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WikiLeaks Exposes the Danger of Pakistan’s Nukes
Posted on Jan 13, 2011
There are few scenarios more frightening for America than a domestic nuclear terrorist incident, which could kill tens of thousands of people, devastate the economy and turn America into a police state. As a March 2010 Harvard study reported, Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile “faces a greater threat from Islamic extremists seeking nuclear weapons than any other nuclear stockpile on earth.”
The single most significant revelation of the State Department cables released by WikiLeaks is that U.S. policy is actually increasing the danger of a nuclear incident. The U.S. has so alienated the Pakistani people that their government fears cooperating with Washington on nuclear matters: The U.S. signed a nuclear energy agreement with India that has convinced Pakistani officials to enlarge their already unstable nuclear stockpile, and Washington has expanded U.S. military operations into Pakistan in a way that Ambassador Anne Patterson herself secretly admitted “risks destabilizing the Pakistani state” (9-23-09 cable). These newly disclosed official U.S. cables, which strongly point to the growing threat to Americans from mismanaged U.S. policy, require urgent congressional hearings, greater media investigation and public protest.
Ambassador Patterson, reporting on the Pakistani government breaking its 2007 written agreement to return U.S.-supplied nuclear material to the U.S., wrote in quoting a Pakistani official that “if the local media got word of the fuel removal, `they certainly would portray it as the United States taking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.’ ” Patterson added that “the negative media attention has begun to hamper U.S. efforts to improve Pakistan’s nuclear security and nonproliferation practices” (5-27-09 cable). A subsequent cable revealed that Pakistani distrust of the U.S. government has left Washington unable to encourage Pakistan to sign key pacts limiting nuclear proliferation, and that there is little coordination on nuclear matters between the American and Pakistani governments (11-24-09 cable).
Patterson’s cables also reveal that U.S. leaders know that present policy is destabilizing Pakistan, thus making a nuclear disaster more likely. Referring to U.S. “unilateral operations” in northwest Pakistan (such as drone strikes, ground assassination and other infringements of Pakistani sovereignty), she wrote that “increased unilateral operations in these areas risk destabilizing the Pakistani state, alienating both the civilian government and military leadership, and provoking a broader governance crisis in Pakistan without finally achieving the goal.” She then added that “to be effective, we must extend the writ of the Pakistani state into the FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas] in such a way that Taliban groups can no longer offer effective protection to al-Qaeda from Pakistan’s own security and law enforcement agencies in these areas” (9-23-09 cable).
Incredibly, U.S. leaders have only escalated the very operations their own officials believe risk destabilizing the Pakistani state. They have vastly increased U.S. drone strikes and stationed both U.S. assassins and U.S.-supported local assassins on Pakistani soil—even though the Pakistani government has not extended its “writ” in FATA as reported in November. These unilateral operations have thus increased the public’s hatred of the United States, to the point where a Pew poll in July found that 59 percent of Pakistanis regard the U.S. as an “enemy” and only 11 percent view America as a “partner.”
These cables reveal that it is U.S. foreign policy that is jeopardizing national security, not WikiLeaks. And WikiLeaks can actually help strengthen U.S. national security if in response the Congress and the public act to change America’s disastrous policy toward Pakistan and thus reduce the nuclear terrorist threat. The American people may disapprove of Julian Assange by a 77-20 margin, but they owe the WikiLeaks editor their thanks for revealing the growing danger they face from wrongheaded U.S. policy.
To those who consider it alarmist to raise urgent calls to change U.S. policies to secure Pakistani nukes, there is a simple response: “the Shah of Iran.” Throughout the 1970s, U.S. leaders strongly supported the shah, with Henry Kissinger even foolishly making him the lynchpin of his “Nixon Doctrine,” while ignoring the growing hatred the Iranian people felt toward their tyrant. Just three months before the shah fell, U.S. Ambassador William Sullivan stated that “the riots erupting in provincial cities would play themselves out and were not a cause of major concern.” The U.S. government disastrously miscalculated in ignoring local public opinion in Iran. It is even more foolishly doing something similar today in Pakistan, which, unlike Iran then, has both nuclear weapons and an economy on the verge of collapse.
Because we psychologically turn to our leaders above all for protection, it is difficult to accept that they could really be endangering us. But the WikiLeaks documents reveal beyond any doubt that those making U.S. foreign policy cannot be trusted to protect Americans. In fact, the lives of countless Americans—not to mention even more non-Americans—depend on opening up our foreign policy to democratic control so that our leaders’ present bungling and crimes can be ended.
Many Establishment observers have falsely asserted that there is nothing new in the WikiLeaks cables, and that they in fact reveal a competent foreign policy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The cables reveal an enormous amount that has been heretofore unknown and a breathtaking incoherence in Washington’s Afghanistan-Pakistan policy: The more that U.S. leaders wage war in tiny Afghanistan, the more they destabilize giant Pakistan and increase the dangers of nuclear proliferation.
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