“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

a subplot from shame

Sad times at LI – even our faithful and long time reader, Mr. T., said about the post a couple of days ago: “the terms "common sense" and "manifesto" appeared in the headline - I could not proceed to read the post; those terms have a garlic-like effect on this vampire.”

LI’s frantic attempt to intervene in the discussion of the Euston Manifesto – our comments on threads, our two posts – seem to have been spoken in Hittite. We get so frustrated that nobody is ever outraged by LI! Nobody listens to us! The tears glisten. Is it because we have gone over the edge? Surely this is what goldbugs feel like -- those culty rightwingers who blame all of the world's ills on the retirement of the gold standard, in spite of the fact that the world is immensely more prosperous without the gold standard. So is our fight for re-democratizing foreign policy a sort of anachronistic re-enactment? Didn't the strong executive branch lead the Free World to victory in the Cold War?

No, and no. The key, I feel, to the spiral of global crises - the criminal neglect of the looming environmental crisis, in conjunction with the mafia like attempt to control the oil states in the Middle East -- goes back to a ‘legitimacy’ crisis. We cannot remain half monarchical and half democratic. A house divided against itself, etc. etc. The root of the evil done to us by the supposed missionaries of democracy began in their employment as flaks of fraud, and continues to this day as they defend with tooth and nail every sleazy move made by this regime. See the comic frothings, this week, of Hitchens in Slate. Yet the left-right battle about the Euston Manifesto goes on as if the Iraq invasion did not lay bare every seedy and disgusting pattern that has been going on for the last sixty years or so – with the Cold War creating a rotten pattern that keeps generating disaster.

Which is amply confirmed by the article we mentioned yesterday, by Langewiesche, who shows that: a, the U.S. was pretty thoroughly informed about what A. Q. Khan was doing, and b., that they connived to cover it up, once again converging the official American interest with a military tyrant, and once again distorting the American interest to the eventual hurt of who knows how many populations.

Langewiesche is sanguine about nuclear proliferation. He sees the obvious: the inability of the great powers to do without their missiles eventually makes the limitation of nuclear weapons nearly impossible. I should also add, as a caveat to the quotes I am going to give, that LI has always stood foursquare against the very term, WMD. That is a bogus category, a commercial category. Yes, the weapons companies and governments of the most developed countries will sell you the aircraft to deliver your atom bomb, but no, they are not going to sell you centrifuges, at least officially. As we have pointed out many times, oh so many times even we are bored, WMD are small arms. The biggest killers in the world are automatic rifles. That is it. WMD simply means – Western people can get killed. There is no moral high ground here, just a lot of low dealing.

Okay. On to the grafs. Langewiesche’s article in the Atlantic is actually the second in a series. The villain in the article, although never quite villainous so much as vain, is the father of Pakistan’s H-bomb, A.Q. Khan. LI loved this graf:

“The fame had unbalanced him. He was subjected to a degree of public acclaim rarely seen in the West — an extreme close to idol worship, which made him hungry for more. Money seems never to have been his obsession, but it did play a role. The nuclear laboratory was nourished by a large and secret budget for which no accounting was required and from which Khan freely drew funds as if they were his own. One might expect that Khan's largesse would have triggered an investigation, but in Pakistan it did not. I have repeatedly asked people there if they ever wondered about the origins of Khan's wealth. One man close to the ruling military regime led by the current dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, tried recently to convince me that Khan's wife, Hendrina, came from a rich Dutch family, and that it was her money he was spending. But most people were straighter with me. They made it clear that my question was naive, and typical of an American abroad; they had not wondered about the origins of Khan's wealth because they had taken it as a given that he was skimming, like everyone else. A Pakistani parliamentarian made the point that some of the highest positions in the government today are held by people who are not merely corrupt and opportunistic but are the very icons of Pakistani criminality — people from families with a known history of murder, extortion, vote-rigging, smuggling, and fraud. He had once complained about this to Musharraf, who had advised him to be more realistic: Pakistan, Musharraf had said, is an imperfect society. The parliamentarian shrugged. Even the army is run like a real-estate racket, expropriating land from ordinary citizens and passing it on to officers for their personal gain. It is not by chance that Islamabad is a city of mansions, and that many of them are inhabited by retired generals. What was Khan's skimming compared with all that? And unlike the generals, who tended to lose every fight they provoked, Khan had delivered on his words.”

We’ve been here before, haven’t we? Aren’t we always here? Isn’t the man in charge Duarte? Or Rios Montt? Or Marcos? Or Suharto? Or Carlos Andrés Pérez? Aren’t these the streets of the City of Eternal Night, or Pandemonium, or the L.A. conjured up by Philip Dick? Really, this is a story that seems to have been some erased subplot of Shame. And Langewiesche is actually interested in the personality of Khan, all that cushioned vanity. In fact, it is a worldwide set. These people are perched on our shoulders, like very heavy buzzards.

Langewiesche cleverly decided that he needed a counterpart to Khan. He follows an obscure but persistent reporter for the energy mags, a guy I can sympathize with: Mark Hibbs. Hibbs is the man who put together the pieces of all the nuclear puzzles, finding that every connection led him to Pakistan. And he published his findings in Nucleonics Week and Nuclear Fuel, not exactly mags of record for most people. But apparently his findings kept driving this government apeshit. Especially since the U.S. was playing a game of pretending not to know what was going on. The same game the Americans played in the nineties, pretending not to know who was using who in the setting up of the Taliban and the quid pro quo between Al Qaeda and the ISI.
Which brings us to the post 9/11 era, when everything changed and then changed back, a war was declared against an impalpable object and the palpable object was encouraged to find a hiding place in a mountain somewhere. The era of diversion and bogus threats. This is the graf I really wanted to cull from the piece. By 2001, Khan’s sales to North Korea were finally getting America’s goat. They knew Khan dealt with Saddam H. before the Kuwait invasion. They knew he was selling to Iran. They knew that he couldn’t do what he was doing without the military being in on it body and soul. And the U.S. has been married to that military since the Reagan days – a marriage formed in the heat of anti-communist ardor, when the CIA was all for small, Islamicist groups hitting targets in the Soviet Union with bombs. So this is what happened:

“Khan was therefore dumbfounded, upon returning from a short trip to Dubai in 2000, when Musharraf, having called him in for a conversation, told him that he had been under surveillance by Pakistani agents and that there were concerns about financial improprieties. Financial improprieties? In the world of Khan the word had lost all meaning. There was no question of going to prison, but in 2001, just days short of his sixty-fifth birthday, A. Q. Khan was gently relieved of his command, forced to retire with honors from his cherished laboratory, and "promoted" to the position of scientific adviser to Musharraf. This last was a particularly nice touch. There is evidence that the exchanges with North Korea continued for at least another year. When the Bush administration finally decided to go public with its concerns about the North Koreans' nuclear-weapons program, it delayed leaking the intelligence information until late October of 2002, after Congress had given its approval for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The blundering that fall defies belief: while dragging the United States into a disastrous war in the pursuit of phantom weapons programs in Iraq, the U.S. government condoned the tangible actions of Pakistan — which, as any reader of Hibbs would have known, was delivering nuclear-weapons capabilities into the hands of America's most significant enemies, including regimes with overt connections to Islamist terrorists. Before the attacks on New York and Washington, Musharraf himself had accommodated Osama bin Laden, had supported the Taliban, and had used international jihadis against the Indians in Kashmir and beyond. But times had changed, and by October of 2002 Musharraf was Washington's friend, engaged in trying to suppress the Islamist idea by gunning it down. It was useful that with his move against Khan he had partially protected himself from revelations of Pakistan's trade in nuclear technology. Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke with Musharraf, and afterward, when asked on ABC television about Pakistan's assistance to North Korea, said, "President Musharraf gave me his assurance in that conversation, as he has previously, that Pakistan is not doing anything of that nature … The past is the past. I am more concerned about what is going on now. We have a new relationship with Pakistan."

Which is the same as the old relationship, pusher to addict roleplaying. As LI has pointed out again and again, the Bush regime's mantra that everything changed after 9/11 is not only not true -- all events having a before and an after, a then and a then - but it is a special plea that we ignore the negligence before the attack and the truly puzzling inability to deal with the attackers afterwards.

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