Skip to comments.Rumsfeld Clears Musharraf of Nuclear Trafficking
Posted on 03/28/2004 11:22:55 PM PST by Bobby777
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Sunday he had no reason to suspect President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan of past involvement in an international nuclear black market but declined to rule out other possible high-level military complicity.
"I do not believe that there's any evidence or any suggestion that President Musharraf was involved," Rumsfeld said in an interview on the ABC program "This Week."
Abdul Qader Khan, the so-called father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, admitted in February to having given nuclear weapons know-how and equipment to Iran, Libya and North Korea (news - web sites), saying he had done so without Pakistani government authorization.
"I'm not going to say that," Rumsfeld replied when asked whether he was confident there had been no other "high-level military" involvement in Pakistan.
"You can't prove a negative," he added. "You can't say that I know that every person connected with the Pakistani military over some sustained period of time had no knowledge or participation whatsoever. That's silly. I couldn't do that."
Critics have questioned how Khan could have carried out illicit sales going back to the late 1980s without some level of official support.
Musharraf, in a taped ABC interview in Islamabad on Friday, dismissed published reports about a possible deal with President Bush (news - web sites) to go easy on him over the Khan-headed nuclear black market.
The deal purportedly would have been getting the Pakistani army to crack down hard on suspected al Qaeda guerrillas loyal to Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) in tribal areas along the Afghan border.
"There is no deal whatsoever," said Musharraf, an Army general who seized power in an October, 1999, coup. "This is all humbug. There is just no deal."
He reiterated that Khan acted on his own and that neither the military nor the government was involved in illicit nuclear deals.
Musharraf also played down the harm done by the nuclear technology transfers to which Khan has confessed.
"People are, I think, over-assessing the physical damage of the proliferation that he has done," he said.
"If I hand over a missile or a bomb to any extremist, believe me, he can do nothing about it," he said. "He cannot explode it" without knowledge of a sophisticated triggering mechanism.
I watched a Frontline short on Pakistan last night and there was a lot of interesting (read: disturbing) material in it. A pretty Pakistani gal (Sharmeen Obaid) was all over the map, interviewing all these angry dudes. One Kashmiri fighter was all decked out in a face-covering turban thing in a dark room with candles and stuff. He was like, "You know, we'd never be the ones to attack President Mushrraf's car. That was like Mossad and the Indian secret service and stuff" She was wide-eyed and innocent as she listened. She talked with Gul, some guy from the territories, a westernized critic who sounded like a reasonable person, and a bunch of other people. I recommend it -- if you can sit through the unanswered propaganda and paranoia. Sharmeen to her credit doesn't say much to her talkative hosts, but she does splice them together in an interesting way.
Most of these Pakistani interviewees were proponents of the idea that Islam should be armed with nuclear weapons. Some of them thought Mush was now allied with Bush to destabilized Pakistan and have the nukes extracted. Some of them raised the issue of America's alliance with Pakistan and suggested that this was continuing -- to Pakistan's disadvantage.
Sharmeen Obaid got access to places you'd find amazing, and she gets these guys to grandstand. They obviously enjoy the role of putting out footage that will raise the hair on the backs of western necks. But she herself was unwilling to foment strife, and by inter-cutting interview candidates with opposing views gave us a picture of how complicated the area can be. The last scene was of the dailing meeting of the border guards -- and there's a little surprise at the end of that particular day's march that was both reassuring and frustrating.
I think Sharmeen Obaid's piece wanted to give the impression that disarming Pakistan would cause a lot of strife. I suppose that's true. Isn't that an argument for making it happen in Iran now, while we can? And while some say the nuclear kittens are out of the bag, that doesn't mean that they can't be trapped. I realize that it may be difficult, and a good many non-Americans may suffer the consequences, but it's still important to go after them. I can forsee a disarmed Pakistan and Iran, and I think we should strive with everything we've got to accomplish it. Can we do both without turning Persia and south Asia into a glowing heap of dust? Maybe. A lot of maybes.
I'm just grateful that we have President Bush and Colin Powell in the Whitehouse now. We wouldn't even begin to know how much another halfbrite might be making things if he weren't.