Again, needs to help a friend took me away from the book-stack and the computer for over a week -- sorry about that. But while away, I did grab an unread book off the stack, and sadly it was all too much to the point while trying to follow the Bhutto Murder on someone else's TV. Nonetheless I want to highlight it, since it is currently available at your local Bookstore.
"The Nuclear Jihadist: The True Story of the Man who Sold the World's Most Dangerous Secrets...and How we could Have Stopped Him." by Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins; Twelve, (Hachette) 2007. attracted my attention because of the author -- and ultimately the subject. Frantz was co-author back in 1992 of an excellent piece of investigative journalism, "A Full Service Bank" -- a very significant work about BCCI, and its crash in the late 1980's, that depended in no small way on the cooperation of John Kerry and his Senate Investigative Staff. In fact it was in 2004 that I pulled the book off the shelves for a careful re-reading fully expecting Kerry to totally unload on George Bush during the campaign, all of the involvement of the Bush Family in the BCCI. Sadly, I was most disappointed. I still think one of the hidden secrets of that 2004 campaign involves why Kerry did not use what he clearly knows, and what he had much earlier made available to Frantz. Be that as it will -- perhaps some day Kerry will spill the beans -- but while wandering through new books at B&N, Frantz's name on a new book about the A.Q. Khan Nuclear Supermarket attracted attention, and sure enough, Frantz does more or less take up the topic where he left off fifteen years ago. You see, one of the clear objectives of BCCI's international finance super fraud was the provision to Pakistan (privately and through public finance) of the means to create the necessary Nuclear Industry as the foundation for their weapons program. Thus in "The Nuclear Jihadist" Frantz picks up the story where he left off in the early 1990's, makes a few minor corrections, and advances the story right up to recent months. Frantz reported the earlier BCCI story for the NYTimes, won a Pulitzer for his investigative reporting, went on to be Managing Editor of the LA Times, left over the decision to downplay investigative work, and now is mostly free lance. I would suggest that any Plameologist hereabouts would very much enjoy this book as well as the earlier one. In fact, I detect a good deal of framing of Valerie's CIA career in this book, though of course she is only mentioned in otherwise public information about her outing and the Libby Trial. Frantz, in fact, is very critical of the CIA approach to Nuclear Non-proliferation. He observes that at each juncture over more than twenty years, the CIA had both the clear evidence, and the means for stopping the Pakistani Project, but in each instance decided against that track and in favor of more passive watching and waiting in hopes of finding yet more tentacles of Khan's Nuclear Marketplace. One cannot help but reach the conclusion that once the compromises were made during the Reagan years to downplay any aspect of non-proliferation policy in favor of short term political interests, (such as maintaining Pakistani support for the war in Afghanistan during the 1980's), virtually any Bush or Reagan official can be tagged with responsibility for the Khan Network's success in not only building the Pakistani Bomb, but spreading the industrial knowledge necessary to wide-spread proliferation -- and we should entertain the possibility that the Plame outing was not just vengence for Joe Wilson's speaking up about Yellow Cake from Niger being of interest to Iraqis, but could well have been about the destruction of the Network the CIA had carefully built for the passive watching and waiting operations. Mounting the wars you want is much easier if you lack strong intelligence. At any rate, those who followed Plame as far as it went will find this piece of investigative work fascinating -- a huge addition to existing knowledge, and a decent basis for careful guesses as to what else might be involved here. Just one nugget -- apparently AQ Khan invested many of his millions in luxury hotels in Mali -- in Timbukto in fact. This is right next to Niger. To furnish his Hotel he arranged many freight C-130 flights from Pakistan to Mali, supposedly taking furniture and building supplies. One wonders whether he might have also taken some "industrial" supplies along too? A Luxury Hotel in Mali is just a little strange. It would be so much easier to ship processed Uranium Ore than unprocessed Yellow Cake. I doubt if that hotel fact is in Frantz's book for pure entertainment. At any rate I was thinking about Khan's hotel in Timbukto when the shooting of Bhutto at a political rally first broke on the Radio -- and I must admit that much of what Frantz has to say about Bhutto and her apparent intentional lack of awareness of what Khan was really up to during her Prime Ministership, made for a somewhat different coloring of the increasingly awful news. In fact while I watched a good part of the CNN and MSNBC coverage, and listened to the NPR and BBC coverage, I didn't note any reporter taking up the role of Bhutto in making possible the Khan network, or discussing Nuclear Proliferation with regard to her career. (It was, afterall, her Father who set the Khan Network in motion.) Fate would have it that I was reading precisely that book at the point when asking that question about Bhutto became appropriate. (Indeed, asking it about any Pakistani leader since 1975, and in parallel, American and European leaders since then, is appropriate. Apparently the reason the Dutch Security did nothing about Khan even after discovery of his breaches of security had to do with Dutch competition with a German firm in the European consortium to process Uranium -- it was all about Guilder and Marks in those days.) (and it was about running the money through BCCI in those days too -- which is why Frantz's earlier work is so important. Last week I was pissed I was not home and able to dig out that book and do Index work.)
Frantz open's his book with a scene ready for Hollywood, in which a blond Female CIA agent makes a date at a Starbucks Coffee Shop in Vienna Austria with the top IAEA investigator, (a blond man from Finland) and hands off to IAEA much of the structure of the Khan network. Frantz clearly respects the work of IAEA, but as with most others associated with that UN agency, recognizes that it is profoundly hamstrung by its own charter -- it cannot create its own intelligence gathering operation, it must subsist on what is handed over by national intelligence authorities, and that is pretty thin gruel as you follow the story. What's critical is that in 2004 (May to be specific) CIA handed over many of the family gems to IAEA, by sending a blond female officer to a Vienna Starbucks to do the deed. (Probably not VPW -- they must have a number who fit the description. VPW was outed, remember, in July, 2003.) This was nine months later. In the meantime Libya had turned over what they claimed was all they had received from the Khan network. It was detail, not the guts of what CIA knew. In fact, one detail Frantz points out is that British Intelligence wanted to make the whole saga public before the invasion of Iraq -- it was Bush and Cheney, and particularly John Bolton who did not want IAEA to have it till the US Military was in Baghdad, if then. In fact the turn over of Khan intelligence to IAEA only took place after it was damn clear that there were no WMD in Iraq, and there was no way to fake it.
Frantz ends his book with a description of the movement of the hands on the Nuclear Clock forward to a point equal to the worst days of the Cold War, and then he makes clear that it is probably only through true international intelligence, transparency and control that any security can be achieved. There is so much not known about what was really included in the Khan network, that national means that put proliferation at a much lower place in the pecking order than Guilder and Marks, or Euro, Dollars and Rupees (and covering up that reality) can possibly deal with. An IAEA with a lot more guts and power is probably a pipe dream, but as he introduced his book with the writings of John Hersey in Hiroshima, maybe we should conclude this review with a reminder of the human costs of these games. Hersey described people trying to hold their flesh onto their faces, he described how women wearing white kimonos had the patterns of the flowers in the print inked on to their flesh -- white repelled the radiation, the flower patterns absorbed it. Men had similar marks -- dark suspenders under light colored work clothers left similar radiation marks.
He also quotes Albert Einstein...
"The Splitting of the Atom has changed everything,
Save our mode of thinking, and thus
We drift toward unparalled Catastrophe."
I really recommend this book -- Bhutto dead or not, died of bullets, by the hand of al-Qaeda, The Taliban, some idiot promised 77 Virgins and a load of money for his family, the handle on a sun-roof, or a well trained sniper set up for the kill in a kill box arranged by the ISI. All this is hardly the issue.
Hillary Clinton surprised me -- she actually had something new to say. She suggested what could be a reasonable and fair investigation of the facts. If I read Frantz correctly, it is that notion of impartial yet international investigative work that is the main hope...thin though it is.