As a realist I have no problem with Pakistan having a nuclear arsenal. It is a tough neighborhood and the international community has been selective in who it chooses to sanction. It tacitly supports the Indian nuclear program. In 2002, there was the possibility of restoring a nuclear-free balance of power. The Pakistani government had offered India complete nuclear disarmament which it refused. There has been a realignment since: India has a new ally–the United States–and both see the Pakistani arsenal as a nuisance.
‘Pakistan’s fears about the United States coöperating with India are not irrational,’ writes Seymour Hersh in an important new article.
Last year, Congress approved a controversial agreement that enabled India to purchase nuclear fuel and technology from the United States without joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty, making India the only non-signatory to the N.P.T. permitted to do so. Concern about the Pakistani arsenal has since led to greater coöperation between the United States and India in missile defense; the training of the Indian Air Force to use bunker-busting bombs; and “the collection of intelligence on the Pakistani nuclear arsenal,” according to the consultant to the intelligence community.
Viewed from Pakistan, therefore, the US obsession with Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is more than a little hypocritical. Even the pliant Zardari laments the imbalance. Hersh notes:
Zardari offered some advice to Barack Obama: instead of fretting about nuclear security in Pakistan, his Administration should deal with the military disparity between Pakistan and India, which has a much larger army. “You should help us get conventional weapons,” he said. “It’s a balance-of-power issue.”
Pakistanis, as Hersh reveals, are naturally reluctant to share information about their nuclear weapons because they suspect they’ll be shared with India. (These fears are not unfounded: US weapons inspectors in Iraq, and the IAEA in Iran passed on data from their inspections to Israel, which the latter used to prepare its target lists [See Scott Ritter’s “Target iran”]). Hersh also reveals that the US has prepared a special JSOC team to seize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons should there be a threat of their falling into the hands of militants. In one instance, he reveals, a team had already come as far as Dubai following a false alarm.
However, the most important revelations in Hersh’s articles are not about US contingency plans for Pakistan’s nukes, but about the parasitic psychology of the individuals who have been ruling the country.
Zardari’s view of the Swat offensive was striking, given that many Pakistanis had been angered by the excessive use of force and the ensuing refugee crisis. The lives of about two million people were torn apart, and, during a summer in which temperatures soared to a hundred and twenty degrees, hundreds of thousands of civilians were crowded into government-run tent cities. Idris Khattak, a former student radical who now works with Amnesty International, said in Peshawar that residents had described nights of heavy, indiscriminate bombing and shelling, followed in the morning by Army sweeps. The villagers, and not the Taliban, had been hit the hardest…
Hersh also quotes Rahimullah Yusufzai, the most knowledgeable and astute analyst of frontier politics:
The turmoil did not end with the Army’s invasion. “Most of the people who were in the refugee camps told us that the Army was equally bad. There was so much killing,” Yusufzai said. The government had placed limits on reporters who tried to enter the Swat Valley during the attack, but afterward Yusufzai and his colleagues were able to interview officers. “They told us they hated what they were doing—‘We were trained to fight Indians.’ ” But that changed when they sustained heavy losses, especially of junior officers. “They were killing everybody after their colleagues were killed—just like the Americans with their Predator missiles,” Yusufzai said. “What the Army did not understand, and what the Americans don’t understand, is that by demolishing the house of a suspected Taliban or their supporters you are making an enemy of the whole family.” What looked like a tactical victory could turn out to be a strategic failure.
So what does Zardari have to say about all this?
Zardari did not dispute that there were difficulties in the refugee camps—the heat, the lack of facilities. But he insisted that the fault lay with the civilians, who, he said, had been far too tolerant of the Taliban. The suffering could serve a useful purpose: after a summer in the tents, the citizens of Swat might have learned a lesson and would not “let the Taliban back into their cities.”
This shouldn’t suprise anyone. After all, Zardari–Mr. 10 percent–is a crook and a thug. Why, even Pervez Musharra thinks so.
“Asif Zardari is a criminal and a fraud,” Musharraf told me. “He’ll do anything to save himself. He’s not a patriot and he’s got no love for Pakistan. He’s a third-rater.”
So Zardari is not a patriot. Presumably Musharraf is. Let’s see, then, how this Patriot would have done things different.
Musharraf…said that he had been troubled by the American-controlled Predator drone attacks on targets inside Pakistan, which began in 2005. “I said to the Americans, ‘Give us the Predators.’ It was refused. I told the Americans, ‘Then just say publicly that you’re giving them to us. You keep on firing them but put Pakistan Air Force markings on them.’ That, too, was denied.”
So much for patriotism.