vans. Not to men­tion the entire sor­did track record of the ISI and A. Q. Khan’s ties to right-wingers, et al.

    But Gold­berg has a Neo­con-sup­port­ing streak in his track record, and could be using a valid sto­ry to dis­tort facts for his own agen­da.

    Cur­rent­ly Gold­berg is push­ing for war with Iran.

    All of this can be found begin­ning with a Google search of “Jef­frey Gold­berg WMD”. Plen­ty of Jew­ish & Israeli writ­ers tak­ing Gold­berg to task, if there are sus­pi­cions that I am being anti-Semit­ic.

    Posted by R. Wilson | November 7, 2011, 11:35 pm
  4. @R. Wil­son: Nah, I did­n’t think you were being anti-Semitic(trust me when I say this; I have seen hun­dreds of REAL anti-Semi­tes)....=)
    With that said, it IS always a good idea to try to find & point out as many diverse sources as pos­si­ble, giv­en that Gold­berg does have a some­what che­quered record.

    Posted by Steven L. | November 8, 2011, 7:59 am
  5. Thank you, Robert. And why should we be sur­prised? “It hates the democ­ra­cy next door.” This con­fi­dent pro­nounce­ment, wor­thy of a Per­le, Kris­tol or Pod­horetz, is about all I could stand to read when this post hit the oth­er day. I have since read the entire arti­cle. Yes, it is alarm­ing and depress­ing, but…

    Though bare­ly notice­able, the three slicks — The New York­er, Harpers and The Atlantic Month­ly — have wad­dled edi­to­ri­al­ly from some­thing we once called “lib­er­al” to a fierce, default edi­to­r­i­al posi­tion we have to call sim­ply “pro-Pow­er” (as it lacks the neat posi­tion papers of neo­con­ser­v­a­tivism and oth­er fund­ed think­tankisms). In var­ied con­texts this could include exposés and harsh cri­tiques of the crimes of “fat-cats,” “bad-apples” or “lone-nuts,” plus shame­less heaps of sanc­ti­mo­ny. But so sel­dom do these pub­li­ca­tions exam­ine actu­al insti­tu­tion­al struc­tures and long-term poli­cies, that there is no real vocab­u­lary for such a dis­cus­sion. (Hey Jeff: Is India real­ly a democ­ra­cy, wor­thy and expec­tant of Pak­istan’s non-hate? Last I looked it was a bald­ly fas­cist banana-super-repub­lic, with a nuclear arse­nal explic­it­ly point­ed west­ward. Oh, hold the phone, I have David Rem­nick on the oth­er line, explain­ing in detail the sub­tle nuance and vast spec­trum of opin­ion among Israel’s polit­i­cal par­ties and dai­ly news­pa­pers. Oh, hang on David, I have Antho­ny Eden — I mean Lewis Lapham — on the oth­er line….)

    This shal­low­ness says more about the pack­ag­ing and sale of cor­po­rate prod­uct than about the report­ed facts them­selves: like pro­fes­sion­al wrestling, com­mod­i­fied, “must-sell” jour­nal­ism relies heav­i­ly on con­cise out­rage, and hence must first prof­fer sim­ple, unques­tion­able “truths” to make the sale. By the same sort of sell­ing mech­a­nism, the neo­con first assigns white hats and black hats, mak­ing the argu­ment always about good guys and bad guys.

    This has its ana­log in the per­va­sive jour­nal­is­tic short­hand of any edi­to­r­i­al stamp — whether the Wall Street Jour­nal or Moth­er Jones.

    Posted by Rob Coogan | November 16, 2011, 6:46 am
  6. @Rob Coogan: India does have its own prob­lems, but just remem­ber, Chi­na is MUCH, MUCH worse by far. Has been pret­ty much since Mao died.

    Posted by Steven l. | November 16, 2011, 8:45 am
  7. One of the good things about head­lines like “Expert: Pak­istan Tal­iban are ‘weak and divid­ed’ ” is how it rais­es the obvi­ous ques­tion how much longer we’re going to be see­ing head­lines like “Oba­ma to Pakistan’s pres­i­dent: NATO bomb­ing not delib­er­ate attack, US com­mit­ted to full probe” or “Fatal Sui­cide Attack Out­side U.S. Base in Afghanistan” or
    The Sen­ate Punt­ed On Ter­ror Law Detainees—and That’s a Good Thing”

    And if you’re won­der­ing if that Sen­ate punt on mil­i­tary deten­tions was a good thing, here was a head­line from the pre­vi­ous day:
    “Sen­ate rejects amend­ment to lim­it domes­tic mil­i­tary deten­tion”.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 4, 2011, 7:20 pm

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