Friday, November 13, 2009

The Latest News from 1982

I’ve read this piece a couple of times now, and I don’t see why it’s news. Or rather, I think I do, but the reason doesn’t have much to do with what some of us think the function of the media is.

I think that this is the new element that the Washington Post provides:
…according to accounts written by the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, and provided to The Washington Post.
That’s it. Worth three internet pages. From an account by an untrustworthy writer, provided to the Washington Post by
Simon Henderson, a former journalist at the Financial Times who is now a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and who has maintained correspondence with Khan. In a first-person account about his contacts with Khan in the Sept. 20 edition of the London Sunday Times, Henderson disclosed several excerpts from one of the documents.

Henderson said he agreed to The Post's request for a copy of that letter and other documents and narratives written by Khan because he believes an accurate understanding of Pakistan's nuclear history is relevant for U.S. policymaking. The Post independently confirmed the authenticity of the material; it also corroborated much of the content through interviews in Pakistan and other countries.
Ah yes, just a good citizen from a right-wing think tank doing his civic duty. Er, British subject, it looks like.

But R. Jeffrey Smith and Joby Warrick don’t let that stop them from speaking truth to power. No, they demand to know why the United States hasn’t confronted China about this terrible breach of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which China hadn’t signed in 1982, the time of the alleged transfer.
China's refusal to acknowledge the transfer and the unwillingness of the United States to confront the Chinese publicly demonstrate how difficult it is to counter nuclear proliferation.


Asked why the U.S. government has never publicly confronted China over the uranium transfer, State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said, "The United States has worked diligently and made progress with China over the past 25 years. As to what was or wasn't done during the Reagan administration, I can't say."
Oh wait,
U.S. officials say they have known about the transfer for decades and once privately confronted the Chinese
But that was in private and doesn’t count, although one of the experts Smith and Warrick consulted said
nothing has ever been said publicly because "this is diplomacy; you don't do that sort of thing . . . if you want them to change their behavior."
But that quote is hidden at the end of the piece.

Of course, Smith and Warrick would love to see President Obama ragging President Hu in public – maybe at one of those state dinners – about this terrible twenty-seven-year-old breach. But it probably wouldn’t even be particularly dramatic. The other guests would look at each other: huh?

It’s likely that Khan’s claim is correct. But how much weight do we put on something that happened almost three decades ago? The same problem applies to the evidence of Iran’s desire for a bomb. Even if it is correct, it’s from some time back. The international situation was different. Different governments were in place.

If we’re going to dredge up alleged transfers of nuclear material, how about that uranium that went from Pennsylvania to Israel in the late 1960s?

Oh right. We need to give the right wing something they can claim that Obama’s doing wrong during this trip.

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