Last July, after Pakistanis in the so-called "tribal
areas" launched a series of attacks, including one against a Pakistani
military convoy, in which 17 Pakistani soldiers were killed and 13 wounded,
the Bush-Cheney administration publicly demanded that President Gen. Pervez
Musharraf "rein in" those tribal Pakistanis. Or else.
Or else what?
Quoth White House spokesman Tony Snow:
"We certainly do not rule out options, and we retain the option especially
of striking actionable targets, but it is clearly of the utmost importance to
go in there and deal with the problem in the tribal areas."
Musharraf, at the urging of the White House, had already moved thousands of
Pakistani troops into what had previously been semi-autonomous "tribal
areas" such as North Waziristan.
Because, according to the then just-released National Intelligence Estimate
–"The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland" – even though "greatly
increased worldwide counter-terrorism efforts over the past five years have
constrained the ability of al-Qaeda to attack the U.S. homeland again and have
led terrorist groups to perceive the Homeland as a harder target to strike than
on 9/11," nevertheless:
"Al-Qaeda is and will remain the most serious terrorist threat to the
homeland, as its central leadership continues to plan high-impact plots, while
pushing others in extremist Sunni communities to mimic its efforts and to supplement
"We assess the group has protected or regenerated key elements of its
homeland attack capability, including: a safe haven in the Pakistan Federally
Administered Tribal Areas…."
Hence, according to the accompanying White House fact sheet, "In Pakistan,
we continue to work with President Musharraf and the government to capture key
al-Qaeda operatives and pressure al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the Federally Administered
Work "with" Musharraf?
Our president had just told the president of Pakistan that if he couldn't
"deal with the problem," as defined in our National Intelligence
Estimate, our president would have to put on his commander-in-chief-in-the-War-Against-Terror
hat and deal with it himself. That's working with Musharraf?
Well, you can imagine how that outrageous public threat by Bush against the
top military man in Pakistan to "shape up or ship out" played all
When President/General Musharraf – already widely considered to be a Bush puppet
– couldn't deal with our "problem" to Bush's satisfaction,
he was essentially forced by Bush to resign as Pakistan's army chief of staff.
Then, at least partially as a result of pressure by congressional Democrats
and the impose-democracy-on-the-world crowd, President Bush essentially forced
President Musharraf – now even more widely considered to be a Bush puppet –
to schedule "free" elections for January 2008 and work out some sort
of power-sharing arrangement with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Of course, if Eric Margolis is right, at least two-thirds of the "power"
in Pakistan is wielded by the military (which General Musharraf used to head)
while only about a third is wielded by the civilian "elected" government
– which President Musharraf now heads – at least till elections are held.
And why does that matter so much?
Well, according to a recent report
[.pdf] by the Congressional Research Service:
"Pakistan's nuclear arsenal consists of approximately 60 nuclear warheads.
Pakistan continues fissile material production for weapons, and is adding to
its weapons production facilities and delivery vehicles. Pakistan reportedly
stores its warheads unassembled with the fissile core separate from non-nuclear
explosives, and these are stored separately from their delivery vehicles. Pakistan
does not have a stated nuclear policy, but its 'minimum credible deterrent'
is thought to be primarily a deterrent to Indian military action. Command
and control structures have been dramatically overhauled since September 11,
2001, and export controls and personnel security programs have been put in place
since the 2004 revelations about Pakistan's top nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan's
international proliferation network.
"Pakistani and some U.S. officials argue that Islamabad has taken a
number of steps to prevent further proliferation of nuclear-related technologies
and materials and improve its nuclear security. A number of important
initiatives such as strengthened export control laws, improved personnel security,
and international nuclear security cooperation programs have improved the security
situation in recent years.
"Current instability in Pakistan has called the extent and durability
of these reforms into question. Some observers fear radical takeover of a government
that possesses a nuclear bomb, or proliferation by radical sympathizers within
Pakistan's nuclear complex in case of a breakdown of controls. While
U.S. and Pakistani officials express confidence in controls over Pakistan's
nuclear weapons, it is uncertain what impact continued instability in the country
will have on these safeguards."
Of course, if all those reports about Pakistani stockpiled nukes not being
fully assembled – with the fissile material (either almost pure uranium-235
or almost pure plutonium-239) removable and stored separately – are true, then
they would be much like our first-generation nukes, probably too large
and heavy to be deliverable by fighter-bomber or ballistic missile, low yield,
perhaps not much of a deterrent, but just the sort of thing a terrorist would
love to haul off in his pickup truck.
Hence, U.S. Special Forces are reported to be on "standby," ready
to "deal with the problem," i.e., to seize or disable Pakistan's nuke
stockpile in the event of the collapse of government authority or the outbreak
of civil war.
How about the special 10,000-man Pakistani military force – commanded by Gen.
Musharraf's replacement –entrusted with preventing that sort of seizure?
Well, here is what Dictator/General Musharraf had to say about Pakistan's nukes
at an awards and retirement ceremony for A.Q. Khan and others back
"Our strategy rests on minimum credible [nuclear] deterrence. Our force
goals are well defined. The quality and quantity of these goals is to be maintained
at all cost, at all times, under all circumstances. There never has been, and
there never will be, any compromises in this resolve, come what may.
"I would like to reiterate this resolve on this occasion, loud and
clear in military terms: Death before dishonor. …
"We will take whatever pressures come. We will do whatever it takes
to ward off such pressures. We will find the resources to back your [nuclear
"The nation is united on this issue. There are no ambiguities whatsoever